IMD International

Top Swiss companies base their competitiveness on internal strengths

Focus on talent management, strong governance and constant innovation is crucial for growth and competitiveness

December 19, 2014

Talent management, strong governance, innovation and organization are the key factors behind the growth and competitiveness of Switzerland’s “Top500” leading companies. This is the main finding of the latest annual Top500 study conducted by Accenture, a management consulting, technology and outsourcing services company, in collaboration with the IMD World Competitiveness Center. This year’s study identifies 36 Swiss “Growth Champions” that have increased sales and profitability faster than other Top500 companies over a period of five years. Three companies are Growth Champions for the fourth year in succession: Richemont, Swatch and Sonova.

Half of those companies recognized as last year’s Growth Champions also made it onto the list this year. For the first time the study has identified Growth Champions from the banking and insurance sectors.

“The study shows that successful Swiss companies did not invest heavily in new businesses or digital technologies to promote growth, nor did they overemphasize risk management practices as one of their key priorities. In fact, Growth Champions would rather strengthen their organizations and focus on the talent and commitment of their employees," said Thomas D. Meyer, CEO and Country Managing Director at Accenture Switzerland.

The study finds that Growth Champions create 18% more jobs on average than other firms in the Top500 list, meaning that the Swiss economy is also benefitting as a whole from these successful companies.

“The IMD World Competitiveness Center is a pioneer in assessing the ability of countries to manage their resources and capabilities. Now, for the first time, and in partnership with Accenture, we can assess the ability of companies to gain market share, generate jobs, and create value,”said Professor Arturo Bris, Director of the IMD World Competitiveness Center.

Talent management crucial for growth

The study shows that Growth Champions place a significantly higher emphasis than their peers on developing employees. These companies recognize the close correlation between their performance, their success in the so-called "War for Talent" and the engagement of their employees. They also report higher productivity and lower rates of absenteeism.

Strong governance, clear responsibilities

Clearly defined roles and responsibilities at all levels are a distinctive feature of Switzerland’s most successful companies. Top firms are more successful than average companies in ensuring continuous interaction and cooperation between the Board and the management team. In addition, Growth Champions focus heavily on process excellence in their core business and transparent decision-making.

Innovation as the key to expanding into new revenue pools

Innovation is another important factor separating the most successful companies from the rest. Growth Champions describe innovation as an essential part of their strategy in addition to creating an open corporate culture that fosters innovative and creative thinking.

Internal strength and organization

The study shows that the most competitive Swiss firms are focusing on their perceived strengths and organizational structures. They understand organizational transformation as a task that must be mastered from within. The strategic priority of top managers, therefore, is “to focus on, and foster, their differentiating competences.”

Few investments in digital technologies

Given their internal focus over the past five years, investments in technologies for digitization have not been among the key priorities for Swiss Growth Champions. "Top companies are fully aware of the importance of innovative technologies. However, no major investments have yet been made in this area, “ Meyer said. "The level of digitization differs greatly from industry to industry. In particular, companies in Switzerland are feeling the pressure from Anglo-Saxon and Asian markets, which are much further developed in this area. Swiss companies should be looking at ways to adapt their strategies to take advantage of the opportunities that technology in the digital world provides to ensure their future competitiveness."

For more information, visit:

Your next step

© 2017 IMD International. All Rights Reserved.