Leadership, Empowerment & Opportunity (LEO) for the Patient
Dr Nicola Davies investigates how LEO Pharma is making a patient-centric culture a reality.
One of the greatest challenges for any organization is to change its culture. eyeforpharma's Whitepaper "Patient-Centered Culture by Design" reveals just how challenging culture shaping can be. However, LEO Pharma is close to making patient-centricity a reality. The company is busy aligning and focusing employees towards changing the business model from one that concentrates on products to one that goes beyond medicine and invests in solutions that consider the entire patient journey. The initial cultural change came from corporate management in 2012. There was a call-to-action for members of the staff to focus more on the patient and trust that, by doing so, business performance will follow. This journey has been evolving and continues to propel the company from simply selling products to engaging with patients at an intensive level.
An example of the company’s commitment is the setting up of an entirely separate company in 2015 called The LEO Innovation Lab, with a mission to find innovations for patients outside of products. This new company, partnering with the current business, will focus on learning more about psoriasis patients. This involves talking to patients, dermatologists, and a variety of stakeholders to uncover more ways that LEO Pharma can assist patients and their families.
The belief that the business and the patient are inseparable is critical. The concept is really part of our everyday language now. It is the organization’s central theme.
With the patient-centered focus in mind, there was a certain amount of head-scratching to ascertain what the next steps should be. Kimberly Stoddart, VP for HR and Communications for LEO Pharma Canada, feels that top management “very purposefully didn’t provide a definition for patient centricity.” Instead, LEO Canada’s VP of Scientific Affairs, Kathy Foris, inspired the Canadian leadership team to read Simon Sinek’s book ‘Start with Why’ and then to partner with Jill Donahue of EngageRx. Together they created a journey they called ‘Engaging for Better Patient Care.’
It became clear that the starting point was to work on ‘What’s Your Why?’ Employees were challenged to consider why they were working in pharma, why they chose LEO Pharma, and why they did the jobs they did every day. LEO Pharma believes that the success of this initiative was the top-down, as well as bottom-up, collaboration of its people so that all voices were heard. Senior management utilized inputs from a cross-functional team comprised of people from both office and field positions; the team remains at the center of the transformational work being done.
Embarking on changing an existing culture
Stoddart feels that the crux of LEO Pharma’s success in making changes to its culture is that top management are all on-board with the program and participate wholeheartedly. “The belief that the business and the patient are inseparable is critical,” she explains. “The concept is really part of our everyday language now. It is the organization’s central theme.”
To understand ‘the why,’ a pilot project was run where a quarter of staff attended workshops that helped them peel back the layers of the onion and uncover their motivation to work, and how this could help the patient. The leadership team was put through these workshops before the rest of the staff, so they were informed as to the content and knew what areas of new behavior should be expected and supported.
Another aspect of LEO Pharma’s culture change was looking at the structure of the organization itself to ensure that it would support a patient-centered approach. Although LEO people collaborated well, they realized, based on a survey, that there were areas in the business that could be improved. As a result, a series of workshops on collaboration helped re-align the internal structures. Management was convinced that having people work together would produce better and stronger ideas than having people working in isolation. Ultimately, this collaboration, operating not just within a branch, but across countries and internationally, has been key to the company’s success.
You can’t just roll it out and then put it on the shelf. You have to keep watering, feeding and growing it or else it will lose its roots.
An important factor that any organization embarking on a culture change needs to bear in mind is that the practice takes time. As Stoddart says, “When we first started this process in 2012, I thought it would be a one-year project. I didn’t realize it would be a multi-year journey. You can’t just roll it out and then put it on the shelf. You have to keep watering, feeding and growing it or else it will lose its roots.”
Creating ownership of the program
A big part of changing culture is to understand the existing one. LEO Pharma’s current values are: integrity, adaptability, patient-focus, innovation, and passion. It was important to incorporate these values into the evolving patient-centric culture. The cross-functional team of LEO Canada came up with their own slogan to describe the desired culture by taking the letters of LEO and arriving at: Leadership, Empowerment and Opportunity. Each of these words was then analyzed in terms of what it meant for the patient.
When people are rewarded for being innovative it creates the passion and openness for other people to try it.
