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“Bring Your Curiosity to Life” – our promise as an employer describes how we collaborate, how we advance our business, how our employees can develop within the company, and who we are. Becoming a global science and technology company would not have been possible without the passion, creativity, and curiosity of our employees. And we are certain that our current and future employees ensure our economic success. They create innovations for patients and customers, and they secure our ability to compete. For this reason, the development of all our employees is very important to us. In short, we are working to create an environment where people are able to develop and reach their full potential.

A career with Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany, is enriching – both professionally and personally. We offer conditions that meet the individual needs of our employees and encompass an exciting range of tasks and advanced training possibilities, furthering flexible forms of cooperation and a culture of mutual esteem and respect. The latter is particularly important, as our workforce represents a broad range of nationalities, cultures, religions, and age groups, as well as a variety of personal and professional backgrounds. We are convinced that this diversity, paired with a corporate culture based on mutual respect, strengthens our innovative potential and contributes to our success.

Overview of our headcount figures

As of December 31, 2019, we had 57,071 employees worldwide1 (2018: 51,749). In 2019, we were represented by a total of 222 legal entities with employees in 66 countries2.

Distribution of employees 

by Region
1 With the completion of the acquisition of Versum Materials on October 7, 2019, around 2,300 employees joined Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany.

² The Group also has employees at sites that are not fully consolidated subsidiaries. These figures refer to all people directly employed by the Group and therefore may deviate from figures in the financial section of this report.

Building empowered leaders

Good leaders are key to the success of not only our employees, but also our company. Because they provide our talent with the right framework to unleash their potential and generate new ideas, we highly value the continuing education and development of our managers.

Strategic competency development

A transparent competency model is the pillar of our personnel development efforts. Managers and employees should show strategic competence by being purposeful, future-oriented, innovative, results-driven, collaborative, and empowering. By demonstrating these qualities, our managers can build a strong culture of collaboration based on curiosity, creativity, and trust. In addition, our leaders are expected to set an example by living our company values and taking responsibility for their own decisions. Based on this competency model, we have defined six leadership behaviors that summarize the conduct we expect from our leaders. To assess the performance and potential of every individual and to establish an effective leadership culture, regular and differentiated feedback is also of great importance. In this way, employees and supervisors can develop a shared vision, execute the business strategy and further develop a unifying corporate culture.

Management programs for executives

In recent years, we have initiated three programs to enhance the skills of our people managers. The Managerial Foundation Program imparts the basics of leadership, such as communication techniques, leadership styles, conflict management, motivation, and emotional intelligence. The Advanced Management Program covers topics such as change management, self-reflection, and resilience. The third initiative is our Global Leadership program, which focuses on competencies needed to ensure successful international collaboration.

For the past 20 years, we have been partnering with top international universities to offer the our Company University program. Over a period of around a year, senior executives take classes on management techniques and strategic business development. To date, a total of 480 executives have completed this program.

Another initiative we have been offering our up-and-coming leaders since the 1990s is our International Management Program, where participants work on an interdisciplinary project over a period of eight months. The results are then presented to the Executive Board. In 2019, 25 of our employees took part in this program.

In addition to these various programs, we partner with universities across the globe to enable our employees to obtain qualifications such as an Executive MBA.

In growth markets, we offer management programs specifically for local people managers, which focus on business management and Group-specific topics. We have implemented Growth Markets Management Programs in China and the Middle East, for instance.

Diversity and management

In order to manage our global and diverse organization, we need managers who can build international teams and promote international collaboration so as to contribute to a productive and flexible working environment. We seek managers whose inclusive leadership style also reflects different employee and customer traits. This opens up career opportunities for talented employees from all areas of our company and ensures a broad experience base as well as differentiated decision-making.

At our company, many teams work across sites and internationally. The diversity of competencies and experiences among the team members offers tremendous potential that our leaders can use. Internationality and a global mindset characterize our company culture and are therefore mirrored by our international management team. In 2019, 64% of our executives were not German citizens. Altogether, 73 different nationalities are represented in such positions.

At the end of 2019, women occupied 33% of leadership roles Group-wide, which means that once again we exceeded our goal of maintaining the proportion of women leaders at a stable level of 30% by 2021. At the same time, we developed goals and measures to ensure a balance of men and women when filling vacancies at the different levels of our businesses. We already have a stronger female presence in leadership programs. In addition, we have introduced processes to reduce unconscious bias, thus supporting female candidates when vacancies are being filled. Our flexible working models and unconscious bias training are also helping to increase the percentage of women in the Group.

