Social Media Works for Novo Nordisk

By Aliah D. Wright Oct 26, 2015

LAS VEGAS--Deloitte, IBM and even the Society for Human Resource Management all use internal social media platforms where employees can connect with colleagues and find work-related information.

By now, people are accustomed to using social media websites in their day-to-day lives: Facebook is more than 10 years old and LinkedIn counts more than 364 million users.

However, getting employees to use internal company social networks with relative consistency is often problematic.

Experts say many people view these websites as just one more thing to check—especially if there isn’t an app associated with the website that feeds notifications into their smartphones.

But this isn’t the case at 90-year-old Plainsboro, New Jersey-based pharmaceutical firm Novo Nordisk, Inc., which has 5,300 employees nationwide.

“Novo Nordisk is a unique culture,” said Michael Drew, head of HR operations at the company, speaking during a session at Human Resource Executive’s 18th Annual HR Technology Conference & Exposition. “Participation is generally high,” he said of employees’ use of the internal social networks. “Our employees recognize the more they contribute, the more the company takes it as a value,” which drives usage.

Henry Albrecht, CEO of Limeade, a social well-being platform, added that “it’s about culture and leadership support.”

“For most people, HR technology can be annoying,” said Steve Parker, vice president of Customer Success for Achievers, an employee rewards and recognition program based in San Francisco. “So people use technology when they have to. If you can get down to the ‘What’s in it for them?’ at the end-user level … that’s when you get this type of adoption,” Parker said.

In other words, the more users believe it benefits them, the more usage of such sites increases.

Novo Nordisk used vendors to roll out two new initiatives: Way to Go, a rewards and recognition program and NovoHealthUSA, a wellness program.

Both programs used internal social media and saw a more than 60 percent adoption rate within the first few weeks. On the Way to Go platform alone, 95 percent of the organization’s employees participated.

Peers recognize and laud each other for their achievements on the Way to Go site and encourage each other to make positive health changes on the NovoHealthUSA site.

Social media engagement at work matters, Albrecht said, because “it shows that you care. It helps people bring their whole selves to work.”

It also:

  • Shows commitment to collaboration and improvement.
  • Helps connects employees across locations, roles and statuses.
  • Delivers real-time feedback and helps identify top performers.
  • Increases brand engagement and allegiance.

To date, no one has written anything negative on the Novo Nordisk platform, which Drew attributes to the lack of anonymity on the site.

“We don’t want social media activity where it’s anonymous and people share whatever they want—you need accountability,” he said.

As for the NovoHealthUSA program, “we wanted to connect the program with business goals,” Drew said. So the program focuses on wellness and preventative medicine.

The company has experienced 66 percent participation in their wellness initiative and 89 percent of employees complete the online health assessment.

Drew offered the following tips for those organizations considering the adoption of an internal social network:

  • Don’t design the network for “knuckleheads”—whom Drew described as those who make quirky comments because they’re hiding behind the cloak of anonymity.
  • Design for the common denominator of your population.
  • Avoid anonymity.
  • Have a social media policy.
  • Keep stakeholders and executives engaged through a steering committee.
  • Address any issues as they arise in real time.

Aliah D. Wright is an online editor/manager for SHRM.


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