Issue: September/October 2010
Best Places to Work: Setting the Pace
Award for Communication: Ben Venue Laboratories
Company: Ben Venue
of Employees: More than 1,300
What They Do: Contract
developer and manufacturer of sterile, injectable pharmaceuticals
Why It’s a Great
Place to Work: An environment where a packaging line worker has
immediate access to the company president empowers employees to change the
facility’s operations and motivate one another while helping executives take
the pulse of a growing business.
Cassie Eddy felt disconnected to her work and its purpose. And the packaging line technician for pharmaceutical maker Ben Venue Laboratories had a feeling many of her co-workers felt the same way.
“Everything that we do here is incredibly important,” Eddy says. “But kind of like every other job, you get caught up in your day-to-day activities, and you forget what it is you’re really doing.”
Looking for a way to convey that importance, Eddy reached out to cancer treatment centers and advocacy groups. She settled on the story of a young girl with ovarian cancer. Using photos of the child, Eddy developed a series of storyboards depicting how Ben Venue’s generic line of drugs could treat the child’s disease.
“The idea was you’re not just pushing paper or you’re not just inspecting pharmaceuticals, you’re really helping people even though you don’t get to see them every day,” Eddy says.
The storyboards, posted on the manufacturing floor of the Bedford facility, grabbed the attention of company executives and quickly became motivational tools throughout the factory and at parent company Boehringer Ingelheim’s other U.S. holdings, says Jason Kurtz, Ben Venue’s associate director of communications and public relations. Since then, Eddy has developed several more storyboards chronicling other cancer patients and the products Ben Venue makes that could treat them.
“It was really one employee on a manufacturing floor taking that initiative,” says Stamy Paul, the company’s executive director of human resources. “Having the environment and the culture to do that, I think, is sometimes underestimated in businesses.”
Steps toward a more communicative workplace came amid a period of tremendous growth for Ben Venue. In 2001, the company employed fewer than 500. Last year the company added nearly 250 employees to push its total past 1,300.
“By the time we got to 2006, we needed something different to make sure people were still marching in the same direction,” Kurtz says.
Over the years, Ben Venue has launched initiatives to ensure its expanding work force was tuned in to the company’s ambitions and had avenues to offer feedback. There were employee surveys, focus groups and peer-to-peer discussions across shifts. A 20-page newsletter was published. A communications department was created. And programs were installed to net workers face time with company executives — not that leadership was inaccessible to start with.
“I can walk into [president] Tom Murphy’s office any time with a question, and he’ll take time out of his schedule to help,” Eddy says.
Should Murphy, whose office opens to a main hallway, not be around, employees can e-mail him or another executive from computers stationed throughout the plant and are assured a timely response.
The open lines have enabled even the lowest level employees to change the company’s manufacturing processes and management practices.
“We’ve got some incredibly intelligent, amazing employees, and we knew that it was all about reaching them and getting them to feel comfortable sharing their voice,” Kurtz says. “That’s when we start to see the needle move; that’s when you see things happen.”
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