John Dawber, Vice President and General Manager of global health company Novo Nordisk Thailand, centres his leadership style around authenticity, openness and operating with a non-hierarchical approach.
The company’s purpose is to “drive change to defeat diabetes and other serious chronic diseases such as obesity, and rare blood and rare endocrine diseases”.
John attributes a large percentage of the company’s success to its ability to ensure employees feel connected to the organisation. This has contributed towards Novo Nordisk Thailand ranking number one as the best place to work, across all sectors and all sizes of organisations in Thailand, in 2021.
“You realise that if you talk to people, engage people and treat people like you would if they were members of your real family; if you work on their talents, their insecurities, their hopes, their fears and you give back and you develop trust, then that is repaid in performance, in commitment, in loyalty and in engagement,” he tells The CEO Magazine.
When I arrived here in Thailand, I started to do a lot of listening to the employees and realised that there were some structural adaptations as well as really important communication and behavioural adaptions we could make.
John’s approach to culture and wellbeing has decreased the company’s attrition rate from around 20 per cent down to five per cent in 2021. This gave encouraging insight and confirmation that focusing on the needs of employees is vital to ensure teams feel connected to reach organisational goals and objectives.
“When I arrived here in Thailand, I started to do a lot of listening to the employees and realised that there were some structural adaptations as well as really important communication and behavioural adaptions we could make that would help the organisation perform more effectively,” he says.
John reflects on the opportunity that exists within Thailand to enhance growth and meet the consumer needs of the market. “We’re very lucky, compared to many of the countries in South-East Asia, that Thailand has got a very good healthcare scheme with a good level of reimbursement across quite a large proportion of the population.”
Upon arriving, he saw opportunities for new products in the pipeline, or that had just been launched, which could take advantage of this reimbursement scheme and successfully fuel growth within Thailand.
John also has a strong understanding that people are at the centre of everything, so when he hired a new human resources director, he put a lot of effort into really spending time to make sure that their communication within all departments was in alignment.
This approach ensured that they were “explaining the why of every change, listening very carefully, diligently recording the feedback and allowing people to have the confidence to bring feedback to the table knowing we would act. We spend a lot of time doing that and it’s worked very well,” he says.
I have to say COVID-19 has helped us in that respect, that it improved our team’s engagement and internal communication.
Placing faith and truth within his employees is important to John, utilising a decentralised approach to his leadership to create this environment. “Employees are the ones that know the processes best,” he explains. “So if they see things that are not logical and can be optimised in their work, I want them to have the power to highlight this and work alongside us to fix them.”
Novo Nordisk was able to come out on the other side of COVID-19 with its employees feeling more engaged and connected as a result. “I have to say COVID-19 has helped us in that respect, that it improved our team’s engagement and internal communication, developing people and giving us opportunities to take a few risks on promoting some internal people, who then truly improved and found success within this environment of belief and trust.”
In regards to its immediate future, Novo Nordisk will be launching one big new innovation in the treatment of diabetes, as well as a plan to broaden the reimbursement of some of its existing innovative medicines so that it is able to treat more patients and continue to fuel growth.