AbbVie is a global, research-based biopharmaceutical company formed in 2013 following separation from Abbott Laboratories. AbbVie employs more than 29,000 people worldwide and markets medicines in more than 175 countries.
Lene Riis has a broad experience and interest in marketing and communication as a means to support an organization’s strategic business objectives. Special interest lies in corporate communication and combining all internal and external communicative activities to diversified stakeholder groups to support the strategic business development.
Having worked as a manager for both big international companies, NGO’s and as a business consultant, she has worked at multiple organizational levels, within different industries, and managed teams from different backgrounds and environments.
You started your career in petcare. How did you get to work in pharmaceuticals?
My career has taken me to a lot of interesting industries, but it is sort of a coincidence that I am where I am today. I worked for the Danish Cancer Society at one point, in fundraising and patient support. One of my colleagues there went on to work for Abbott to build a new function called Patient Relations. When she was asked to move to the global headquarters in Chicago a couple of years later, she contacted me and asked if I might be interested in taking over from her in Denmark. And it turned out to be one of my best jobs ever. It is highly motivating to go to work every day knowing that what we do make a remarkable difference in patients’ lives. At the same time being able to do this together with people who are truly talented and passionate about what they do, is such a gift.
You have been incredibly successful at improving engagement at Abbvie; what’s the secret?
It is a result of a very focused strategy to become Denmark’s Best Place to Work. From the beginning it had support from the leadership, and all along one of the cornerstones has been to involve the employees in analyzing what we needed to improve on and what would be the best activities to bring us forward. This has resulted in a quite unique culture where everybody takes responsibility for the work place. I don’t think I have ever worked in a company where the focus from everybody is so much on how do we solve an issue instead of complaining about it. It has also fostered a true collaborative and innovative spirit, which means we are constantly challenging ourselves to do better, not just internally, but also in the work we do with external stakeholders.
What’s been the most successful activity?
It is difficult to point to one specific activity, as our success builds on the synergy of a number of activities. But I think the fact that we listen and communicate a lot, both from leadership to organization, from organization to leadership, but also from peer-to-peer, is an all important element.
What’s been the least successful?
The least successful activity is probably to get everybody to enter their best projects into a database as a means to systematically share best practice across the organization. People would rather spend their time out with customers instead of what is perceived to be internally focused, time consuming and not immediately give return of time invested. So the database never really got off the ground.
So what’s your next challenge?
As a company we are in a transition phase. This is because the environment for the industry is changing, but also because we as a company are in the fortunate position to have the potential to introduce a number of new therapies over the next years. That means we as an organization will work together in a different way. So we are very focused on how the strong culture will help us bring about this new future and how we at the same time embrace the necessary changes.
Finally, which part of the world would you most like to visit?
I looove to travel, and South America is next on my bucket list