Around 1,700 people from all kinds of professional groups work for V-ZUG in more than 10 countries, spread over four continents. It is thanks to their personal skills, professional expertise and daily commitment that V-ZUG has been operating successfully for more than 100 years and is able to maintain the loyalty of its customers with its high quality, strong innovative flair and first-class service. The wellbeing of our employees is therefore paramount to us.
Healthy and fit for the future
Work has a major impact on wellbeing and performance. We support our employees in keeping fit and active, and therefore remaining successful in their jobs. V-ZUG's health management system “vitality” turns the focus on physical and mental health. We are committed to prevention, by reducing risk factors and increasing protective factors, and to supporting people affected by such issues. Against the backdrop of digital transformation, we see it as part of our responsibility to empower employees to exploit change processes in order to broaden their own skills, so that they are in good shape to look to the future with confidence. Since May 2018, we have been training our managers in line with our future-oriented competency model and have implemented the first concrete measures such as V-ZUGconnect (see “Dialogue replaces performance review” ).
It’s all about the mix
Our company is home to different personalities with a wide range of specialist qualifications, cultural backgrounds and life situations. We firmly believe that diversity is a key driver of innovation and motivation. Equal opportunities must be a given. To enable us to properly promote and develop the diverse talents at V-ZUG, we have established a three-tier career model which, as well as the traditional line hierarchy, accommodates specialist and project career development. The career model also allows promotion opportunities for employees who work part-time, helping them to balance work and private life. Whether our employees are genuinely motivated and satisfied is the subject of regular discussion between line managers and employees. We also systematically evaluate employee satisfaction by carrying out an anonymous survey through external providers, every three years. The most recent survey took place over the period from September to October 2018.
Interview "Dynamic duo"
Daniela Arnold and Christian Roth are two of V-ZUG’s innovation drivers. Since January 2017, they’ve been running the “Technology Development” team together and are proof that it is possi- ble to combine a career, a personal life and specialist projects.
What’s your latest crazy invention?
Christian Roth: I wouldn’t say it’s crazy, it was more of a response to the hot summer. We managed to chill a can of beer from 25 °C to 5 °C in 15 seconds.
Is that sustainable?
Daniela Arnold: The chilling speed has no significant influence on the fridge’s energy consumption. But in our work, enhanced customer benefit and sustainability are the key drivers of technical innova- tions. One of our projects, for example, is focused on minimizing the release of microplastics during washing.
You’re the only people at present to co-manage a team at V-ZUG. How did it come about?
Daniela Arnold: I used to work as Head of Innovation and it was my job to implement technology projects, working with lots of different departments. Eventually it became apparent that it makes more sense to create a team entirely dedicated to technological innovations. As I was heavily involved in set- ting up the team, it’s kind of my baby. But as I work part-time and, alongside managing people, enjoy getting involved in projects, the idea of co-managing the team really appealed to me.
Christian Roth: I’m fascinated by all things technology-related and I enjoy being involved in devel- oping at the frontline. But because I’m also very interested in people, I loved the idea of combining specialist work and management tasks. So Daniela and I submitted a proposal to our line managers explaining why we wanted to co-manage a team and how this would benefit V-ZUG.
And how does it benefit V-ZUG?
Christian Roth: We have the advantage of two perspectives and two opinions, which are taken on board in every important decision. To my mind, that’s very valuable. It vastly improves the quality of our work.
Critics would call your decision-making processes inefficient.
Christian Roth: Efficiency is always about the cost-benefit ratio. Being co-managers, the decisions we make are very well thought-out so, although on first sight they cost more, they contain fewer errors and spare us the ensuing costs of, say, unnecessary projects. So I believe our model is efficient in the long run.
Daniela Arnold: In reality, the fact that we co-manage the team very quickly leads to huge quality improvements, as we are able to hold the analytical discussion at an unusually early stage.
Besides this improvement in quality: what does co-management bring to the company?
Christian Roth: A highly motivated team. We like the fact that, despite being managers, we can also implement specialist projects. Employees are happy since one of us is always there and, in case of doubt, they can get the input of two managers.
Daniela Arnold: As we’re both involved in the employee representative body, our shared management role is highly visible and boosts V-ZUG’s reputation as a progressive employer. Plus, by sharing man- agement of the team, we demonstrate how a managerial role can be held on a part-time basis, which means parents aren’t faced with a tough decision between time for kids or a career.
