Bayer has over 100,000 employees worldwide, operates out of 83 countries and is one of the world’s largest life sciences and pharmaceutical companies. The firm is on a mission to transform its employee engagement, by standardizing on the ServiceNow Now platform, with the belief that this will lead to better outcomes for its customers.
Jan Toennissen, Head of Digital Technologies at Bayer, was speaking at ServiceNow’s recent Knowledge event in The Hague, where he explained that the company is firmly focused on intelligent automation to streamline its corporate functions - everything ranging from HR, to accounting and procurement.
Bayer’s experience in investing in research and development to deliver results for customers is being reflected in its belief that investment in its digital core to benefit employees. Toennissen said that to have a ‘digital business’ means having a ‘digital core’ - for which ServiceNow is playing a critical role. Toennissen added:
We started the journey, I would say, from an efficiency point of view at the beginning of the pandemic, where everything was about being as efficient as possible. Then we were looking mostly into intelligent automation, everything from RPA to machine learning applications, towards digitalizing and transforming processes.
What we figured out in the meantime is that once you have everything digital, and as much as possible automated, that’s when it becomes transformational. Because then you start thinking about: who is actually using this process? Why does it not resonate well with employees? Why does it not resonate with suppliers? Then the discussion changes.
With this in mind, Bayer is now focused on its own internal processes and redesigning them for enabling automation, with the aim of boosting employee engagement. The company’s corporate functions sit at the center of this, as these are the key touchpoints for employees. It is redesigning the processes within these core corporate areas to drive a number of results. Toennissen said:
There is still a focus on efficiencies, specifically when we talk about corporate functions. Because as a corporate function you want to have the footprint as small as possible, but the impact as large as possible. But at the same time, the new thing that comes in is the experience piece.
It’s something that goes through all the functions. And this whole pandemic, of course, has increased the importance of creating an environment that people still feel like they’re working for Bayer, not just working somewhere in their living room, connected to what could be any company on the other side of their laptop.
Our initial vision of what we want to create is a service management experience, where on the delivery side it as effortless as possible, but on the consumer side is a total experience. That’s where we now set a cornerstone of this journey with ServiceNow.
Serving all 100,000 employees
Toennissen said that Bayer believes that it can still target efficiencies whilst delivering good experiences - “you can save costs, but still empower people to do things”. This philosophy is driving significant buy-in from all areas, including senior management, the functions themselves, as well as employees.
Bayer started with IT service management, ServiceNow’s traditional core offering, but has since begun implementing the platform for HR, finance and procurement. By the end of 2023 it aims to have the platform reaching all 100,000 Bayer employees as well as 80% of the agents working in its shared service centers, which deliver services throughout its core functions.
The key takeaway is pick the right platform. That took a bit of time, probably eight to twelve months, to choose the platform for this journey. In the end we settled for ServiceNow, obviously.
For us it’s very important to think about how you unlock your investments, because there’s always a bit of upfront investment, not only in licensing, but ramping up the project team and internal resources.
So we tried to shorten the time to delivery as much as possible. Last week we had a bit of a celebration because we made the first release after six weeks for HR and finance. And the next release will be in another six weeks, so we have a very short, agile cycle time.
A Center of Excellence
Toennissen said that what he and his team didn’t expect was the excitement from the organization to improve the employee experience. This acceleration in uptake pushed Bayer to create a Center of Excellence (CoE) to guide implementations. He explained:
I thought I’d need to go door to door to shake hands to get the next use case. But once we started talking about the success of the implementations, the pipeline filled up faster than we thought.
Now we are trying to keep track and prioritize all the elements in the pipeline. We are now setting up a CoE on top to manage the demand and make sure that from an investment point of view, we’re getting the highest value first. We are trying to bring people in to get to grips with these topics.
And Toennissen urged other organizations that are going through a similar adoption process to build out the CoE sooner. He said:
My advice would be to start early with the Center of Excellence, because that gives you the mandate to lead some of the discussions and do the necessary harmonizations that at the end will bring the value that the employee feels. I think that’s one piece that we were a bit late with.
Toennissen also warns that employees will be keen to discuss their experiences, sometimes to the detriment of the project. In order to manage this, maintain a focus on best practice principles. He added:
The other piece is that we totally underestimated the excitement of the function to discuss employee experience, up and down, and ten times over. We are rather trying to push them towards best practices, rather than having a monthly open discussion of what might be the best positioning of a button on a page.
Redesigning processes for experience
The key point Toennissen expressed is that whilst the ServiceNow platform is the enabler to Bayer’s transformation efforts, this doesn’t mean that the responsibility isn’t still on the company to do things differently. He said:
What we figured out was that just having the platform is not the value. The value is in the design of the services that you bring and the design, you still have to do yourself. So you need to think about: where are my employees? What kind of personas do I have? How do they reach the platform? What do they prefer? What is the service I can bring to them digitally?
And ultimately, Bayer is certain that employee and customer experience are inextricably linked. He added:
We’ve been following this philosophy that if you have a happy employee you’ll have a happy customer at the end. What we are mostly focusing on is the employee engagement evaluations. Just four weeks ago we did our last employee voice survey.
And what we’re really trying to improve is this relationship between employee and the company, which ServiceNow plays a big role. Because most of the touch points that happen throughout the day is this interaction with the functions. We are trying to map out these moments that matter.