«Knowledge has a much shorter half-life today – and this will continue to accentuate»
What are the main topics that currently concern you in your activities as supervisory board member at DKSH?
The main topics are: a) ensuring that we have the key positions within the company optimally filled and implementing a robust succession planning and regulation b) cultivating a corporate culture at DKSH that is attractive to talents «of today and the future».
How have the demands on the work of the supervisory board changed in view of the increasingly rapid economic changes worldwide and the increasing cadence of extreme events?
Today serving on a supervisory board requires more flexibility and agility – not only in terms of time, but also in terms of «thought patterns» and skills, both professional and regarding personality.
With this in mind, which expertise is becoming increasingly important on the supervisory board?
The ability to accurately assess people, specifically in terms of their capabilities to successfully lead in our rapidly changing environment. Knowledge has a much shorter half-life today – and this will continue to accentuate.
The ecological footprint of Swiss companies is large. How important is sustainability at DKSH, and how did ecological considerations change the focus of the supervisory boards’ agenda?
Frankly we have a slightly simpler task than, for example, certain industrial companies. The distribution of goods is our main CO₂ emission. Reducing this footprint as much as possible is also the focus of the supervisory board. Additionally, we benefit indirectly from the efforts of our suppliers in all our business units.
56% of the new executive board members and 44% of the new supervisory board members do not hold Swiss citizenship – both absolute records in the last 18 years. Where do you see the reason for this?
I consider this development to be very positive for the Swiss economy. Due to the attractiveness of the location, we are succeeding in attracting more and more highly qualified personnel to serve on the supervisory boards of our companies. The fact that in Switzerland the supervisory board also shapes the definition and implementation of strategy and should have a decisive influence (in contrast to Germany, for example) also makes the role more exciting and demanding than in other countries.
Due to demographic developments, soon more managers and skilled professionals will retire than succeed them. How do you deal with the increasing shortage of skilled professionals at DKSH Holding AG? What strategic measures have you introduced to counter this?
As I have already mentioned, we at DKSH precisely see this topic as the most important of the supervisory board. From my experience – not only as a supervisory board member, but also as a line manager – the corporate culture is crucial: What does the company stand for? Does it have a purpose which can inspire people in the company? Am I taken seriously as an employee, and can I contribute my ideas and skills? Is my work fulfilling and does the company allow me to learn and develop?
In a few years, the majority of employees will belong to Generation Z. How does your company attract this target group and what do you expect from this target group for the further development of your company?
I would rather reverse the question: What does Generation Z expect from a company like DKSH to consider it as an attractive future employer? The «war for talents» is already happening – as supervisory and executive board we must constantly ask ourselves whether we are still attractive enough as an employer and what we must do to remain attractive. The most important lever – and I know I am repeating myself – is the corporate culture.
From your perspective, how has the corporate culture changed since 2019, and what impact has this had on your collaboration as chairman with the CEO?
Interesting that this is the last question. Stefan Butz and I have an extremely trusting, open and honest relationship with each other. That does not mean that I or Stefan always think everything is good and we only pat ourselves on the back. But both of us have the necessary psychological security in interacting with each other that we can also address delicate topics – even personal ones – and then find a way forward together. How we interact with each other is also closely observed by the rest of the supervisory and executive board, so we are quite exposed.