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Swiss resiliency ?

Posted on 27 December 2012 by Klebnikov

Signs indicate that previous Swiss resiliency to European troubles is now wearing off.

On the one hand, Swiss residents are caught between the hammer and anvil of dropping salaries (and higher unemployment) from cheaper labor entering Switzerland from neighboring EU countries and rising cost of living, principally from enormous inflation in housing costs, health insurance premiums, and transport costs. The result has been a steep decline in the standard of living of Swiss residents since the introduction of the bilateral agreements ushering in labor mobility and removal of border controls.

And the latter has also engendered substantial costs for middle and lower class residents, who bear the major impact of the steep increase in criminality.

The construction industry, which was doing well through most of 2012 has now slowed as banks are toughening their criteria for new real-estate loans. The Swiss National Bank’s maintenance of artificially low rates, combined with aggressive creation of new money (mainly to buy up euros and dollars to manipulate the Swiss Franc exchange rate) has fueled a real-estate asset bubble as investors seek to shelter liquid assets from the inflation caused by monetary policies.

Statistics from Q3 and Q4 of 2012 show continued increases in unemployment – where the term is defined as those unable to find employment – throughout the major urban areas.

The largest contraction in 2012 has been the financial and banking sector, hard hit by multiple assaults on banking secrecy and scandal. The sector continues to downsize and adapt to a new emerging paradigm.

The sector that continues to outperform in Switzerland is the luxury industry, with expensive watches and jewelry defying any possible strengthening of the Swiss Franc. The luxury sector added jobs during 2012 and is expected to continue to grow in 2013, a result of growing markets in Asia and emerging economies.

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Tags: confidence, dynamism, employee, job, keeping, learning, move, specialize, strategy, survive

How to Keep your Job in Switzerland

Posted on 30 December 2011 by Steven

Switzerland still has the highest salaries in Europe, but the bilateral agreements have resulted in a significant increase in unemployment. Swiss companies, like those elsewhere, have been trimming their workforce to lower costs and raise profits. Only the cosseted employees of local, state and federal government are immune, enjoying lifetime jobs and indexed salaries.

Over the past 12 months, unemployment rose over 50%.
In 2012 roughly 90,000 will be cut in CH.

If you’re in the private sector you need to be performant to stay employed and well-paid.

Here are some tips to keeping your job in Switzerland:

1) Identify yourself with your company.
Managers always prefer staff who feel implicated in the life of the company, who share its goals and worry about its problems,
and who are effective in bad times as in good times. In general, chiefs want loyal staff more than good mercenaries.

2) Have confidence in yourself
Unemployment has doubled in 2 years but at (officially) 6%, it’s still a lot less than elswhere in the EU.
It means there still close to 95% employment.
So don’t panic every time your manager calls you for a meeting that it means you’re going to be fired. Such a timorous
attitude will be noticed and will likely lead to be being considered expendable.

3) Don’t fear change.
Change always represents opportunity. The conomy changes, businesses change.
Change is inevitable everywhere. If you consider it an opportunity rather than a threat, you’re more than halfway to being a winner.
The best employees are those who are open and flexible.
Resisting change never brings anything but making work more difficult for everyone.

4) Keep learning.
Whatever happens, one has to remain competitive and on top of one’s field. As companies spend less and less on corporate training,
you need to show some imagination in keeping abreast of developments in your field. For example: attending a management seminar or a language course. Those who strive are always valued more highly in the coroporate environment.

5) Specialize
PRactically every branch of the economy is threatened by outsourcing.
Consider how to acquire speciliazed skills, whatever niche that may be, so that you cannot be replaced or your role outsourced. The goal: your company should have too much difficulty replacing you.

7) Pay attention to what’s going on around you; you’ll be better prepared for what may come.
Did you notice we skipped number 6 ?

8) Be proactive. Don’t be one of those emplyees who always takes refuge in his job description and figures, it’s not my problem. If you see you can be useful with help in some other department, offer your help.

9) Where relevant, make suggestions to management where cost savings may be made.
In periods of difficulty, management has to be very sensitive to costs. Even when it’s a question of small savings, like reducing mobile phone usage in favor of landlines or reducing color photocopies, it shows you are rowing in the same direction as your company.

10) Attendence and Rapidity
Be early to work and leave a little later. Everybody notices the guy who shots down his computer at 16:45 to be out the door before 17h00. Just like everyone notices the colleague who takes 2 hour lunch breaks. Consider the Appearance of your commitment.

11) Don’t work at home or outside the office. It’s a sad fact but but if they can’t see it, they assume it isn’t there.
It’s a waste of time (unless you enjoy doing it or are paid according to results).
Management has to SEE you working.

