A question of truth
While most companies associate the term New Work primarily with home offices and video conferencing, Swiss relay and sensor technology specialist Elesta GmbH is much further ahead. One consequence: the current head of development would not hire himself today.
For decades, Elesta in Bad Ragaz (Switzerland) has been developing and producing sensors and relays. The way the company responds to customer wishes is as individual and personal as the way it treats its employees. Lean management, agility and employee satisfaction are not fancy buzzwords, but everyday life at the BestPractice partner of Staufen.Inova AG. “Our focus is equally on customers and employees. We care for people,” says Sara Quesada Otero. Together with Sebastian Schiemenz and two other colleagues, they form the team of “New Work Guides” who accompany the continuous improvement at the Swiss manufacturer.
“For us, New Work means identifying the needs of employees and our customers at an early stage so that we can position ourselves properly for the future and get the best out of it, not only for the company but also for each individual employee,” says Schiemenz. And André Sulser, Head of Development at Elesta, adds: “The New Work Guides are our counterpart. They push and prod us in management and help to keep breaking new ground.”
Leaders must be able to let go.André Sulser
Head of Development, Elesta GmbH
In an interview, the manager explains the influence New Work is already having today on cooperation within the company and the role of managers. When he joined Elesta as a team leader in 2010, a career as a traditional manager was in the cards. After just under two years, he was promoted to product group manager, and another year later he was sitting on the management board as head of development. And today? “I am the supervisor of 70 employees,” says André Sulser. In a classic hierarchical structure, it would not be possible for one manager to directly manage so many employees. But at Elesta, it succeeds because the company’s top management demands and encourages a different approach. New work in self-organizing teams means that Sulser is now primarily the contact person in his area of responsibility when employees have problems, opens the doors “upwards” for them and represents the interface to the outside world through his title “Head of Development.” Does that make his work life easier?
“New Work does it differently,” says the Elesta manager. “As a leader, you need a flexible way of thinking and must be able to let go. The experts in the teams make decisions themselves and take the pressure off me. I deliberately try to let people do more and more.” But at the same time, the new type of collaboration requires André Sulser to relinquish some of his responsibility and no longer know every detail. He can only do this if he trusts the team members fully.
Teamwork has therefore also become the decisive criterion in recruitment. André Sulser: “I no longer hire team leaders because I don’t need them. What drives people in my field is the realization that you can change parts of the organization even without being in a management position. At Elesta, colleagues can live out their specific strengths and take on things that really interest them. That’s what motivates them every day.”
“At Elesta, confidence in the strength of the team leads employees to take ownership. They do not wait for the boss to tell them what to do, but offer their expertise and are much more open with each other,” is how New Work Guides Sara Quesada Otero and Sebastian Schiemenz sum up the work environment at Elesta.
An example: When the company was recently looking for a coordinator to set up a production line abroad, the management advertised the position internally within the company. “Ten employees from different areas came forward,” says Head of Development Sulser. “The applicants selected the most suitable candidate for the new role among themselves. They were accompanied by the New Work Guides, while the management stayed completely out of it.” The choice fell on a different person than the management would have expected because they were not aware of their expertise from a previous job. “In a classically managed company, we would have never identified this employee for this task, which he does very well, by the way,” Sulser is certain.
at Elesta, employees do not wait for the boss to tell them what to do.SARA QUESADA OTERO
New Work Guide, Elesta GmbH
Elesta GmbH, whose history dates back to 1952, is part of the Pilz Group of Companies. At the Bad Ragaz site in Switzerland, relays and sensors for functional safety applications are developed, produced, and distributed. The company has been working according to Lean Management principles for over 15 years.
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