"Extracurricular experience makes our employees interesting"
Anna Samanta, Managing Partner Talent, speaks about corporate culture and what attracts millennials
Young people in Switzerland complain that companies do not assume enough social responsibility and offer too little flexibility. And their general trust in the economy is waning as the Deloitte Millennial Survey 2018 shows. Anna Samanta, Managing Partner Talent at Deloitte Switzerland, has found that Switzerland has a lot of catching up to do compared with other countries. Young employees with a broad range of interests, also outside of work, have a lot to offer to both colleagues and clients.
What does the loss of trust among young people mean for the HR managers of large companies?
It’s a wake-up call that we need to take seriously! Three quarters of millennials believe companies have solely their own interests in mind. But these findings should not only give pause to the heads of HR departments, but also to the whole management. It’s high time that Swiss companies wake up, lead by example and assume social responsibility. Many companies have made mistakes in recent years: they have failed to observe compliance rules, marginalised people who are not in the mainstream and done too little to promote a work-family balance. However, companies know that mistakes come with high reputational and financial costs. For example, if a CEO has to resign due to a serious misstep, the company’s reputation not only suffers among millennials, but also among the general public and investors. Companies have to do a better job of explaining themselves in order to build trust and explain their actions. Digital natives might be very demanding, but they understand that companies need to earn money and individual performance is a key success factor.
How would you rate the corporate culture in Switzerland? Are companies forward-thinking and ready for millennials?
Unfortunately, no. They still have a long way to go. For example, millennials expect companies to prepare them for the needs of Industry 4.0. Another example is the expectation of diversity. In other countries, management committees already know that diverse teams produce better results. In the boardrooms of Swiss companies, this issue still requires some explanation. We see it again and again when we advise companies in these matters. Millennials generally have a more forward-looking mindset and are therefore very sensitive when differing opinions get too little recognition or if there is no open debate culture. They want to remain true to themselves in their work. I believe Deloitte is on the right path. We improved again in Universum’s ranking of Swiss employers, not least because we strongly promote gender diversity. We also won the Prix Balance in the Canton of Zurich for having the best conditions for maintaining a work-life balance. Last but not least, we were nominated for the Equality Award for the equal treatment of women and men, which will be awarded at the end of September 2018.
How can companies adapt to meet the needs of millennials and attract them to join their ranks?
Millennials don’t live just to work. Although they are very committed to their jobs, they also value their free time, hobbies, friends and family. Our company employs many young people who also have side activities like being a DJ, playing competitive sports or spending time as amateur film-makers, for example. Extracurricular experience makes our employees interesting, and this diversity creates an exciting work environment. Our employees also incorporate this experience into their day-to-day work. Working for us requires creativity and the ability to find new approaches. Employees with diverse interests are also better received by clients. When it comes to choosing an employer, particularly in Switzerland, our survey shows that flexibility is almost equally important as good pay. I myself have worked in eight different countries and I believe that people here are more focused on material wealth than they are elsewhere. However, millennials want the whole package: exciting tasks, a positive working culture, a good salary and flexibility, too.
Have you promoted a change in the corporate culture as the head of HR at Deloitte?
The HR department is able to influence the process of change by implementing measures and programmes, and providing the necessary tools. It was important that, as the Head of HR, I made this change a priority for Deloitte Switzerland. However, the support of the entire management team is even more important if cultural change is to be successful. Our CEO Simon Owen and the respective heads of our business lines are the driving forces who ensure that the many measures are implemented successfully.
Can you describe these measures in more detail?
Our management is leading the way by explicitly supporting flexibility and diversity initiatives. We offer excellent conditions for working parents and, among other things, advertise all positions as an 80-100% workload – no exceptions. Job advertisements are formulated in such a way that they appeal equally to different people. The process ensures that one woman is always on the short list. All managers have access to first-rate management training and learn how to create an inclusive culture. We have special development programmes for women and continually discuss how we can further improve our culture. We offer staff the ability to take a sabbatical or adjust their workload. I myself have benefited from the flexibility at Deloitte: when my children were younger, I assumed an internal role for a time that didn’t require me to travel as much. We also constantly communicate stories internally about employees who embody and value flexibility. As we are able to offer our young talent precisely that, many of them are happy to stay with the company. They know that they won’t have to interrupt their career just because they have children.
What are some of the fundamental principles of a modern corporate culture that are valued by millennials?
A key element is the “purpose” of the company. Nowadays, a company must have a clear mission and define how it contributes to society. The purpose is a kind of raison d'être that goes beyond material aspects and value creation. It can mean that a company is committed to the environment or that it serves a social purpose, for example by improving the lives of sick people. Employees can always invoke this purpose and it has a motivational effect on them. However, it is also important to have clear rules and the support of management in order for the purpose to be understood and embodied.
Does the government need to be involved in order to promote equal opportunities in the economy?
We are on the right path – towards an economy that offers inclusion and equality. However, because many young people don’t want to wait that long, I believe political support is needed. For example, consider childcare in Switzerland: many millennials already have children or want to start a family. Without day school, it becomes extremely difficult to balance your children and your career. There are barely any other countries in the world where young families spend as much of their income on childcare as in Switzerland. I come from Sweden and had a good experience with my working parents and day school. For me, that is the norm. But I quickly realised that things are unfortunately different in Switzerland. We need more day schools in order to further promote equality, and paternity leave needs to be vastly expanded. Here at Deloitte, we are already much more generous than what's required – but social and political support is needed in order to effect lasting change on a broader scale.
But more flexibility also means that millennials don’t stay loyal to their employer!
Our study has shown that millennials are more loyal to flexible companies and stay with them longer. However, the booming Swiss labour market with its many open job positions and the intensified competition to attract talent mean that young people are switching jobs more frequently. Moreover, millennials tend to be loyal to a person or team rather than a company. Diversity and flexibility are the key to loyalty, but it's true that these things don’t always retain millennials for long. They know that they have lots of options in their life and in their work. They can simply do the things that their parents had to fight for.
What is Deloitte doing for the younger generation Z?
People under the age of 25 have very similar needs as millennials. They are looking for interesting tasks, they want to work for and with people who inspire them and have fun in their job. Their salary isn’t as important to them because they have less responsibility in their personal lives. We are currently considering a programme in which we hire young talent directly after high-school – a programme we have introduced in other countries with great success. These individuals then receive special on-the-job training and are quickly able to assume responsibility. We have also redesigned our apprenticeship programme in Switzerland.