12) Look dynamic.
As a corollary to 11, be energetic — you motivate others, appear stress resistant to your management, and you give the general impression of doing more than you actually are.
In organizational structures, appearance is more importance than being.
Therefore, give special attention to sleeping well, eating well, and being general well-balanced. Just showing up at work healthy and full of energy is 90% of the battle.

13) Be optimistic.
At least in what you say at work. Nobody like the pessimist who is full of negativity, saying this won’t work, that isn’t how it
should have been, he isn’t suited for the job, she won’t succeed on that new project, etc. Pessimists irritate everyone and when it’s time to cut staff
they have the fewest friends defending them.

14) Participate in the company life, pay attention to your appearance
How you dress sends out signals about how you value yourself and how others should value you.

15) Do your own marketing inside the company.
Just doing your job well doesn’t cut it anymore.
You have to make sure management realizes how well you’re doing your jobs and how valuable you are to the company. The higher up you are in the hierarchy of a company the more time you have to spend on personal marketing. For mid level managers this can be 50% of one’s time.

16) Be careful about absences for illness.
OK, if you have to have a kidney transplant, you have to have one.
But be aware of how management will perceive a 2-week absence for flu in an epoch where resources are stretched and everyone is under pressure.

17) Stay busy.
Did you finish everything you have to do ? Maybe there’s some other
critical work you can help with?

18) Be humble and patient
In 2012, it is unlikely to be propitious to ask for a raise or a promotion.
The economy is going to limp by, a lot of companies (particularly PMEs) will fight to survive, consumption will contract and revenues will decline.
Even if you’re a worldbeater and amply deserve your raise or promotion, let your boss or management (or a competitor’s headhunter) offer it.

19) Evaluate yourself
Consider yourself and your performance from the point of view of your management.
Improve yourself where you can.

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Tags: downsizing, extra hours, fear, long-term, motivation, overtime, paradox, perspective, productivity, promotion, replacement, stagnation, Unemployment, workload

The Invisible Promotion

Posted on 06 February 2011 by Brucellus

The past 2-3 years has seen increased tightening of the Swiss labor market, a process that began with the opening up of Switzerland to EU labor. With the drastically increased pool of labor and the contractions or stagnation in key economies,  unemployment has been high by Swiss standards (4% – 5%) and salaries have stagnated.
An unwelcome result has been an increased workload for those who survived cuts and downsizing.  This is the world of the ‘invisible promotion,’ where you keep your job but have to do as well a part of your fired colleague’s or dismissed boss’s.
Productivity is high, thanks to unemployment. Across Switzerland, managers and staff now shoulder duties from laid-off managers and peers or positions that were eventually to be filled but probably won’t be.  The extra work means extra headaches and longer hours, but little or no extra money.

The piling-on of responsibilities is at an all-time high.  Employees who find themselves in such a situation often have difficulty working up the courage to ask for recognition for the work they are doing,  either a promotion and raise to recognize the additional work and responsibility undertaken, or a splitting up of the extra work among several people.
Though many people fear risking their supervisor’s wrath in an environment where jobs are still scarce, almost a third of employers say they’re willing to discuss raises with employees this year, according to a recent survey released in December. The percentage rises to over 40% for business-services and IT companies.
If you want to build a case for a real promotion instead of an invisible one, you need a strategy.
First, objectively document how you’re contributing, whether that is by bringing in more money or saving it.  Even if you’re not in sales,  your work or your ideas may have impact on increasing revenue.   Employees who consistently find unusual value for the company are always appreciated and retained.
Second, have a sense of timing. Being sensitive to the organization’s own pulse is critical.   
Then bring solutions to your boss, even including a staffing analysis.  Making things look easy is a good strategy. Act like you’re not tired, worn out, and angry,” even if you are. To keep one’s team engaged and motivated use appreciation, openness, respect – lifestyle gimmicks like work-from-home Fridays can be very effective, allowing staff to wear pajamas or spend an extra hour with their kids, and taking some of the pressure off those ‘invisible promotions,’ making them a little less stressful.
There are a few way to make that ‘extra work’ work for your career in the long run :
Prioritize: work with your manager to understand what your role is now that so-an-so is gone and not to be replaced any time soon, what the key results are, and which are the most important elements.  An important thing to cover is determining which tasks can be eliminated  (even if they once seemed important).
Ask for training or — if relevant — coaching.  In you the responsibilities that have been foisted upon you, you may need to develop new management techniques to handle the new tasks.  To succeed, you have to figure out what skills you need and then get your management to buy into the training; they need to see that it’s cheaper than hiring someone else.
Fill the holes in your résume.
You may not have asked for the job, but now you need to prove that you can keep it.
If you’re in a context wehere everybody has an MBA but you don’t, then you’d probably  better sign up for that Saturday-morning program.
As with any new change in job description, one needs to take a hard look at one’s skill set and make sure one has what it takes.
Establish a time frame.   If your employer is now adding a huge extra load to your job, you have to hammer out some kind of agreement about the expectations and the time frame. 
If you find yourself with a bunch of new responsibilities dumped on you, make a case for your promotion.  Be clear that you want to move up — and that you see that as good for the department and the company/organization too.
Alternatively, if you want to return to a lower level, think up a plan to make that happen.  
If these strategies don’t work, look around for another job.  But in the interim, try to stay appreciative of what you have.

