Key Takeaways

  • Incyte is a multinational pharmaceutical corporation with a special focus on the treatment of cancers and inflammatory conditions. The company’s mission, competitive environment, and a strong sense of teamwork contribute to a deep sense of fulfillment and happiness among its employees.
  • Incyte employees thrives on the love for their work and the profound sense of satisfaction derived from impacting global healthcare positively. Their contributions during crises like COVID-19 demonstrated their commitment and agility in addressing global health issues.
  • The organization fosters an open culture with fewer hierarchical command lines, promoting direct communication and collaboration. They value employees as unique individuals and provide comprehensive health coverage.
  • Incyte’s success and the satisfaction of its employees have created a positive cycle of attracting more high-quality talent from around the world. A majority of new hires join based on a positive conversation with a current employee.
  • Recognizing employees as individuals with distinct needs and ambitions is paramount to Incyte. They provide robust health coverage and proactive care for their staff, balancing professional responsibilities with personal needs.
  • Herve values open communication and regularly holds meetings with employees from all levels of the organization. This open-door policy fosters a sense of belonging and encourages the contribution of innovative ideas.

Executive Summary

Hey everyone, welcome back to The Leader Show with Lou Carter. We are privileged to have Herve Hoppenot, the CEO of Incyte as our special guest today. 

Incyte is a prestigious multinational pharmaceutical corporation based in the United States. Established in 2002 due to the merger between Incyte Pharmaceuticals and Delaware-based Incyte Genomics, Inc., the company now holds dual headquarters in Wilmington, Delaware, and Morges, Switzerland.

With that said, let’s find out what makes Incyte Pharmaceuticals a Most Loved Workplace®.

How Incyte’s Vision and Collaboration Cultivate a ‘Most Loved Workplace’

Lou prompts Herve to discuss what it means to him to run a “Most Loved Workplace®” and the factors contributing to the internal excitement at Incyte. 

In reply, Herve explains that the company’s mission of changing medical practices, especially in cancer treatments, brings fulfillment and happiness to the team. This happiness is not just about the successes they’ve had but also about the journey they undertake, including the challenges of dealing with regulations and competition.

Herve also emphasizes the global nature of their work and how working on impactful projects and contributing to society leads to feelings of fulfillment and happiness among employees. This global perspective also allows them to connect more deeply with their customers. He elaborates on the competitive yet cooperative environment in the company and how everyone takes accountability for each other’s success.

Additionally, Herve talks about how their mission, competition, and teamwork combine to form a sense of fulfillment that is integral to their workplace happiness. He believes that this is a significant driver of the company’s recognition as a “Most Loved Workplace.” Its collective mission, efforts, and achievements are not only transforming treatments worldwide but also creating a profound sense of satisfaction among its employees.

Incyte’s High-Stakes Endeavors and Employee Drive in Critical Healthcare Innovations

Moving on, Lou discusses the high-stakes nature of Incyte’s work, particularly in treating autoimmune and inflammatory conditions, leukemia, and cancer. He underscores the urgency of the company’s mission, asking if there’s a shared understanding among the employees that their work is crucial.

Hoppenot responds by highlighting the company’s recent experience responding to COVID-19. He highlights how his team immediately began researching ways to counter the problematic lung inflammation associated with COVID-19. This led to the development and use of Baricitinib to manage COVID-related inflammation. 

Herve emphasizes the sense of personal responsibility that employees feel and their spontaneity in initiating innovative work streams. This drive results in new applications in medicine, illustrating the deep commitment and innovative spirit within Incyte.

Pioneering Efforts Amid Global Crises and Inner Drive

Next, the speakers discuss Incyte’s significant contributions during the COVID-19 crisis, particularly the development of pharmaceutical interventions that helped manage inflammation in COVID patients. Lou praises these efforts and expresses awe at the company’s role in the global response to the pandemic.

Herve further mentions the company’s long-standing work in cancer treatment, emphasizing the sense of urgency and accountability employees feel. He elaborates on the challenges of the process, including the long development timeline. Despite the challenges, the potential payoff – being able to offer treatments for conditions that previously had none – creates a profound sense of satisfaction and purpose among the team.

Lou then introduces a concept from an author named Masaru Emoto, who suggested in his study “Molecules of Emotion” that water molecules can respond differently based on emotions like love or anger. Herve humorously responds that they don’t yet have a pill for that.

