A culture of innovation: Reshaping the future of the workplace at MSD in the Philippines
February 14, 2022
For over 125 years globally, and for 25 years here in the country, MSD in the Philippines has
been researching and developing medicines and vaccines for many of the world’s most
challenging diseases. With unwavering focus, MSD looks for medical innovations that improve
health and save lives throughout the world. At the heart of MSD’s success is its strong Human
Resource (HR) team.
Through the years, MSD positioned itself as a company that focuses on leadership and culture to
drive breakthrough healthcare innovations and business success.
“Patients first”, said Marese de Vera, HR Leader. “All our actions must be measured against our
responsibility to those who use or need our products.”
The way MSD operates is based on four pillars: Patient First, Ethics and Integrity, Respect for
People, Innovation and Excellence. With these, MSD leads a conscious effort to be a company
worthy of trust by its employees and patients.
“MSD is focused on protecting the safety of its employees and their families, ensuring that our
supply of medicines and vaccines reach our patients and customers”, Mike Blanch, Corporate
Affairs Director, remarked. “We are also supporting healthcare providers, through the PHAP
Cares foundation, to make sure our frontliners are adequately equipped and protected from this
Leading the fight against COVID-19
When the global pandemic escalated back in March, the government placed Metro Manila and
the whole island of Luzon under enhanced community quarantine. Several employees were
affected, fearing that they might lose their jobs along the way. MSD HR responded to address
this anxiety and fear in order for the organization to continue its operations.
Constant communication is key. “We made sure, throughout this pandemic, that we addressed
not just the physical health but the mental health of employees as well”, de Vera noted.
As a leader in the pharmaceutical industry, MSD is currently exploring multiple pathways to
advance understanding of SARS-CoV-2 and develop vaccines and treatments, including two
COVID-19 vaccine development efforts, a research collaboration to develop a novel antiviral
candidate, and an expansive internal research program to assess available vaccine and antiviral
With the company’s experience in HIV and Ebola, MSD knows that innovation, science, and
collaboration are both essential to develop medicines and vaccines in a global public health
emergency like COVID-19. The path to vaccine development is not easy but MSD is optimistic
that collaborative spirit of the industry will yield new tools to fight coronavirus.
The culture of innovation
“Inventing for Life”, MSD’s battlecry, guides the culture of innovation that pervades across the
organization. To continually enable its pool of talent to deliver scientific breakthroughs and
health solutions that impact as many patients as possible, MSD takes a unique approach in
Innovation manifests in the company’s robust values-based HR practices – from recruitment,
onboarding, talent development, and continuous learning and leadership development.
According to de Vera, MSD ensures that employees are enabled with the knowledge, tools, and
environment that allow for innovation and creativity in the workplace. Every employee is
encouraged to always push the boundaries of what they can do for patients – while at all times
upholding ethics and integrity.
Innovation also empowered employees during the COVID-19 pandemic. The leadership
management made a call to allow work-from-home and provided employees with tools,
applications, and equipment to make remote work a success.
“We empower them, encourage them to learn, open networks up to them, encourage sharing,
and encourage experimentation with new ideas and approaches”, de Vera highlighted.
This was possible through MSD’s “Ways of Working”. Employees are empowered to make
appropriate decisions within their jurisdictions and encouraged to be forward-looking and be
open to changes, to explore different roles and functions to reach their potential. As part of
MSD’s 25th anniversary, the “Boost Up Program” will be introduced to open more opportunities
for employees to grow their career within the organization.
Prior to the pandemic, HR held various communication efforts to reach out to employees. These
are: engaged leadership or Kapihan, an intimate group breakfast session where employees
raise any question under the sun; Country Leadership Team Ikot or CLT IKOT; and, an
employee engagement pulse survey done biannually.
During the pandemic, these efforts are replaced with regular town hall meetings and daily
check-in calls done through video conferences. The goal is to reassure the employees and
ensure that the company is with them in this fight.
As a company dedicated to saving and improving lives, MSD recognizes that they have a
special responsibility to help. Innovation plays a vital role in achieving this mission.
“Over the last 25 year here in the Philippines, MSD has pushed the boundaries of science with
the hope and expectation that advancing scientific knowledge will lead to major advances in
health”, Blanch shared.
Through innovations and collaborations, MSD successfully developed and launched the first
vaccines for measles and mumps, and the first vaccine for HPV that causes cervical and other
cancers. The company also led the development of ground-breaking medicines for heart
disease, osteoporosis, diabetes, tuberculosis, HIV and melanoma. This success is not achieved
single-handedly. MSD recognized the relationships established from working with healthcare
professionals, partners, and the government, with the aim of delivering quality healthcare for the
Transformational leadership in action
MSD advocates transformational leadership in order to build and nurture a culture of innovation.
Programs such as MSD Fellowship Global for Health, a three-month, field-based corporate pro
bono program designed to leverage the skills and talents of our employees worldwide, help
empower leaders and develop potential leaders within the organization.
The move from a traditional office setup to a semi-open space also encouraged employees to
break barriers, communicate openly, and think creatively.
“The fact that our workplace is set for the future in that it is conducive for collaboration, agile,
innovative helps us stay ahead. This drives the sustainability of the organization”, de Vera
MSD is mission-focused on helping save and improve lives of the Filipino people. As such, the
organization continues to create an environment of mutual respect, inclusion, creativity and
accountability. With innovation and collaboration, challenges can be overcome.