Values & pride at GSK
In this interview with Kerry O’Callaghan, head of global brand communications at GSK, Mary Appleton finds out how the organisation is using the Games to drive values & pride, and why it’s giving 100% of its tickets to well-deserving employees.
As I make my way toward GlaxoSmithKline (GSK)’s head office in Brentford, I can’t miss the London 2012 logo which graces the front of the building. It’s impressive.
Inside, there are images of athletes, Olympic torches and medals. There’s a real sense that the Games isn’t far away. As official laboratory services provider for London 2012, GSK has a central role to play in ensuring this is a clean Games.
I’m here to meet head of global brand communications, Kerry O’Callaghan. She believes a key driver of pride in any organisation lies in engaging your employees, and that’s exactly how GSK wanted to use their partnership with the Olympics.
“There are few initiatives that can galvanise a diversified business such as ours in the way the Olympics has. What’s been so important is being able to focus the attention on our employees,” she enthuses.
GSK at the Games
This is the first partnership GSK has undertaken with the Olympics and Paralympics. Working with King’s College London, the organisation is providing the anti-doping facilities for London 2012 from their site in Harlow. This is a ‘fantastic’ way for GSK to make a tangible contribution to the Games through science, says O’Callaghan.
“We also knew we wanted to use this unique opportunity to drive engagement and pride across the organisation,” she explains.
Pride is really important at GSK. It’s clear that O’Callaghan is hugely proud of the partnership, and what this means for GSK employees. And with 100,000 employees in 100 countries across the globe, finding something that would engage everyone is no mean feat.
In search of two torchbearers
As part of the sponsorship, GSK were given two places in the Olympic torch relay. In September 2011, they launched a London 2012 Torchbearer competition, and employees were invited to nominate each other for the chance to win a place. O’Callaghan explains that GSK were looking for two people who had made a positive difference in their local community, by inspiring youth.
“We had an overwhelming response,” she smiles. “We ran the competition locally and were astounded to receive 377 entries from 50 countries – it was beyond our expectations.
“It’s testament to the number of committed employees across GSK who are making an enormous difference to the lives of young people across the world.”
GSK also decided to give 100% of their ticket allocation to employees in a ‘Golden Ticket’ competition. “Rather than giving 90% of tickets to employees, we thought ‘let’s go for it’ and make a real statement,” says O’Callaghan.
From December 2011, employees around the globe were able to nominate co-workers for the chance to win one of 100 pairs of tickets. In total, 2,067 nominations were received from an ‘amazing’ 83 countries around the world, which account for 98.6% of the GSK employee population.
“It’s shown us the power the Olympics has in appealing to people in every corner of the world and at every level of the organisation,” she comments.
Embedding the values
O’Callaghan goes on to outline how the winners were selected. Four ideals were chosen as the criteria for the competition: excellence, integrity, friendship and equality. According to O’Callaghan, these ideals are central to the success of the Olympic and Paralympic Games and to business at GSK. Employees had to demonstrate at least one of these to be eligible.
“We have incredible people working in this business – everyone is a very worthy and deserving winner. It’s a truly global set of winners with people from all parts of world and the organisation. We’re so proud that 100% of our tickets are going to employees,” she says.
While the nomination system was predominantly online, O’Callaghan explains that it was important for GSK to make the competition accessible for all employees. In locations where employees work remotely in labs, for example, and don’t have access to networks or computers, GSK ensured there was also the facility for people to enter paper-based nominations.
It’s hardly surprising that both competitions have seen such a high number of entries. But what has touched O’Callaghan the most is the quality of nominations: “We’re showcasing stories about incredible employees around the world. Yes, people were engaged by wanting to carry the torch or win tickets, but equally there’s an increase in pride not just for the company but for fellow employees to understand what they do outside work.”
And what about those employees who weren’t successful? O’Callaghan explains that the whole initiative is underpinned by ‘Team GSK’ – a global programme of activities related to the partnership, which gives everyone the chance to be involved. The programme is designed to inspire achievement, foster pride in GSK and deepen understanding of GSK’s values. There are opportunities to volunteer, participate in challenges, find out about events, visit exhibitions at GSK sites, get information about health and wellbeing, etc.
For O’Callaghan, ‘Team GSK’ allows employees to ‘get closer to understanding what we’re doing’ with the Olympics. “It’s allowed us to highlight our values and drive these through the organisation,” she states.
One major element is the ‘Team GSK’ website. Most competition nominations were submitted online. The torch relay winners will be reporting back on their progress and training via the site. During the Games, ticket winners will be blogging live, sharing their photos and experiences. Employees are invited to send in messages and queries to them.
“When the golden ticket winners were announced, the site had over 25,000 clicks, which shows the support of the programme. It has certainly ignited an awareness of what we’re doing in a way we hadn’t done before,” comments O’Callaghan.
O’Callaghan has been ‘positively encouraged’ by the way the partnership has been received, internally and externally. When I ask if GSK is looking to replicate it for Rio 2016, she admits ‘the jury’s still out’ on what will happen for the next Olympics.
One thing that’s clear, though, is O’Callaghan’s delight at the way the partnership has ‘lit a fire’ among GSK employees. She concludes: “There’s a saying out there that engaged employees can deliver up to 20% more productivity – there’s a reason for that. Not only does it make it a nicer place to work if people feel engaged and are happy in what they are doing, there’s a genuine upside for the business as well.
“It’s really important that we have engaged employees who are proud of the company, aware of the great work we do, and proud of their fellow co-workers. A programme like this really showcases that.”
Bringing Team GSK to life
Together with SAS, O’Callaghan and her team undertook the task of bringing ‘Team GSK’ to life. Louisa Moreton, client partner at SAS Design, describes how they put GSK’s ambitions into practice.
We used three key channels:
- Online: ‘Team GSK’ website – an online hub that allows GSK to be instantly global. It’s a bespoke site on a secure server, with chat, sharing & commenting capability. Employees have a collective sense of the Games, whatever their location.
- Print: Posters & plasma screen advertising was circulated across GSK offices to drive people to the site. We developed these as an amendable global toolkit, so local comms teams could access this and translate into local languages.
- Personal: A network of local ‘Team GSK’ champions – anyone can volunteer to help raise the profile of competitions & encourage applications. One champion helped increase nominations by 600%.
The participation has been amazing – we’ve had over 29,000 unique visitors to the site. It was originally only meant to be a competition with a bit of internal engagement. Seeing the stats grow every week is fantastic.
About Kerry OCallaghan
Kerry has worked across all sectors of the healthcare industry in UK, EU & global marketing roles. After a short time at J&J she has spent the rest of her career at GSK, recently moving from the Consumer Healthcare business into Global Communications.