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Guido Ruoss: “Culture needs feedback to thrive”

Creating a positive feedback culture not only increases employee morale and job performance, but also helps a company grow. How to accomplish this? Guido Ruoss, Head HR, tells us why Julius Baer has decided to run regular employee surveys and what impact they have on our feedback culture.




Guido, what makes the corporate culture at Julius Baer unique?          
Guido Ruoss: “Part of what makes us unique is our family spirit and human touch – we truly care. And the open-mindedness of our people, in that they embrace new challenges and new developments. Another aspect is our entrepreneurial spirit – I believe we offer enough room for entrepreneurial thinking, and allow employees full ownership and responsibility of their given tasks. And last but not least, something we observed during the pandemic was an openness to learn and adapt, such as taking on virtual learning opportunities. We also had more than 100 leaders and managers taking part in virtual leadership learning sessions, showing we made the best of a given situation.”

In September 2019, the Bank launched its first Global Employee Survey, with employees receiving shorter ’pulse’ surveys every other month since then. What were the results so far and why so often?      
“We had a great start with a participation rate of 90% and an employee engagement score of 7.6 out of 10, which is even above the industry benchmark in the financial industry. I am proud we were able to keep up the success. With an even higher engagement score of 7.7 in the last survey round in September 2020, we have proven that our employee’s engagement remained high, despite the pandemic situation and remote setup.

If trust is given then constructive feedback or even discourse will strengthen the relationship.

Guido Ruoss, Head HR

And why do we run them so often? Well, instead of asking all survey questions once a year, we decided to ask a few of them every other month. The goal for us is to be closer to employees and have more real-time feedback about the organisation. It was very eye opening during the pandemic because we could receive immediate feedback on the measures we implemented on the organisational side as well as on the guidance from HR. This ultimately allowed us to implement improvement measures much faster.”

What kind of impact do these pulse surveys have on the Bank?
“First of all, it provides a platform to support our journey towards an open feedback culture. Employees can anonymously provide feedback about issues affecting them and leaders can respond to these comments without knowing who wrote them. These issues can then later be taken up by employees in person as soon as they have enough trust and comfort in their relationship with higher management.

Secondly, it allows top management to get representative feedback about the state of our organisation – how employees think, feel, and what engages them. This in turn provides top management with guidance to ensure we are going in the right direction as far as the strategy of the Bank is concerned. We’ve essentially moved from anecdotal know-how to systematic representative data points, which will ultimately lead to a better quality decision-making process, not just at the top.” 

Does Julius Baer have a positive feedback culture? If so, what must we do to maintain it?                    
“I believe there is still room for improvement. However, we see a significant number of managers doing a great job in providing feedback. Trust is key in maintaining a positive feedback culture. If trust is given then constructive feedback or even discourse will strengthen the relationship. And with our regular pulse surveys we have a platform where we can move the organisation towards a more open feedback culture. Culture needs feedback to thrive, and it’s a first step and a very good basis to build upon.”

Read more about our Employee Engagement Survey and other HR Initiatives in our Sustainability Report 2019.