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on a positive impact

Empowering Johnson & Johnson employees in a socially impactful and transformative way

By Annet Eijkelkamp, Director EMEA, Employee Engagement Johnson & Johnson Global Community Impact

The other day, I was browsing the internet to learn how other companies are staying relevant in an ever-changing economy and business environment. After digging into some research, there were three skills/traits that stood out to me: 1) the importance of technical skills and being able to work in an often challenging ecosystem, 2) the value of being agile and bringing people together from different cultures and generations to advance partnerships and deliver meaningful and sustainable impact, and 3) the ability to think holistically, to embrace complex problems and come up with new innovative ways to solve them.

I couldn’t agree more, and the Johnson & Johnson (J&J) Secondment Program does exactly that.

When I started my role at Johnson & Johnson Global Community Impact in 2013, it was a dream of mine to encourage our Company to re-imagine employee engagement and see “employee giving” differently. I envisioned a program that would enable J&J to leverage the skills and experience of its 43,000 employees across the Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) region to support our partners on the front lines of care in a transformative, long-term way. After many internal discussions, enthusiastic pitches, and detailed presentations, I got the green light to pilot the J&J Secondment Program for social impact creation.

Five years later, nearly 50 talented J&J employees have shared their knowledge, expertise and passion with our NGO partners through full-time field assignments of up to six months. Together with my team, I've seen many successes and challenges on this journey. As we look to evolve the program even further to best impact the front lines of health, I’m sharing my five biggest lessons from the first five years of the Secondment Program!

Five Years, Five Lessons

1. Create professional development opportunities that empower employees to make the most of their experiences. As our J&J employees (Secondees) grow into even more socially responsible leaders, we enable them to set an example for their peers, educate their readers about the front lines of care, and share their experiences through regular blogs. Every Secondee is assigned a retired J&J senior leader who advises them regularly and helps them deliver the greatest impact possible to our NGO partners. They are also paired with an alumni buddy, a former Secondee, who can answer questions and guide them. Moving to a new country and embarking on a new experience in a different sector or field can be daunting for our Secondees, but we make sure they have the support system to thrive. For many of our Secondees, the experience is life-changing and changes the trajectory of their personal and professional development significantly.

2. Build and create buy-in from the business. At J&J, giving back to society is truly at the heart of our Company and our Credo, and is the reason our team, Global Community Impact, exists. In fact, the Johnson & Johnson Secondment Program collaborates with the business side of our Company to create an infrastructure for the program that enables J&J employees to be supported with salaries and benefits throughout their six-month Secondments. Before this happened, we had to demonstrate how Secondees would return from their assignments as more seasoned, experienced and resilient professionals. The result is a program that is not just “nice to have,” but essential to how we perform as a business, deliver on the values that drive our Company, and give back to underserved communities across the EMEA region.

3. Measure rigorously and evaluate regularly. Health trends have changed significantly over the last five years and so have the needs of our partners. Every year we ask ourselves: are our Secondees’ skills still relevant to our partners’ needs? Are we still helping our NGO partners meet their goals and amplify their impact? The answers to these questions are crucially important because they chart the course of the Secondment Program’s future. We constantly evolve to adapt to our partner’s needs and ensure that our strategy remains a triple win for the employee, the NGO partner, and our Company. Our NGO partners, who have seen and experienced the tremendous potential of our employees, have responded accordingly by requesting support for even more complex and challenging assignments. Through a more robust selection criteria, we are able to send the best qualified J&J employees to meet our partners’ biggest needs.

4. Innovate to survive — and thrive. Together with my team, I’m constantly looking for new ways to expand the reach of our Secondment Program. Here are a couple of examples of what will be new in 2019:

  • To start, a J&J employee from outside of the EMEA region will be joining our program for the first time.
  • Long-time J&J partners CCBRT, mothers2mothers, and the White Ribbon Alliance will also become hosts to our J&J Secondees for the first time, joining existing Secondment partners Aga Khan Development Network, North Star Alliance, Save the Children, Hand in Hand International and SOS Children’s Villages International, and growing our list of Secondment partners to eight.
  • And for the first time, Johnson & Johnson executives will be able to participate by taking on remote, strategic and advisory part-time assignments with two of our NGOs through the new “Lion Secondments” offering. I feel especially fortunate that we were able to develop this offering to enable our senior leaders to give back to our partners while allowing them to continue their management responsibilities with the Company.

    And looking ahead, we will continue to diversify the types of Secondments offered to best meet the needs of our partners and play to the strengths of our Company and its employees. We will continue our “Reverse Secondments,” which we rolled out last year, to enable employees from our NGO partners to be seconded to J&J and develop business skills they can then bring back to their organization.

5. Have a strong team around you. My last words of wisdom, but certainly not the least: don’t forget about the people who have made and continue to make your program a success. I’m once more grateful to my team that has supported me and challenged me as we’ve grown this program. But I also want to give my sincere gratitude to our amazing NGO partners, the nearly 50 Secondees to date whose experiences are proof of the value of this program, our J&J retirees (coaches) who help them overcome the challenges they faced on the ground, and the wider J&J community that has invested time, hours, and faith in this program.

Finally, my special thanks goes to our Company Group Chairs and HR Leaders from across the EMEA region who have supported and helped us to build a solid support system for the Program from the beginning, and still do! Their support has allowed us to build and scale other successful programs like our partnership with One Young World to build young leaders capacity across the globe.

The J&J Secondment Program has and continuous to empower our employees to make a socially, meaningful and transformative impact to vulnerable populations across this region, and truly has been a catalyst for building trust with our businesses across our region.

About the J&J Global Community Impact Secondment Program

J&J Global Community Impact invests in people on the front lines of care as they change the trajectory of health for the world’s most vulnerable people, their families, and their communities. We are inspired to help create a world where people, no matter their circumstances, have access to quality health care. The Secondment Program is a long-term collaboration between Johnson & Johnson, our employees, and our NGO partners to invest in and build the skills of people on the front lines of care in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa. Through full-time field assignments of up to six months, our employees transfer their knowledge, expertise, and passion to our partners at the heart of delivering care, uniquely give back to society, and change the trajectory of human health. Learn more here.