Elisabeth Heer Dietrich

Elisabeth Heer Dietrich was elected Landschreiber by the Land Council of the Canton of Basel-Landschaft in 2018. In her function, she heads the State Chancellery and supports parliament, commissions and the government in their work. Prior to that, she worked for 8 years as Secretary General of the Security Directorate in the Canton of Zug. She gained international experience as Deputy Head of the Strategy Department and Head of the EU/Schengen Division at the Federal Office of Police. She started her professional career in the private sector with PricewaterhouseCoopers and F. Hoffmann-La Roche AG.

«In 2020, 50% of new cadre entrants in the canton of Basel-Landschaft were women»

What trends do you see in how leadership is changing in the public sector?
One focus is on coaching employees. Work processes and objectives must be defined in a more participatory manner and employees must be equipped with the appropriate competencies so that they can carry out their tasks independently and in a goal-oriented manner. Achieving this interaction in the interplay of physical, hybrid and digital forms of work is a challenge for all managers.

Automation, digitalisation and the Workplace of the Future are shaping the way we work today. How do you counter these trends?
Many tasks can be done independently of time and place. Previous elements are, for example, the expansion of home office, annual working hours or the promotion of part-time work. In addition, a comprehensive digitalisation strategy is currently being discussed, the implementation of which will also take into account new forms of work and cultural elements. 

What areas do you see where the public administration could become leaner, more effective and more productive?
Efficient and effective use of resources is a permanent task. At the same time, the needs of our residents are also a maxim. An exclusive focus on digitalisation would fall short. It is true that various processes and services must be made more efficient digitally. However, direct contact with the population is and remains important. In many cases, a “both/and” approach applies, otherwise various groups would be excluded from the services of the administration.

The Confederation is the pioneer in terms of gender diversity in top management. How has this changed in your canton? Are there guidelines or measures to increase the proportion of women in top management?
Balanced representation of both genders is a high priority in the canton of Basel-Landschaft. The government council has set itself corresponding goals in its long-term planning. With the Future Strategy for Gender Equality 2021-2024, the directorates, supported by Gleichstellung BL, are implementing various measures. This is showing encouraging results: in 2020, 50 per cent of new entries into management were women.

What should the economy, politics and society do to strengthen the compatibility of work and family in Switzerland?
First and foremost, the compatibility of work and family must be further strengthened, whether this concerns childcare options or the further development of day structures that supplement schooling. The increased use of home office and flexible working hours also makes an important contribution. Current obstacles such as reservations about job sharing or fiscal disadvantages must be dismantled. 

When you fill positions in top management (Secretary General, Head of Office), what are the most important personal criteria for you?
In addition to professional competencies and management skills, soft factors are very important. A leader must have empathy and interest for the task, but especially for the staff. If the latter is missing, no matter how much competence there is, it cannot be compensated for.

In your view, is it an advantage if leaders in administration have experience from the private sector?
I don’t particularly like this categorisation into administration and private sector. Either way, an ideal team needs to have different backgrounds, skills and perspectives to create sustainable solutions. Experience from an entrepreneurial perspective is certainly an important input, but not the only one. Equally, the economic and social perspective is indispensable.  

In the course of demographic development, more managers will soon retire than will succeed them. How do you deal with the impending shortage of personnel in your canton?
We are currently developing various measures to further position the canton as a modern and attractive employer. The employment conditions as well as succession planning and talent management are being reviewed. In the process, the canton can also score points with the sense of purpose: We work in the service of society. And the close interface with politics can – at least from my point of view – offer a further incentive.