How Sintetica is making every employee a leader

Swiss pharmaceutical firm Sintetica is taking a revolutionary approach to its organisational structure in order to bring out the best in its people. This is creating a culture of passion and innovation at the company

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In 2016, Swiss pharmaceutical firm Sintetica launched its Strategy 2021 plan, which called for leadership by way of innovation

People are at the heart of everything Sintetica does. For us, the healthcare industry is about more than cutting-edge science and the highest manufacturing standards: we also seek to form a personal connection with our customers. The healthcare industry provides more than just a product to be bought – it helps people embark on a journey towards better health.

Sintetica has spent more than 90 years perfecting its offering, and now it is taking these people-first principles and applying them to its entire organisational structure. This new approach to management is empowering individuals at all levels to make informed, independent decisions that lead to overall growth within the company.

Established in 1921, Sintetica is a pharmaceutical company that produces injectable anaesthetics and analgesics for patients across the globe. We employ around 300 people from 29 countries and have sites located in Germany, Austria, Italy and the UK, with our headquarters located in Mendrisio, Switzerland.

In Mendrisio, Sintetica’s innovation department makes up 15 percent of the company’s total workforce. Here, the company works towards making new developments in local anaesthesia, pain management and neuromodulation.

From commanders to coaches
To achieve our goals, we are altering our management and operations structure to give staff more power and autonomy. Our managers have adapted from being commanders to coaches, a shift that ultimately rewards the merit of staff members over all else. This human-centred organisation model, which has prompted a deep cultural change at the company, required the development of an innovative managerial philosophy that places responsibility first.

The human-centred organisation Sintetica has developed into is based on responsibility and merit

The new working model we have developed has a few key ingredients. The first is the company culture of passion, which is a motivating force for the firm: with passion, any work performed becomes more than just a procedural exercise. Another essential part of the new working model is the empowerment of individuals to achieve not only company goals, but also their own personal goals. This is only possible when strategy, values, objectives and performance are clearly set out across the entire organisation.

The third element is to establish complete respect between all individuals within Sintetica. Managers make all their expectations perfectly clear while fostering a culture of continuous improvement among staff.

Sintetica’s human-centred strategic vision is structured around several main targets. The first, and most important, is peripheral decisional autonomy: the capacity for individuals at all levels of the organisation to make decisions based on their own informed judgement. Managers at Sintetica are moving to an approach based on accountability, demonstrating to Sintetica’s employees that they are respected enough to make informed decisions on their own.

In order to implement this new strategy, we are ensuring that high-level training is available to our staff at all times. Called the Sintetica Never-Ending School, the programme, which is powered by MIP, the business school of Politecnico di Milano, trains staff to become independent leaders. Thanks to a number of digital learning programmes, they are being prepared for the culture of continuous improvement that is necessary to thrive in the digital age.

Meritocratic management
The human-centred organisation we have developed into is based on responsibility and merit, making it very different to the classical hierarchical model many organisations still operate under. To spread this innovative way of working across all levels of the organisation, we developed the Sintetica online portal, which includes interactive visuals of the company’s structure.

This portal, which is also supported by an app, displays the roles and responsibilities of everyone within the organisation, complete with photographs and names to encourage more personal communication. Orientating oneself in a non-hierarchical company like this is not easy, especially since we are growing by 20 percent each year, but it is a highly important part of guaranteeing long-lasting success.

A dynamic and productive managerial system like this sets out the ideal path for employees in terms of their professional life. With the support of digital tools and clear processes, motivated employees can develop skills, reach their potential and grow on the basis of individual merit. We strive to recognise merit at all levels: the merit of each manager is the sum of the success of all members of their team.

Prioritising people
In 2016, Sintetica launched its Strategy 2021 plan, which called for leadership by way of innovation. As far as we are concerned, innovation does not just concern the company’s research and development department, but the entire organisation. We consider the implementation of this model as one of the key enablers of Sintetica’s strong growth.

This focus on people has also informed our human resources initiatives and our ‘great place to work’ philosophy. We strive to offer our employees the same standard of wellbeing we offer our customers. From smart offices and smart working conditions to corporate gym membership, free breakfast, fruit and beverages, paternity leave and childcare, we are providing all the necessary tools for employees to have a healthy work-life balance. Initiatives like these have led to a low rate of turnover at Sintetica, and the company has been able to attract highly talented employees despite its medium size.

Environmental sustainability is another of Sintetica’s priorities. The company powers all of its manufacturing sites with 100 percent green renewable energy and has invested in energy-saving digitalised technology plants that reduced CO2 emissions and water consumption by 4.2 percent between 2016 and 2017.

Over the same period, Sintetica increased its production capacity by 55 percent, making the reductions all the more remarkable. We also implemented a policy to reduce employees’ car usage by promoting car sharing and the provision of financial support for public transport. In one year, we reduced the number of cars arriving at our site by 40 percent.

Alongside all of these efforts, Sintetica is building a company that is more than just a great place to work. Innovative changes to management structures are empowering employees to build a company worth far more than the sum of its parts.