Money not the only reward at Pfizer

PUBLISHED : Monday, 20 February, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 20 February, 2006, 12:00am

Drug giant's branch office focuses on core values to keep staff motivated

Pfizer Hong Kong, the local branch of the multinational pharmaceutical giant, has 160 staff. It scored fourth highest in the Performance Management section of the 36 companies surveyed by Watson Wyatt for WorkHongKong.

'It's particularly important for us. We're a top-down company and it is one our nine core values,' says Pfizer HK country manager Stephen Leung Kwok-keung.

Pfizer lives by a seemingly endless series of acronyms, chief of these being 'CRITICAL for Quality Performance', which includes the core Pfizer values. These provide the guidance for staff in their daily work, says Mr Leung. This stands for Customer Focus, Respect for People, Teamwork, Innovation, Community, and Leadership for Quality Performance.

'We set clear goals and we make it very understandable with colleagues and constantly update and monitor their progress,' he said. 'Also, we have a strong and entrenched culture; they believe that they can achieve.'

Along with the acronyms there is a motto, another acronym: 'CANI: Continuous and Never Ending Improvement.'

Performance management in Hong Kong brings its own singular challenges. 'Hong Kong is a small city, so people are relatively mobile. They are more materially driven than they would be in the US and Canada where quality of life is more important than financial reward,' he said. 'Hong Kong people will always tend to go for money; it is more attractive than anything else to them.'

But this makes staff retention hard. 'So sometimes when people have good performance they are attractive to other companies and their loyalty is lower. So it's important to encourage loyalty. All aspects of our culture are very important or we are just competing on one single element, which is money.'

To counter this, Pfizer focuses not just on reward and recognition in monetary terms to keep its employees. The company believes in total compensation and is committed to providing training and development, a friendly working environment and a caring culture.' We can't compete well on salary alone, so we spend more time and effort on training and development. The staff appreciate that.'

Under the CARE culture, company communication takes the form of a weekly announcement, with regular staff meetings.

'We try to listen to them, their concerns and career aspirations. Being relatively small with 160 employees, we have many communication meetings and channels, one on one and together, to ensure we have mutual understanding,' Mr Leung said.

To keep everyone on the Pfizer track, heavy emphasis is placed on managing staff aspirations. 'It is important to know what they want, sometimes they are not just looking for money, everyone is different. Once we have discovered their aspirations, we devise an IDP (Individual Development Plan),' Mr Leung said.

Each employee lists his or her training needs and desired career path. 'Therefore, 80 per cent of the managerial positions are promoted from within,' he said. They tell me what they want and I try to get them there.'

When it comes to reward and recognition, the company believes in catching someone doing something right, not in punishing bad work. 'We believe in encouragement. It's part of our ethos to always encourage staff to try something new, which means risk-taking, so we expect some mistakes.'

Career advancement within Hong Kong is relatively limited, so to discourage defection Pfizer encourages staff to look farther afield.

'My career with the company is a good example: I spent five years in Australia and five in New York. There are unlimited career opportunities within Pfizer overseas, so I want to give them the opportunity to work abroad.

'The majority of our turnover is people moving overseas, rather than jumping ship. Other companies may pay more but we offer a springboard to other countries and a nice working environment. It goes deeper than giving them money.'