Perspectives from ISB

Hilti Corporation is a global company that has been consistently rated as one of the best for people practices, by Fortune and the Sunday Times. Professor Kavil Ramachandran, Executive Director of the Thomas Schmidheiny Centre for Family Enterprise, Indian School of Business, in a freewheeling discussion with Prof Dr Pius Baschera of the Hilti Corporation talks about the unique approach to inculcating corporate culture and values at Hilti.

Hilti is known for its excellent culture, innovative practices, customer orientation and a clear strategy, all of which have led to its growth. Dr. Baschera says that Hilti has clearly identified strategic pillars and what the key issues are to implement the strategy; this is developed and communicated across the whole organisation, to all the 26,000 people around the world. It starts from the top, from the board of directors and the executive board.

Hilti started about 30 years ago to define the values that are important to them. The values are: Team, Commitment, Integrity and Courage. Baschera says that culture building at Hilti is a two-year long cycle that gets repeated. The cycle starts with the executive board and the board of directors spending 2-3 days together, reflecting and discussing the culture, values, and business challenges for the subsequent 3-4 years. There they decide as to what to include and what to exclude in these cultural trainings. They then roll out these team camps across the organisation. Each of them in turn is involved with the next level of executives in small groups of 10-12 people, and this continues through the organisational hierarchy, across the world, covering all the 26,000 employees. There are about 75 cultural trainers at any time, who become facilitators for a period of time. They are selected carefully for this important assignment, from various functions. They ensure that these cultural sessions are adapted to local country culture. They spend about 10 million euros every year on this important activity.

At these sessions, the four Hilti values are discussed in detail and are always linked with concrete business issues. These can be strategy issues, operational issues, cost issues, people issues and so on.

The key challenge to implement such a massive exercise is the time needed. If you have to start with five or ten people, it is easy but if you have presence in 120 countries, ten plants around the world, 4-5 research departments and a big headquarters, then it would take decades, not 2-3 years to develop it. And the challenge is that you are not deviating from it, says Baschera.

There is a huge level of stewardship as a value built in, in Hilti. Organisational goals more important than personal goals. When the founder of Hilti, Martin Hilti stepped down, his son Michael Hilti, 46 then, told his father that he did not want to be both the CEO and chairman at the same time; he wanted to split these roles. So he decided to be the chairman and offered Baschera the CEO position of the company. So it is not the role, nor the position or the ego that is important at Hilti, but it is the company first and then they do whatever is best for the company.

Source: ISBInsight, Volume 4, Issue 4, pp58-64


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