Living company purpose | S3 E2

First published: 1 February, 2022

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Engaging Internal Comms Series 3
Engaging Internal Comms Series 3
Living company purpose | S3 E2

Melissa Hackmeier is Global Head of Employee and Community Engagement, Sustainability and Social Business Innovation at the Life Science business of Merck. Melissa joins Craig Smith on the Engaging Internal Comms Podcast to discuss the importance of living company purpose.

Through her work, Melissa has shown her ability to effectively develop relationships and communicate with key constituents. She also serves on the Advisory Council of Net Impact Boston.

Merck, which operates as MilliporeSigma in the U.S. and Canada, is currently rolling out several sustainability and social business innovation programmes across the globe, which can be divided into three categories:

  1. Philanthropic investments with non-profit partners
  2. SPARK™ employee global volunteer programme
  3. Science education programmes

MilliporeSigma defines its company purpose as ‘together we impact life and health through science’ and their education programmes aim to do this by inspiring curiosity among the next generation of scientists. All of this is aimed at producing sustainable solutions for the future.

Showing employees why they should be living company purpose is something that can increase the efficiency and impact of large-scale efforts like this, and it fits into the ‘what are we aiming for?’ section of the Big Picture Connections Framework.

This forms part of the Big Picture Pulse Check Diagnostic tool, which can help you uncover employee engagement strengths and opportunities in your. The assessment tool asks a series of questions and provides a numerical score and detailed report on how well your employees are engaged with your organisation’s efforts.

To take the Big Picture Pulse Check and find out how your organisation ranks, click here.

The work of MilliporeSigma

MilliporeSigma’s main programme is SPARK™, with its Curiosity Labs™ with the Curiosity Cube® forming a large part of this. All of these serve a different aim but ultimately contribute towards the same goal, which is why it is so important that the organisation’s employees are living the company’s purpose.

SPARK™ is the company’s global volunteer programme and is designed to unite the organisation’s employees around the commitment to giving back to the communities they live in. Launched in 2016, the initiative harnesses employee’s talents through skills-based opportunities focusing on science and education while providing better access to this for students aged 8 – 13 years old.

Curiosity Labs™ is MilliporeSigma’s flagship programme which is geared towards educating and inspiring these students around the world through interactive and practical science lessons. The organisation’s own trained employees deliver these sessions, helping young people explore this subject area.

The lessons provided by employees centre around the business and its work. It shows the students how these scientific principles apply to real-world situations and solutions. The cost of all these sessions is all covered by MilliporeSigma.

The Curiosity Cube® is a mobile science lab built from a shipping container, used to compliment the Curiosity Labs™. It travels across the U.S. at various schools and events to give students practical lessons which operate around a different theme each year.

Connecting volunteering to company purpose

Mellissa says the skills-based volunteers programmes MilliporeSigma provides makes a natural connection to its overall purpose as a business. This has made it easier to gain the backing of its senior leadership.

For its employees, living MilliporeSigma’s company purpose and buying into it is vital for making initiatives like SPARK™ a success. Many of the volunteers gain a professional development from this, but many are recruited because they want to give something back to their communities.

All employees are encouraged to contribute to programmes like the Curiosity Labs™, even those without a scientific background. Melissa and her team help provide structure and support to the SPARK™ teams that run these events, but she emphasises how they also help employees build ownership of the programmes, so they are meaningful to local employees.

The events also help employees become more outward looking, allowing them to engage and collaborate with people they would not normally work with on a day-today basis. It also helps them develop transferable skills which they can bring back to their roles.

Employees at all levels of MilliporeSigma are involved with the SPARK™ programmes, from mid-tier managers to senior leaders. The effects of this are felt across the full business, with Melissa saying many employees have requested to use the sessions for team-building purposes. This helps them buy into the wider goals of the business and further their efforts for living this company purpose.

Measuring the return on investment

When it comes to determining how the SPARK™ programmes are providing a return on investment for MilliporeSigma, Melissa says it can be challenging. Often, teachers and students are surveyed after the event to gain feedback on their understanding of the learning objectives, their attitudes to science and crucially their engagement with the programme.

This helps form programme improvements while also showing the impact the Curiosity Cube® and Curiosity Labs™ are having.

When it comes to the employee side, they are also surveyed on their experiences and what it meant to them, with many expressing how proud they are to work for a company that supports this type of initiative.

MilliporeSigma offers its employees 16 hours of leave for volunteering purposes each year, something Melissa feels really emphasises the engagement these programmes get while also allowing them to live the company’s purpose.

Impact of the pandemic

Melissa admits that the last few years have been challenging for the SPARK™ programmes and its volunteers for several reasons. The lack of access to the Curiosity Cube® and Curiosity Labs™ because of covid restrictions meant MilliporeSigma needed to adapt.

They created the Curiosity Labs™ at Home programme which is a virtual version of the labs. It includes 20 easy-to-conduct science experiments which can be completed using materials that can be found around the house.

This virtual programme comes with videos and other resources to help complete the lessons and Melissa says she has seen great engagement from parents and teachers in these virtual environments.

Creating a volunteer programme within an organisation

From her own experiences, Melissa says it is critical to have the support of senior leaders when creating a volunteer programme. She says that many employees in any large organisation will always want to help their communities, but they often need to guidance to do so.

“Employees definitely want to give back,” Melissa said. “They want to be out in their communities and they often enjoy giving back through the workplace. But it is really important to provide them with the guidance, structure and frame to do so as well as the resources.”

MilliporeSigma has provided its employees the tools and resources to do this, and that has given them a lot more initiative to take the lead and plan other events like these. Melissa says that understanding different cultural viewpoints around things like volunteering is also crucial to making programmes like this a success at a large or global scale.

Furthermore, measuring impact will help leaders develop a good understanding of the programme’s growth, how to improve it and the levels of engagement it is receiving.

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