“Have the courage to do what you en­joy do­ing”

Peter Go­erke is re­spon­si­ble for more than 46,000 em­ploy­ees from 170 na­tions. In the fol­low­ing in­ter­view, Credit Suisse’s Chief Hu­man Re­sources Of­fi­cer dis­cusses the im­por­tance of di­ver­sity and tal­ent as a com­pet­i­tive ad­van­tage, as well as the ques­tions to

Bulletin - - Jobs Of The Future - By Sara Car­nazzi We­ber

Peter Go­erke, Chief Hu­man Re­sources Of­fi­cer at Credit Suisse, talks about di­ver­sity, tal­ent, and what makes a suc­cess­ful job in­ter­view.

Mr. Go­erke, what was your dream job when you were a child?

I was born in the 1960s. The first moon land­ing took place in 1969 and I was fas­ci­nated to watch the black and white tele­vi­sion im­ages of Neil Arm­strong walk­ing on the moon. Like many other chil­dren at the time, I wanted to be­come an as­tro­naut.

What was the most im­por­tant thing you learned at school?

Not much (laughs). With the ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem that ex­isted at the time, chil­dren were ex­pected to learn vast amounts of in­for­ma­tion by heart. How­ever, teach­ing chil­dren how to learn and to solve a prob­lem is much more im­por­tant. To­day, this ap­proach is more wide­spread since knowl­edge – mean­ing facts and fig­ures – is now uni­ver­sally avail­able.

You have been work­ing in the area of hu­man re­sources (HR) for around 20 years. What do you find so fas­ci­nat­ing about this par­tic­u­lar field?

My work is first and fore­most about peo­ple – and I see it both as a great priv­i­lege and a huge re­spon­si­bil­ity. As a re­sult of tech­no­log­i­cal de­vel­op­ments, more and more repet­i­tive el­e­ments of our work are be­ing au­to­mated. This means that the hu­man fac­tor is be­com­ing more cru­cial, since we are left with the most com­plex and chal­leng­ing tasks. Peo­ple are be­com­ing in­creas­ingly im­por­tant – they make all the dif­fer­ence.

How is this trend trans­form­ing the HR ap­proach of com­pa­nies?

In the past, the work of HR de­part­ments mainly con­sisted of op­er­a­tional and ad­min­is­tra­tive tasks – such as man­ag­ing pay­roll and the an­nual em­ployee ap­praisal and pro­mo­tion pro­cesses. Those pro­cesses now re­quire fewer re­sources, al­low­ing us to fo­cus more on strate­gic ac­tiv­i­ties. Iden­ti­fy­ing, at­tract­ing and fur­ther de­vel­op­ing the best tal­ents in the world is a key part of our role in HR. This can give us a clear com­pet­i­tive ad­van­tage: If a com­pany has the best tal­ents, this has an im­pact on its suc­cess – and if it doesn’t, its re­sults suf­fer.

Who are your main com­peti­tors to­day in the bat­tle for the smartest minds?

You have to dis­tin­guish here be­tween univer­sity graduates and em­ploy­ees with pro­fes­sional ex­pe­ri­ence. In the case of graduates, ev­ery at­trac­tive com­pany is ba­si­cally a ri­val. If we are talk­ing about ex­pe­ri­enced em­ploy­ees, we mainly com­pete with firms in the fi­nance

Daniel Am­mann and Si­mon Brun­ner (in­ter­view) and Yves Bach­mann (pho­tos) Peter Go­erke, aged 56, is Chief Hu­man Re­sources Of­fi­cer and a Mem­ber of the Ex­ec­u­tive Board of Credit Suisse Group. He pre­vi­ously held the same func­tion at Pru­den­tial plc and Zurich In­sur­ance Group and he also worked for Mckin­sey & Co. and Egon Zehn­der In­ter­na­tional. Peter Go­erke stud­ied Eco­nomics at the Univer­sity of St. Gallen. He is mar­ried and has a daugh­ter.

in­dus­try. Tech­nol­ogy and IT are of crit­i­cal im­por­tance for our com­pany. In those ar­eas, we are look­ing for the same type of pro­fes­sion­als as the fre­quently cited FAANGS [edi­tor’s note: Face­book, Ap­ple, Ama­zon, Net­flix, Google.]

How do you com­pete suc­cess­fully with them?