Employee Satisfaction as a Key Driver of Incyte’s Success and Global Talent Acquisition

On a similar note, Lou discusses the role that the happiness and love for Incytes has in driving its success. He proposes that the employees’ positive feelings about their work contribute significantly to the company’s achievements.

Herve agrees and underscores the importance of employee satisfaction in attracting top talent from around the world. He describes a self-fulfilling cycle where satisfied employees speak positively about their work at Incyte, leading to high-quality recruits joining the company. This is significant as most of the new hires have joined Incyte based on a connection or conversation with a current employee. 

Herve strongly believes this positivity and the mindset of attempting unprecedented work are vital for Incyte’s future success.

Promoting a Culture of Open Communication and Innovation

Next, Herve discusses the company’s approach to breaking traditional hierarchical lines of command, promoting a horizontal structure with fewer intermediate layers of management. Incytes aims for direct communication and collaboration among its employees, fostering an environment that allows everyone to contribute their ideas freely.

Herve explains his effort to meet with every employee in small group settings, acknowledging that these gatherings have been particularly productive because of the unique ideas that surface from the employees. These interactions reinforce a sense of individual accountability, prompting employees to take the initiative in resolving issues and improving the company.

He also shares about the company’s Town Hall meetings, which include open Q&A sessions that are accessible to employees around the world, even those in different time zones, thanks to video conferencing tools like Zoom. These meetings encourage transparency and free inquiry, reinforcing the idea that all questions are welcome and fostering a culture of continuous improvement and learning.

Valuing Employees as Unique Individuals

Towards the end, Herve underlines the importance of recognizing employees as individuals with distinct needs and ambitions. He mentions that several innovative ideas have originated from the company’s small group meetings, proving the effectiveness of this method. In these gatherings, employees from different parts of the organization provide unique perspectives that often lead to new projects.

Herve also underscores the importance of employee benefits, describing how Incytes offers comprehensive health coverage and proactive care for their staff. He acknowledges that balancing professional responsibilities with personal needs is critical, mentioning that employees deserve respect, a sense of mission, and robust health insurance coverage.

Thank you for listening!


Lou Carter : It's so great today to have Herve Hoppenot with us today. He's the CEO of Incyte Pharmaceutical and Herve, welcome.

Herve Hoppenot : No, thank you for taking the time.

LC : So, congratulations on becoming a Most Loved Workplace, Herve, and…

HH : Yeah, we were very, very happy to see that.

LC : Very happy that you did as well. I want to hear more about that excitement inside of Incyte and what that means to you to be a Most Love Workplace.

Harnessing a Global Perspective to Transform Healthcare and Foster Workplace Happiness [1:11]

HH : No, it means very much because obviously when you think about what we are trying to do, a lot of it has to do with the external world, which is how do we change the practice of medicine by inventing new products that will be helping doctors deal with all kind of very complicated diseases, specifically in the field of of cancer. And to do that, it's a long process.

And you have to deal with FDAs and authorities and governments because we live in a very regulated field, and that's all we have to sort of manage and make make successful internally being on this list, what it means is that we, the people of Incyte, you know, the 2000 of us around the world are feeling committed to this mission that we have in a way that is sort of creating happiness because that's what we are speaking about. And that's always a very good thing to see that.

LC : You know, it's incredible creating happiness with over 2000 employees and, you know, your latest annual revenue number of 2.5 billion and more 2020 sites all over the country and headquarters in Wilmington, Delaware, North America, Europe, Asia. It's huge. You have a global footprint. Tell me more about your global perspective and how that's helped kind of become more happy, more sort of understanding and thus really connect more to your customer and your company perspective

HH : Yeah, what we do, what I mean, I think what makes, if you think of what's driving happiness or love, if that's what we are speaking about, it's I think the first thing is the mission. You know, companies need to do something where when we retire, we will look back and speak to our friends or our grandchildren and say, you know, look at what we did. I mean, that's now the treatment of, and you can pick the disease where we are operating rare type of Leukemia, Myelofibrosis, Polycythemia vera or GVHD or Cholangiocarcinoma.

This treatment around the world has been transformed by the work we did here in our lab in Wilmington by the chemists who invented the new, the new molecule by the biologists who tested it by the doctors who did the clinical trials in Asia, in Europe. And then when this product became available for physicians to use it, it changed the ways they have been practicing medicine.

