Cristina (Cris) A. Wilbur is Chief People Officer for F. Hoffmann-La Roche, the world’s largest biotech company, with about 98, 000 people employed in more than 100 countries. In 2002, Cris joined Roche as Director of HR at the Diagnostics US headquarters in Indianapolis, Indiana (U.S.) and four years later, she was appointed North America Region Head of HR. In 2010, Cris was named Global Head of HR for the Diagnostics Division and relocated to Roche’s worldwide headquarters in Basel, Switzerland. Wilbur has more than 25 years of experience in business and People and Culture (HR), and has her educational background in Finance and Computer Engineering. She is passionate about the discovery and development of each person's potential to enable collective and sustained organizational success, and the powerful combination of capabilities and mindset to unlock innovation and agility.
In this exclusive interaction, Wilbur talks about the impact of COVID-19 on the healthcare industry, how the performance management and rewards systems landscape has changed across organizations globally amid this pandemic, and what the future of healthcare would look like as we come out of this crisis.
Here are the excerpts from the interview.
How is Roche as a multinational healthcare company helping companies and patients to combat COVID-19?
COVID-19 has had a tremendous impact on our industry as we are collectively working to find solutions to help patients and society fight/combat this new virus. Roche has been at the forefront of providing our test kits to our laboratory and hospital partners to check if people have been infected by the novel coronavirus and also to determine if people have produced antibodies after being infected. In addition, our pharmaceuticals division is in the midst of conducting clinical trials for potential treatments to help very ill patients recover.
Do you think COVID-19 is an opportunity to accelerate innovation in healthcare? Are you changing change the way you innovate?
Our company is dedicated to helping patients and delivering innovative solutions in medicines and diagnostics better and faster. This pandemic has proven our deep commitment to our purpose and to the priorities we have for the safety and well-being of our people as well as to the patients and healthcare systems across the world.
The COVID-19 outbreak has sparked an unprecedented healthcare crisis. What are your major learnings in terms of how healthcare companies are reacting to the pandemic and how can the healthcare industry sail through this tough time?
Healthcare workers and companies fighting this pandemic have been real heroes for patients.
COVID-19 has created an unprecedented global crisis in so many dimensions and the challenges it has and continues to present will not be easy to resolve.
Because of our purpose, our values, and our strong culture, we know we must act and do what is right. For example, we have focused efforts to ensure that we do not create barriers to accessing our medicines and diagnostics solutions. Our people are working 24/7 to help meet the intense demands the situation presents and have immense pride in the company and the difference we are making.
How do you see the performance management and rewards systems landscape across organizations globally amid this COVID-19 pandemic?
Nearly three years ago, we introduced our People Practices that are built on being agile and impactful to the needs of our people and the business. As a result, the flexibility already in existence in our performance management could be activated immediately and with support from our technology solutions. In addition, besides our core compensation elements, we introduced several years ago, a global recognition program called Applause that has enabled people to recognize and reward, in real time, colleagues and teams for the contributions they are making in a simple yet meaningful way.
Do you think it's time to revisit the conventional metrics HR and business leaders consider for performance management and rewards?
As mentioned above, we have embedded flexibility to ensure that what people are delivering makes sense and that they are not locked in to a set of objectives or metrics that do not consider current circumstances.
How are you embracing remote work and alleviating some of the risks of COVID-19 to your business and employee welfare?
We have quite a number of people working from home. It was important for us to reassure our people that we would continue to pay them in full as we are all dealing with the ramifications of COVID-19 including school closures. We also wanted to protect our people who needed to come to the workplace because of critical business continuity activities. By limiting the number of people coming to our workplaces, we could ensure physical distancing measures were followed and reduce the risk of the virus spreading in our company.
What have you learned from your employees in terms of their performance assessment and rewards expectations? Do you see a change in terms of their expectation of how the company will reward them?
Purpose matters. When people are connected to a company's purpose, they will do what is needed to support that purpose. Our employees appreciate the support we have provided and have shared this feedback with us in a recent global pulse survey we conducted. Because this situation with COVID-19 has never happened before, there is of course uncertainty. We take a lot of effort to communicate regularly with our people and to provide them channels to get the most up-to-date information fast and easy.
What are your future plans as you go ahead amid this pandemic and how do you envision the future of healthcare as we come out of this COVID-19 crisis?
We know we will learn a lot as a result of this crisis. The future of healthcare will continue to demand innovative solutions and access for patients at less cost to society. This is well in line with our ambitions, and coupled with our culture and purpose, we believe we can make a big difference.