Baloise fosters a corporate culture that is focused on people. What does that mean?
Our employees make Baloise what it is because, ultimately, they are the ones that make the difference to the customer. To achieve great customer satisfaction, we first need to ensure that our employees are satisfied. Baloise’s employees identify very strongly with the Company, which is reflected, for example, in the long average length of service. The friendly, close-knit culture at Baloise is a special quality that serves both as a USP and a competitive advantage. It is important to us that our employees are actively involved in the evolution of the Company. There are various ways in which they can pitch ideas and drive forward their own initiatives. At the same time, it is important to maintain an open dialogue and be aware of one another’s needs. One of our objectives as part of our next strategic phase ‘Simply Safe – Season 2’ is therefore to be among the top 5 per cent of the best companies to work for in Europe.
A recently implemented scheme offers employees in Switzerland the opportunity to spend up to 10 per cent of their working time on education. What are the benefits for the Company?
The work environment is evolving all the time. Switzerland has a very good dual education system, but the skills that trainees acquire as part of their training are not sufficient to see them through their entire career until they reach retirement age. Society evolves and so do the needs and expectations of customers, managers and colleagues. We want our employees to actively engage in their continuing personal and professional development. We treat the 10 per cent figure as a guideline – it is meant to empower as well as encourage employees. In a dialogue with their line manager, they define individual development priorities which the employees will then pursue independently. Every member of staff thus has a degree of personal responsibility for their development. For example, let’s consider the current situation in which most of us are working from home. We have to learn new skills, for example how to host a virtual meeting or conduct a discussion online in a targeted and efficient manner but also with empathy. Our everyday work life constantly presents us with new challenges that we need to tackle head on. The current work environment in this exceptional situation provides plenty of opportunities to learn.
It is of great importance to us that our employees have opportunities to continually develop during their time with us.Michael Müller, CEO of Baloise Switzerland
Is there not a risk of investing in employees who may then leave the Company with the additional skills they have acquired?
It is of great importance to us that our employees have opportunities to continually develop during their time with us. It is therefore a conscious decision on our part to invest in them, because we are confident that it will pay off for both sides in the long term. In a way, we can therefore regard attempts by other companies to entice our employees to work for them as a compliment. The many service anniversaries that we celebrate every month, together with a recommendation ratio of 90 per cent among our employees in Switzerland, reassure us that our employees identify with us as an employer. And this strong mutual bond also benefits our customers.
To what extent did the pandemic take Baloise as an employer in Switzerland by surprise?
When the pandemic began to escalate in Europe, we were able to react very swiftly both to help our customers keep their businesses afloat and to safeguard the health of our employees as effectively as possible. During the first lockdown, we managed to enable nearly all employees to work from home within a very short period of time. Later, we were able to relax the work-from-home regime for a while and to allow employees to return to the office on agreed days and subject to compliance with certain distancing and hygiene rules. At present, nearly everyone is working from home again. What we have tried to be mindful of throughout this whole period is frequent and proactive communication. Especially in light of rapidly changing national requirements and differences in guidance at cantonal level, it matters greatly to us that our employees always understand what the latest rules mean for them specifically. In times like these, an employer also acts as a form of pressure valve and good crisis management can help to alleviate fears and concerns to a certain extent.
As the pandemic lingers – what is the way forward?
There is no doubt that the current situation is very challenging for each and every one of us. The requirement to work from home as well as other rules on how people have to conduct themselves are having a significant impact on the structures of our personal and work life. It may only be now that we grasp the true significance of the workplace as a forum for social and creative interaction. Meeting and speaking to colleagues on a daily basis, sitting down as a group to brainstorm ideas for a project or simply enjoying a motivational coffee break together – none of this is possible at present. This makes it all the more important to ensure that teams and individuals organise ways of staying in touch regularly. Baloise has introduced a variety of initiatives and offers to support staff interaction and dialogue and to promote a good work-life balance. The available digital tools provide opportunities to meet up and engage in team activities on a regular basis, at least in a virtual space. After all, we are very conscious of our responsibilities, especially in the current environment. Nevertheless, we greatly look forward to a time when personal contact can play a bigger part in our lives again alongside digital channels. The interconnectedness of the ‘Baloise family’ is very helpful at this time, but personal interaction will remain very important in future when it comes to maintaining our network of relationships.
Photograph: ©CdT/Chiara Zocchetti