Case Study: Merck KGaA Responds to the COVID-19 Crisis

Case Study: Merck KGaA Responds to the COVID-19 Crisis
Case Study: Merck KGaA Responds to the COVID-19 Crisis
January 20, 2021 15 mins

Case Study: Merck KGaA Responds to the COVID-19 Crisis

A winding path crosses a flat, white landscape.

Merck KGaA outlines its key points for any business to successfully survive the pandemic.

Key Takeaways
  1. Any good response to the pandemic must be supported by empirical data.
  2. Workplace flexibility is crucial to surviving a post-pandemic world.
  3. A strong corporate response is necessary in times of crisis.


In an Aon special report, Helping Organizations Chart a Course to The New Better, Aon reveals exclusive research on the issues rising from the COVID-19 crisis and methods of re-introducing fundamental aspects of society and the economy: working, traveling and convening.

As part of this new report, leading global businesses and innovative thinkers reveal their strategies and action plans as they make their way to a New Better.

Here’s Merck KGaA’s story.

The workforce of Merck KGaA¹ (“Merck”) includes more than 56,000 people in 66 countries working across healthcare, life sciences, and performance material. As the company was managing through the immediacy of the pandemic, leadership teams identified crisis best practices being developed that would ultimately shape the “Future of Work” program at Merck.

“We are a very purpose-driven, pragmatic company,” says Alexis Saussinan, Global Head of Strategic Workforce Planning People Analytics. “We want to make meaningful and lasting moves, aligned with our DNA.”

Guiding Principles Pair with Data to Make the Best Decisions

To enable long-lasting change, Merck ensures data serves as the foundation for its strategy. As the company started building the program, it used a range of internal and external data, market trends, and interviews with executives, board members and the crisis management team to help build a complete picture of what was needed.

Four guiding principles shaping its “Future of Work” program were determined: increased work flexibility; sustaining trust and collaboration beyond boundaries; accelerating data and technology in must-win areas; and, lastly, continuing to evolve its leadership culture – including further developing virtual leadership skills, empathy and empowerment.

The company also brought together various business areas for best practice sharing, visibility and transparency, to reach larger objectives — from managing data security and cyber in the virtual world to sustainability to best-in-class digital customer experiences.

Shaping the Future of Work

Along these principles, five strategic people work priorities were developed:

  •  Expanding into flexible workplace guidelines 2.0, which are about building upon its strong foundations for virtual work, but also developing other flexible work options.
  • Evolving its talent approach to access broader strategic skill pools, especially for location-independent roles, now sourcing with a more global mindset.
  • Accelerating the digitizing of people solutions via data and technology, making best use of technologies and artificial intelligence to drive impact and best-in-class employee experience.
  • Focusing on skills for the future — what the workforce needs will be and preparing people for new roles and possibilities.
  • Embedding crisis best practices into leadership and talent development programs.

Culture and collaboration are key to the successful implementation of Merck’s program. “Merck has a very strong and unique culture, and that’s the reason for our success,” says Saussinan. “Our response to the crisis is rooted in our DNA, because we care about our people, patients and customers.”

¹ Merck KGaA is listed German multinational science and technology company headquartered in Darmstadt, Germany. Its majority owners are still the descendants of the founder. Founded in 1668, it has more than 56,000 employees across 66 countries as of 2020.

This case study originally appeared with the special report, Helping Organizations Chart a Course to The New Better. Check out the full report for defining moments of the pandemic, case studies of leading companies navigating change, key insights, and more.


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The information contained herein and the statements expressed are of a general nature and are not intended to address the circumstances of any particular individual or entity. Although we endeavor to provide accurate and timely information and use sources we consider reliable, there can be no guarantee that such information is accurate as of the date it is received or that it will continue to be accurate in the future. No one should act on such information without appropriate professional advice after a thorough examination of the particular situation. 

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