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Tags: bilateral agreements, criminality, european community, jobs at multinationals, professional workforce, social disturbances, swiss economy, swiss tax, swiss-based companies, tax advantages, Unemployment

Multinationals Reconsider Switzerland

Posted on 25 January 2010 by Steven

swiss_economy_downAccording to a SwissHoldings survey conducted in 2009 across 80 of the largest multinational groups operating in Switzerland, there is considerable anxiety and uncertainty over the degradation of working conditions and ‘standard of living’ in general.

The erosion of banking secrecy is no the only illness affecting the health of the Swiss economy. Switzerland is also suffering from a variety of other problems, some of which of such a serious nature that many multinationals are re-examining the advantages of remaining in Switzerland.

Criticism is rising concerning the different tax regimes in operation in the different cantons, which compete to attract the multinationals and foreign holding companies.

This loose federated system is under attack by the European Union, of which Switzerland is not even a member; the EU considers it to be unfair competition.

The companies surveyed evinced anxiety over the uncertainty over the political direction Switzerland will take. The Swiss only narrowly voted for bilateral agreements with the European Union permitting the free flow of workers into Switzerland from any EU country, and the integration into the Schengen space. The result has been a stark degradation in the employment market, as well as precipitous rise in criminality and disorder. In all the major Swiss cities, open air drug dealing and violent crime has risen sharply, prisons and police forces are overwhelmed, and at the same time real-estate prices and rents have exploded as Switzerland welcomed 300,000,000 potential buyers onto its market. Previously, Switzerland’s laws forbid the acquisition of property by nonresidents.

Multinationals have often chosen to set up their European headquarters in Switzerland not only for tax advantages but for the standard of living it offered its expatriates — a major selling point in its global recruitment efforts. The decline in living standards, along with overcrowding, housing shortages, regular traffic jams, rising criminality and other social problems previously unknown here, are causing companies to reconsider their presence here.

A change in the tax structure may just be the last straw. Finance Minister Hans Merz (who was responsible for the UBS bailout) has proposed instead of changing the regime of cantonal prerogatives in taxation, to rather appease EU concerns by proposing to abolish or modify the statutes regulating domiciled or holding companies. The cantons would be forced to raise their taxation of these types of companies. The Swiss government has been doing a lot appeasing of foreign governments over the past year. In Switzerland the Federal government (following almost a Chinese-style model) is not elected by the people.

SwissHoldings director Peter Baumgartner laid particular stress on the fact that the large international companies are seeking ’above all a legal and fiscal stability,’ and that this stability is absent in Switzerland.

However the current problems affecting international companies based in Switzerland go beyond potentially shifting tax structures –which well-paid accountants have always been able to navigate– and overlap with the current problems facing almost every other Swiss citizen: and these problems, extensive in nature, will require a major change in direction of Switzerland’s currently mismanaged foreign policy and economy.

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Tags: CVs, HR staff, interview preparation, job applications, job interview, jobs switzerland, telephone interview, work experience, workplace Switzerland

Job Applications – Evolution in the Swiss Marketplace

Posted on 23 October 2009 by PCT

The economic slowdown in Switzerland has given rise to changes in the job search process. As a result of fewer recruitment advertisements with job opportunities, HR staff at employers have tightened their requirements for candidates responding to job vacancies.

Job seekers all know that making the cut of CV selection is a key step and that recruiters typically spend only a few minutes – sometimes only a few seconds—scanning each dossier.

More than ever, it’s important that when responding to a job offer, the link between your response and the job offer is clear and evident to the recruiter. Do your work experience and your education should obviously correspond to the criteria in the job advertisement? Is your professional experience compatible with the company’s culture?
At this stage, often half of the CVs and dossiers received are discarded.

To maximize the job seeker’s chances of getting the maximum attention from HR he should take the requisite care on his motivation letter. Put out front in concise and clear argument the elements of your career which match up with the position being offered, with results and figures if necessary (for instance in a sales management job vacancy).
Avoid talking about your career objectives if they don’t align to the job being proposed.

