Investment in people
We offer our employees a flexible and inclusive work environment and an open culture.
Our employees are key to our success
At Sonova, our employees contribute to something greater than themselves – they transform lives. We work towards enhancing the quality of life of millions by bringing better hearing to people with hearing loss. Our shared corporate values – innovation, engagement, and responsibility – shape the culture that defines and unites us as a company across all brands and regions.
Global trends such as demographic changes, limited availability of specialist talent, and the need to adapt quickly to shifting markets highlight the importance of a proactive staffing strategy for Sonova. We strongly believe that developing talent with the goal of ensuring internal succession is vital to sustainable success. Appointing internally to key positions while retaining and developing skilled employees helps to ensure that Sonova’s specialist knowledge and intellectual property remain within the company, sustaining our competitive advantage. In 2016, we were able to fill 53% of our open leadership positions with Sonova employees, thereby reaching our long term target.
Our conscientious treatment of our workforce, professional leadership culture, and proactive approach to employee retention over the past years have combined to reduce our global employee turnover to the very low level of 10.8%. The average tenure of our managerial staff is 8.2 years, while the total average workforce tenure is 6.2 years. All in all, the low turnover rates and the high tenure figures confirm what is implied by our global employee satisfaction rate of above 80%.
Employee turnover rates
In the reporting year, the Sonova Group increased its workforce by 29% to 14,089 full time equivalents. The increase is in line with our expansion strategy and is explained by our acquisitions in the retail business, adding 2,824 full time equivalent employees, as well as by increased capacity at our production center in Vietnam (254 full time equivalents).
Employees by region
Human resource organization
The majority of our employees are directly supported by a local human resources manager. At our corporate headquarters in Switzerland, we develop – in collaboration with our group companies – and monitor a comprehensive set of global human resource processes, standards, and policies, which are implemented locally in line with country-specific regulations and customs. We assess the impact of all our activities through a set of key performance indicators such as turnover, internal leadership recruitment rate, and bench strength. Regular audits ensure compliance with internal regulations and local labor law, with the objective to provide excellent working conditions and monitor progress in all our locations. Around 7% of Sonova’s global workforce is covered by collective bargaining agreements.
We offer a flexible and inclusive work environment and an open culture that inspires personal growth and professional development. By regularly reviewing the competencies, performance, potential, and career plans of our employees, we invest in the development of each individual’s strengths. Our global Succession Planning process allows us to mitigate the risk of losing expertise in key positions while identifying and developing promising candidates for internal succession.
The Sonova Academy is our group-wide education platform. In close collaboration with selected external partners (such as the University of St. Gallen and INSEAD in Paris), our Academy offers targeted programs and provides an opportunity for our leaders, managers, and best-performing talents to enhance their skills and competencies. The Sonova Academy also serves as a cross-business learning network that provides consistency and supports change throughout our organization. The structure of our Academy reflects the Group’s global structure. International programs address themes that are relevant across national and organizational boundaries. The programs are available to participants from around the world and all Sonova business units. Regional programs, while sharing similar concepts, emphasize regional and brand-specific content.
The Leadership Advanced program further extends Sonova’s portfolio of leadership development programs. Lasting three days, it builds on the Leadership Essentials syllabus, focusing on more advanced topics to equip Sonova’s managers with the strategic tools and approaches they need to drive change and shape the company’s future of Sonova. Through intensive feedback, coaching, and experiential exercises, the program gives participants the chance to reflect on their personal style, to understand and to increase the impact they have on their company’s performance, and to plan how they will continue to develop as leaders at Sonova.
Young talent wanted
Sonova has an excellent network of research collaboration with various leading universities around the world, where students can participate in joint studies and other activities. We offer them the opportunity to work in our organization as a member of one of our Research and Development teams, either in an internship, or as part of their Bachelor’s, Master’s, or PhD thesis work.
Our talent acquisition process also targets the most sought-after group of professionals in our industry: experts in audiology. To support our constant need for top audiologists, we offer an international Audiological Traineeship program, with training placements in the US, Canada, and Switzerland. This program is an opportunity for ambitious audiology graduates to benefit from a one-year formal development and rotation experience, where they will have the opportunity to work with our talented audiologists in various business units (Audiology, Marketing, Customer Training, Sales, and Research) before starting on their career path with Sonova.
