How to Create a Great Place to Work (and Keep It That Way)

André Guérin shares five ways he cultivates the culture at Medtronic, the largest pure medical-technology company in the world

Before joining Medtronic as director of HR in 2007, André Guérin garnered experience in the life- and health-sciences industries, with time at DuPont, Bristol-Myers, Baxter, and MDS. Now a seasoned HR generalist, Guérin is responsible for not only human resources but also customer education and sales training, which ensures that customers and employees are proficient in Medtronic’s cutting-edge technology.
Before joining Medtronic as director of HR in 2007, André Guérin garnered experience in the life- and health-sciences industries, with time at DuPont, Bristol-Myers, Baxter, and MDS. Now a seasoned HR generalist, Guérin is responsible for not only human resources but also customer education and sales training, which ensures that customers and employees are proficient in Medtronic’s cutting-edge technology.

1. Stay true to your vision

As the world’s biggest medical-technology company, Medtronic has a clear mission: to alleviate pain, restore health, and extend life. It’s a difficult feat to pull off, but it’s a straightforward one, as it’s always been the focus of Medtronic’s operations. In fact, not a single word of the company’s mission statement has changed since its founder wrote it in 1960. “If you survey our employees, you will have 90 percent saying they know the mission,” says André Guérin, Medtronic’s director of HR.

Today, the company pushes the boundaries of medical technology, having been responsible for the invention of the first battery-powered pacemaker in the late 1950s. So, while the company is known as a medical-device company, it has expanded into providing a broader array of solutions for health-care systems around the world as a way of furthering its mission.

This growth, in part, has inspired Medtronic Canada’s leadership team to be recognized as an employer of choice. According to Guérin, achieving top-employer status is very much about understanding and improving what your company does for its people and what is special or unique about it—because this is often what attracts the attention of appraisers.

2. Engage the leadership team

“Someone can’t just walk into your office one morning and say, ‘Why don’t we just get Top 100?’” Guérin says. Instead, that goal has to be something that the whole leadership team—and ideally the whole organization—embraces. It’s not just the HR department’s journey; it’s the organization’s journey.

Coincidentally, Medtronic was named as the number one vendor in the medical-device industry in the eyes of its customers, according to a survey by the Advantage Group. Medtronic ranked first in four out of the six subcategories. “You can’t be perceived that way by your customers unless you have a group of very talented and engaged people,” Guérin says.

3. Measure where you are and adapt

Guérin says organizations need to address any and all key gaps that they can. It should be understood that this is an iterative process, so it’s okay that the work never truly ends. To keep an organization a great place to work, one must constantly revisit practices and seek to get better. “In our case, it didn’t work the first time, despite having a great work environment,” Guérin says. “We learned that a lot of it was the way you tell your story; you have to say it in a very compelling way.” Presenting the company’s best story should also be a focus, in addition to constantly seeking to improve.

How Are You Growing?

Medtronic has become #1 in its customers’ eyes. A biannual survey conducted by the Advantage Group has placed Medtronic from 4th to 6th to 3rd to 1st.

4. Build trust, and take your own medicine

“My team has a lot to do with enabling the organization,” Guérin says. “We work with our leadership to make the company nimble and change agile.” That translates to concentrating on change management and organizational development in order to keep up with the industry’s fast pace and changing landscape. Another key enabler of organizational effectiveness, for which HR is a key contributor, is building trust through integrity.

“By building effectiveness inside the organization and bringing value-added solutions, you help create a credible HR team,” Guérin says. “The role of HR is to build and increase human capital value.” In order to maximize the value of people, it’s important to understand that having talent is not enough; it’s also about increasing engagement. It’s the combination of these two ingredients, he says, that perpetuates a strong workforce. The implications of this is that a lot of emphasis is put on strategies and practices that aim at increasing the level of engagement, helping to create a capable and nimble organization. “We’re always changing, and, quite honestly, we have benefited tremendously from modifying our organization,” Guérin says.

5. Advocate for people and a businessperson

Sometimes these two things go hand in hand, and sometimes they’re conflicting forces. The HR team is often who people will turn to, to decide where they draw the line on an ongoing basis. There’s a lot of credibility, or lack thereof, stemming from where you draw this line and how you stand up for what you think. One way to partner effectively inside your organization is to ensure that the whole leadership team is just as passionate as you are about the people dimension, which builds capable and engaged organizations.

Before joining Medtronic as director of HR in 2007, André Guérin garnered experience in the life- and health-sciences industries, with time at DuPont, Bristol-Myers, Baxter, and MDS. Now a seasoned HR generalist, Guérin is responsible for not only human resources but also customer education and sales training, which ensures that customers and employees are proficient in Medtronic’s cutting-edge technology.