The true strength of a company becomes apparent in challenging circumstances such as the COVID-19 pandemic. GF employees at all management levels and in all production areas worldwide showed strong team spirit, passion, and flexibility during this time: Virtual trade fairs, impressive innovations in production processes, and new ways of addressing market segments and customers were among the solutions that were found for staying strong and successful.
Thanks to the implementation of the HR measures contained in the Strategy 2020, GF continues to offer good prospects and development opportunities to motivate and support employees, and attract new talent.
HR Strategy 2020 successfully implemented
In accordance with GF’s Strategy 2020, targets for the HR Strategy were set in 2016. These focused on the following areas:
Structural adjustments to market presence
Adjusting portfolios toward higher-value areas of business and structural adjustments needed to preserve long-term competitiveness also resulted in a shift in jobs between locations. Social responsibility was considered at all stages of this decision: In the event of a divestiture, GF considered transferring existing employment contracts or supported employees in finding new jobs.
Attracting new talent
The shortage of skilled workers and the accelerating pace of technological developments are affecting the recruitment and onboarding of new employees at GF, and making these more complex. GF uses various channels for talent acquisition, including job and career fairs around the world, to introduce itself to university and college students as an attractive and forward-looking employer. New technologies such as digitalization and 3D printing, and innovative solutions such as design thinking, as well as the optimization of sales processes and lean management are taking on an increasingly important role at GF. In recent years, new employees have been specifically recruited with this in mind and existing staff have received corresponding training.
Implementation of design thinking and introduction of value selling
In the 2016–2020 strategy period, GF has trained 1’500 employees in design thinking, a process that is primarily used in research and development to stimulate new ideas for solving clients’ problems. Design thinking teams set up specifically for this purpose participate in innovation projects and support the practical implementation of this process. GF has also introduced value selling across the Corporation with a view to enabling the development of additional business potential in areas with higher added value. Moreover, with both of these initiatives, GF is promoting corporation-wide collaboration across functions and divisions.
Positioning as an attractive employer
GF’s values include a team-oriented corporate culture and competitive employment conditions. In addition, the Corporation focuses on offering an innovative working environment that facilitates interaction and collaboration. During the last strategy period, GF invested in modern workstations at various locations in Switzerland and around the world. GF had already formalized and introduced a working from home model for employees in Switzerland in 2017. Thanks to the positive experience during the lockdown in spring 2020, when many employees had to work from home, the remote working policy was once again expanded significantly. To incentivize students, who are a source of new talent, GF offers internships or project work for undergraduates and master’s students. The Corporation also maintains close relationships with universities, technical colleges, and specialist higher education providers around the world.
in % (100% = 14’118)
in % (100% = 14’118)
Number of apprentices
in % (100% = 387)
Number of apprentices per country
in % (100% = 387)
A global HR strategy process
Key strategic HR processes such as talent management, performance development, management by objectives, as well as internal and external recruiting have been harmonized worldwide and transferred to a modern digital system called Me@GF. In 2020, work continued on developing a learning management platform, which is to be rolled out in spring 2021.
Training and CPD as success factors
GF places great importance on training and continuing professional and personal development (CDP) for its employees. To create a common basis for international collaboration, the five GF values are conveyed through regular training sessions, ensuring that all employees worldwide embody these on a daily basis. These values form the foundation of GF’s corporate culture and foster a respectful environment characterized by openness, trust, and helpfulness.
Employee trainings at GF 2020
Investing in employees
The GF Academy is responsible for developing company-wide training measures and programs at the corporate level. It supports management and employees in all divisions and regions so that they can further develop their technical and interpersonal skills. As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the development of digital and new online training has been accelerated. In the coming years, the GF Academy will also increase its focus on blended, or self-managed learning. This comprises learning on demand, incentives to apply knowledge in day-to-day work, as well as progression through further reflection and studying.
Employees at GF receive support in the form of a number of CPD measures. These are designed to encourage self-reliance so that employees can take their CPD into their own hands. To this end, talent management was reorganized as part of the MyNextBigStep@GF initiative in 2020. This program enables employees to start their CPD process themselves, while giving GF the ability to discover talented individuals who, on their own initiative, further their own development responsibly and proactively. The new digital process will be widely implemented in summer 2021, following the pilot phase in 2020.
Digitalization facilitates collaboration
Digital workplaces and processes have been a focus at GF for some time. 2020 saw the introduction of an online communication and collaboration tool as well as a platform via which workshops can be held virtually. Both measures support modern forms of work such as working from home, as well as online meetings, digital workshops, webinars, and e-learning – and facilitate collaboration. An electronic recruitment module, MyJob@GF, which creates a unified recruitment process, was launched company wide. The outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic at the start of the year significantly accelerated the introduction and implementation of new digital processes, and these were swiftly adopted by employees around the world.
An act of solidarity by management
During the lockdown, it was necessary to introduce short-time work at some GF locations. In response to this measure, the Board of Directors, Executive Committee, and entire Senior Management worldwide waived part of their salaries for a three-month period in an act of solidarity. The voluntary salary reductions were used to set up the Solidarity Fund to support employees around the world who had to take pay cuts of 20 percent or more. Additionally, in countries with below-average wages, salaries for short-time work were increased to 90 percent of the normal level. As a result, several hundred thousand Swiss francs were distributed to employees who were particularly hard hit.
Promoting and fostering diversity
Diversity in terms of nationality, culture, religion, gender, and age has always been a hallmark of GF and is a valuable source of creativity and innovation.
In recent years, GF has taken measures, particularly in Switzerland, to ensure a better balance between family and professional life. As a result, fathers can take up to four weeks’ parental leave, expecting mothers receive a job guarantee for twelve months after the birth of their child, and the options for working from home have been broadened. GF supports the advancement of women in a targeted manner with a view to improving the proportion thereof who work in technical professions. The Corporation offers women in particular the chance to gain experience in a technical environment through internships and project work for undergraduates and master’s students, which has proven successful. Two GF Board members, Eveline Saupper and Jasmin Staiblin, invite women who are employed at the Corporation to an annual discussion. Further measures such as flexible working options, monitoring equal pay, a fair hierarchy, and networking to build professional development opportunities for women have been introduced at GF to improve its gender ratio.
Demographic change as an opportunity
GF is also affected by demographic change and the associated skill shortages, particularly when it comes to recruiting. GF tackles skill shortages through the long-term development of its own specialists, the global expansion of the dual education system, and the provision of internships or other entry-level opportunities. GF actively supports and promotes constructive and close collaboration across different generations. Younger employees benefit from the long-standing professional experience and know-how of their older colleagues, who in turn look to younger employees in technical and digital matters.