And what are the challenges?
Christian Roth: We have to routinely and frequently confer with each other. We’ve set aside an hour each week to do this. We also have a joint electronic notebook in which we always note the key information, so that we both know what’s going on at all times. Plus, sometimes it’s not clear whether we should make a decision by ourselves or agree it with the other person. So we rely on open commu- nication and mutual trust.
Daniela Arnold: Our seven-strong team of specialists is highly interdisciplinary in nature, and the diversity of our projects reflects this. It can sometimes prove challenging keeping track of everything. It’s important that we act as sparring partners for our employees and are able to make decisions. At the same time, we never lose sight of the fact that our employees are the experts. We’re there to sup- port them and back them up, so they can do their jobs as well as possible and keep developing on a personal level.
Would you recommend the co-management model, generally speaking?
Daniela Arnold: I think you have to consider what each team needs, what you expect of the team and the managers, and then decide on the possible management model. Plus, I’d never take on managing a team with somebody I didn’t know.
Christian Roth: I would always recommend investigating co-management as an option. It may open up dynamics and potential which are less likely to emerge in traditional set-ups.
And how good do you think your shared management role looks on your CV?
Daniela Arnold: Good question. I think it can be really good – but that probably depends greatly on who the CV is aimed at. It looks good because holding a shared managerial role shows you have strong social skills and this is increasingly important, even in technical professions. Moreover, it makes it clear not only that we have leadership experience but also that our involvement in project work has kept us ‘on the ball’ technology-wise. That can undoubtedly make us more attractive on the job market.
How satisfied are our employees really?
To increase the satisfaction of our employees, every three years we commission an external provider to conduct a survey at the Zug site. Between September and October 2018, 963 employees (61.5%) took part in the latest survey. Their overall satisfaction was evaluated based on their responses regarding the issues of job satisfaction, commitment and engagement. “We can also deduce from this to what extent employees support our strategic objectives, such as customer focus, innovation or cost awareness”, explains Rolf Jenni, Head of Human Resources.
Encouragingly, job satisfaction is rated good overall. This is despite increased workload due to the introduction of SAP in 2018, and the high levels of noise caused by the site’s transformation (see “175 tonnes of innovation”). The degree to which employees identify with V-ZUG and their above-average motivation and commitment are also very pleasing. However, Rolf Jenni adds: “Nonetheless, there are a few cultural factors we need to address. It is increasingly apparent that the way we work together is a key factor in job satisfaction. Many of us would like to work more for each other than with each other.” Christian Bärlocher, Head of Global Marketing, has also noticed this. Following the evaluation of the employee survey, he and his team held a workshop to identify concrete measures to improve their situation. The measures include clear prioritization of upcoming projects by team leaders and sourcing noise barriers. “In our team, as well as the increasing pressure of work, communication was a particularly big theme.” Dirk Hoffmann, former CEO of V-ZUG, confirms just how important smoothly functioning internal communication is. “Evidently we have scope to improve in this regard. The new internal communication concept is a first step. Now, we have to implement it.”
Dialogue replaces performance review
With the competency model in which we have trained all managers at the Zug site in the last two years, we are establishing a values-based leadership culture which is geared towards the changing work environment and the new expectations employees have of their employer. During the reporting period, we launched the pilot project “V-ZUGconnect” as an important accompanying measure. The chief objective is to manage employees in a respectful way, by connecting with them as equals. “V-ZUGconnect” marks a move away from a firmly established ritual, the formal performance review, towards continuous dialogue. With this concept, it is crucial that we share feedback with each other in the team, across all hierarchical levels, and focus on the question of how we can address the issue better in future.
How will we benefit? “In a dynamic world, annual targets as a tool are too rigid and may divert employees away from themes which, in the near future, will become more relevant. Continual dialogue, however, enables continuous individual development, which in turn strengthens the culture of lifelong learning and trust between team members. Moreover, it places line managers in a better position to perform their role as facilitators and motivators”, explains Rolf Jenni, Head of Human Resources, adding that: “People are better able to ignite their potential when they focus on their strengths and we try and show them how they can better exploit and develop them.” Rolf Jenni is a firm believer in the dialogue approach, and rightly so: the pilot project, developed with managers, was a success. So, in autumn 2019, “V-ZUGconnect” is replacing the performance review throughout the company.
