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Sunrise: "We have a culture of trust, not a culture of control"

The joint development of corporate values puts the building blocks for a solid workplace culture in the right position. But the mere fact that the workplace culture is not based on a shaky framework does not build it yet. It needs values that are lived by management and employees. Sunrise is a company that has succeeded very well in building up this framework. In an interview, her Chief Human Resources Officer, Tobias Foster, explains why this value development was so important to her, what effects the workplace culture has on day-to-day business and recruiting, and why it is better to be a speedboat despite the storm.

Ben Seiler: While researching for this interview, I came across the corporate values "courageous", "intuitive" and "positive" on your website - how did you come up with these values?

Tobias Foster: We developed our values in a long process with numerous interviews and evaluations together with our employees. And because the values were developed in-house, they are also lived on a daily basis. For example, our people know the difference between courageous and frivolous - even if we, as a challenger in the telecom industry, pursue ambitious goals, such as the pioneering role at 5G. For example, we are intuitive in our offering: our customers receive products that are tailored to their personal needs. We offer exciting experiences. And we are positive because our employees are highly motivated to go the extra mile for our customers. Our optimism is contagious and helps everyone move forward - and motivates them to do even more. 

Tobias Foster interviewbild2

Tobias Foster, Chief Human Resources Officer of Sunrise Communications

You say that your values are lived every day. How does this manifest itself in your workplace culture?

A good example where we were courageous, intuitive and positive was in the preparations for 5G. Although the frequencies were not yet auctioned, we were courageous and positive and have already planned and advanced the construction of the infrastructure in detail. We listened intuitively to our customers' wishes, because they determine our priorities, which is why our organisation is strategically oriented towards all customer contacts. And in order to find creative solutions for our customers' wishes, our employees are given a lot of responsibility and competence. This is why we invest a great deal in the frontline and attach great importance to its input. We have our own Sunrise Academy with a range of training courses aimed in particular at our frontline, where, for example, customer feedback is analysed down to the last detail and very specific solutions are developed. 

But in order to give employees responsibility and competence, trust is needed - to what extent does trust play a role at Sunrise?

For us, trust is the basis for our actions. We could not act courageously, intuitively or positively if trust were not there. It stands for less PowerPoint and more implementation. And precisely because we at Sunrise work across all units, trust is crucial to success for close and comprehensive cooperation in a very dynamic market. Our working time arrangements are very generous because we trust people to manage themselves: at work, in the home office or on the move. In short, we have a culture of trust, not a culture of control.

Sunrise has over 1800 employees - how do you ensure that the workplace culture is lived?

We live a very dynamic team spirit. The employees are proud of the company and strongly identify with it. And we are doing a lot for this: regular company updates by the CEO for all employees, where they are informed about ongoing projects, CEO breakfasts, measurement of employee satisfaction using eNPS, a wide range of sports activities, a home office and state-of-the-art tools for working digitally and much more. And, of course, regular employee surveys, such as those from Great Place to Work®, help you to feel your pulse. 

You are talking about the Great Place to Work® employee survey - what role does it play in the development of your workplace culture?

A very important role. The many feedbacks show us where we want to become even better as a company. From this, we derive concrete measures to be able to promote our employees even better. This can be achieved through performance management, development programs, on-the-job and off-the-job training, focus with on-the-job, project tasks, promotion opportunities and, last but not least, internal moves. We can fill one third of all vacancies internally!

Does workplace culture also help in the recruitment of new talent?

Yes, very strong - although gut feeling always plays a major role. Diversity is important, and we are quality- and performance-oriented. Committed to going the extra mile for customers is firmly anchored in our DNA. Candidates with these qualities suit us best. We do not have empty phrases. What we write on our banner in employer branding and communication, we also live: we are courageous, intuitive and positive.

If you think back from the start of value development until now: What were your biggest learnings and best practices on the way so far?

Encourage and challenge. We set ourselves very high goals, divide them into subgoals with the teams and implement them pragmatically. We have flat hierarchies, the management is close to the employees. Thanks to the move to Ambassador House in Glattpark, we have also moved even closer together. The Executive Leadership Team also exchanges information very closely. We are an independent and "self-confident" company that determines its culture independently. Fast feedback, close management, quick decisions. We are a speedboat and not a tanker. Sometimes it storms a bit more, but overtaking is all the more fun!

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