The report on stipulations to promote the proportion of women in leadership positions at Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany, pursuant to section 76 (4) and section 111 (5) of the German Stock Corporation Act (AktG), can be found in the Corporate Governance section of this report.

Leveraging the opportunities of digitalization

The digital transformation has been leaving its mark on the world of work for a long time now. New, agile ways of working and artificial intelligence (AI) are thus increasingly gaining ground, a shift we are actively supporting. For example, since 2017 we have been developing an intelligent humanoid robot in collaboration with Darmstadt Technical University. We aim to find out how people respond to intelligent robots and AI in the workplace and in which areas they could be used. Another goal is to prepare our executives and staff for the introduction of AI in the working environment. Furthermore, the study is intended to make new technologies hands-on so as to create acceptance of them early on.

Using such big data applications developed by our People Analytics HR unit, leaders obtain rapid, specific answers to HR-related questions. Besides consolidating conventional master data, this software also collects information on compensation, performance, and potential, along with information on engagement and succession planning, interconnecting this data in meaningful ways and allowing trends to be identified at an early stage. Managers thus have access to an extensive trove of data that they may utilize as long as they comply with data privacy regulations.

Digitalization is also impacting our vocational training and continuing education programs, where IT skills are becoming increasingly crucial. At the same time, digital media is creating new ways of learning, which is why we are increasingly integrating 3D printing, big data, and artificial intelligence into our curricula. Moreover, we are testing out novel learning and innovation methods such as Scrum and Design Thinking. To learn how to operate plants and machinery, our apprentices also utilize virtual reality environments, initially learning how to operate the machinery through the virtual image before developing the corresponding expertise in real environments.

Furthering and asking more of talent

We believe that curiosity can make great things happen. We therefore seek to provide an environment that gives our employees plenty of scope for creativity and awakens their desire to innovate. In particular, training and career development plays a key role in attracting and retaining people. Focusing on their individual strengths, aspirations, and skills, we support their personal and professional development, thereby laying the groundwork for an enriching and challenging career with our company. We endeavor to discover qualified employees at an early stage in their career and develop their talents.

A holistic recruitment approach

When filling job vacancies, we pursue a holistic recruitment approach coupled with globally uniform and binding procedures. This starts with an internal job posting before external channels such as job portals and recruitment agencies are used. This process enables us to offer employees better development opportunities. For employees with leadership responsibility, we offer targeted interview coaching to support them in selecting candidates and to establish uniform quality standards.

A globally accessible welcome portal is available to new employees in order to help them prepare for their new job at Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany, and to support their onboarding phase. To further improve the onboarding process, supervisors, Human Resources, and new employees can exchange information and documents before their first day of work. In addition, all new employees are assigned an experienced colleague who can help them familiarize themselves with the daily work routine. Our managers are also given detailed information such as onboarding plans and process descriptions to support them with this task.

Vocational training to recruit young people

In 2019, we again maintained a constant, high vocational training rate in Darmstadt, our largest site. A total of 552 young people were enrolled in vocational training in 25 different occupations at our headquarters in the reporting period. We give unlimited employment contracts to all employees in vocational training who work in occupations for which we have sustainable demand. On average, the post-vocational training hiring rate – taking voluntary terminations into account – was more than 90% over the past five years. We also offer vocational training at other sites in Germany, in which a total of 589 young employees participated. We promote the professional and social expertise of our employees in vocational training through numerous regional and global project activities.

In Darmstadt, through our “Start in die Ausbildung” (Starting Vocational Training) program, we help prepare young people who have a school-leaving qualification but have been searching for a vocational training position for at least one year without success. At our company, they complete an 11-month program, gain insights into working life, and become ready for vocational training. The number of interns remained stable year-on-year, with 20 participants aged between 16 and 25 years.

Since 2016, we have also been working on a specially developed program to help refugees enter the job market. As part of the Integrating Refugees through Training” program, a further group of ten young people who were forced to flee their home countries started language, technical, cultural, and career-related training in 2019 to prepare them for vocational training and thus for the labor market.

Targeted advanced training and maximizing performance capability

Our focus on systematic personnel development allows us to sustainably strengthen the performance potential within our company and to increase the motivation of our people. Only by expanding the abilities of each individual can we count on innovative and curious employees and managers in the future and flexibly respond to different requirements.

