Exclusive Interview with Fabienne Connet - Senior Manager, Human Resources at Biogen

  1. Could you tell me a little bit more about yourself and your role at Biogen?

    Fabienne Connet, Senior HR Manager at Biogen. My role at Biogen encompasses the full remit of HR for our Australia & New Zealand Affiliate. I have local support and leverage -when possible- our global centres of excellence (e.g. people analytics) and People Services (e.g. HR admin) which are located in Europe and in the US.

    In the earlier stages of my career I used to work in recruitment in London in a small boutique business. Thereafter I spend almost 10 years in GE in a variety of HR roles  ranging across geographies such as the UK/Ireland, Europe and Australia/New Zealand. 

    I’m delighted to now be at Biogen, a biotech company dedicated to research and development in neuroscience. This company brings together the experience of a medium- sized business within a globally matrixed organisation all in one.


  2. What are you focused on right now?

    As our business has been steadily evolving and growing, I’ve been strategically focused on improving our HR operations to firstly ensure that a positive and seamless employee experience is at the centre of all that we do and secondly, allowing me to focus on building and sustaining the high performance culture we’re privy to be part of. Alongside the opportunity to work on medicines that can be life-changing for patients, employees experience an open and collaborative culture.  We continue to make a concerted effort in developing and nurturing this environment to maintain these levels of engagement.


  3. How is the role of the HR function within Biogen responding to the current aims and challenges of your business?

    Biogen has a very clear mission – to be a pioneer in neuroscience. The company believes that no other area holds as much need or as much promise for medical breakthroughs as neuroscience. Our focus and our courage to take risks make us leaders in the research and development of medicines to transform neuroscience to benefit society. This passion and dedication, as well as the size and structure of our company means that we are constantly challenging ourselves and evolving as an organisation to deliver against our mission. This results in many areas of transformation with employees a vital component. As an example, our pipeline holds some exciting new prospective medicines and if these progress through the research phase and deliver the clinical results we are hoping for, we may be faced with having to significantly grow the employee base in a very short timeframe. This has huge ramifications across the business and HR will be a fundamental function in delivering this transformative success.


  4. What do you see as the main challenge that the HR function faces in the future?

    The main challenge facing HR in any business today, is the desire and need for employees to be mobile and flexible with their working times. While this isn’t a new concept, it’s important we balance technology with humanity.  

    How do you ensure that the culture you are building or maintain can be experienced by people who are not physically in an office or have little face-to-face interaction? How do you make sure that people still feel part of a team and can reap the benefits of cross functional collaboration? While technology supports this new mobile world and Biogen invests heavily in bringing people closer together in a virtual sense, it is absolutely vital that we continue to use the word “human” in the term Human Resources: Human resources should remain a human experience!

    Work and personal lives have become more intertwined than ever before and here at Biogen Australia & New Zealand we are piloting a program that enables you to be the best you can be at work and at home. Unlike traditional training methods, this requires a 30 to 40min commitment a week from an employee to work through a particular module and make a life long lasting change. From beginning to end this individual program takes approximately 9 months to complete.


  5. What key characteristics do you look for in HR professionals when recruiting for your team?

    Biogen’s culture drives the hiring choices we make. Within HR, we also hire for attitude and mindset as these are the key differentiators in any recruitment process. You can teach someone all the technical expertise they require if they have the right attitude/mindset.


  6. What is the best career advice you have ever been given?

    In a previous role some years ago, when times were tough and I was managing many restructures/redundancies, the personal toll became a little heavy at times. The advice I got from a well-respected HR leader was that ultimately it was the business’s decision and that my role was to make this experience as human as possible for the employee. Since then my lens and approach to restructures has changed.


  7. What do you love most about your role?

    While I believe everyone within Biogen loves the fact that the company is so patient focused – everyone, every day is constantly considering how best to support our patients and how our medicines may change their lives. What differentiates us is our culture and  my role is to enable them to have that clarity.


    We care deeply and work fearlessly to change the lives of patients but in practical terms this means no two days are ever the same for me, so I’d have to qualify this by saying that I love the variety. I do think this variety is even more so within the Biotech space as the scientific technology and R&D is moving at such a pace that we are constantly faced with a new reality! When the stakes are so high and you’re investing in cutting-edge medical research in areas such as Alzheimer’s disease, the change is constant.


  8. Best place or holiday destination you have visited?

           This is hard because there have been so many exceptional experiences ranging from Madagascar to             the Maldives. If I have to choose the best place within Australia, it will have to be Fraser Island four- wheel driving on the beach with a lake that looks like the sea was an unforgettable holiday.




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