"Creating Opportunities for a Multigenerational Workforce"
Peter Fasolo, Executive Vice President, Chief Human Resources Officer at Johnson & Johnson is widely considered one of the world’s most influential human resources leaders and Johnson & Johnson, one of the most admired companies. A conversation with Peter Fasolo about the value of transformational growth and innovation – and how to help it unfold.
The HR Digest: Johnson & Johnson is said to have a very strong corporate culture. Many of your employees have spent their entire careers with the group. Such a degree of corporate socialization can also stifle innovation and overall cognitive diversity. How do you keep your people open to transformational growth and innovation?
Peter Fasolo: At our core, Johnson & Johnson is a company that is deeply rooted in the values expressed in Our Credo, which defines how we operate and our expectations for our business and our people. We view ourselves as a 133-year-old startup that is guided by our history and powered by the success of our innovation over that time frame.
Rooted in Our Purpose, we are charged with meeting unmet medical needs at every corner of the globe, and innovation is a key part of how we do that. Innovation is a long-term game and our relationship with our employees is likewise built on mutual long-term investment in each other.
One example of how this comes to life is to encourage our employees to have “multiple careers” within J&J. Individuals who have the skills and background to move across our businesses have a higher probability of advancing through the organization because we view the diverse experience as a major strength and key driver of innovation and growth.
The HR Digest: Generational conflict has become a keyword in the current management debate. Never has the topic been as immediately relevant as it is now – particularly when companies with a rich history like Johnson & Johnson’s are managing people from five generations. How do you motivate employees of different generations to share their knowledge?
Peter Fasolo: One of the most effective ways of understanding and meeting the needs and desires of our diverse patients, consumers, and customers, is to have a workforce that reflects diversity. From that lens, we view generational diversity not only as a real strength for our business but as an imperative.
Our opportunity is to enable generations to learn from each other in a way that fuels the advancement of meeting unmet medical needs and innovation. We tend to look at various groups based on their willingness and ability to learn new things across the spectrum of our businesses. As part of that, we encourage employees to participate in both formal and informal mentorship and sponsorship programs. Our millennial employee resource group is also a key driver of cross-generational collaboration, hosting a number of reverse mentoring events.
The HR Digest: Organizations have recognized the importance of using people analytics to de-bias hiring and rewards – but then fail to accelerate in skills identification and tackling biases. How did Johnson & Johnson approach this unique challenge to debunk conventional wisdom?
Peter Fasolo: We recognize that there is no singular solution for mitigating bias, and for that reason, have taken a multipronged approach to how we address it within our organization. Beginning with recruiting, we have introduced technology into our process in a way that helps expand the diversity of our candidate pool. For example, we’ve partnered with Textio, an AI-enabled platform, to enhance our job postings, leading to an increase in both qualified applications and gender diversity. We’ve also made updates to our hiring manager platform so that our managers are now equipped with insights on the diversity of their candidate set, among other relevant data, in order to help make more informed decisions.
Once you bring employees with a diverse background and skill set into the organization, it becomes imperative that there is a culture where they feel they belong and can express their unique views. One way we are fostering that culture at J&J is through unconscious bias training. To date, 90% of our employees have completed the e-learning course, with internal surveys indicating that the majority of employees found the information valuable and applicable to their job.
All of this is underpinned by our commitment to getting smarter in the way we interact with our employees. For example, one study we conducted found that employees who feel included are 140% more likely to perceive a culture of innovation around them. Leveraging these insights, we can demonstrate the impact of inclusive leadership across our organization and apply the learnings to how we develop talent.
The HR Digest: How do you communicate tough messages?
Peter Fasolo: In my role, one of the most important things I do is to provide coaching and advice at the highest levels of the organization. In these situations, I am always cognizant of delivering my message in a way that is kind but provides realistic feedback that will help individuals reach their full potential.
Another key part of having difficult conversations is to come from a position of caring, rather than judgment. This relies on authenticity, which is built by demonstrating transparency, developing trust and modeling caring behaviors. If you just have a transactional relationship with your employees or peers, even the most carefully crafted messages will fail to resonate.