Benedikt van Spyk

Dr. Benedikt van Spyk has been Chancellor at the Canton of St. Gallen for four years and heads the Cantonal Chancellery with over 90 employees. After studying law at the University of St. Gallen (HSG), training as a lawyer and gaining a doctorate, he worked in various positions for the Canton of St.Gallen. He was a member of the St. Gallen City Parliament for the FDP and sat on various strategic
management bodies of private and public institutions and companies. As a Councellor, he brings an interdisciplinary perspective to the government of the Canton of St. Gallen with his legal and philosophy background. He is responsible for strategic priority planning, external relations, internal and external
communication, and data protection. He places particular emphasis on actively shaping the digital transformation of the public sector. Benedikt van Spyk lives in St. Gallen and is the father of two children.

«Orienting ourselves towards the public interest provides meaning»

What trends do you see in how leadership is evolving in the age of digitization, artificial intelligence, increasing individualization among employees, and agility?
For me, the focus is on two points: first, we need to communicate a long-term vision even more strongly in the future. Secondly, we must inspire our employees to continually develop themselves and thereby the organisation. We are therefore facing the task of combining the adaptability of employees and the organisation with a long-term strategic orientation.

What opportunities do roles in the public administration offer that are generally overlooked but would be attractive to executives from the private sector?
At the heart of our work is the public interest. We know what we are working for – for the population and the economy. Orienting ourselves towards the public interest provides meaning and aligns closely with the desire of employees and leaders for purposeful work. This intrinsic motivation is felt by many. Our purpose is clear. Additionally, the canton offers an incredible variety of topics to work on.

In your opinion, is it an advantage if the managers in the public administration have experience from the private sector?
Definitely! Experience from different areas of activity is enormously valuable for a manager. This also applies the other way round: anyone who has ever worked in public administration will have a lot of knowledge of regulatory or procedural issues – and an eye for what is feasible.

Public administrations must fulfil political requirements while also meeting financial demands and continually evolving. How do you deal with these conflicting objectives?
I am fascinated by the diversity and the extensive scope that a public administration offers. Political and legal requirements always come with room for manoeuvre that we can use and help to shape. It is important that we initiate changes with a clear strategy and implement them with a view to what is politically feasible.

What areas do you see where public administration could become leaner, more effective, and more productive?
The administration must continually question its activities critically. Even purely enforcement tasks can and must be further developed. Artificial intelligence offers enormous potential to make individual government tasks more efficient. Here, we must have the courage to address these issues.

As a result of demographic trends, where more managers will soon retire than succeed, how do you address the skilled labour shortage in your canton?
I see three central approaches. First, we need to invest more in training the next generation and recruiting young skilled professionals. Secondly, we need to further develop job profiles and focus on the digital transformation in particular. Thirdly, we need to scrutinise, prioritise, and digitize existing tasks.

Switzerland’s ecological footprint is large. How important is sustainability in your canton?
Sustainable development is a central principle of action for the government in its priority planning and is highly valued. All aspects of sustainable development are anchored in the state objectives of our St. Gallen cantonal constitution. The measures that the Canton of St.Gallen is taking to protect the climate are included in the St. Gallen Energy Concept 2021-2030 ( energie/Energiekonzept.html).