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«We don't need grey hair to take responsibility»

In the first part of the interview with IWC, we talked about employer attractiveness, the effect of company values on recruiting and what happens when values are disregarded. In the second part of the interview, Julia Viehweider, Lead HR Business Partner, and René Behr, HR Global and Member of the Executive Board, explain why jointly designed programs and training and the CEO's behavior are so important in making the values tangible. And why you don't need grey hair to take on responsibility.


Julia Viehweider Rene Behr5

Julia Viehweider (left) is Lead HR Business Partner Team | Learning & Development and René Behr (right) is Director Global Human Resources & Member of the Executive Board.

In the first part of the interview you explained that your employees are the best ambassadors of your values. What else do you find important when it comes to communicating your values?

René: You'd like to have the corporate values printed all over and hung on every wall in the building. But making them visible is not enough. You have to talk proactively about corporate values and exemplify them, otherwise values are useless and become "worthless". That's why our motto is: less high-gloss and more through observable behavior and direct feedback. Instead of just hanging our values on the wall somewhere, we talk about them, make them a topic, and finally review our daily actions. In order to create this awareness, we need above all the managers who set a positive example for me. As part of our highly successful executive development program, we pass these expectations on to our managers and teach them how to apply the corporate values in their role and in their daily leadership work.

What else helps to ensure that the corporate values are actually lived?

Julia: An important aspect is to involve employees in the planning of measures. When we plan actions such as our Health Day, we don't just set up a program that we think is good without including feedback from the business units. Rather, we approach them or put together project teams with representatives from different departments to find out what people like most and whether they have suggestions. The colleagues in the BGM Committee, for example, also help to organise such an event. With us, this is not only limited to employee events - we also organise a lot of training sessions together! We can't even know what those with expertise in the fields need until we've talked to them. That's why we work with them to develop programs that are perfectly tailored to the needs of the team. The employees also know that their input is taken into account and always come up with new ideas.

How can I imagine such a jointly developed training?

Julia: For example, our buyers wanted to do training in negotiation techniques. This training was then developed in very close cooperation between the Learning & Development Team, an external trainer, the division manager and the employees themselves. And the stronger we made the people concerned into participants, the more satisfied they are in the end - and the better the trainings are received. Our trainings are so popular that we sometimes have long waiting lists. So I can only warmly recommend this collaborative approach. If there's someone from every employee group who wants to get involved, it's much more effective than if you're quietly inventing great concepts that might not even get through.

René: Another example of this is our Christmas party, which was organized last year by a mixed group of people from different departments. It was a perfect celebration, everyone was happy and exuberant - and the CEO also praised the organisation team personally on stage once again. Of course, your chest almost bursts with pride when you get such recognition!


IWC GL Workshop2

Inclusion and mix is key for successful trainings and workshops.

Apropos CEO: How does he exemplify your values?

René: Our CEO (editors note: Christoph Grainger-Herr) has been with us for over eleven years and has worked in various departments and functions. He knows the company and its employees very well and is therefore very close - both in Schaffhausen and at other locations. One example: Our anniversary trip takes place once a year. The day already starts at 7.45 a.m., but Christoph still appears in person, chatting a bit with the anniversary guests and congratulating them. He also takes part in aperitifs and Z'Nünis whenever possible. When we celebrated our Great Place to Work certification, Christoph was also present and gave a short speech to thank the employees. But his door is also always open in everyday working life and people approach him directly through the flat hierarchy and vice versa. He not only discusses products and workplace culture, but also talks about personal issues - you can see that he is very interested in the well-being of his employees.

Your CEO travels a lot to other locations, more than half of your employees work abroad - how do you deal with diversity in your workplace culture?

René: We see diversity as an important aspect of the workplace culture foundation. After all, IWC stands for "International Watch Company". On the one hand, we have diversity through our various locations and nationalities, but also through our various functions and departments. For example, the world of production and the world of the office naturally differ in many things. And because we are aware of these differences and want to facilitate exchange and understanding, we try to network them as well as possible - which, frankly, is never easy. There are many different challenges, for example in the area of home offices. It's not so easy in production, because you can't just take the machine home with you. Or if you work in a boutique, you can't ask your customers to come home. It is precisely because of these different requirements that we don't close our eyes to them, but try to manage the balancing act and implement topics in such a way that they are somehow balanced and nobody has to be jealous - which I believe we have succeeded in doing quite well so far. And because we are aware of our diversity, we exchange ideas across departments, show mutual understanding and are committed to avoiding silos. We do this, for example, by deliberately mixing employees from production with employees from sales or the office in the aforementioned training courses. But our diversity also pays off in our attractiveness as an internationally active employer, because we tend to attract international talent in this way. After all, getting employees from Shanghai, London or Paris to Schaffhausen is anything but easy.

Do the employee statements on your website, where you can read that as an employee you quickly get responsibility and freedom, also help with talent acquisition?

Julia: We are a young company where young people take on responsibility very quickly - and that appeals very strongly to people. I think this also distinguishes us from other companies where you have to grow grey hair before you can take on responsibility. That's why, as an employer, we are also attractive to talented people who prefer to live in the big city and therefore commute from Zurich to Schaffhausen every day. I'm one of them myself and could have looked for a job in Zurich. But I find the team and the work here so exciting and so much fun that I have been taking on the longer journey to work for four years. And that despite the fact that I'm actually a late riser!

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