Urs Ryffel

Urs Ryffel, born in 1967, has been CEO at HUBER+SUHNER since 2017. Prior to that, he held various positions at the same company since 2002, most recently as Head of the Fiber Optics business unit and member of the Corporate Executive Board for 10 years. The ETH engineer started his career in 1992 at ABB and Alstom in the power plant sector, where he held various management positions in Switzerland, Portugal and France until joining HUBER+SUHNER.

«The doors to a successful career in industry are wide open for women»

What trends do you see in how business management is evolving?
External conditions are changing faster and faster, and complexity is constantly increasing. This leads to an overemphasis on risks, which require scenario thinking and agility to manage. This must not lead us to forget the opportunities, for which time and foresight are indispensable in order to make use of them. This is where we as company management are challenged by creating internal framework conditions and freedom to also use opportunities and not only to manage risks.

Automation, digitalisation and the Workplace of the Future are shaping the way we work today. How do you counter these trends?
On the one hand, our connectivity solutions are an important prerequisite for these trends. On the other hand, we make the best possible use of them in our processes. In the resulting projects, the goals must be clear. If this is ensured, I favour many small agile projects over one big sluggish programme in the implementation.

How do you ensure that technologisation/digitisation does not remain an expert topic but is anchored in the value creation of the company?
While the experts need to know what is technically feasible, the benefits of digitalisation should be recognised by those involved in the value chain and therefore the impetus for projects should also come from this corner. If there is a lack of support for a project in the value chain, caution is advised. The recipe for successful digitalisation thus lies in the optimal interaction of the disciplines and, of course, in specific change management.

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?
When many fight over a few management resources, the company becomes a salesman in its own cause. At HUBER+SUHNER, employment conditions in line with the market are the “qualifier” – meaningful work content and the company culture are the “winners”. This applies to recruiting as well as to retention. In our company, we take these points very seriously and communicate them successfully internally and externally through employer branding. Socially and politically, we at HUBER+SUHNER are committed to making the labour market play. This requires market-ready training, both in terms of orientation and quality, and openness to moderate immigration. If the skilled workers we need are not allowed to come to us, then the jobs will go abroad.

What measures have you defined in your company to increase the proportion of women in management?
The first women had to take on a pioneering role. Fortunately, we have this phase behind us. Now we want to broaden the base, in all functions and in all positions. The gender-equal framework conditions such as equal pay, equal opportunities, flexible working time models are a matter of course at HUBER+SUHNER: I can only say that we are ready. The doors to a successful career in industry are wide open for women, now more women need to dare to enter a technical environment. This already starts with the choice of career.

What should business, politics and society do to strengthen the compatibility of work and family in Switzerland?
In terms of minimum requirements that must first be met, flexible working hours for mothers and fathers, flexible crèche models and day structures at all schools are needed.

What messages do you have for your top talents regarding their career planning? How do you convey these messages in everyday life?
I believe that fixed ideas are rather a hindrance in career planning. Instead, I urge all the young: Know your strengths and limits, trust your gut, stay true to yourself, enjoy what you do – then you will be successful – and keep moving, even if the path doesn’t always seem to point straight up.

We see more and more often that CEOs also hold external board mandates. What do you think about this?
From my point of view, there is nothing wrong with a CEO’s involvement in the supervisory board of another company resulting in a positive balance for all involved.