The Meaning of LIFE

Bayer CropScience’s Dianna Emperingham is proof that an investment in people is a company’s surest path to profit, and that ethos is exemplified by the company’s individuals-focused LIFE values initiative

Many companies give lip service to the idea of investing in their employees. But rarely do those sentiments translate into tangible support. Dianna Emperingham, director of product supply at Bayer CropScience, says she was lucky to find a company that walked the walk and talked the talk.

Twenty-five years ago, Emperingham was a young mother looking for a place where she could build a future. Up until that point, she had spent her professional life working for small companies. When an opportunity came up in the credit department of Bayer, a global enterprise with lines of business in the life sciences—health care and agriculture. She made her way through the company and as she says, “fell in love with shopping and shipping.” Bayer recognized her passion and knew it was an asset, so the company provided funding for her to obtain her degree in supply chain management. This opportunity opened up the world to Emperingham. Bayer sent her to Germany, England, and Canada to set up business departments and by 2011 she was awarded the role she maintains today.

“I truly, truly believe in our LIFE values—especially in the idea of one team, one goal. I don’t think I do anything more important than any other team member. I respect everyone I work with—and I’m very lucky to be able to say that. I truly love my job.”

If you boil it down, Emperingham says that product supply’s responsibility is to manage everything about getting Bayer’s products to its growers. In the years she’s been with the company this responsibility has remained unchanged, but the culture surrounding it certainly has.

“Recently we’ve honed in on building Bayer’s culture through the implementation of our LIFE values, which are at the forefront of everything we do,” Emperingham says. “It’s our goal to give people pride in what they do by giving them the understanding of how they contribute to our overall success as a company. In the past, if you worked on the production floor it might have just been about placing our products in containers then shipping it out—that’s not enough anymore.”

Around 2012, Bayer began to roll out its LIFE values initiative, which stands for Leadership, Integrity, Flexibility, and Efficiency. According to Emperingham, it’s the simplicity of the values that resonate with employees.

“We were thinking broadly about a culture and an approach that we could standardize across the globe,” she says. “A lot of companies have paragraphs-long mission statements and endless bullet points outlining their core values. That gets complicated, but anyone at Bayer can tell you our values. We’re one team with one goal and it has truly changed the dynamics of how we work. No one group or department or person is more important than another.”

Bayer CropScience’s LIFE Values

Leadership

  • Be passionate for people
    and performance
  • Show personal drive, inspire,
    and motivate others
  • Be accountable for actions,
    results, successes, and failures

Integrity

  • Be a role model
  • Comply with laws, regulations,
    and good business practices
  • Trust others and build trustful
    relationships

Flexibility

  • Drive change actively
  • Be ready to adapt to future
    trends and needs
  • Challenge the status quo

Efficiency

  • Manage resources wisely
  • Focus on activities that
    create value
  • Do things simply and
    effectively

This shift in Bayer’s company culture is also the reason why a different kind of leadership team has been built in Regina, Saskatchewan, where Emperingham is based. She asserts there is a difference between managing people and leading people. Bayer’s leadership team is invested in leading people and providing employees with the kinds of opportunities that were offered to Emperingham when she joined the company.  This, she says, is Bayer’s critical differentiator. Its culture is what sets it apart.

The company supports employees in their quest to further their education and it also offers in-house apprenticeships. For example, if an employee who works on the production floor expresses interest in learning more about or becoming an expert in importing and exporting, they’ll be sent to Bayer’s home base in Raleigh, North Carolina. for importing and exporting to see if it’s something they enjoy.

“Not too long ago you just went to work and that was it,” Emperingham says. “Our leadership is proud of our employees, and we want our employees to be proud of themselves. The best way to elicit that pride is to help them understand what our products do and how they contribute to their success. It sometimes also means giving them the opportunity to contribute to that success in a new way.”

The professional and educational opportunities that have been offered to Emperingham by Bayer are clear, but what she didn’t anticipate were the ways she would grow personally. Skills she acquired during her time in Germany are skills she applies to all aspects of her life. When she was given the responsibility of building a new team in England, she learned the incredible fulfillment that can be experienced when you are helping others find their passion.

Emperingham came to the table with a wide array of skills needed to be a successful leader; skills, she says, she developed as a mother. Setting expectations and time management— these are competencies she honed from raising her children.

“Because I’m a mother I think my leadership style is pretty laid back,” Emperingham says with a laugh. “I truly, truly believe in our LIFE values—especially in the idea of one team, one goal. I don’t think I do anything more important than any other team member. I respect everyone I work with—and I’m very lucky to be able to say that. I truly love my job.”