Caroline Barth was appointed Chief Human Resources Officer and Member of the Executive Committee of Lonza in May 2020. With 25 years of experience driving change and growth in the pharmaceutical and IT industries, Caroline has defined and translated real-time business strategy into high-impact operational and financial results. Caroline has a BA in European Business Studies, an MBA in Finance and Business and certification in the Psychology of Coaching.
Watch an extract from the interview
Lonza is manufacturing core ingredients for one of the COVID vaccines. Have you seen a shift in your people’s expectations of the organization?
Lonza signed an agreement with Moderna in May 2020 to help manufacture the drug substance for its vaccine against COVID-19 and within eight months of the agreement, manufacturing was underway in both the USA and Switzerland. We are working to very compressed timelines and whilst this is challenging, we understand why this matters.
That focus is what has come through for our people. We have many projects that have a positive impact on society, but with the drug substance production for Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine, even though it is intense and fast-paced, it happens to be highly visible, which has helped us rally the troops.
It all ties in with our purpose, vision and mission. Our purpose is about creating a healthier world and that resonates with people. They want to feel proud when creating, innovating and producing something that has a positive impact on the people they know and society as a whole. Our offer goes far beyond COVID-19 treatments and vaccines, and ranges from oncology products to supplements. Enabling a healthier world is very meaningful for us. We are also very serious about it and are committed to having a healthier workforce. We choose to spend time on that conversation with our teams.
How is purpose reflected in your people strategy?
At Lonza, our people strategy is essentially “come, stay, grow”. The purpose of work has never been more present and it ties in with all those aspects. We offer a very compelling purpose, which attracts people to the company and gives them reason to stay and make a meaningful difference. We also empower our people to grow – partly through traditional learning and education, but also through accessible and powerful interventions like mentoring or growing on the job.
Resilience is not something you learn, it IS learning.
How have you managed to build resilience, both personally and in terms of organization?
Resilience is a huge and very relevant topic for us. Resilience is not something you learn, it IS learning. We have to learn on the fly when things change dramatically. We have to observe, stay curious and learn from mistakes and successes. When I jumped into this job virtually, I was suddenly faced with all this extra time. And then I filled it with work. Big mistake. I learned to force downtime into the calendar. Our brain needs to change gear, have physical and emotional changes of pace for the sake of productivity, energy and wellbeing.
The ability to learn also has to include an acceptance of failure. At Lonza, there really is a curiosity around innovation – people love to tinker, to try things out. We don’t have a culture of penalizing people if things go wrong. People see mistakes as a chance to learn, to reflect on what happened, even though it can sometimes be hard to deal with.
Finally, what are your key takeaways from this crisis?
When it comes to crises, history shows us: we can do this. We have gone through past pandemics and we will get through this one, too. We have never had this specific context before but if we stay agile and ask the right questions, we will be alright. I think it is also important to be at ease with saying “I don’t know”. It is perfectly legitimate to give those unknowns some thought, speak to mentors, colleagues and friends. That can support progress and maintain momentum. I have always had a belief that the impossible is possible and this crisis has shown that to be true – thanks to science, data and focus.
On a lighter note, had I known what I know today, I would have invested in a better laptop background and a more comfortable workstation. Also, I would have got a dog earlier! I could have been enjoying the walks and the exercise for a whole year by now if I had acted more quickly.
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