Business Management
5 min read

How to create a Great Place to Work?

Pascal Gauthier
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A double win for EHL

It’s been a busy and u10_2020-09_2021_ENnique start to the new school year here at EHL for many reasons, mostly to do with the implementation of innovative teaching methods such as HyFlex and adapting to the necessary global changes. Much to my delight and satisfaction, we have recently become the recipients of two prestigious awards in terms of employer certification. Bilan magazine, (for the 3rd year running), has nominated us as “Best Employers” in Switzerland in their education category with regards to best practices in human resources in French-speaking Switzerland. Whereas the Great Place to Work organization has certified us as indeed a great place to work.

Many questions have been thrown at me as a result of this amazing double win. How does the certification work? What measures has EHL put in place? What tips can I offer other companies? How does one sustain such an accolade? What have the biggest challenges been?

I will aim to lay out the premises for which I believe EHL deserves to receive these 2 awards. A foundation of many years' work founded on a culture of trust, a strong sense of pride, motivation and identity, and finally a dedication to increasing employer attractiveness.


Why does EHL take part in the certification process?

In general, I’m a great believer in the benefits of an objective view. We get an opportunity to understand who we are and how we are seen from the outsideand from within, (GPTW, for example, analyzes employee perception and appreciation of their company).

These workplace rankings are an important yearly benchmark that compare companies of a similar size, genre, resources and footing. Not only does coming out on top clearly reinforce being ‘the best’, but it goes a long way to creating ‘brand ambassadorship’ which transmits a far stronger message than any form of advertising or PR.


Discover the Ecole hôtelière de Lausanne (EHL) profile
on Great Place to Work


What does the label bring?

Firstly, the certification is a way of upholding the EHL cornerstone values and showing how they are incorporated into our daily, professional lives. A few years ago, the school gathered 500 students, alumni and staff, and asked them to brainstorm 5 key words that represent EHL. The results, collected and clustered by an outside company, were excellence, family, respect, learning, innovation. EHL makes a point of implementing these values on a daily basis as words AND actions - in other words, they should be seen as more than just nice words on a poster! Our values also work as a form of brand identity; EHL alumni and staff are easily recognizable because of them.

Secondly, the label of excellence is highly effective in maintaining retention, loyalty and motivation - the ultimate objectives that every company aspires to for their workforce. How to best implement these qualities? Clear identity, values and company direction that are instilled in the workplace and then reflected back from an external viewpoint.

How does the process work?

Bilan magazine

Bilan is an important and reputable Swiss biweekly French-speaking business magazine produced in Geneva. The jury members are made up of the editor-in-chief and various journalists who assess a specific questionnaire with a points-based matrix that each participating company has filled out.

EHL has won their best employer award for 3 consecutive years as part of their education and medium-sized company category. This year, we are no.7 in their overall companies ranking - a very handsome position to hold - with Vaudoise Assurances, La Mobilière and Proctor & Gamble above us, (interesting to note that these companies all excel in regular paternity leave and on-site crèches).

The GPTW organization

The Great Place to Work organization has a possibly more in depth approach to gathering their criteria, firstly because they involve employee participation, and secondly because they deal in both certification AND labelization.

GPTW asks me to produce a “culture audit”, while at the same time, members of staff are invited to reply anonymously to 60 questions sent via email. EHL has a 73% trust index rate which means that the majority ‘agree’ or ‘largely agree’ that EHL is a great place to work. It makes a big difference when it’s the employee who ranks their workplace as ‘the best’. 9 out of 10 members of staff claim they are proud to tell others they work for EHL. 8 out of 10 say they appreciate the company’s “citizen contribution”.

Lastly, GPTO offers a type of coaching approach where they walk you through your company’s results and help you to thoroughly analyze the 5 question categories: credibility, respect, fairness, pride and camaraderie. By working with them every year, we can see the improvements made and the growth of our trust index. It’s an invaluable insight into the results of our staff’s reactions to the workplace.


General tips for all employers

The creation of empathy and trust between employee and management should be the foundation for every company. To be open to communication, listen to employee feedback and problems, be ready to take staff issues seriously and find answers. Willingness to implement changes that make a difference. In short, there should be a general sense of commitment from management to be an exemplary employer.

Making the workplace attractive on all levels is also an important principle. At EHL we pride ourselves on being particularly generous with our staff perks and benefits. We offer modern working facilities, up to 7 weeks’ vacation, high quality free meals on campus, free parking, teleworking opportunities where possible, sports and cultural activities, laundry service, hair salon, discounts on internal & external facilities and EHL training programs. It is a workplace where both students and staff are encouraged to blossom and develop their potential. The aim is to make people want to get out of bed and come to work!

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How to stay on top

This is possibly one of the questions I get asked the most! Yes, it’s certainly important to stay on top and never become complacent. When it comes to EHL, I can only say that it is quite simply in the school’s DNA to always be forward-looking. The school was born with this innovative, pioneering spirit, it has often been seen as the type of institution where things happen ‘first’.

Back in 1893 it was, after all, the first school of its kind! Followed by being the first to accept women students, weave internships into the program, offer the program in English, receive HESSO accreditation … I could go on! We have never sat on our laurels. The 3-year run of Bilan awards confirms the fact that EHL is an exciting professional hub where people want to work, teach, study and exchange ideas. The whole notion of collaboration and expansion led to our Masters’ program created four years ago as a result of an exchange of energies with the universities of Houston and Hong Kong, not to mention the creation of the EHL Innovation Village, Research Institute and campuses in Passugg and Singapore.

Another key factor to staying on top is to never stop asking “What could we do better or differently? How can we improve?” Knowing how to adapt to the changing times is essential. Just look at where education heading in these times of adapting to the 'new normal' - EHL adopted the HyFlex teaching model within a matter of days and is already looking to implement full digitalization of our programs into a virtual campus soon.

For years, the school has been copied and emulated by many. Surely a sign that EHL is doing something right!? It’s far better to be copied than to be doing the copying.


Greatest achievements

During my 7 years of working at EHL, many aspects remain high in my estimation. For example, I know that our minimum salary is far above that of other companies, resulting in a minimum pay of over 4,200 CHF x 13 for even the most basic jobs. Through our “Family Service” scheme, we provide assistance to help working parents place their kids in the most suitable childcare.

Every June, at the end of the academic year, we have the very special ‘Thank You week’, which hosts activities to thank members of staff for their exceptional contribution to their duties and the school. These small gestures are not only festive, but they ground our sense of gratitude towards our most hard-working members.

I am particularly proud of the way EHL handled the COVID-19 crisis, especially with regard to the RWT (‘reduction des horaires de travail’*) where certain salaries were supposed to be cut to 80%. This affected staff who could not work from home because their roles did not allow it, e.g. bar staff and cleaners. Losing 20% of one’s salary did not feel an acceptable procedure, so the executive committee along with members of extended management decided to take a voluntary pay cut in order to allow the lower salaries to be paid in full. This is the type of gesture that helps to build a foundation of trust and empathy. At EHL, we are committed to finding the best solutions for our staff.

*Reduction of working hours during the lockdown period.

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EHL Chief Culture & Marketing Officer

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