Finding purpose at work and giving back to the community

Steve Jobs once said the only way to be truly satisfied, is to do what you believe is great work; and the only way to do great work, is to love what you do”.

For the vast majority of us, work will occupy the better part of our waking lives. In fact, if one were to cumulatively count the number of hours just spent at work, the average person would find that close to ten full years’ of their lifetime was lived just doing their job. With statistics like this, the importance of finding purpose and fulfillment in one’s career is practically self-explanatory – not only for the employee’s work-life balance and mental health, but also for the benefit of the company in which they work.

A key lesson I have learned throughout my time in the industry is that when people are working for you, good work is possible, but when they are working with you, great work is near-guaranteed. It’s basic human nature – when people find meaning in the work they’re doing, they work harder, and they do it better. So, how can a company ensure their teams are working toward a common purpose? It’s quite simple really – give them something to care about.

“It’s basic human nature – when people find meaning in the work they’re doing, they work harder, and they do it better”

I speak for us all at Janssen, and the wider J&J family of companies, when I say we are dedicated to ensuring all our colleagues find meaning in the work they do. One of the ways we do this is to encourage employees to get involved with their local community as part of the corporate social responsibility, which I truly believe helps give meaning to the vitally important work that we do. Every year, every employee is given five working days to contribute to charitable projects, focusing on one of our three key areas: community, education and enterprise.


Our community initiative focuses on getting our teams involved in the local area and its charities to help make a real, tangible difference to peoples’ lives. For example, last October, all Janssen employees in the EMEA region came together, either face-to-face or virtually, to participate in the Cycling for Children event that helped raise funds to improve the mental health of children in Spain. The event proved a remarkable success, which I truly believe gave our teams working on mental health issues a face to fight for. You see, it is one thing to work on healthcare and disease areas behind a buffer like a computer screen, but it something else entirely to work with and for the patients directly, reminding us why our roles are so important.

“Cycling for Children was a really fantastic opportunity to bring EMEA colleagues together under one common purpose: cycling to raise kilometres and funds for SOS Children’s Villages in Spain,” said Cyril Titeux, or vice president of mid-sized markets. “I am passionate about why I do the job I do every day, and am fortunate to work with so many people who share that drive in their day jobs.

“This was a great chance to share another common goal and the energy and commitment from all of those taking part was inspiring. The results were so good and we had such a great time taking on the challenge as a team that we are going to do it again this year, with a bigger team and doubling our targets.”


Our initiative to support education helps promote accessibility to knowledge and inspires young students to pursue careers in healthcare and science. I am particularly proud of J&J’s role in the Science, Technology, Engineering, Math, Manufacturing and Design (STEM2D) program, which aims to support over one million of the next-generation of women in pursuing career paths in male-dominated fields of work.

We certainly still have a long way to go until we reach true gender parity in STEM2D, with the latest global figures showing only 30% of female representation in these kind of roles and even less so in leadership roles. However, we’re proud to say our education initiative has not only helped provide more opportunities for young woman aspiring for a career in these fields, but also empowered our employees with a platform to get involved in a cause they care about. My hope is that by helping mentor young students, our employees will find a sense of self-fulfillment beyond their typical workload, and in doing so create a culture of job satisfaction across the company that keeps our teams enthusiastic about the great work they do.


Another way we live our corporate social responsibility is to inspire a social change with our Social Impact through Procurement Program. To this effect, J&J has set a target to spend £15 million – 3% of total spend – with UK social enterprises by 2020, to help support the creation 150 jobs for individuals facing challenges entering the job market, such as those with mental or physical disabilities or individuals from vulnerable populations.

Diversity of employees brings new perspectives to our teams and this is especially beneficial in the healthcare industry. Again, there is still so much more that could be done, but we truly believe if we can create a workplace culture employees can be proud of, we can inspire our teams in a truly meaningful and valuable way across the board of their role.

Ever since it was first crafted in 1943, our Credo has always prioritised the importance of employee satisfaction, and I’m proud to say J&J has continued to live up to our traditional values over 70 years later, being named Fortune’s most admired company in 2017 and mentioned in Glassdoor’s list of Best Places to Work in 2018. I truly believe it is this ethos that has proved integral in transforming J&J from a three-brother start-up over a century ago, to the household name it is today, and I for one couldn’t be more proud of the company that I have decided to share a good 10% of my life with.

What makes you feel inspired at work?

About the author

Kris Sterkens has been the company group chairman of Janssen EMEA since June 2017, returning to his home country, Belgium after spending over three years in Singapore where he was company group chairman of Janssen Asia Pacific. Kris has a background in economics and financial management and was vice president, finance and chief financial officer for Janssen EMEA before he moved to general management. Kris has been with Janssen for almost 30 years.