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Interview

Leadership is crucial to creating great places to work to release potential and innovation, to always be one step ahead of the competition. It’s not always easy to get it right but making small mistakes is an essential part of the journey.

Introduce yourself and tell us about your organisation  

I’ve been in HR for over 20 years, always based in the UK but have worked for several global organisations and sectors such as Oil and Gas, Retail and Financial Services.  I joined Alcon just over two years ago; it is a privilege to now work in the healthcare sector with such a direct impact on the quality of people’s lives.

Alcon is a global leader in eyecare, developing and manufacturing innovative devices to serve the full life cycle of eye care needs. Alcon was founded in 1945 by two pharmacists: Robert Alexander and William Conner combining the first syllables of their first names to call the company ‘Alcon’. The company grew and merged with others over time, and until recently were part of the Novartis group. However, on April 9th 2019, Alcon spun off to become an independent company. Our seven-decade history of success rests on a foundation of industry expertise, leading brands and a winning mindset. Today, we have around 20,000 employees worldwide from more than 90 nationalities. We offer the widest array of surgical, eye care health, contact lenses, and contact lens care products in the industry. We aspire to lead the world in innovating life-changing vision and eye care products because when people see brilliantly, they live brilliantly.

What do you think defines an organisation as a top employer today?  

In some ways, even though fashions change and there are new trends in HR practices such as culture and leadership, it’s always been about the people for me. If you hire great talent whether to stay in similar roles throughout their career or move laterally and vertically across organisations, you will foster further creativity and talent development in the teams they lead. It’s ok for people to leave and come back. The times of a career in a company for life are limited, so it’s important to identify talent, develop and nurture it and make your company an exciting place to work so people are connected, engaged and stay in the right roles.

Leadership is crucial to creating great places to work to release potential and innovation, to always be one step ahead of the competition. It’s not always easy to get it right but making small mistakes is an essential part of the journey. This is why it is so important to grow leaders to become the best version of themselves. Leaders inspire others to surpass themselves; and sharing one’s journey as a leader is also important to help others understand their own vulnerabilities and develop.

Tell us about a recent initiative that you have instigated within your organisation that you are most proud of?  

The UK organisation has been on a culture journey over the past five or so years. There have been a few different leaders at the top, whilst moving the needle on performance; culture has been an important part of the company’s success. The UK HR team was internally recognised with a Culture and Energy award in 2016, and in 2018, we achieved our Top Employer Certification demonstrating that our culture and HR procedures are leading practice. Our employee turnover has reduced significantly and our engagement rates are high. Employees also feel able to speak up and tell us not only what is working, but what isn’t working and the leadership team take great care in listening and acting on all aspects of feedback.

What is the next objective in your organisation's journey to keep improving the employee experience?  

Simplification is key. In October this year, we are introducing a new cloud based Human Capital Management system, Work Day. This will free up many hours of HR time to be able to be spent on much more value added initiatives. The employee experience will improve dramatically, as nearly all of the HR activities will be held in one place and flow together rather than having multiple systems (or no systems!) to track activities and data. Gathering real time management information will transform managers’ ability to clearly see the performance of their business and have much more accountability to make decisions than ever before. They will be able to do this from their mobile device as well as their laptop. Employees will also have a similar experience; processes will be streamlined and simpler.

What is the biggest challenge facing your organisation today and how are you planning to overcome it?  

Staying competitive is a challenge in today’s world of cheaper alternatives. Alcon offers premium products so it is important for us to tell our story well to patients and customers. Customers might be surgeons and procurement teams in the NHS as well as high street chain and independent opticians. Education is critical at all levels. We have recently launched a UK educational website about cataract, an eye condition that will eventually affect every one of us as we age, which helps potential patients understand what the options are for different types of lenses as part of their cataract operation.

People tend to take their eyes for granted; and it still surprises me today that they do not take the time to look at the products they are putting on or in their eyes. How many people have had cataracts removed or wear contact lenses who have no idea which company made them, whether they are a quality brand or not and whether they have more or less chance of needing additional surgical procedures or contact lens refits due to the quality of their product? There are many options that patients can benefit from, yet many people are unaware they exist, so there is still a big need for patient education.

How will your organisation have to adapt to meet the changing future workplace?  

Technology is going to be a game changer in the future. This could be in the form of innovation across products; by updating them and improving them, as well as introducing new ones that are able to treat more eye diseases and more effectively. Virtual reality is already part of our DNA and provides some amazing simulation and training platforms for us to share with our customers as part of our educational offer. In the future, we might see traditional eye examinations replaced by mobile phone technology and customer experience improve dramatically. However, despite all of the changing modern technology it is always important to stay connected to people, whether they be patients, customers or employees. As an organisation, we will need to adapt our ways of working to harness digital and artificial intelligence so they can help our employees to improve our products and services, as well as improve training and education for our customers and patients

 

This interviewee was kindly introduced to us by ‘Top Employers Institute – the global authority on certifying excellence in employee conditions.’ Their organisation is certified as a Top Employer.

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