And that mission is something that is so deep and so fundamental that I think it's a key driver of everybody's feeling fulfillment of their life. It's not the only thing that matters, but it is a, it's a core, it's a key thing is make the world better in some way, change the way medicine is practiced. And if we are able to continue to do that, and we have been very successful over a long period of time having these new medicines available for physicians, then you get to a sense of fulfillment that is absolutely core to this idea of love or happiness that we have as an associate of the corporation.

I think the second part is success is that it's a very competitive. It's like being in a team where, you know, sometimes you win, sometimes you don't. And it has this excitement about competition and being able to be at the forefront of the science.

You know, the entire world is trying to do what we are doing. There are people in Asia, in Europe, in Palo Alto, in Boston, everywhere who are trying to do what we are doing and when we are able to be ahead and, you know, be the ones that ends up succeeding in the, in the process, it is also an incredible feeling. And we know that it's creating emotion. It is creating something that is sort of lifting all of the difficulties we had to go through in a completely different perspective. Because at the end, there is a price of being able to do what we are trying to do.

And then there is a question of how do we work with each other? And that I think is fundamental to that same concept. I think it goes with success, is very close to the question of the mission that we have is treating each other with respect and being able to deal with very difficult situation where it's not like a finger pointing kind of exercise where in fact we are in this together in a way that is deep.

It's not just on the, you know, on the surface, but we are in this together and where people are working with that mindset of we are all accountable for the success of every other employee of the corporation. So it is thing about, I'm not just in charge of my own success, but I'm in charge of everybody else's, and if I can do something to help them succeed, then it becomes my task. And this sort of core operation literally is I think, core to this concept of how do you become successful, but also, you know, how do you have more satisfaction out of your own work.

LC : When you're dealing with such incredibly high stakes, autoimmune and inflammatory conditions, leukemia, cancer, the mission is so deep, it's so important. And like you said, while others are trying, you're doing and you're learning from mistakes, you're mission-driven, you're excited to get things done and get to the root of the problem so that you can solve it quickly.

So, get into the hands of physicians and into patients because you know, that must be done. Is there a sense of an understanding inside of your employees with your employees where they say, we must do this, we must do this?

Spontaneous Innovation and Personal Accountability: Responding to COVID-19 and Beyond [6:57]

HH : Well, I can give you an example. I don't know if you heard about it, but there is a little thing called COVID. And so a year and a half ago, I remember we're in March, 2020 when the war thing exploded. So, it was like, oh my God, we have to evacuate the buildings we have, everybody has to work from home, et cetera. And I received inbounds from some of our scientists very quickly about the fact that COVID is leading to this lung inflammation, which is disproportionate compared to the effect of the virus itself. It was really a reaction to the virus that was leading to this very problematic lung inflammation and which was leading a lot of people into emergency room and thus in some cases, and it was absolutely amazing to see how from the team themselves, there was immediately a number of work streams that were put in place to find out if we had in fact solutions that could be helping this patient to suffering from COVID in the acute phase.

And in fact, we did. And today there is a product called Baricitinib that is used very routinely in the US and in other countries as a way to modulate inflammation that is related to COVID. And that was something that everybody felt personally accountable, literally for getting the studies done. And we had our own project with another molecule called Ruxolitinib. So it was very spontaneous and we see that in many cases we have scientists in the lab coming to us with their own ideas about, you know, which direction we should take on a certain type of mechanism because they have their belief and sometimes they do me, they do even experiments about it before they would they would speak about it.

And it's, yeah, there is a lot of spontaneous emergence of new innovation, new innovative ideas that would be sometime will end up with application in medicine. We have examples of that with some of the indication we have today for our products that they came from people in the lab having their own ideas about the mechanism.

LC : So, this is incredible, Herve, this is remarkable that during COVID, you and your employees created pharmaceutical interventions that modulated inflammation for COVID patients. You've been a part of the sort of revolution against COVID. It's incredible!

The Power of Accountability and Passion in Cancer Treatment Development [9:31]

HH : Yeah, we have been part of the improvement of the, the improvement of treatment. You know, you see in COVID there is a prevention, the vaccine. I mean, that's something that we are not involved in, but on the treatment side, I mean all of this inflammatory mechanism is something we worked on very actively during the world crisis.

