Amgen’s focus on its employees’ future a workplace plus

MERRY MONDAY: Amgen employees enjoy Popcorn Mondays every week in the company’s West Greenwich site cafeteria. The perk is one of several ways Amgen works to make its workplace a welcoming one. / PBN PHOTO/RUPERT WHITELEY

BEST PLACES TO WORK 2018
1. ENTERPRISE | Amgen Rhode Island
Employees in R.I.: 640
Tia Bush, vice president of site operations


The 640 employees at West Greenwich biotech manufacturer Amgen Rhode Island know they work for a company that challenges them to be their own best selves.

What that produces, says Nicole Miller, human resources director, is goal-driven employees who are given tools to meet those goals, with the result being a more dedicated, robust staff.

Every year around this time, Amgen managers meet with team members to discuss their career-advancement plans. It’s an opportunity for employees to review areas they may want to explore, build new skills or learn new things. These career-development goals may be as varied as the employees themselves.

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This development could mean getting involved in a project or an expansion. For those who love the job they are in and don’t want radical changes, they can mentor others, said Miller, or work on getting up to date on new technology, for example. Others might have an interest in filling in for a colleague who is out on maternity leave, returning to their former position when that person returns, having had a change of pace and new perspective. Or they could be a springboard to a career change.

These temporary work assignments, or TWAs as they call them at Amgen, are part of the company’s consistent practice. But whether the learning curve is large or small, it benefits everyone.

“The flexibility of work here is helped by having staff who have expertise in maybe two different areas, or need reinforcements. They can then support each other. It reduces stress overall,” said Tara Urban, Amgen’s senior manager of corporate affairs.

Raise Your Hand is an Amgen campaign rolled out last year to improve overall safety, and not just on the manufacturing floor. With specific themes, Raise Your Hand promotes employees speaking up if they see something that could be unsafe at work, such as an electrical outlet that isn’t secured, for example.

A recent Raise Your Hand campaign focused on situational awareness, ensuring team members are in tune with their surroundings at all times.

“You can’t be walking and texting, for instance; it’s about making sure everyone as a team is looking after one another,” said Miller, with the accountability factor encouraging engagement and teamwork. She and Urban say there has been a notable difference at work, with people now walking, then stopping and stepping aside before reading or answering a text.

“We were laughing, because we do that at home now,” said Urban, a sign the safer practice is becoming habit.

Beyond the company’s focus on safety, it offers its teams convenient services and fun activities as well.

It has a 24-hour gym on-site, part of Amgen’s focus on wellness. Fitness classes and equipment help employees feel better, as well as cutting their health insurance premiums.

Amgen offers its employees Popcorn Mondays – which are exactly what they sound like, popcorn served on Mondays; an Ugly Christmas Sweater contest; Halloween cubicle- and office-decorating competitions; and a gala winter event as a show of employee appreciation. This year’s gala theme was “Old Hollywood,” complete with dinner, dancing, a red carpet walk, dueling pianos – even a Frank Sinatra impersonator performing on the mic, said Urban.

Offering employees a way to give back to their community is another aspect of Amgen’s engagement efforts.

It has a Volunteer Day, said Urban, which has seen increased participation over the past year or two. Managers organize volunteer efforts, with staff members often helping out in teams. Amgen also has a showing at the Heart Walk for the American Heart Association each year, and the Walk to Cure Arthritis, put on by the Arthritis Foundation.

“It’s really nice that people are doing something proactive together,” said Urban.

Having its safety, activity, community and professional-development initiatives in place will serve Amgen well: the company is building a $165 million biomanufacturing plant on its 75-acre campus, and expects to create 150 jobs in advanced manufacturing alone – more employees to be happy at work.