Retirees’ event: a journey of discovery in Kaiseraugst

The Roche Employees' Association (AVR) is holding its retirees' event four times this year: twice last weekend, twice next weekend. A total of 1,081 people have registered for it.

Participants on Saturday 22 June got their first surprise as soon as they arrived on the Roche site in Kaiseraugst. It wasn't just coffee and croissants waiting for them in Building 218: at 9 a.m. the entire Roche Big Band struck up to welcome them.

They then moved to the auditorium, where they were greeted by Adnan Tanglay, President of AVR Basel, Reto Buholzer, President of the AVR Central Switzerland branch, and Roland Frank, President of the Roche Pensioners' Association. They were then shown a time-lapse film bringing home to them the unbelievable progress made at the Kaiseraugst site. In his address Jürg Erismann, Head of the Basel/Kaiseraugst site, gave them the accompanying figures. Seven new buildings appeared here in five years, in which Roche invested a billion francs. Some 2,800 people work here today, while in 1980 there were just 200. "Where the auditorium is today", Jürg recalled, "there used to be a car park with a parking deck." The nature of the site's activities has changed, too – from diagnostics and vitamins in the past to IT, the Learning Center and the processing of active ingredients into finished products today.

Participants were able to form their own impressions on the tour that followed. Volunteers divided them into small groups and showed them around the new buildings, at each of which they were given information by specialists. Snacks were available between buildings, accompanied by music from Eva Wine & Jazz.

To most participants, the Learning Center in Building 257 probably felt strange. A terminal with a digital console and display boards – and refreshments[CK{1] – is surrounded by impulse spaces for group work and learning landscapes. "Traditional classroom instruction is more or less out," said Markus Stihl, the manager responsible for the Learning Center, who was accompanied by Marc Wittlin, a staff member in the OCM Learning & Adoption Department. "These days it's about enabling all individuals to get the training that suits their needs."

The Experio school laboratory in Building 229, which the group visited next, is also part of the Learning Center. Providing early support for the STEM professions (science, technology, engineering and mathematics), it is designed to give children and young people their first practical experience in this area. The lab is aimed at children in the fourth year of primary school, young people at the age when they choose a profession, and everyone in between. Roche also has plenty to offer in the way of apprenticeships. Dr Matthias Nettekoven, Head of Vocational Training, told participants that the company trains apprentices in a total of 14 professions, from chemical lab technician to animal technician.

In Building 256, conversely, it was all about architecture. One of the three buildings that form the "Home for IT", Building 256 was created by Basel architects Nissen und Wentzlaff. The two tango stairs – long ago nicknamed "Harry Potter” stairs by Roche employees – are an eyecatcher here. "Each weighs 15 tonnes," Regine Hohmann of the building department told the visitors. "They had to be lifted into the building by crane." The participants had a very practical question: they wanted to know what Activity Based Working (ABW) looks like at Roche. They got the answer on a visit to an office implementing the concept, and in Building 255 they were shown a film with more information about it. The ABW means that employees no longer have assigned desks, and can look for a free workstation when they arrive in the morning. "They all have felt boxes for personal items," explained IT staff members Stefan Gunzinger, Giuseppe Praiano and Dario Celant. "They keep them with them during the day, and store them in lockers in the evening."

Building 255 also houses the Innovation Lab. "People with good ideas often used to get nowhere with them," said Harald Witzig, its Director – "because their line managers weren't interested, for example, or because there was no time to work on them." The Innovation Lab is intended to serve as a first port of call, identifying ideas that are relevant to the company and helping creative staff to implement them.

After all this information the retirees – 269 of whom had registered for the day – were more than ready for lunch. The staff restaurant in Building 206 served up a three-course meal with a main course of veal ribeye steak, morel and cream sauce, spring vegetables and roast potatoes. Background musical entertainment was provided by the Querblechlein brass ensemble. Over lunch participants recalled their impressions of the day: "I don't suppose it's all as wonderful as it sounds", said Andreas Maurer – "but Roche is doing a lot for the future, the company is on the move. People must be happy to work here." And Mario Caravatti, his former colleague in Diagnostics, added: "All the company can do is create the right conditions. What people actually achieve is up to them."

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