The power of Our Credo: Johnson & Johnson Chairman and CEO Alex Gorsky reflects on the legacy of the company’s historic mission statement
What helps set Johnson & Johnson apart? One legendary document written in 1943. As Our Credo celebrates its 75th anniversary, Gorsky sat down with author and Wharton professor Adam Grant to delve into the past, present and future of the company’s guiding belief statement.
Our Credo challenges everyone at Johnson & Johnson to put first the needs and well-being of those they serve, in everything they do.
Our Credo is both timeless and timely, and it’s the company’s responsibility to ensure it remains just as forward-thinking as the day it was introduced.
Recently, the company shared enhancements to Our Credo—enhancements that were informed and shaped by the feedback of employees. At the core, these changes reflect Johnson & Johnson’s commitment to all of humanity, and push thinking beyond the traditional definition of health to provide people with solutions and experiences that improve their whole life.
To provide a unique perspective on how Our Credo has supported and guided Johnson & Johnson through 7 1/2 decades of change, Alex Gorsky, Chairman and CEO, Johnson & Johnson, sat down for an interview with Adam Grant, New York Times best-selling author and professor at the Wharton School, where Gorsky got his executive MBA, about the past, present and future of Our Credo, as well as purpose-driven leadership.
Alex, we have talked about the importance of Johnson & Johnson’s Credo as a foundational aspect of the company’s culture. Tell me about the thinking that led company leaders to change it. Why now?
It’s a great question, Adam.
Our Credo has been a guiding light for our entire organization for the past 75 years. Through periods of immense change, it clearly conveyed a set of values that influenced not only what we needed to achieve, but also the actions we needed to take to reach those achievements.
At the same time, Our Credo is a living and breathing document. It’s both timely and timeless. Several times over the years, we’ve revised it slightly to ensure it remains just as forward-thinking as the day it was introduced. For example, in 1979, wording was added to outline the company’s responsibility to “protecting the environment and natural resources,” which reflected larger changes in the world at that time, including growing awareness about the environment.
In 1987, the last time changes were made, the word “fathers” was added to accompany “mothers” in the first paragraph, and a nod to work/life balance was included with the addition of this sentence: “We must be mindful of ways to help our employees fulfill their family responsibilities.” These updates were a recognition of changes in society and the workforce—more and more women were working, and there was a rise in two-career families.
Each time Our Credo has been updated, it has reflected the changing world in which we live and operate.
What’s never changed, though, is the role it plays in guiding our company decisions at every level, and that’s an important distinction—this is not a decision that was made solely at the leadership level. Last year, we enlisted our Executive Committee members to host small focus groups with over 2,000 employees across all of our regions, functions, levels and sectors. During these conversations we asked them: What does Our Credo mean to you? How can we make sure it’s relevant not just for today, but also tomorrow? We invited these employees to suggest any changes they felt would better reflect the times we live in to ensure Our Credo’s future impact as a guiding document.
After these small-group conversations, we came back together as an executive team to review the employee feedback, and after thoughtful debate and discussion, I believe that the time is right to update Our Credo to reflect the needs of a new world, and solidify our commitments to the health of humanity over the long term.
Two things stand out about the Credo. One: There’s clearly a tremendous amount of thought put into it. Two: How seriously everyone at Johnson & Johnson takes it. What makes it so accessible and important to employees?
You get right to the heart of what we aspire toward at Johnson & Johnson. I frequently say that we need to think of ourselves as a 132-year-old start-up. It’s about building on our rich heritage, but also pushing ourselves to reinvent ourselves every day—searching for new ideas, treatments and business models to meet the healthcare needs of tomorrow. It’s about constantly asking ourselves if we’re living up to our values, and thinking of ways to build for the future.
Planning for that future takes many forms. It’s about really using our reach and size to take on some of the world’s most pressing health challenges. It’s about finding the areas that have lasting, life-enhancing impact. That’s why the Credo is such a sustaining document. It’s a framework for discernment that’s accessible to everyone.
As we celebrate 75 years of Our Credo, and plan for the next 75, our task across our organization is to come together as one and pave a healthier future for everyone, everywhere. What gives us the strength to do that is our belief in Our Credo and knowing that our actions are part of something bigger than ourselves.
I was intrigued by the addition of inclusion, fulfillment and purpose to the Credo. Why are those concepts so important to Johnson & Johnson?
Diversity & Inclusion is how we’ve done business at Johnson & Johnson for 132 years. And we know it’s the key to growing together as a company and thriving in the future. Meeting the challenge of delivering life-changing, lifesaving solutions is only possible when we bring together a diverse mix of backgrounds, perspectives and experiences.
But the only way that works is if everyone feels like they belong and can bring their full selves to work every day. It’s not enough just to have a diverse workforce. You need to create an environment where people are supported and empowered to bring forward their unique backgrounds to drive innovation in service of our shared purpose.
We’re always striving to make these commitments more robust. It’s also what underlies our commitment to fulfillment and purpose. To be there for our patients and customers, in the way we need to, and ask our employees to constantly search for new ideas to improve human health, we need a corresponding culture that truly values each and every individual.
We’re immensely proud of the fact that we have the world’s healthiest workforce. And we’re relentlessly focused on helping our employees realize their own ambitions, and connecting them with our shared purpose.
I’m heartened to see that a company that stands for health and well-being is actually prioritizing employees’ health and well-being. What are your goals in this area?
That’s a very important point. It’s something that we’ve always known to be true and is spelled out in Our Credo. Our goal is to have the world’s healthiest workforce by 2020 by empowering and engaging at least 100,000 employees toward a “personal best” in health and well-being via the principles of Energy for Performance®, innovative digital health tools, and advancing a culture of healthy eating and physical activity.
We also look at health from the broadest definition—healthy physically, but also financially, emotionally and mentally—and incorporate progressive benefits and programs. To continue to attract and retain the best and most diverse talent, we’ve developed a holistic approach to reimagine and redesign the end-to-end employee experience.
Our business thrives only when we put the needs and well-being of the people we serve first: our patients, our customers, doctors and nurses, and our employees. It’s our recipe for business success, and it’s how we live up to our purpose.
The way you articulate your purpose at Johnson & Johnson is about as clear as it gets. How does Johnson & Johnson see purpose differently?
At Johnson & Johnson, we have a single purpose: We blend heart, science and ingenuity to change the trajectory of health for humanity. That defines and guides the work we do each and every day.
To get there, we’re focusing a lot of our attention on helping our employees find and activate their own purpose and connect it with our mission. We’ve seen that cultivating and developing a deep sense of purpose leads to employees who are more engaged, both personally and professionally. And the data show that focusing on purpose actually leads to many improved outcomes—physically, mentally and emotionally.
As far as I can tell, in decades of data, being part of an organization that lets you contribute to a much larger purpose is the most important driver of meaningful work. Would you agree?
Absolutely. As we celebrate 75 years of Our Credo, and plan for the next 75, our task across our organization is to come together as one and pave a healthier future for everyone, everywhere.
What gives us the strength to do that is our belief in Our Credo and knowing that our actions are part of something bigger than ourselves.