4 employees thinking about the elephant in the room

5 minutes reading time

How do you make the “elephants in the room” visible to everyone? Swisscom answered this question with Pulse and brought organizational innovation back to grassroots. The most important lesson learned: transparent feedback transforms “elephants in the room” into opportunities for improvement. We spoke to Philippe Nicod, Group Human Resources, Swisscom. Here are his top learnings.

Insights from an interview with Swisscom's Philippe Nicod. Written by Alexander Faga.

Learning 1: Transparency leads from the survey to empowerment

Swisscom initiated a cultural transformation several years ago, in which it laid the foundations to be an agile organisation. In doing so, they defined the following belief to strengthen the innovative power and increase the performance of the organisation:

• Greater transparency
• Increased personal responsibility
• A culture that values constructive feedback
• A culture of learning

“Pulse accelerates the huge learning process in the transformation to agile working methods.”

“Pulse accelerates the huge learning process in the transformation to agile working methods,” confirms Philippe. The transformation to an agile organization the size of Swisscom is not an easy one. In the early days of agile working at Swisscom, many employees did not know who was responsible for what. Thanks to the Pulse employee survey, this was uncovered and made visible to everyone. As a result, critical comments on the topic of agility decreased significantly within a year. “This would not have been possible without Pulse,” says Philippe. Pulse’s transparency strengthens values such as openness and trust — two essential factors that result in successful transformation. On the one hand, Pulse can build on the transformation that has started and, on the other hand, it helps to further develop the desired culture.

“I think the revolutionary thing about Pulse is the transparency and the very user-friendly evaluation of the results.”

The transparency of Pulse strengthens values such as openness and trust, two levers of successful transformation. On the one hand, Pulse can build on the transformation that has already begun, and on the other hand, it helps to further develop the desired culture.

Comparison of classic employee surveys and Pulse

Old world: classic survey New world: empowerment with Pulse
Top-down Bottom-up
60 questions 3-5 questions
6-9 months waiting time between survey and improvement measures Employees immediately implement improvement measures
Evaluation by HR Evaluation by team
Little trust through anonymity Confidence building through transparency

Employees discuss in front of a flipchart with a drawn elephant

Learning 2: Pulse enables improvement within a PI cycle

Before the introduction of Pulse, Swisscom, like many large companies, surveyed its employees every two years. The collection and evaluation of the comprehensive questionnaires took a lot of time — change measures were only implemented after a long delay. Employees abused the survey to get back at their superiors. Swisscom increasingly questioned the benefits of the employee survey in this form. The high effort and the problem orientation were two important reasons that led to the decision to advance the co-development and the use of Pulse.

Today, Pulse enables teams working at Swisscom according to SAFe (Scaled Agile Framework) to implement the improvements identified in Pulse promptly, i.e. within one PI (product increment — two to three months).

Learning 3: Pulse helps to test hypotheses – Example, health management

Swisscom's health management team deals intensively with Pulse comments on the topic of stress. It offers targeted measures to areas with above-average stress levels. This approach has worked. According to Philippe, the negative stress level has improved considerably in the last 3 years.

Pulse helped to refute the hypothesis that negative stress leads to more absences. Examination of the data showed that areas with a lot of short-term absences had a lower stress level. For example, in a call center, where a team member takes over the tasks of absent colleagues on a short-term basis, without any training.

In areas where someone cannot be replaced at short notice, the stress on employees increases. These employees often decide against a short absence. The consequence of this is long absences leading up to burnout.

Learning 4: Transparency accepted for 18,000 employees

At Swisscom, in the beginning, transparency was new and unusual for many employees. Suddenly, every employee could read the comments of all colleagues. Their teammates' comments were even shown with name and photo.The staff asked themselves: “What happens if I write a critical comment? Will I be punished for this in the next final year assessment? Or are we as a team ready to learn from it? What if the others cannot understand my opinion at all? Does transparency serve learning or is it just a control instrument?”

“Employees like to use Pulse because they have found that learning is the focus.”

Today Pulse is used with pleasure because the employees were able to determine that learning is at the forefront with Pulse. You can see this in concrete terms in the critical comments, which are continuously increasing. The organisation has learned to deal with transparency.

Philippe is a staunch supporter of transparency because it strengthens mutual trust in teams and makes the alternative simply unthinkable. This article shows why anonymous studies resemble a witch hunt.

Philippe Nicod is the lead of the Future Workforce Management chapter and creates tools that enable the organization to achieve more value from collaboration. At all levels: between people, within teams and across departments. Collective intelligence is his passion.

Portrait Philippe Nicod

Philippe Nicod

Lead Chapter Future Workforce Management — Swisscom


Swisscom AG is the leading Swiss telecommunications company and one of the leading IT companies in the country based in Worblaufen near Bern.

Illustration with a letter in an open envelope

Subscribe to our newsletter