Innovation - skilled employees are in demand

swissVR Monitor – a survey of board members in Switzerland

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Summary

Board members across Switzerland attach great importance to their company’s ability to innovate. They see a skilled workforce and having the right know-how in the company, support from management, and corporate culture as the keys to successful innovation. In relation to their company’s ability to innovate, board members see most room for improvement in the availability of skilled labour. Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, most companies have expanded their innovation activities; fewer have halted or scaled down such activities.

About the survey

swissVR Monitor is based on a survey carried out jointly by swissVR in collaboration with Deloitte AG and the Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Arts. The aim of this bi-yearly survey is to gauge board members’ attitudes to the outlook for the economy and for business and to corporate governance issues. Each edition also explores a special focus topic and conducts interviews with experts. 413 board members took part in the current edition of swissVR Monitor, providing a good overview of the views and challenges facing board members in Switzerland.

Key findings

Almost all board members report that their board is kept informed of the company’s innovation activities. Nine out of ten respondents strongly agree or somewhat agree that their board ensures there is a healthy culture of innovation within the company and that it engages with its innovation process. Most boards are an active driver of their company’s innovation activities.

Board members identify a number of focuses for their company’s innovation activities. Most cite a focus on service and product innovation, followed by process innovation. These findings reflect the long-term transition of the Swiss economy to a primarily service-based economy.

The board members surveyed cite the availability of skilled labour and adequate know-how as the most important success factor in innovation activities. They also, though, see this as the area most in need of improvement and action within their company.

Just one company in ten has deferred or reduced innovation projects since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Most companies report either no change or a reorientation of their innovation activities, with one in five actually expanding these activities. This suggests that the pandemic has not impeded companies’ innovation activities but that companies have embarked on new projects despite the challenging circumstances.

Almost all board members report that their board is kept informed of the company’s innovation activities. Nine out of ten respondents strongly agree or somewhat agree that their board ensures there is a healthy culture of innovation within the company and that it engages with its innovation process. Most boards are an active driver of their company’s innovation activities.

Board members identify a number of focuses for their company’s innovation activities. Most cite a focus on service and product innovation, followed by process innovation. These findings reflect the long-term transition of the Swiss economy to a primarily service-based economy.

The board members surveyed cite the availability of skilled labour and adequate know-how as the most important success factor in innovation activities. They also, though, see this as the area most in need of improvement and action within their company.

Just one company in ten has deferred or reduced innovation projects since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Most companies report either no change or a reorientation of their innovation activities, with one in five actually expanding these activities. This suggests that the pandemic has not impeded companies’ innovation activities but that companies have embarked on new projects despite the challenging circumstances.

Top 10 issues facing boards of directors

Talent management is now a key priority for boards. Digitalisation / robotics /automation, talent management, and formulating a new corporate strategy are particularly important issues facing boards. Talent management has grown more rapidly in importance than any other issue identified in earlier surveys and now tops the list of issues boards expect to have to tackle over the next 12 months.

Rankings

2021 2020 Issues
1 1 Digitalisation / robotics / automation
2 - Talent (recruitment, retention, etc.)
3 1 Formulating a new corporate strategy
4 3 Responding to market developments / behaviour of competitors
4 4 Risk management
4 4 Improving efficiency / optimising internal processes
7 9 Corporate transactions (acquisitions, cooperation arrangements and mergers)
7 6 HR challenges at management level
9 7 Go-to-market issues (marketing and sales strategy)
9 8 Compliance (with legislation and internal codes of conduct)

Interviews

CEO foundation Startfeld

Dr. Cornelia Gut-Villa

“The board shapes the company’s culture, so it needs to create conditions in which employees understand what the company stands for. All employees should feel appreciated, so there needs to be scope for ideas to be fed in from the bottom up and to be heard.”

Chairman OM Pharma and Neue Zürcher Zeitung (NZZ)

Etienne Jornod

“Strategy and innovation must be regularly on the agenda, at least at the time of the board’s retreat. But in fact, it is a matter of a constant daily attitude, of corporate culture!”

Partner GWPartner AG, Chairman St. Galler Kantonalbank AG

Prof. Dr. Thomas A. Gutzwiller

“Innovation management is a role for senior management. The board should maintain a broad focus on innovation as part of strategy development, raise fundamental issues and identify ‘black holes’ in the strategy presented to it.”

Reto Savoia

CEO
Boardroom Programme Co-Chair

rsavoia@deloitte.ch +41 58 279 6357 View profile

Michael Grampp

Research Director & Chief Economist

mgrampp@deloitte.ch +41 58 279 6817 View profile

Daniel Laude

Assistant Manager

dlaude@deloitte.ch +41 58 279 6435 View profile

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