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Swiss professionals seek out Swiss companies, even during the so-called Great Resignation

By on 21/10/2021

Universum’s 2021 Swiss professional survey shows that Swiss employers are making strong gains to attract talent. 

ZURICH – October 21, 2021 – Universum officially released the 2021 results of their annual professional talent survey, which surveys nearly 6,000 Swiss professionals with Bachelor, Master or PhD degrees. The responses this year point to important shifts in work aspirations, career goals, preferred industries and ideal employers – likely driven by the pandemic and shifts in work life. Below find this year’s most important findings.

Swiss professionals strongly prefer working for Swiss companies 

The study finds Swiss professionals strongly favor working for Swiss companies, even more so in 2021 than previous years. Although Universum’s annual study tends to uncover a nationalistic bent among professionals in many regions, the 2021 Swiss findings are particularly striking. 80% of Swiss business professionals favor Swiss companies, and 88% of Swiss engineers say the same. Business professionals prefer larger companies (though not by a large majority) and engineers widely favor small to mid-size organizations (66%).  

Which companies climbed the most in the ideal employer rankings?  

This year’s ideal employer rankings for business and engineering professionals can be found in full here. UBS took great strides in 2021, improving its standing to rank number five in Switzerland among business professionals, but also climbing among IT professionals as UBS continues to adapt to the digitalization of its business.  

“Those companies that rose in the rankings in 2021 did so despite the pandemic headwinds. The biggest winners were those organizations that maintained high levels of trust with employees despite radical changes in the nature of work. The challenge for 2022 will be how to maintain engagement when virtual work is no longer a workaround, but a way of life for employees.” explains Universum managing director, Leo Marty. 

The biggest winners among for Switzerland-based companies in 2021:

Business professionals  

  • Axpo, Switzerland’s largest producer of renewable energy, rose 30 ranking points compared to 2020.  
  • Givaudan, the Swiss flavor and fragrance company, rose 26 points.  
  • Media giant Tamedia (TX Group AG) also rose 26 points in 2021.  

IT professionals 

  • Reinsurance giant Swiss Re rose 24 ranking points in 12 months. 
  • Switzerland’s Die Post climbed 16 points. 
  • UBS, the global financial services company, gained 13 points. 

COVID has sparked a reshuffling of career priorities, talent in search of strong compensation and flexibility.  

The Universum research shows professionals value a competitive base salary more than any other factor when choosing an employer, and this is true year after year. But in 2021, many so-called ‘soft’ preferences rose in importance. Flexible working conditions, for example, rose to number two, displacing “challenging work” – which dropped to number six in 2021. Flexible work conditions was a particularly important factor for more senior professionals and for women.  

This shift in priorities is likely in-part driving what McKinsey dubs the ‘Great Attrition’, a surge in resignations as well as people who are considering resigning. The McKinsey study found 40% of employees in the US are at least somewhat likely to leave their job in the next three to six months.  

Seeking out greater flexibility isn’t the only factor driving attrition, says Universum Key Account Manager, Linda Meier. Senior managers are experiencing burnout after nearly two years of challenges, particularly those who have received little support managing virtual teams during the pandemic crisis. “Anecdotally, we often hear from our enterprise clients that the rapid shift to virtual work is taking a toll on managers, who simply haven’t been given the resources and training to succeed,” says Meier “This is leading to a loss of confidence between employees and employers, and we believe it may signal even more resignations in 2022.”  

Among Swiss survey-takers who say they are interested in changing jobs within a year, just 24% trust their organization’s vision, and only 21% trust the leaders of their organization – highlighting a sensitive area in employer-employee relations that future employee engagement programs need to address. 

On the upside: Swiss professionals working in pharma/biotech and insurance report high levels of satisfaction.  

High ratings for the pharma and biotech industries is perhaps understandable given large amounts of investment and innovation driven by the pandemic. Novartis jumped a record 12 points among engineering professionals to rank at number nine. This massive leap is likely due to its highly respected “servant leadership” ethos adopted in the last four years. Servant leadership means the company’s management is focused on supporting the growth and well-being of the Novartis employee community – a work style that served the company well during the upheaval of COVID-19.  

Insurance, however, appears to be a hidden champion among Swiss employees. Not often vaunted for their high levels of employee satisfaction, companies in the insurance industry are quietly bucking stereotypes. Swiss Re is a leader in the rankings within its sector in Switzerland. The company scores highly among business students as an meritocratic employer that recognizes strong performance. Swiss Re also stands out in how it interacts with international clients and colleagues. Swiss Re’s large and highly regarded thought leadership engine is a gold-standard in the reinsurance space and burnish its reputation as a best-in-class employer in the industry. 

Also, interesting to note both the insurance and pharma/biotech industries have high promoter scores, meaning that people who work in those industries are likely to promote them to others. High satisfaction and high promoter scores are not always linked; a job can be highly stressful but well compensated, for example, leading to lower satisfaction but higher promotion. The alignment of satisfaction and promoters for both pharma/biotech and insurance indicate employees feel satisfied with their work beyond the tangible/financial benefits they may enjoy.  

A big leap forward for career ‘purpose’ 

The pandemic period appears to have caused a great deal of introspection as more professionals prioritized non-traditional career goals. Among business professionals, over 1 in 3 said “inspiring purpose” is an important career attribute, up 8 points from last year. Also rising in importance: secure employment and opportunities to make a personal impact, rising 7 and 6 points respectively. Seeking out “prestige” dropped in favor among business professionals, sinking 6 points from last year.  

Among engineers, changes in career priorities also appeared to be influenced by the pandemic. “Inspiring leadership” and “attractive/exciting products and services” rose 8 and 5 points respectively. Less important in 2021: innovation, rapid promotion, opportunities for travel/relocation and prestige, all of which dropped between 7 to 8 points.  

See the list of the most attractive employers for professionals in Switzerland.