A core prin­ci­ple of HR has al­ways been: You have to go where the tal­ent is. This means that Credit Suisse vis­its lead­ing uni­ver­si­ties and re­cruit­ment events. It is cru­cial for our com­pany to have a clear pro­file and to be able to com­mu­ni­cate ex­actly what we stand for and what peo­ple can ex­pect from us. The In­ter­net is also grow­ing more and more im­por­tant in this area. So­cial me­dia plat­forms are not only a source of the lat­est news about Credit Suisse – they also fa­cil­i­tate an in­ten­sive di­a­logue with po­ten­tial em­ploy­ees. And as a ba­sic prin­ci­ple: It is, of course, very help­ful if the com­pany is suc­cess­ful. Af­ter all, the best tal­ents want to be part of a suc­cess­ful team.

Just how im­por­tant is com­pen­sa­tion?

It is part of a long list of fac­tors that de­ter­mine the at­trac­tive­ness of a com­pany. Others in­clude: What po­si­tion is avail­able and which re­spon­si­bil­i­ties and de­vel­op­ment po­ten­tial does it of­fer? How good is the firm’s rep­u­ta­tion and what type of man­age­ment does it have? Does the com­pany op­er­ate on the ba­sis of per­for­mance? Does it have the right cor­po­rate cul­ture? Do em­ploy­ees have a good work/life bal­ance? The list goes on. Com­pen­sa­tion is im­por­tant, of course – but based on ex­pe­ri­ence, I would say it is not the most im­por­tant fac­tor.


Em­ploy­ees who feel mo­ti­vated and sat­is­fied are usu­ally very suc­cess­ful, rise through the ranks and con­se­quently also see their pay in­crease. If you sim­ply earn a good salary but feel dis­sat­is­fied and un­mo­ti­vated, you will not be happy in your po­si­tion over the long term. In the course of my own ca­reer, I have oc­ca­sion­ally taken a pay cut in or­der to ac­cept an in­ter­est­ing po­si­tion – and over the longer term, that al­ways proved to be the right ap­proach.

Peo­ple say that at­tract­ing tal­ent is dif­fi­cult – and re­tain­ing it even more so.

Both are chal­leng­ing. Top tal­ents al­ways have at­trac­tive al­ter­na­tives avail­able to them. They of­ten leave a com­pany if they feel there is a dis­crep­ancy be­tween what they were promised when they were hired and the every­day re­al­ity. These days, ev­ery­one talks to ev­ery­one – es­pe­cially through so­cial me­dia. There is no hid­ing the truth – and I see that as an ad­van­tage. The same ap­plies in re­verse: If you can re­tain good peo­ple, you can then at­tract fur­ther tal­ents.

On the topic of new me­dia: You don’t have a Linkedin pro­file. In other words: You are not part of the world’s largest HR plat­form.

(laughs) I had a Linkedin pro­file but I sim­ply re­ceived too many mes­sages. Nat­u­rally, I still fol­low over­all de­vel­op­ments in this area. The Global Shapers Sur­vey pub­lished by the WEF and the Youth Barom­e­ter pub­lished by Credit Suisse show that

mil­len­ni­als con­sider it very im­por­tant to do mean­ing­ful work.

We have also wit­nessed that trend. The mean­ing­ful­ness of work is an ab­so­lutely key fac­tor. This is pos­i­tive from a com­pany per­spec­tive: Em­ploy­ees who en­joy their work per­form it more ef­fec­tively. Em­ploy­ment re­search has pro­duced the fol­low­ing ba­sic for­mula: Per­for­mance is the prod­uct of com­mit­ment mul­ti­plied by ex­per­tise mul­ti­plied by the im­por­tance or mean­ing­ful­ness of work. Even if only one of these fac­tors is zero, over­all per­for­mance will also be zero. In the end, com­pa­nies and em­ploy­ees have to strike a good bal­ance be­tween these cri­te­ria.

Stud­ies sug­gest that on av­er­age, mil­len­ni­als will have around 15 dif­fer­ent jobs in the course of their ca­reers. Do you see this num­ber of roles as an ad­van­tage or a dis­ad­van­tage?

I think it is nei­ther. In my opin­ion, the im­por­tant thing in any job is to have a last­ing im­pact. It is dif­fi­cult to gen­er­al­ize but I be­lieve that in or­der to re­ally learn some­thing and have an im­pact, you need to per­form a role for three to five years. Our work­ing lives tend to last around 40 years, mean­ing that by the time peo­ple re­tire, they have had around ten dif­fer­ent roles. I think that is quite a large num­ber and would rec­om­mend fewer.

How many com­pa­nies have you worked for?

(count­ing) For­tu­nately, I have fol­lowed my own ad­vice – I have had six dif­fer­ent jobs and I am now 56 years old.

What makes a good job ap­pli­ca­tion?