LC : What else? [Laughs] could be more courageous and strong to bring people together than COVID itself. And you've been a part of that, part of the treatment itself of those symptoms.

HH : But, you know, cancer, we have been in the field of cancer for all this years and frankly we don't compare the, you know, different things, but the feeling of being accountable for being successful when we invite patients here to the office very often to speak and to everybody and, and it gets everybody on their feet running back to their work because the clock is ticking and patients are waiting for us to hopefully find us. It's not just Incyte.

It's, you know, a lot of companies are obviously involved in that, but that perception of patients are looking at us and waiting for us to be successful is something that is very strong in the way we deal with, you know, all the difficult aspect of the work We are doing it, it takes 10 years to get the products through the, the work process.

And you know, it goes in phases where we have great success and then we have issues and then we go back and we serve them. And that's part of the process. But back to the happiness and you know, why people appreciate the work we do, they do is because there is this enormous price is that when we are successful, people, you know, are going to have a treatment for something that before did not have any treatment, which is the case for most of the products we have on the market today.

LC : And that happiness component that you're, describing what's interesting about it and the love component specifically with biologicals and pharmaceuticals. There's a author, his name is Masaru Emoto, and he did a study called Molecules of Emotion and he found that water molecules can gain a definition to them based upon love versus anger.

And he literally wrote on the test tubes love on one test tube for water, and the other one was anger and hatred. And we looked at the molecules, he looked at the molecules under the microscope and found that it was very beautiful with love and with others like anger and hate. It was very unstructured.

HH : I agree.

LC : [Laugh]. Exactly, exactly.

HH : We don't have a pill, we don't have a pill for that yet. So, we'll see. I mean, that could be….

LC : So interesting, isn't it? And it, it sounds like that's part of your success though, this kind of happiness, consistent happiness, people who love being with you and being with Incyte and for Incyte and that really drives you to success.

How Employee Satisfaction Influences Talent Recruitment and Retention [12:27]

HH : No, it is part of, I mean obviously you, we all know we are competing with everybody to attract the best talents in the world. And it's not like it's reality. You know, we have people working here in Delaware, coming from all over the planet and obviously they have chosen to do that and we have no decided that they would be the right person to work here.

So, that group of people are the one who are speaking about Incyte to their colleagues to, for the next, you know, wave of people who are going to join inside. So there is a sort of a, you know, self-fulfilling cycle where the more people who are working in the organization have positive feelings about what's happening, the more quality people you will get from there.

Because most of the recruitment we do, and we increase, had come by like 200 to 400 people per year. Over the past few years, most of the new people joining have joined because they spoke to somebody from inside and have been connected with somebody working here. So yeah, it is very important also for the future to continue to get people who are on that kind of mindset of trying to do something that has never been done before.

LC : Mm, absolutely. Well this is wonderful. And what I love about what you're describing is that people really believe in what you do and people believe in each other and they're giving the ability, the option for others. They believe in like family to come over to you and work with you as well, cuz they trust what you do. So it's very good. I appreciate it. And your Town Hall, how is the Town Hall when you talked about Most Love Workplace? Tell me more about it, I heard you talk a little bit about it.

Flattening the Organizational Hierarchy: Foster Direct Communication and Empower Employee Ideas for a Better Workplace [14:06]

HH : No, I mean we have a number of settings where we are trying to sort of break lines of command, you know, the sort of the pyramids view of a company where, you know, things are going from one level to another, et cetera. So we are trying to get, to stay away from that and to have a system that is far more horizontal with far less layers of management.

So, when you look at the 2000 people at Incyte, we have very little intermediate management layers in the system. And obviously part of it is communication coordination. So, we have a number of settings where we speak directly with everybody in the company. One of the setting is just small meeting. I meet with groups of 10 and I do enough of them so that I can meet with everybody on a, I mean, during COVID it was a little bit of a different type of meeting by Zoom, but in general it's to have person to person meeting with everybody working at inside of a over a period of a year or a year and a half in small groups.

And I must say it's extraordinarily productive because it's not, what I say that matters is what, in fact all of these employees have ideas on how to make Incyte to better place. And the fact that everybody, you know, it's sort of a crowd wisdom. The fact that everybody would think about how to make Incyte a better place by itself is extremely positive because it is individual accountability. They think of it as my Incyte.

