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 Courage to Explore Text SARA REHM / Photo JÖRG EBERL
Companies can find it hard to promote diversity.
Yet diversity can be learned. Bosch is a good example of this—and of the resulting financial benefits.
employing methods such as workshops on un- conscious bias. These workshops are two-hour events that use feedback and role-play to help employees confront their biases and behavior. In contrast to conventional seminars, the focus here is on direct experience. “You have to actu- ally switch your own perspective, not just listen to other people talk about it.”
Diversity starts with the choice of person- nel. In an effort to ensure that the most suitable applicant is actually hired as opposed to the one who most resembles the boss, Stock worked to- gether with Porsche Consulting to develop new approaches. One of these was the introduction of subtle cues known as “nudges.” These were used to encourage better decision-making processes on the part of HR experts and su- pervisors. Job interviews have since been held whenever possible in the morning—because people tend to be more rational then and less susceptible to their emotional predilections. A maximum of two interviewers are present, to minimize mutual influence. Algorithms can also help—for example, in checking whether job ads have a more feminine or masculine orientation.
The next level of development, according to Stock, is for the insights from diversity manage- ment to become part of the company’s fabric and enter the hearts and minds of its employ- ees. She knows there is still a long way to go. “Diversity is hard work,” she says. “But every day we learn a little more. I’m convinced that appre- ciation and openness can make a substantial contribution to the success of every company.”
To measure the amount of progress made, Stock and her team have defined key indicators. These indicators range from the percentage of non-German and/or female leadership per- sonnel to the number of different flexible work models available. The figures show that Bosch is on the right track. A survey found that four out of five employees are very pleased with their work-life balance. The percentage of women in leadership positions is also looking up at the corporation. In 2011, women held 9.5 percent of these positions worldwide. Eight years later, that figure has risen to 17 percent. For an industrial company with a strong focus on the natural sciences, says Stock, that’s not bad at all.
Few companies can claim to be as inter- national as Bosch, which employs more than 420,000 women and men of 150 different nationalities at 450 locations
around the world. A glance at these figures would lead one to believe that Bosch is diverse by definition, and that it’s perfectly natural for its employees from a wide range of cultures and origins to work together.
But things are not quite that simple, says Heidi Stock, a native of Düsseldorf and Bosch’s Head of Talent Management and Diversity. It would be a mistake to believe that diversity doesn’t need any management. Diversity means much more than that, and extends beyond bringing people of different genders, sexual orientations, and or- igins together. “Experiences, perspectives, and lifestyles are more important,” she says. “We’re talking about inner dimensions.”
In 2007, Bosch was one of the first compa- nies to sign Germany’s diversity charter, which helps companies document and strengthen their commitment to diversity. A look beyond the Bosch Group makes it clear that this topic is here to stay. The number of businesses that see diversity as a strategic instrument is grow- ing, although not always on a voluntary basis. Megatrends like digitalization are compelling them to change their structures. The old mod- el of a patriarch directing a rigid hierarchy has proved too cumbersome for the 21st century’s connected approach to ideas and action and for the sheer pace of the demands confront- ing companies today. To find answers to these challenges, more people have to shoulder the requisite tasks and responsibilities. Mixed teams can be one solution. Such teams are more innovative and future-oriented than their homogeneous counterparts.
When Stock joined Bosch some fifteen years ago, the focus was on promoting women. Today that has changed. “Diversity is not a women’s
issue—it affects every one of us,” she says. As far as she is concerned, not every employee has to like all their colleagues. Nor does she wish to change individual private preferences. In- stead, her focus is on encouraging an attitude of mutual appreciation. Because where that is prevalent, people happily contribute their ideas and experience. To product development, for example. And that can be a factor in success. The idea for Bosch’s IXO, a top-selling compact cordless screwdriver, arose during a conversa- tion between a female marketing director and a male engineer. “Diversity is our advantage” is therefore the name of a campaign designed by Stock and her team at corporate headquarters in Gerlingen near Stuttgart, together with di- versity coordinators from around the world. It has already put more than 200 different mea- sures into practice.
Things that now appear obvious have of- ten had to be learned. Consider the example of a 2011 project called Mindset Organisation Executives (MORE), in which a total of 150 managers participated. “There was a strict cul- ture of workplace presence back then,” recalls Stock. “Many people simply could not imagine that it’s possible to work productively from home or a café, away from all the pressure of office meetings.”
The managers proceeded to test a new mod- el over a period of three months. The many re- sults included greater quality of life, more time for families, and a greater ability to concentrate on work. At the end of the project, 80 percent of the participants decided to continue working on this flexible basis. Today models of this type have long since taken a firm hold in business life. And that includes Stock’s as well—she has even conducted the occasional job interview while watching her son play tennis.
In her role as a diversity manager, Stock consistently fosters this learning process,
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