Employers discover diversity as an asset

10th June 2004, Comments 0 comments

10 June 2004 , FRANKFURT - A growing number of German employers are beginning to see diversity among their employees as an asset, where varying ideas, ethnicities, views and biographies can actually help the company. "Companies that place emphasis on diversity don't do so because of ethical reasons but because a diverse staff is more creative and successful," says Michael Stuber of mi.st Consulting in Cologne. Stuber, a diversity expert, explains that employees who learn to be more open-minded in accepting

10 June 2004

FRANKFURT - A growing number of German employers are beginning to see diversity among their employees as an asset, where varying ideas, ethnicities, views and biographies can actually help the company.

"Companies that place emphasis on diversity don't do so because of ethical reasons but because a diverse staff is more creative and successful," says Michael Stuber of mi.st Consulting in Cologne.

Stuber, a diversity expert, explains that employees who learn to be more open-minded in accepting differences act the same with customers "and discover market segments that were earlier simply overlooked".

Barbara David, the diversity manager at Commerzbank in Frankfurt, says a company with "a diverse staff also has a better chance at understanding very different clients."

"A hundred years ago you only had men with the same social background working in the bank," David says. "Today we have employees from 78 different nationalities, very different age groups and very different views."

This has many advantages for the employer, David explains: "Heterogenous teams are productive."

The Ford factory in the German city of Cologne has lengthy experience of a diverse work force and won the special prize for "diversity" in a recent competition ranking Germany's best employers.

"In 1961 we were the first German company to employ Turkish citizens. Today a quarter of our staff in production are Turkish," says Hans Jablonski, diversity manager of the Ford works.

In 1993 when right-wingers carried out an arson attack on an apartment block that claimed the lives of five Turkish women, employees at the Ford plant placed a countrywide advertisement expressing their solidarity with the victims.

"We respect the Moslem faithful when they have Ramadan and they are fasting during the daytime," Jablonski says.

But he adds that the diversity concept is more than just respecting foreigners. "It is accepting differences as an enrichment and getting an entirely new perspective".

Elisabeth Girg, diversity manager at Deutsche Bank, says it is taking "an attitude where every person is respected with openness whether he has long hair or a different colour of skin or is double as old as oneself. It is taking the perspective first on what can be positive in being different."

If diversity is no problem in a company then nobody needs to put on a mask. "Homosexuals and lesbians need not think out a story on what they did on the weekend," says Barbara David. "If people are themselves they can identify more with their employer.

But Jablonski emphasizes that diversity is a long-term approach. "You can't practise it for a year and then give it up."

 DPA

Subject: German news

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