Glob­ally, we re­ceive over 400,000 ap­pli­ca­tions each year. In or­der to stand out from the crowd, ap­pli­ca­tions need to be pre­cisely worded and tai­lored to the po­si­tion in question and to our com­pany. As soon as ap­pli­ca­tions are re­cy­cled and sound generic, they lose their im­pact.

Hand on heart – does any­one ac­tu­ally read the mo­ti­va­tion let­ters sent with job ap­pli­ca­tions?

I have cer­tainly read them and will con­tinue to do so in the fu­ture.


Be­cause the way a per­son writes tells you a lot about them: How do they see them­selves? Can they ex­press them­selves clearly and pre­cisely? Can they dis­tin­guish be­tween what is and is not im­por­tant? What in­for­ma­tion do they in­clude and what do they leave out? Mo­ti­va­tion let­ters also serve as a good start­ing point for in­ter­views.

Nowa­days, there is a range of tech­ni­cal tools that can as­sist in the pro­cess­ing of ap­pli­ca­tions. Which do you use?

We use sci­en­tif­i­cally proven eval­u­a­tion meth­ods for cer­tain po­si­tions such as re­la­tion­ship man­agers or man­age­ment roles. They in­volve in­ter­views, sim­u­la­tions or psy­cho­me­t­ric tests. Our ex­pe­ri­ence of us­ing these meth­ods has been very pos­i­tive.

If ev­ery­thing is au­to­mated and anonymized, what role do soft fac­tors such as in­tu­ition, ‘wave length’ and ‘chem­istry’ still have to play?

I be­lieve they play a key role. Skills can be ac­quired but when it comes to the right chem­istry, you ei­ther have it or you don’t. The im­por­tant thing is to al­ways un­der­stand your own bias and to not sim­ply hire peo­ple who are as sim­i­lar to you as pos­si­ble. Di­ver­sity fos­ters bet­ter de­ci­sion­mak­ing and leads to more cre­ative, less ex­treme solutions, as many stud­ies have shown.

You have con­ducted a large num­ber of in­ter­views dur­ing your ca­reer. How do you dis­cover more about a can­di­date’s per­son­al­ity dur­ing an in­ter­view?

The way peo­ple see them­selves and rate their abil­i­ties is very im­por­tant. That is why I ask ques­tions that lead in that direc­tion, such as: How would you de­scribe your­self? How would your best friend de­scribe you? What are your hob­bies? I get sus­pi­cious if they only give me ‘su­per­hero’ an­swers. Nowa­days, peo­ple work in teams al­most all the time – and they achieve suc­cess to­gether. That can prove dif­fi­cult for ‘ lone wolves’. Credit Suisse has more than 46,000 em­ploy­ees from 170 na­tions. What is the most

dif­fi­cult as­pect of man­ag­ing a work­force with such a di­verse range of cul­tures?

It is of the ut­most im­por­tance that we re­spect these dif­fer­ences – as I said: Di­ver­sity leads to bet­ter re­sults. At the same time, we have to cre­ate a global frame­work and prin­ci­ples and rules that ap­ply to ev­ery­one.

Credit Suisse stud­ies1, show that women rep­re­sent a large body of un­ex­ploited po­ten­tial and that com­pa­nies with more fe­male man­agers gen­er­ate higher re­turns and prof­its. How can you in­crease the pro­por­tion of women in man­age­ment roles?

2 The ad­vance­ment of women is a pri­or­ity for all ma­jor com­pa­nies – nat­u­rally, that in­cludes Credit Suisse. I take the view that it is very im­por­tant to re­port reg­u­larly and trans­par­ently on the mea­sures taken in this area, for ex­am­ple, as well as on our progress and as­pi­ra­tions. We need to re­main fo­cused on this topic.

How far have you come?

Com­pa­nies need to be more flex­i­ble and to pro­vide part-time po­si­tions or job­shar­ing, as well as pro­grams to help em­ploy­ees re­turn to work af­ter a pe­riod of ab­sence. Our ‘Real Re­turns’ pro­gram has proved very suc­cess­ful, for ex­am­ple. There is also a need to have con­vinc­ing role mod­els. I think we are on the right track and that if we take stock of where we stand a few years from now, we will see we have achieved fur­ther sig­nif­i­cant progress.

What ca­reer ad­vice would you of­fer a young per­son?

