«Too much career planning obscures the view of unexpected opportunities»
What trends do you see in how management is evolving?
Among other things, more flexibility, i.e. more context-sensitive leadership. Very fast-moving and innovative divisions need to be managed differently than stable, highly structured functions. Then the further accentuation of the balancing act between more degrees of freedom and more agile self-organisation on the one hand and the need for clear strategic priorities and directions in a more volatile world on the other. Finally, the proactive and authentic integration of ESG issues, but without drifting into virtue signalling without substance or meaning.
Automation, digitalisation and the Workplace of the Future are shaping the way we work today. How are you addressing these trends?
We have corresponding activities being implemented in all areas at Axpo, which we have accelerated with the creation of new corresponding management functions. We have also increased investments in the relevant areas. On the topic of the workplace, we have observed a strongly accelerated development, not least due to the pandemic, e.g. in the use of digital technologies or in the forms of work, which we are actively supporting and further accelerating.
How do you ensure that technology/digitalisation does not remain an expert topic, but is anchored in the value creation of the company?
Our model is based on allowing digitalisation to take place directly in the operational areas, but also to accelerate and catalyse it accordingly. For this purpose, there are (deliberately manageable) new central competence centres that primarily actively support the line, but also challenge it.
In the course of demographic development, more managers will soon retire than will succeed them. How do you deal with the impending staff shortage in your company?
The war for talent is one of the biggest challenges ahead, and it is not only limited to managers. To this end, we are not only building on the internal development of talent, but are also investing specifically in increased measures in employer branding. Thanks to our positioning around the expansion of renewable energies, we are confident that we will be able to attract outstanding people on an ongoing basis, also thanks to Axpo’s strong purpose.
What measures have you defined in your company to increase the proportion of women in management?
The energy industry was a male domain for a long time, but fortunately that is changing more and more. Last year we reorganised the Executive Board and were able to recruit a woman for the COO function. In addition, there is a whole series of measures that are being consistently addressed, including the fact that all management functions are also advertised on a part-time basis, special attention is being paid to diversity in internal talent development, and a bolder “hire for talent” approach is being supported for certain functions. However, the important principle is that performance and suitability for a position are not compromised in favour of diversity. This may lead to longer searches, but not to poorer performance, which would be a disservice to the diversity effort.
What should business, politics and society do to strengthen the compatibility of work and family in Switzerland?
Measures such as the widespread availability of crèche places, day schools and more flexible working models have proven their worth, whereby these offers should be provided by private actors as far as possible and only receive state financial support where necessary (means-testing).
What messages do you have for your top talents regarding their career planning? How do you convey these messages in everyday life?
Don’t plan. Things always turn out differently than you think, and too much planning obscures the view of unexpected opportunities.
We increasingly see that CEOs also hold external directorships. How do you assess this?
Within a manageable time frame, clearly positive, provided of course there are no conflicts of interest. Through exchange and constant learning, ideally from other industries, all parties involved, including the “sending company”, can benefit.