Eli Lilly Jam Session: An employee engagement case study

In 2007, drug manufacturer Eli Lilly had a problem. It was facing the loss of revenue when a host of patent protections were due to expire in 5 years times, while the cost of developing new drugs was rising. Customers meanwhile already thought drug costs were too high, having an overall negative opinion of the pharmaceutical industry.

The company developed a new vision to address these issues, and realised they needed help from employees. Lilly decided to hold a 76-hour online “Jam Session” to reach out to employees for ideas.

To get the most out of the session, Eli Lilly did research on their employees as well as the challenges it faced. Lilly also used research from IBM (its partner in the session) to make sure the session was the best method to communicate companywide.

To implement the Jam Session, Lilly first turned to management to create awareness and have employees register for participation. The goal was to have around 20 per cent of the workforce register and 60% of those registered participate. Employees were also to be well prepared prior to the jam session, knowledgeable of the company’s new goals and ready to provide ideas and solutions.

Lilly pulled out all the stops to get the employees motivated, producing a brand around session, and using online, print, multimedia and face-to-face communications to inform, promote the session and get participants. They even sponsored a promotional giveaway for registrants. Importantly, as Lilly was a worldwide concern, managers were given room to develop “site-specific” tactics to promote participation.

The results were astounding. Sixty per cent of the workforce registered to participate, 31,000 comments and ideas were posted, and 65 per cent of the workforce said the session influenced them to think differently. The 3-day session ultimately gave birth to a dozen actionable projects at the corporate level as well as number of projects at the local level.

Visit the IABC.com site for the full case study.