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Diversity management ensures variety in companies

In the current debate on diversity management, at German companies, the focus is on quotas for women. While this is important, since too few women are in leadership positions in Germany, diversity means more than that.

Diversity management is a type of business management that focuses on the heterogeneity of the staff. Individuality, as well as the integration of minorities and provision of equal opportunities are all important components of diversity management.

For the Germany economy, diversity is critical to survival

Diversity management aims to achieve variety in companies in terms of human resources and culture to the benefit of everyone involved. Of course, many projects are concerned with human resources policy, since the precondition for diversity is a staff with a ‘colourful mixture’ of employees. Staff diversity then impacts all business fields, including the diversity of the products, as well as the manner in which business is conducted. This is not only conducive for a company’s development, but also promotes a positive working atmosphere.

In an interview with the Germany weekly newspaper Die Zeit, BASF’s Global Head of Human Resources Margret Suckale said, ‘Diversity in general is becoming a matter of survival for the economy. What we need, namely diversity in practice, can only come about by combining all of the different experiences. This means that we need both German male chemists and Indian female engineers’.

Charta der Vielfalt e. V.

‘Charta der Vielfalt’ (Diversity Charter) is a campaign undertaken by large German companies that promotes diversity in companies. Since 2010, the sponsor of the initiative has been the public-benefit association ‘Charta der Vielfalt e.V.’ With the ‘diversity charter’, companies can declare their intent to promote and value differences in society.

Diversity management makes companies successful

Diversity management ultimately contributes to a company’s success. After all, companies profit from outstanding employees. And the way to attract these employees is to promote a company culture that values them. A primary aspect involves recognising the contributions of each and every staff member. This in turn motivates employees to contribute their potential for the benefit of the company.

At the same time, the ‘colourful make-up’ of the staff in itself constitutes a success factor. Open-minded companies that believe in diversity are often more creative and innovative and, in turn, generate higher profits.

Diversity instead of ‘monoculture’ when it comes to hiring employees

For a human resources department, diversity management therefore entails hiring both young and older men and women, people with and without disabilities, from any ethnic background and with any religious affiliation, no matter what their sexual orientation may be, in the spirit of equal opportunity.

On top of this, companies have to allow all employees the same career opportunities.
Car manufacturer Ford is a trailblazer when it comes to diversity management. Its plant in Cologne, Germany, employs people from over 55 different nations. Ford believes that the more diverse the staff, the more creative the solutions and, in turn, the products. This also makes the customer base more diverse. ‘When it comes down to it, diversity also sells cars’, said Brigitte Kasztan, Diversity Manager at Ford Europe.

Employees with a migration background often have huge potential, as do employees who are older, have disabilities or are gay or lesbian. Some companies have come to this realisation and have taken specific steps as part of diversity management.

Examples of diversity management at companies

At its plant in Dingolfing, Germany, BMW is successfully implementing the strategy of age diversity. In order to retain older employees in production longer, the company is providing ergonomically designed workplaces and breaks for stretching. BMW has even hired its own physiotherapists. At the Metro Group, older employees now constitute over one-third of the staff, which also includes around 5,500 people with disabilities.

IBM has launched a project with thousands of employees entitled Worldwide LGBT Reverse Mentoring, which focuses on dealing with lesbian, gay, bisexual and transsexual employees at the workplace. ‘Companies in Silicon Valley, as well as those in the start-up scene in Berlin, which have many LBGT employees, are good examples of this type of diversity management’, said Stuart Cameron, who organised STICKS & STONES, Berlin’s largest LGBT career fair.

Whether companies want to or not, in future, they will need to embrace diversity management. The shortage of experts and the demographic change will leave them no other choice if they want to stand out from the competition.

December 2013

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Comments

Henry Malik El-Tamer
19 December 2013

Dear Miriam,
opening up to diversity training and education seems to be the key. However, in the case of Germany, we may be running into a wall by drawing comparisons or looking up to countries that are doing it "better". Each society responds differently to its demographic transition. With that in mind, yes, we may want to use the example of American organizations as an inspiration but should be careful with trying to immitate their approach to achieving a more diversified corporate landscape.
Actually, the example of Ford that you have mentioned serves as a the best example. They have truly considered the social, demographic, and economic characteristics of their environment. In my opinion, changing perspective presupposes the following:
-First, I think it is very important that we foster a culture where people from all walks of life can stand for who they are. Only then can them being different be utilized as an asset. The only reason why they aren't is because of their fear of discrimination. So, celebrating differences and achieving inclusion would be the first milestone.
-Second, we need to caress the pride of the German industry and allow it to retain its distinctiveness. Quality, timeliness, reliatbility, and trustworthiness are synonymous with the slogan "Made in Germany". However, so is inflexibility and narrowmindedness! Bringing in different thought will pay huge dividends in our efforts of keeping the edge against our competitors.
-Third, we need to find a way to convey the notion that diversifying ourselves is not only the right thing to do but also brings about measurable profits and other benefits. There are plenty of case studies that support this claim. I don't know if you want me to go in that much detail :) This is a very interesting and thought provoking topic.

Miriam Moser
18 December 2013

@Henry Malik El-Tamer:
German companies are lagging behind to implement diversity in all its complexity, you say. They lack the perspective. Which countries do it better? Tell us positive examples. Was könnte einen Perspektivwechsel bewirken?
Thank you for the professional judgment!

Henry Malik El-Tamer
18 December 2013

What a great--and overdue--article on one of todays most relevant topics. Indeed, the importantce of diversity management remains to be fully understood by the broad mass of German organizations. Until today, it is often mistaken as a synonym for gender mainstreaming. In fact, diversity management is much more complex than commonly portrayed. It is about differences among people in terms of any dimension and includes everyone not just racial or ethnic minorities. The reality is, German organizations are desperate for diversity of leadership and are lagging far behind in this regard. Do we-- as an export nation--have the needed experience and cultural sensitivity to succeed in a global environment? Many of Germany's conglomerates know that the only potential for growth lies abroad, and this leaves us no choice but to embrace diversity management.
So, the question that presents itself at this point is: what are the barriers of effectively implementing diversity management? Having brainstormed about this question ever since realizing that Germany's industry is not scratching the surface of its potential in a number of high potential markets, I found myself occupied with these thoughts;
Organizations don't believe in a return on investment through diversifying themselves, probably as a result of sheer ignorance on part of their management
Inclusion of "others" raises competition fears
Management underestimates the potential that "others" bring to their organization
In conclusion, a lack of perspective seems to be the most critical barrier organisation have to overcome in order to embrace diversity management. At the end of the day, if sustainabile competitiveness is a sincere priority, there is no way around an increased diversity in corporate Germany.

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