Once this was in place, structures could be built around the new ethos. For example, recognition rewards were created around the LEO concept. On a quarterly basis, people nominate each other for living the company values and ‘walking the talk’ through providing concrete examples of what they’ve done. As Stoddart states, “When people are rewarded for being innovative it creates the passion and openness for other people to try it.” She feels that people can be scared of the word ‘innovation’ as they think they need to come up with something cutting edge, whereas it is often small shifts in behavior and thinking that produce impressive results.
Based on its success, the LEO theme will stay in place for the foreseeable future. The 2015 slogan was “Be LEO,” while for 2016 staff will work on “Elevate your LEO.” The best thing about the program, according to Stoddart, is that it was created by the people and has much more buy-in than an imposed regime. This policy of individual involvement extends to the on-going workshops which were run during the pilot project. Participation is now voluntary, although with the clear message to employees that it will improve their ability to be more focused on the patient while ensuring a sustainable business.
LEO Canada has come a long way from the early days when it was discovered that many staff thought they weren’t allowed to talk to patients! A recent project encouraged staff to actively find patients and engage with them in their social circles. Endless stories were received from employees who discovered people in their communities who suffered from the conditions traditionally treated by LEO Pharma products. Stoddart explains, “A staff member would come to work and say, ‘I found out that I know five people who have psoriasis.’” The effect was that employees closed the circle on the ‘why’ – they realized more fully how the work they did impacted on real people, which made the process much more personal. They also discovered that patients were happy to be engaged and were more than willing to share their stories.
For the past 2 years, 20% of LEO Canada’s sales bonuses have been based on behavioral targets. These experiences have led LEO Canada staff to provide their own challenges to the existing culture.
Some employees started getting concerned at how the practice of constantly looking over their sale numbers was not very patient-focused. As a result, the company began to quantify targets in terms of sales as well as the number of patients, and has restructured the sales incentive program to move away from purely sales metrics. For the past 2 years, 20% of LEO Canada’s sales bonuses have been based on behavioral targets. One such example is what is termed ‘practice-sharing’ where salespeople are required to share their success stories with their peers, as this may assist others in different territories. Part of the incentive bonus is built around how many best practices and key learnings are shared. This has also led to the introduction of team incentives that encourage employees to assist ‘the whole’ rather than just their individual sector.
Expect roadblocks along the way
Any change in culture is going to be a learning process, and being prepared to listen and adapt is an essential critical success factor. Stoddart clarifies, “One thing we learned along the way is that in the beginning we were all excited and maybe didn’t explain the research thoroughly. Some people who were more analytical felt the new direction was too altruistic and filled with warm and fuzzy stuff.” What LEO Canada did was to spend time with these employees and walk them through the research that provided tangible proof of how focus on the patient leads to better sales.
This led to an important realization that the ‘business piece’ of the program shouldn’t be overlooked. Decision-making around a patient had to make commercial sense as well. Leaders need to be ready and able to answer a constant stream of questions that would bridge any disconnect in the minds of employees. For example, one salesperson asked, after walking away from a hospital deal because unrealistic discounts were being requested on one of their products, “How is this best serving the patient?” Once it was pointed out that the company needed to maintain a business imperative in order to remain profitable and help many more patients down the road, the balance became clear.
The future of the program
Six months after rolling out the LEO program, HR conducted a survey asking people, among other questions, whether they believed patients were LEO Pharma’s ‘why’ and if they’d figured out their own ‘why.’ If they had, they were asked whether they’d used their ‘why’ and if it had made a difference. The results were overwhelming in that between 90 and 98% of people reported a positive impact on their work. Over 90% of LEO people who interacted with external stakeholders felt the emphasis on the why was having a positive impact on their performance. LEO Pharma in the UK, who rolled out the program after Canada, had a similar experience.
Stoddart shares, “You can just feel it in our culture. When we rolled out the ‘What’s Your Why’ initiative in 2012, we created a video to explain it to our people. It really resonated with them and as a result, when we are looking to hire new people, we show it to candidates. We can tell immediately whether the concept motivates them, and to what extent, which we then explore. If it doesn’t, they’re not for us.”
The patient-centric program is also assimilated into the orientation process to really integrate the patient focus in the organizational DNA. The company inspects every facet of the business and continually fosters patient centricity through proper employee recruitment and development and strict vendor selection. As LEO Pharma’s CEO Gitte Aabo states, “Our company is built on more than 100 years of success and we want to continue helping patients for many years to come.” An organizational culture aligned with this vision will surely contribute to continued success.