Best Companies to Work For: Synthes Inc.

Posted by tblair on May 27, 2011

Synthes Inc.

Solothurn, Switzerland

CEO: Michel Orsinger

Employees: 11,400

Key Products: Matrix craniomaxillofacial systems; Synapse spinal stabilization system; Variable angle distal radius plate.

Annual Revenue: $3.7 billion (FY10)

There are many ways to judge the quality of a workplace, but one sign that something good is going on is that the people who work there want to be there. At Synthes, the employees rarely want to leave, and the company hardly ever asks them to.

“We have applicants come in and they say, ‘What’s the climate like? What’s the culture like?’ And the first thing I do is tell them about the turnover…” says human resources business partner Mike Sticklin, who has been at the company for 11 years. According to Sticklin, the voluntary turnover rate at the company’s facility in West Chester, PA, was 4.1% in 2010.

“What that’s telling you is, employees are staying here,” Sticklin says. “It’s a good place to work, and it’s a great indicator of employee morale.”

The company has also never laid off a single employee in the entirety of its history. Even with the reported acquisition of Synthes by Johnson & Johnson in April, Sticklin says Synthes may not lose any people.

One might expect a certain amount of coddling with stats like that, but Sticklin says that isn’t quite the case. In fact, he says,

Synthes has never laid off a single employee. Photo courtesy Synthes Inc.

while the numbers would seem to suggest a certain amount of job security for Synthes employees, president and CEO Michel Orsinger does not actually like to call it job security because “if people aren’t doing their job, [they’re not] going to be here.” And while there hasn’t been a layoff to date, Sticklin says that doesn’t mean the company wouldn’t do it if it had to. So what is it that gets workers to stay at Synthes in droves?

“If you talk to the employees here, what stands out is that they really enjoy working here because they know it’s going to improve patient care, to help people out,” Sticklin says.

Another factor, Sticklin says, is that “we treat people like adults... Nobody likes to be micromanaged. The environment here is that you’ve got room to breathe.”

Finally, Sticklin says the company’s impressive ability to avoid layoffs can be primarily attributed to one thing: success. The company, which sees average sales growth of 15.6%, added 721 jobs in 2010. The layoff-free history, then, is “a point of pride,” he says, “because it’s a sign of growth.”

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