And when they see something that's not right, you know, whatever is happening, somebody is, is not doing the right thing or there is a problem or blah, blah, blah, I think the first reaction is, you know, how do we change things so that it'll be better next time? And people feel very strongly about that. So that's the course. The Town Hall are more like meeting with everybody in the room and video and Zoom in Asia and Europe, and it's an open Q&A, so it's totally open to any questions that people may have. Where we get, some of them are stinging a little bit and some of them are, you know, more classic question.

But, think it's very useful because it shows that there is no unacceptable question. In fact, there may be some unacceptable answers, but the questions are always welcome and we can work with them. So it just took place. We spent two hours together and it was a great experience.

LC : I love where you said there's no unacceptable questions. There's only unacceptable answers, [laugh]. It's so true, isn't it that when there, the truth doesn't meet the question itself. I love also, I was interested in what you mentioned about small groups and I, I do believe, I know research shows that small groups does bring in a lot of great ideas and a lot of amazing thoughts and dialogue that enrich and makes the sort of experience richer and the respect much deeper. And I see that you've done that as well in small groups

Recognizing Employees as Individuals: Balancing Professional Responsibilities and Personal Needs [17:08]

HH : And it's bringing great ideas. I mean, it's not a gimmick to just sort of say, oh yeah, we do the meet the leadership kind of thing. we got a number of ideas from these discussions and people know it because they're in one of these meetings and then three months later they will see a big announcement. And that's exactly what they wanted to do. And they were there, you know, things that we are blind to certain aspects of what we do, we just don't realize it and we don't see it. And that's a way to get, you know, people who are little orthogonal to the way we look, to just come to us saying, Hey, why are we not doing more of this? And then suddenly it becomes a project. So it is really very useful.

LC : Yeah. The design of innovation brings, comes right from your employees. They bring it forward for you. Herve, thank you so much for your time and you've said it all. Is there any other sort of final remarks you want to bring to the world about Most Loved Workplace or your company, new, new things happening? Yeah.

HH : Well, I think the last aspect is really to look at what matters to people in their professional life. I mean, people spend like, you know, one life and half of it, or a big part of it is in professional activities. So, we spoke about the mission, we spoke about the respect, obviously, but there is also the question of the benefits and how we are basically helping people make these professional activities.

Some things that is not always under, there's the threat of, you know, medical problems or so. So we have been very proactive. We have the best health benefits I guess in the nation. I don't know if I can say that, but some of the best, and I believe it's something that is really, really important that we have seen over the past few months, is that in the sort of deal with a group of people who want to work for your company for Incyte, in that case, there is this mission, there is respect, the fact that people will not be treated wrong way.

But there is also the fact that we will take care of, you know, basic things that, so fundamental to being able to have a family and everything that goes with your personal life, not the professional aspect, but the personal part. And I think it's something that sometime we tend to build the world between the two and say, okay, that's none of my business. You can choose to do whatever you want in term of health insurance. In our case we say we owe you to give you a health insurance that will be covering, you know, far beyond what the basic things are. And that part I think is also very, very important in the US today.

LC : It's incredibly important. You offer benefits like 100% health insurance coverage for employees, 95% for dependents, and since 2017 parental leave for all situations. It's incredible.

HH : I don't know if it's incredible. I don't, I don't, I frankly maybe it's my you know, where I come from. I see it as, you know, basic things that part of the commitment you give to a corporation, to a company. And I like the word company because it also speaks about, you know, people being together in the company. And when you give your, you give your time and your energy and your creativity to a company, I think there are certain things that you can expect. And that's one of them that I put at the top in fact is certainly the healthcare and the type of benefits that are related to that.

LC : I love what you, I like what you said, you said where you come from. Tell me more, where you say you come from.

HH : I come from France, I come from Europe. I came to the US 30 years ago, so I'm now very much transatlantic. But there is something on the, and maybe the way we think in Europe about, you know, health as a right more, that is something that I think can be applied everywhere in the world. Unfortunately, there are a lot of places where it's not yet the case.

LC : Well, we see that in your company certainly with that a hundred percent healthcare coverage and parental leave and seeing those kinds of values come through here in Incyte. Thank you for your leadership and your being a great CEO of a company that is loved.

HH : Thank you. Thank you for the time.