First: Have the courage to do some­thing you en­joy. Sec­ond: Re­mem­ber that it is all about peo­ple. Work with peo­ple you re­spect and who sup­port each other and treat you fairly. 1 “The CS Gen­der 3000: The Re­ward for Change” credit-suisse.com/gen­der3000

2 “Hid­den re­serve of the la­bor mar­ket is likely to re­main hid­den” credit-suisse.com/mon­i­tor­switzer­land

There is no doubt about it: Ad­vances in in­for­ma­tion tech­nol­ogy, ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence and ro­bot­ics will have far-reach­ing im­pli­ca­tions for the world of work. Peo­ple are once again com­pet­ing with ma­chines, and this time around it’s no longer just a question of brute strength, but also in­creas­ingly one of brain power.

The ex­tent and speed at which jobs will dis­ap­pear is dif­fi­cult to pre­dict at the mo­ment. How­ever, a look at the spe­cific ac­tiv­i­ties in­volved in var­i­ous pro­fes­sions does pro­vide some clues. This is be­cause these ac­tiv­i­ties de­ter­mine whether a pro­fes­sion is vul­ner­a­ble to au­to­ma­tion. One of the key as­pects here is the “rou­tine in­ten­sity” of an ac­tiv­ity. Rou­tine ac­tiv­i­ties are those that can be pro­grammed eas­ily enough that they can be per­formed by com­put­ers, ro­bots, or al­go­rithms.

In par­tic­u­lar, re­cent progress in the area of ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence is open­ing up new op­por­tu­ni­ties in this re­spect. While in the past, ma­chines were only able to carry out rou­tine man­ual tasks, now they can also per­form cer­tain cog­ni­tive work be­cause of their abil­ity to learn. Due to the enor­mous ex­pan­sion of cheap com­put­ing power and the dig­i­ti­za­tion of busi­ness pro­cesses, there is now a wealth of data that self-learn­ing sys­tems can use to con­stantly im­prove through ex­pe­ri­ence.

Peo­ple still want to chat with their hair­dresser Pro­fes­sions that in­volve a lot of rou­tine are not sim­ply those that are low-skill. Many skilled pro­fes­sions re­quire not only spe­cial­ist knowl­edge, but also anal­y­sis and de­ci­sion-mak­ing skills that can now be dig­i­tized and au­to­mated. At first glance, it may seem para­dox­i­cal: Typ­i­cal mid­dle man­age­ment pro­fes­sions, such as those that in­volve book­keep­ing, credit checks or an­a­lyz­ing X-ray im­ages, are there­fore more sus­cep­ti­ble than sim­ple man­ual ac­tiv­i­ties. The lat­ter of­ten in­volve man­ual but in­ter­ac­tive or oth­er­wise non-repet­i­tive tasks which can­not read­ily be re­placed by dig­i­tal tech­nol­ogy. So while ro­bots have now taken over au­dit­ing work, it is still pos­si­ble to chat with your hair­dresser at the sa­lon. Look­ing at the Swiss pro­fes­sional land­scape, this shift toward an­a­lyt­i­cal, non-rou­tine tasks can al­ready be seen. Since the turn of the mil­len­nium, the share of pro­fes­sions that largely in­volve a rou­tine ac­tiv­ity has fallen from 47 per­cent to 37 per­cent. Con­versely, the share of pro­fes­sions that are pri­mar­ily made up of an­a­lyt­i­cal, non-rou­tine tasks has in­creased from 22 per­cent to 31 per­cent. Not all can­tons are equally af­fected by au­to­ma­tion trends, re­flect­ing dif­fer­ences in sec­tor struc­ture (see chart).

The more in­dus­trial jobs a can­ton has, the higher, on av­er­age, the sub­sti­tu­tion po­ten­tial. At the cur­rent pace of tech­no­log­i­cal change, there are signs that fu­ture ac­tiv­i­ties that were pre­vi­ously con­sid­ered non-rou­tine will in­creas­ingly be­come rou­tine. One good ex­am­ple of this is pre­sented by the ef­forts to mass pro­duce self-driv­ing trucks and the re­quire­ments for test­ing the use of such ve­hi­cles.

But a high level of au­tomata­bil­ity does not mean that peo­ple will be re­placed by ma­chines. The eco­nomic fea­si­bil­ity of such an in­vest­ment plays a role, along with le­gal and eth­i­cal issues. The rel­a­tive costs of la­bor and cap­i­tal are cru­cial. And, last but not least, new tech­nolo­gies can also lead to other types of work in new ar­eas.

To para­phrase Erik Bryn­jolf­s­son (see Bul­letin 1/16), a pro­fes­sor at the MIT Sloan School of Man­age­ment in Cambridge, Mas­sachusetts, and an ex­pert on the dig­i­tal econ­omy: We need to learn to run with the ma­chines, not against them. Sara Car­nazzi We­ber is head of Swiss Sec­tor and Re­gional Anal­y­sis at Credit Suisse.

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