Getting back into the world of work
In November 2017, Reto C.* began suffering mental health problems due to too much stress at work over several months. In cases such as this, when an employee needs support to resume their normal activity following an extended illness or accident, our Care Management (CRM) comes into play. “We held an initial meeting to discuss how I could resume my job and in what timeframe”, explains Reto C., adding that it was very important to him that he received an open and warm reception from CRM. As well as the care manager, a job coach arranged by the disability insurance scheme was involved. The job coach supported Reto C. throughout his reintegration and liaised between him, V-ZUG and the doctor. “Together, we set the target of getting back to a full workload, i.e. working full-time hours.”
To enable this, the job coach, line manager, care manager and patient sat down together and regularly discussed attendance, performance and time worked, taking account of the doctor’s report, and decided the next steps. Reto C. also found the honest feedback he received in this setting extremely valuable, particularly the feedback from his line manager about his performance: “It gave me the sense of being in good hands and encouraged me to keep fighting my way back.” The first month was particularly tough, but things got easier over time. Since 1 December 2018, Reto C. has been back working full-time in his old job. In hindsight, what would he do differently? “These days, I’d get help sooner. For instance, I’d contact V-ZUG’s CRM to find out what can be done in those circumstances. Anyone who doesn’t want to seek their employer’s advice can contact the external employee advice line (Krisenintervention Schweiz) free of charge. V-ZUG offers this service to all its employees.”
*Reto C. is a pseudonym.
Key figures Employees
Part-time: a growing trend
In the 2018/2019 reporting year, 1,803 people were employed at V-ZUG (72 of them temporary workers). 82% of our employees work full-time. The percentage of part-time employees rose by 1.2% compared with the 2017/2018 reporting period. Part-time working is a very strong trend on the labour market. Reflecting this, we are receiving more internal requests and expressions of interest in applications. In Switzerland, around 17% of employees on permanent contracts are aged under 30, 52% between 30 and 50, and 32% over 50. We deliberately cover the full range of ages from 16 to 65. Furthermore, V-ZUG is actively involved in the awareness campaign “Age has potential”, run by the Canton of Zug.
Women still underrepresented
Last year , the percentage of women was around 22%, which was slightly higher than 2017/2018. With taster courses for school students, flexible working hours and models (see interview “Dynamic duo”) and initiatives such as “parents@ work” and the V-ZUG Women’s Network, we are shaping a corporate culture of equal opportunities. The share of women at executive level has risen further. However, at around 18%, women are still underrepresented at management level. We arrange external audits of equal pay every four years (most recently in 2016) and our certificate in accordance with L&M-Aba-24® , which is also valid for four years, confirms the non-discriminatory remuneration of our employees.
Rise in staff turnover
In 2018/2019 we welcomed 204 new employees to V-ZUG and 159 people left our company in the same period. This equates to a turnover rate (excluding retirements) of 9.5%. Turnover has increased by 0.8%p. compared with 2017/2018. Voluntary turnover, however, has remained consistently below 5% in recent years. We believe that the slightly upward trend in overall turnover over recent years is to do with the process of transformation at our company, as this impacts on work processes and organization, as well as areas and content of work.
Occupational accidents and absenteeism rate consistently low
We recorded 69 work-related accidents at V-ZUG during the reporting period. This is a fall of around 30% compared with the prior period, due to a sharp drop in minor accidents (e.g. bruises, cuts etc. entailing absence of less than three days). Accordingly, the share of minor accidents in work-related accidents has decreased to around 35%. The absenteeism rate, i.e. the hours lost due to work-related accidents as a percentage of all hours worked, decreased by 0.08%p. during the reporting year compared with the previous year. Minor accidents most commonly occur in production and service and are mainly due to carelessness or stressful situations. Occupational safety is and will remain one of our key quality concerns, as work-related accidents are a cause of both physical suffering and financial costs. Therefore, we remain committed to targeted information and training to raise awareness among our employees and encourage them to take personal responsibility.
Slight decrease in hours lost
Hours lost due to work-related accidents, non work-related accidents and illness increased by 7.2% compared with the prior period. Around 80% of all hours of absence are attributable to illness. The sharpest rise has been in hours lost due to non work-related accidents (+19.0%). This general increase is mainly attributable to two causes: firstly, more people are working at V-ZUG, which automatically leads to more total hours lost. Secondly, 2018 and 2019 were both exceptionally challenging and difficult years for all employees, which can lead to more stress-related incidences of illness.