Your company places great emphasis on diversity. Could you explain why?
It’s very simple. We operate in 220 countries and territories, which makes us one of the world’s most international companies. We have around 490,000 staff from all the world’s countries, cultures and faiths. We want – in fact, we must – make use of their diverse perspectives for the benefit of our business. It’s mainly about respecting and motivating our workforce. But it is also the key to new markets, for it reflects the diversity of our customers, suppliers and investors around the world. That’s why diversity is a key component of our corporate culture.
Diversity is part of the corporate culture: what does that mean in practice?
In 2006, we developed a code of conduct in which we state our commitment to a respectful and appreciative working environment. But that’s not all: at our company, promoting diversity is also a leadership task and forms part of our senior managers’ job descriptions. They are responsible for ensuring diversity within their teams and utilising it successfully.
Large number of people with disabilities
Just how diverse is the company?
Around 60 per cent of our employees work outside Germany, with at least a third of them located outside Europe. There is a good spread of nationalities: even here in Germany, we have around 160 nationalities in our 200,000-strong workforce. We also have a significant proportion of women in our global workforce – around 36 per cent, with women accounting for almost 20 per cent of our middle and senior management. We also have a large number of people with disabilities – almost 9 per cent in Germany, which is roughly twice the German private sector average and well above the legal requirement.
When and how did the company recognise that diversity is important?
This is not a new topic for us. We have been working on diversity since the 1990s, although at that time, it was more about gender equality and equal rights for people with disabilities. Then we broadened the scope. A key factor is that since it was privatised in the 1990s, our company – a former public authority – has become increasingly international as a result of acquisitions and mergers and has expanded its business operations throughout the world. Around two thirds of our turnover is generated outside Germany – a very different scenario from 15 years ago. In parallel to this radical change, diversity has become an increasingly important issue for us. We are a ‘people business’ in a service industry, so we deal with customers from a wide range of sectors, cultures and backgrounds. We want our workforce to reflect this diversity so that we provide the best possible customer experience.
Diversity training and Diversity Week
Not all countries have the same attitude towards women’s or gay rights, for example. How do you deal with this?
We ourselves never deviate from our corporate standards, which are set out in the code of conduct that I have already mentioned. But of course, we have to show a degree of sensitivity to the cultural environment or legal situation in specific countries. In relation to diversity management, this means setting different priorities across countries and regions. Reflecting that, our diversity training is equally ‘diverse’. And we turn the global spotlight on this issue with Diversity Week, which takes place every year.
Where is there still some room for improvement on diversity issues within the company?
We need sustainable human resources policies so that diversity can help safeguard our company’s future success. The environment, markets and demographics are constantly changing, and the same applies to diversity management. For us, there is no doubt that diversity influences service quality, commitment and motivation – and that makes it a real competitive advantage.
Interview: Friederike Bauer
published in akzente 1/16