«Without immigration we would have to shut down building sites»
How would you define good leadership today?
For me, it is a cooperative style, combined with as much freedom as possible, in the sense of Kant: Act in a way that the maxim of your will could at any time be the principle of a universal law. And naturally, it involves appreciation, combined with high personal responsibility. I grew up in a big family with 8 children, in which equality was practiced. This has shaped my understanding of leadership. We voluntarily implemented the 1:12 initiative for our salaries and we live the principle of egalitarianism, in our executive board with two heads. As CEO I am «primus inter pares».
Which trends influence your core business, and how do you ensure successful alignment with them?
We lined up our digitalization at a very early stage: We have been fully digitalized for 10 years, especially in the area of know-how transfer. We use a program through which everyone receives a qualified answer to a question within 24 hours. Our core business is characterized by a shortage of specialists. We counteract this by taking care of our employees in the form of a respectful, motivating work environment, at least 25 vacation days a year, and above-average salaries. For their efforts to create a family-friendly work environment, our largest group company, Burkhalter Technics AG, received the «Family Score» from Pro Familia Schweiz in 2019.
The pressure on costs and efficiency is growing for companies. What specific profiles are you recruiting because of this trend and at what level do you employ them?
We are broadly positioned, especially with respect to improving efficiency and in 2019 we trained about 700 site and project managers accordingly. They were instructed in a one-day seminar on communication and respectful treatment of employees. It is, however, difficult to find enough apprentices. Since the requirements for our job profiles are incredibly high. And unfortunately, many parents are against their children doing an apprenticeship in our industry. Furthermore, vocational training has diminished in the last 30 years.
The share of foreigners on executive boards of Swiss companies is 44%. In your opinion, how important is immigration for Swiss companies in general and your company in particular?
I can only speak for the construction industry: Without immigration we would have to shut down building sites. Our administration organization is streamlined and there we have no problem filling vacancies, but in the technical jobs we would have even fewer employees without immigration and the skills shortage would be even greater. At present, we employee approximately 3000 people from 56 nations and are glad for every qualified specialist from here and abroad.
How much importance do you attach to gender diversity in your company, and which measures have you taken to increase the proportion of women on your management boards?
Gender diversity is important to us. We strive to increase the proportion of women and to promote equal opportunity. Mixed teams with women are by far the best. Currently, however, we only have one female manager and 41 male managers. It is very difficult to convince young women to learn a technical profession. We offer interesting training and further education as well as flexible worktime, and with us, every apprentice can work her way up to manager.