At Sonova we conscientiously support and invest in Switzerland’s effective dual training system, which links formal education with technical apprenticeships. The number of our apprentices has doubled since 2013. We train more than 40 apprentices at our headquarters, three of whom have disabilities. The range of Sonova apprenticeships is highly diverse, offering training in twelve professions, from polymechanics and logistics to cooking.
Diversity and inclusion
Sonova is currently present in over 100 countries around the globe and has a workforce of over 14,000 dedicated employees with a broad mix of experiences and backgrounds. We consider this diversity to be key to our success, since it represents our global customer base and fosters innovation. All facets of diversity are important to us; we strive to create an inclusive environment where everyone – regardless of age, gender, language, ethnic origin, religion, culture, or health status – can contribute and realize their full potential. Our commitment to diversity is recorded in our Code of Conduct and is binding for all our employees.
As the world’s largest hearing care provider, Sonova is campaigning for equal opportunities and a better quality of life for people with hearing loss. It is our vision to create a world where everyone enjoys the delight of hearing and lives a life without limitations. By offering the most comprehensive range of solutions to treat all major forms of hearing loss, we aim for our customers to feel fully included in society. To help us reach this challenging goal, our workforce and work culture need to reflect the values of diversity and inclusion.
Building a diverse workforce
We realize that one of the most effective ways to understand and meet the needs and desires of our diverse customers is to have a workforce that reflects this diversity. We therefore make it a priority to recruit a wide range of people who share our passion and bring in new skills and experiences. To guarantee a balanced mix, we have a special focus on recruiting and promoting women in leadership and executive positions.
We actively support the compatibility of having a career and a family by promoting flexible working models for both men and women, such as home office, flexible working hours, and part time work in leadership positions. Since April 2017, new terms of employment guarantee our employees a number of additional family related benefits, including 16 weeks of maternity leave, two weeks of paternity leave, and the possibility to purchase additional vacations. In all our production sites, where shift work is standard, employees returning from maternity leave can choose to work at between 50% and 100% of their previous level during their first year back. We operate our own day care center at our headquarters in Stäfa and financially support lower-salary employees, in our production center in Vietnam and in Stäfa, to help pay for day care. Thanks to various family policy measures and a commitment to promote equal opportunities, we are pleased to report that women now fill 46% of our leadership positions.
Sonova also provides reasonable accommodation in its job application procedures for qualified individuals with disabilities, or to enable otherwise qualified individuals with disabilities to perform essential job functions.
Advancing our culture of inclusion and innovation
Inclusion as a foundation of corporate culture is an integral part of how we benefit from the diversity of our workforce: by embracing the differences that makes each of our employees exceptional. We are committed to creating a safe, positive, and nurturing work environment where all people feel valued, respected, and heard. We are convinced that this promotes thoughtful and valuable dialog and fosters innovation. We actively include diversity topics in our employee communication and leadership programs to raise awareness and continuously advance our culture of inclusion.
Employement numbers by gender – Women
Employement numbers by gender – Men
Ratio women in leadership positions
Ratio women in executive positions
Sonova group companies and operation centers take specific prevention and health promotion measures to help maintain and enhance each employee’s capacity for productive and fulfilling work. In 2016, Sonova launched its global Body & Mind Initiative to align and support its various current prevention measures. This health initiative rests on four main pillars:
- Sound and well balanced nutrition
- Physical and mental harmony through exercise
- Re-energizing through active relaxation
- Medical care through regular check-ups and vaccinations.
Our group companies are responsible for implementing Body & Mind measures locally and for continuously refining programs in all four of its areas. Among examples of best practice are health coaches, who lead employees at our operation centers in three-minute break-time exercises to reduce muscle tension. Our Advanced Bionics site in California has been designated, for the third year in a row, as a Gold Fit-Friendly Worksite by the American Heart Association.
Occupational health and safety
Sonova has established an effective occupational health and safety culture that supports and protects our employees. We regularly monitor and analyze the potential health and safety risks of our operations and implement both legally-required and voluntary occupational health and safety programs.
Sonova’s operations have a relatively low exposure to health and safety risk, but we are committed to continuous improvement here as elsewhere. We therefore investigate each incident to determine its cause and to take steps to prevent any reoccurrence. Our low exposure to health and safety risk is once again reflected in the figures for this financial year. Any incident which requires external medical health care is considered as a work-related injury and is reported in the table below. In general, such injuries and lost work days are not caused by the manufacturing processes; they are more likely to be sustained during activities such as movement of goods. The injury rate (IR), which covers the Sonova headquarters in Stäfa and the manufacturing sites in Asia, is at the very low level of 0.44.