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 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. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, we also offer the majority of the programs entirely virtually. We have also introduced a range of support programs for leaders (e.g. group coaching and virtual workshop formats). We will also continue to work with our leaders to ensure that they gain the necessary skills to manage their employees responsibly in uncertain and challenging times.
For the past 21 years, we have been partnering with top international universities to offer 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 522 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 the reporting period, 25 of our employees worked on a project as part of 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.
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 Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany, 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. At present, 66% of our managers are not German citizens. All in all, 75 different nationalities are represented in such positions.
At the end of 2020, women occupied 35% of leadership roles Group-wide, meaning that we again exceeded our goal of maintaining the proportion of female 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. Factors such as the stronger female presence in leadership programs are already helping to ensure that female candidates are taken into account to a greater extent when filling vacancies. 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 the Group pursuant to section 76 (4) and section 111 (5) of the German Stock Corporation Act (AktG), can be found in the Corporate Governance statement. This is made available on the website https://www.emdgroup.com/en/investors/corporate-governance/reports.html.
Leveraging the opportunities of digitalization
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, we have been developing an intelligent humanoid robot in collaboration with Darmstadt Technical University since 2017. The aim is to find out how employees and managers 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. The studies are also intended to make new technologies hands-on so as to create acceptance of them early on.
State-of-the-art big data applications provide leaders with rapid and specific answers to HR-related questions. In addition to conventional master data, this may take the form of information on compensation, performance, and potential as well as strategic succession and HR planning. The Visier software developed by the People Analytics HR unit can connect this data in order to allow trends to be identified at an early stage. This means that managers have access to an extensive trove of data that they can utilize for operational and, above all, strategic (HR) decisions as long as this is consistent with data privacy regulations.
Data and technology at Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany, have become more important than ever before in light of the Covid-19 pandemic. So far, our strong foundations have helped us to overcome the crisis and keep our employees safe and active. We want to make even greater use of innovative technologies like artificial intelligence in order to advance the way in which our employees work.
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 opportunities for learning, which is why we are increasingly integrating 3D printing, robotics, big data, and artificial intelligence into our curricula. Moreover, we are testing novel learning and innovation methods such as Scrum and design thinking. To learn how to operate machinery, our apprentices also utilize virtual reality environments, initially learning how to operate the machinery through virtual images before developing the corresponding expertise in real environments.
* The contents of this chapter or section are voluntary and therefore not audited. However, our auditor has read the text critically.