Diversity in culture and language is what defines Switzerland as a country. The country counts around eight million inhabitants, which is roughly the size of the city of Chicago. The unique aspect about Switzerland is that four official languages – German, French, Italian and Romansh – are spoken within the country. This depicts the variety in culture that the country is offering. When visiting different parts of Switzerland as a tourist, it actually feels like you are leaving one country and entering another one.
So how does that impact business life in Switzerland?
Companies located in Switzerland have to adapt to this phenomenon and offer their goods in the light of the country's diversity. On the one hand, this means to provide all kinds of descriptions and services in at least three languages (German, French and Italian), in order to address your whole target group. On the other hand, you have to be flexible and fully adapt to the different cultures. The French part of Switzerland has different working habits than the German or Italian part – someone who works here has to know the differences and needs to be able to seamlessly switch between them.
In Executive Search – where we always work with people – this is especially important. Not only the clients are spread in different cultural areas all over the country, but also potential candidates may stem from a region that differs from the one of the respective consultant. Hence, for example in sales meetings, consultants need to quickly assess and adapt to the situation and mindset of the person in front of them. Adaptability is key – feeling understood is a major asset in a successful partnership with a client.
Another challenge consultants in Switzerland frequently encounter is that the industry itself is highly competitive – and the digital age even adds to this aspect.
In the past, once you were stablished as a consultant, clients simply (re)turned to you. This has significantly changed and clients nowadays expect more from you than only a well-maintained personal address book. So where and how is a consultant actually able to benefit from digitalization? Social Media for example is a great way to enlarge your network. In the past, you went to all kinds of events and interacted with people at specific occasions, but today you already know the relevant person before you even meet them – and so does everyone else. You can connect with people from all organizational levels on social media platforms, see what they have achieved professionally, what they are interested in and contact them directly. In the end, it is important to distinguish your company from others by showing the client additional expertise beyond traditional consulting. Here, a digital strategy or product is a great door opener to catch your counterpart's attention. At Kienbaum in Zurich, we often go through social media to interact with our clients. We also developed a digital tool for Executive Search named myCareerGate which helps us to better understand their needs. Since companies usually turn to a consulting firm when facing a certain challenge, myCareerGate is the key for us in order to think and feel like our customers. As a result, we offer comprehensive solutions far beyond traditional Executive Search and see ourselves as ambassadors that support our clients in a long-term partnership.