Employee development at our company is founded on regular exchanges and a culture in which employees aspire to high levels of performance and engagement. As the basis for internal strategic talent management, the performance and potential management process is globally aligned for all employees in accordance with the same principles and is part of a shared IT system. We systematically combine talent recognition with performance assessments based on employee target agreements, as we are convinced that ongoing feedback helps all employees to grow in terms of their performance and potential. Regular individual assessments permit us to more readily identify high-potential employees and to further them accordingly. Clear objectives, differentiated and open feedback, and individual development plans are thus important prerequisites for both the personal development of every individual and the success of the company.

Furthermore, we have continued “Our Science Network” project. Due to the broad positioning of our company, we do not have a central research and development organization that unites expertise across our businesses. Through this project, we are promoting the establishment of a science community within the company to accelerate the exchange of innovative ideas and facilitate collaboration among all our R&D employees. One element of this project are the Continuous Performance Dialogues between 1,300 employees and their supervisors to align performance and potential appraisals with research and development needs. Other aspects focus on the advanced training of experts and their career paths and on the transfer of knowledge within the network.

Global classroom training courses and workshops developed specifically for teams help our employees develop and build individual abilities in line with new requirements and perspectives. In 2019, more than 11,200 employees participated. Digital solutions in the form of more than 2,900 e-learning and language courses are available to our employees. To enable our employees and managers to realize their full potential, we also provide local business and function-related offers. All measures are documented in a globally standardized development plan. Individual development opportunities are also supported by our job architecture, which applies globally and enables us to harmonize all positions and simplify their classification. This job architecture defines three fundamental career types: managers, experts, and project managers. They are all equal. Employees who wish to advance in their careers and aim for a top position within the company can also do so via the expert and project manager career paths.

A transparent and flexible employee reward system

At our company, we reward the performance of every individual through appropriate and competitive total compensation. For years, we have been achieving this through global processes and programs that are supported by digital platforms. We also offer our managers flexible, market and needs-oriented compensation tools. These support well-informed decisions and thus provide comprehensible, performance and position-based compensation. Apart from monetary compensation components, we also offer our employees attractive fringe and social benefits. Our fringe benefits feature globally under the internal benefits4me brand. Its offerings comprise three pillars:

  • Company benefits including a company pension
  • Health and well-being
  • Service offers

Specific benefit packages are in place at a national level to meet the different needs of our employees using well-established management mechanisms. Focusing more closely on individualized fringe and social benefits in the future will continue to enable our employees to individually choose those benefits that best meet their personal situation and stage of life.

Valuing diversity and dialogue

We are a global science and technology company. At our company people work together closely – regardless of their gender and gender identity, skin color, religion or creed, age, disability status, country of origin, ancestry, nationality, family situation or marital status, military or veteran status, genetic information, and sexual orientation. All bring their specialist backgrounds, individual life experiences, and outlook to the company. We firmly believe that a diverse workforce and a respectful corporate culture are indispensable for our Group’s ability to innovate and contribute significantly to our business success.

Our diversity strategy

Our Chief Diversity Officer is responsible for overseeing our Group’s diversity strategy. Consisting of executives from all our business sectors and select Group functions, our Diversity Council specifically works on the further implementation of our diversity strategy. This focuses on two areas. First, we aim to promote the advancement of women into leadership positions and give talented people from the Asian region greater opportunities. Second, we aim to develop a better understanding of this growth market. However, our other goals remain unchanged: We aim to recruit people representing a breadth of qualifications, skills, and experiences. In addition, we support specific employee networks in order to foster exchange among like-minded individuals. Apart from our women’s networks in various countries, we also support networks that promote the interests of the LGBTQI (lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer or questioning, intersex) community as well as African American and international employees. Our Carer network brings together employees from all over the world who care for a relative.

Furthermore, we create awareness of unconscious bias throughout the Group. We help executives to identify and reassess unconscious thought patterns in their daily encounters as well as in decision-making processes and to bring about long-term changes in their own behavior in this regard. We also use the Job Analyzer, an online tool that allows job advertisements to be checked for critical wordings prior to their publication, thus fostering gender-neutral communication with those applying for jobs.

In Germany, we signed the Charta der Vielfalt (Diversity Charter) in 2013, the Charta der Gleichstellung (Equal Opportunity Charter) in 2015, and the Inclusion Action Plan of the German Mining, Chemical, and Energy Industrial Union (IG BCE) in 2017. At the international level, we support the Women Empowerment Principles, an initiative of UN Women and the UN Global Compact aimed at empowering women in the workplace. In 2019, we also joined the Business Coalition for Equality Act, a group of leading U.S. employers that support the Equality Act. By joining these initiatives, we underscore our commitment to fairness and tolerance in the workplace.

