Attitude key in Connet’s ‘Culture Club’

By Megan Brodie 3 years ago | In Companies, People
  • 3 years ago
Biogen ANZ HR Head Fabienne Connet

9 June 2021

New employees who join Biogen in Australia may be surprised that one of their first actions is an introduction to the company Culture Club, complete with a “cultural tour” of the local business.

While some might envisage the new recruits being subjected to Boy George singing ‘Karma Chameleon’, in fact, the Biogen newbies are learning the importance of company culture.

An initiative of the company’s head of HR Fabienne Connet, culture is everything at Biogen. For Connet, finding people who fit the company culture is more important than finding people with a particular skill set.

“The club champions culture within Biogen so when we have new starters, they get a cultural tour of the company,” she says. “When we hire, it is mostly about attitude. If someone has the skill set but isn’t going to fit in culturally, that’s not going anywhere.

“We very strongly believe it is on everyone to opt in to the culture. It’s not just HR, it’s not just the leadership; it’s everyone that shapes and forms the culture that we want to have. Everybody contributes to that and that’s why we have a Culture Club.”

Clearly, culture is important to Connet. Belgium-born and married to a Scot, she holds Belgium, British and Australian citizenship. Yet she says office culture is as much about the personality of a company as it is about workplace diversity and inclusion.

“The culture of Biogen is one where we do very serious work and ultimately are here for a common purpose – for our patients,” she says. “But we don’t take ourselves too seriously. We like to have a little bit of fun and laughter with each other.

“We want to have diversity and that can take very different shapes and look very different. It may be multi-generational, it may be multicultural, it may be just cognitive diversity and different perspectives.

“I don’t want a bunch of minions. I don’t want everyone looking the same or thinking the same. I want people open to different perspectives, different ways of thinking. I love that.”

While she clearly loves culture, Connet also loves a challenge with her life choices reflecting this. She met her husband in Kathmandu while touring South East Asia and the young couple moved to Australia with their three children in pursuit of a better lifestyle for the family.

Connet was able to continue her employment with a multinational when she first arrived before later taking on a maternity leave contract with a legal firm. When the Head of HR role came up at Biogen she successfully applied. That was four years ago.

“I’m very grateful that Biogen was willing to give me the opportunity because I didn’t have necessarily the industry experience at that time, but it showed me their open-mindedness as well,” she said.

The choice clearly paid off for Biogen. This week, the company announced it had been accredited as a Great Place to Work on its first application, with Connet notably chuffed.

Another notch on the four-year success board for Connet is her work co-chairing Medicine Australia’s equity working group, known as PAIG, with AbbVie’s Kate Richards. The partnership proved a winning formula, with the pair expanding the initial remit of the group beyond gender to a broader, more diverse view of equity.

“If we only did gender then there was probably a certain lifespan to the group because it restricted the focus,” says Connet. “We became more of an inclusion group because then there was no end game. There is always going to be a new topic to talk about to ensure we have inclusive and equitable workplaces.”

Another mark of Connet’s astounding success at Biogen is its staff turnover rate, with its voluntary turnover running at less than five per cent for the past few years. With a new Alzheimer’s drug on the near horizon and an exciting pipeline, Connet says the company has an exciting future.

“The challenge is still ahead of us,” she says. “We are committed to neuroscience where there’s a lot of unmet need for our patients. Biogen is still a very exciting place to be for me.”

So what advice would she give to people wanting to join the company in the next phase of its journey?

“Be yourself. Don’t be someone that you are not. Bring your own story, because that’s what really matters.”

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