Develop EPFL's HR strategy

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In 2018, we focused on implementing the first phases of the HR strategy that Senior Management introduced in April 2017, while continuing to handle the School’s core HR functions.  Explanations by Susanna Swann, Director of Human Resources at EPFL.

The new HR strategy reflects our desire to offer attractive jobs in a stimulating working environment and make sure the School has the full range of skills it requires. This entails adopting the right HR policies and procedures.

Our new strategy has three objectives:

Objective 1: clarify and, if needed, updateour HR policies and procedures so that they are aligned with theSchool’s top priorities, while taking into account our particular environment and legal requirements.

We are in the process of reviewing and updating our HR policies and procedures based on around 20 key topics, such as: compensation; performance management; talent and transition management; scientific staff on permanent contracts; and handling and preventing conflict and harassment.

  • Three projects in particular are currently under way: compensation review for IT staff, scholarships for PhD students and post-docs, and our hiring process. More projects will be launched in 2019.
  • We have brought our process for granting fixed-term contracts to administrative and technical staff into compliance with legal requirements, which entailed reviewing over 200 employment agreements. The percentage of staff on funded fixed-term contracts has been reduced from 12.7%to6.6%.
  • We helped set up a Respect in the Workplace unit tasked with implementing measures to prevent harassment, managing incidents when they do happen, and providing support to victims. The members of this unit were appointed by Senior Management.

Objective 2: develop our supervisors’ and professors’management skills.

We started offering management training to new tenure track assistant professors in March 2019, under an initiative spearheaded by Senior Management. The training will likely be offered to other types of EPFL professors as well. We have also developed a management training program for team leaders in our central services department and tested it on 20 employees. The results of this pilot project will be evaluated and the program will be extended to team leaders in other departments starting in 2019.

Throughout 2018, we helped managers and staff handle difficult situations, getting involved quickly when needed and suggesting practical solutions.

Objective 3: provide HR services tailored to the needs of our organization, including by digitizing some of those services.

We created two new cross-functional HR positions in 2018: a dedicated manager for all our HR policies and procedures, in connection with Objective 1; and a head of HR operations, in connection with Objective 3. In 2019, we will create a third position –a learning and development manager –to support Objective 2. In 2018, we also launched an initiative in conjunction with the Vice Presidency for Information Systems  to digitize some of our services. We also set up an e-recruitment website early in the year; it has gotten excellent feedback in terms of both saving time and boosting efficiency. Around 400 job offers were posted on the website in 2018, and some 7,000 applications were received.

Susanna Swann, Director of Human Resources

Governance | 11 articles