Different aspects of diversity

As a global employer with intercultural expertise, people from a total of 139 nations work for our company; 22% of our employees are German citizens and 76% of our employees work outside Germany. At our headquarters in Darmstadt, 11% of staff are not German citizens.

Women currently make up 43% of our workforce. However, the ratio of women to men varies widely across the different regions, businesses, and functions. We are therefore working to raise the proportion of women wherever they are underrepresented, taking into account the situation typical for the industry as well as regional differences.

Demographic change is posing challenges to society in Germany as well as several other EU countries, the United States, China, and Japan. The average age of our employees is approximately 42. We assume that this figure will continue to rise in the coming years and are preparing for this situation. As part of our range of Health and Well-Being offerings, we specifically promote our employees’ physical and psychological well-being throughout their entire career.

Understanding our employees

We want to create a working environment that empowers our employees to think outside of the box and find new solutions, opening the door to creative ideas and the discovery of new market opportunities. In order to promote this and to allow us to carry out even better comparisons both within the company and with our competitors, we conduct Group-wide employee engagement surveys every year. In this way, we ensure a regular exchange between employees, leaders, and senior management. The honest feedback we receive from staff shows us whether the measures and initiatives specified here are successful and highlights areas where we can improve further.

In October and November 2019, the global employee engagement survey was again conducted in 22 languages and the status of implementation reviewed. Around 47,000 employees (88%) took part. Our Group-wide score, which indicates how attached our employees feel to the company, was 74%. The survey methodology was fundamentally changed in 2019, which means that this year’s result is not comparable with the results for previous years.

These surveys are supplemented by smaller snapshot surveys, where employees are asked about selected strategic issues or projects. The results are used to identify strategic focus areas, and they feed into the company-wide work on an ongoing basis.

Differentiated solutions to support employee well-being

As an employer, we take responsibility for the well-being of our people and offer a wide range of opportunities to optimize work-life balance and protect their health and safety.

Fostering work-life balance

We know that people’s priorities in life can change and we take this into account, for example by offering flexible working time/location models, working time accounts for early retirement, and the possibility of taking an extended break from work. We also place great emphasis on family life. Here our commitment ranges from parental leave to childcare as well as support of employees caring for a relative.

Our employees can choose between different flexible working models. For instance, at our German sites in Darmstadt and Gernsheim as well as in Australia and many countries in Asia and Europe, we offer a model we developed ourselves. The Mywork at Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany, working model allows employees to freely choose their working hours and location in agreement with their teams and supervisors. Employees agree with their direct supervisors on when and how often all team members are required to be in the office. Time tracking and time control are no longer required. The model reinforces our company’s performance culture and culture of trust. Workplace permitting, the model can be taken up both by employees formally covered by collective agreements and employees exempt from them. Over the coming years, Mywork at Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany, will be rolled out across the company. The model is currently being implemented in Brazil, China, Colombia, Ecuador, France, Guatemala, Italy, Korea, Mexico, Spain, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and the United States. At the end of 2019, a total of 5,990 employees in Germany made use of this model. In 2019, 5% of our employees worldwide worked part-time, 17% of whom are men.

By offering information, advice, and assistance in finding childcare and nursing care as well as home and garden services, we help employees to reconcile the demands of their professional and personal lives. At various sites, employees benefit from childcare options that we subsidize. For example, for over 50 years, our headquarters in Darmstadt has featured a daycare center that offers 150 slots in crèche, kindergarten, and after-school care. The Parents at Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany, program makes it easier for our employees to return to work following parental leave, giving mothers and fathers on parental leave the chance to talk and interact while also helping them keep in touch with the company. Moreover, they can make use of our various training and networking opportunities. We have established a similar program in the United States.

A constant focus on health and safety

The health and safety of our employees constitutes an important part of our daily responsibilities. We do everything to protect them against accidents and work-related illnesses, principally in the areas of stress prevention, nutrition, and exercise. We focus on preventive measures that can be easily incorporated into the daily work routine. They are designed to help our employees avoid short-term and protracted health problems.

At our Darmstadt and Gernsheim sites, our Health Management unit conducts an array of campaigns and programs to promote the health of our workforce. Our employees have access to a health catalog detailing our Health Management services in both English and German. Among other things, this contains information on ergonomics, nutrition, stress, and mental health issues.