The second important phase is the telephone call from the recruiter for clarifications and setting up an appointment. HR staff appreciate candidates ready to react rapidly. Being unavailable for an in-depth interview for weeks to come is a good way to drastically reduce your chances of being offered the job.

The interview, if one gets that far, is crucial and the goal is clear. Before the interview, evaluate your interest and your motivation for the job, be clear about your availability and notice period, think well in advance about your salary expectations and if relevant test appropriately your language skills. Most importantly, prepare in advance for the likely questions you will be asked about your professional career and experience and how you will respond.

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Tags: flexibility, jobs, mobility, professionals, travel, work Switzerland

Switzerland’s Workforce More Mobile

Posted on 23 August 2009 by Mr Bureau

According to recent studies of work habits in Switzerland by Zurich’s EPF, the Swiss have turned the page on the era of the long term employment close to home.

Employees are now not only changing jobs frequently but also seeking them or accepting them farther away from home, endorsing the notion that mobility and flexibility are factors in career advancement.

The study’s authors claim that current workplace demands, which have increased considerably with globalization, have made professional work in Switzerland more dependent on mobility.

Many recruitment agencies have noted that the attractiveness and enjoyability of a candidate rises considerably with willingness to travel.

RH consultancies note that the reasons most often appreciated by employees are the company culture and diversity of the job description; thus the reasons most often cited for leaving a job are absence of a good work environment, monotonous workload. Salary is usually secondary.

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Tags: electronics, employment, job opportunities, job vacancies, jobs, machine tools, mechanics, polymécanicien, precision tools

Continued Demand for Skilled Mechanics

Posted on 26 July 2009 by PCT

Bucking the trend of downsizing and layoffs, part of the industry of precision machine tools – hat which treats machines destined for agri-business, rail transport or medicine—are little affected by the economic slowdown.

This contrasts strongly with companies producing precision mechanics for the luxury watch industry where jobs have been had hit, with many companies in the Jura laying off thousands of workers.

However, globally across the precision tools industry in Switzerland, there is very strong demand for mechanics skilled in tooling pieces in metal or plastic. In Romandy alone (the French-speaking parts of Switzerland) the labor bureau estimates the market is lacking roughly 400 skilled mechanics.

In the precision tools industry a mechanic who works in the manufacture of machine tools for fabricating precision parts is in high demand. The Swiss market on the whole requires roughly 25,000 such skilled precision mechanics. The Vocational training that produces them is largely by apprenticeship and as a result, in the French-speaking regions of Switzerland, where apprenticeships are not highly esteemed as educational qualifications—there are few students choosing to be trained in this field.

Company spokesmen and government labor offices say it’s a shame, because the precision machine industry, the electronics and the metallurgy industries are big employers in the Swiss economy, and the jobs in these fields offer high salaries and good career prospects.

The machine tools, electronics, and metallurgy industries together employ 320,000 people in Switzerland across over 400 companies. In Romandy alone, these industries are responsible for 50,000 jobs.

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Luxury Industries Lose More Jobs

Posted on 20 June 2009 by Papessa

In the luxury industry, both Zenith and Metalor have indicated they intend to cut further staff. The luxury watch maker Franck Muller already shook up the Romandy region of Switzerland with the announcement of a 50% reduction in the company’s 450 strong workforce.

Zenith and Metalor have announced 120 a total of 120 job losses between them. The two companies say that falling orders for luxury watches and jewelry are the cause. They had each already made job cuts several months back.

The job cuts hit the canton of Neuchatel particularly hard. Neuchatel has a large proportion of the luxury brands headquartered there.

Metalor, specialized in precious metals (present in both Neuchatel and Marin) will be laying off roughly 50 staff.

Zenith is a subsidiary of LVMH and the spokesman indicated that the substantial difficulties that the sector is experiencing are behind the job losses. All branches of the business are affected by the cuts and all levels of the company. Zenith also let go 20 staff in January of this year.

The companies have not divulged their financial situation but analysts evaluate sales for 2008 at roughly 100 million francs. It is difficult to determine the extent of the decrease in sales, but sector analysts say it is roughly 30%. Zenith is also strongly present in the US market where sales have declined as much as 50%.

Metalor is one of the main suppliers of Rolex and explains its financial straits in similar terms – the morose state of the luxury sector. Zenith’s firing of 50 staff adds to the 40 they let go in late 2008. Metalor employs 460 people in Switzerland and 1300 worldwide.
For 2008, the company made a profit CHF 62 million on sales of 330 million.

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