Workplace safety and health protection are the highest priority at Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany. It is especially important to us to do everything we can to prevent workplace-related illnesses and accidents. We apply the lost time injury rate (LTIR) as an indicator to determine the success of measures aimed at accident prevention as well as occupational health and safety. This key performance indicator describes the number of workplace accidents resulting in lost time of one day or more per one million working hours. After having reached the goal of 2.5 that we had set in 2010, in 2015 we set ourselves a new, ambitious goal: By 2020 we intend to sustainably lower the LTIR to 1.5. In 2019, our LTIR was 1.5.

Experience shows that most workplace accidents can be prevented by proper conduct. Through our BeSafe! safety culture initiative, we are working to educate our employees on dangers in the workplace and provide them with rules of conduct that help keep them safe. Uniform standards as well as local modules to meet specific safety requirements at individual sites can help achieve a steady improvement in the current situation. The program focuses on engaging managers in the safety culture and building their buy-in, aiming to make safety an intrinsic value and empower our employees to take responsibility for their own safety. In 2019, we continued to sensitize our employees to workplace hazards through numerous awareness campaigns.

  Group (overall) Dec. 31 2017 Group (overall) Dec. 31 20182 Group (overall) Dec. 31 20196
Number of employees global, total 52,941 51,749 57,071
by region Asia-Pacific (APAC) 11,294 10,486 12,728
Europe 25,980 25,792 26,715
Latin America 4,050 3,340 3,433
Middle East and Africa (MEA) 1,097 1,153 1,366
North America 10,520 10,978 12,829
Number of employees in FTE (FTE = full-time equivalents) global, total 52,223.5 51,039.8 56,204.6
by region Asia-Pacific (APAC) 11,272.1 10,462.9 12,694.2
Europe 25,302.5 25,126.8 26,013.1
Latin America 4,046.2 3,339.5 3,427.8
Middle East and Africa (MEA) 1,096.1 1,151.1 1,365.2
North America 10,506.7 10,959.6 12,704.4
Number of countries 66 66 66
Number of legal entities global, total 217 207 222
Number of nationalities global, total 131 136 139
Number of nationalities working in Germany 97 95 96
Percentage of employees with German citizenship 23.2% 24.1% 22.4%
Percentage of employees working outside Germany 74.9% 73.9% 75.8%
Percentage of employees with global managers 10.2% 10.6% 11%
Percentage of women in the workforce global, total 43.1% 44.0% 43%
In Germany 39.1% 38.9% 38.9%
Percentage of women in leadership positions (= role 4 or higher) global, total 30.3%3 32.3%5 33.5%7
In Germany 29.7%3, 4 30.9%5 31.6%7
Percentage of executives (= role 4 or higher) global, total 6.0%3, 4 6.5%5 6.2%7
Percentage of executives who are not German citizens 64.4%3 63.6%5 64%7
Number of nationalities 653 705 737
Number of employees in vocational training in Germany 588 604 589
Vocational training rate 4.4% 4.1% 4.3%
Number of employees in the” Mywork at Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany, model (Germany) 5,267 5,698 5,990
Percentage of employees working part-time global, total 4.6% 4.8% 4.9%
Men 10.7% 12.5% 16.9%
Percentage of employees aged 17–29 years 14.5% 14.5% 15%
Percentage of employees aged 30–49 years 62.1% 61.1% 60.2%
Percentage of employees aged 50+ 23.4% 24.4% 24.8%
Average age globally 41.4 41.7 41.7
Average age by region Asia-Pacific (APAC) 36.9 36.9 36.8
Europe 42.5 42.8 43
Latin America 40.3 40.4 40.3
Middle East and Africa (MEA) 39.4 39.2 38.6
North America 44.1 44.1 44.4
Germany 43.0 43.3 43.7
Average length of service global, total 9.8 10.0 9.5
Average length of service in Germany 14.0 14.5 14.8
1 The Group also has employees at sites that are not fully consolidated subsidiaries. These figures refer to all people directly employed by the Group and therefore may deviate from figures in the financial section of this report.
2 The Consumer Health business was transferred to Procter & Gamble (P&G) as of December 1, 2018, and was already classified as a discontinued operation according to IFRS 5 in April 2018. With the completion of the sale, around 3,300 employees joined P&G.
3 Not including Sigma-Aldrich legal entities in Germany or Allergopharma.
4 Ratio adjusted retrospectively.
5 Not including the Sigma-Aldrich legal entity in Steinheim, Germany, or Allergopharma.
6 With the completion of the takeover of Versum Materials on October 7, 2019, around 2,300 employees joined Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany.
7 Not including the Versum Materials legal entities or Allergopharma.
* The contents of this chapter or section are voluntary and therefore not audited. However, our auditor has read the text critically.