An interview with Prof. Dr. -Ing Axel Stepken (CEO)
Diverse perspectives help companies to understand different customer needs and to develop innovative business solutions. Leaders play a key role in fostering diversity within teams for greater business results.
What does diversity and inclusion mean for you personally?
For me personally, diversity means recognising that we are all unique and we are all valuable. Each and every person brings with them a multitude of diverse qualities and experiences. I believe it's our shared responsibility to create a (working) world that respects everyone, regardless of age, ethnicity, nationality, gender or gender identity, physical or mental ability, religion or beliefs, sexual orientation or social class.
And for TÜV SÜD as a business?
As a business, we see that fostering diversity and inclusion opens up new opportunities. A culture that enables EVERYONE to fully grow and develop doesn't only help each individual person, but also our company as a whole.
For one, it helps us stay competitive as attractive employers in an increasingly challenging recruitment market, ensuring we can attract the best talent. It also helps us have a wide range of perspectives when considering the performance of our company and the future development of our business. We can better understand a fuller range of challenges, more successfully anticipate customer needs and thereby develop bespoke business models that are fully future-proof.
One area that particularly benefits from diversity is innovation. Several studies show that diverse teams deliver more creative and more successful results. This increased potential in innovation helps us, in turn to be more prepared for the workplace of the future. As the application of artificial intelligence (AI) continues to rapidly develop, diverse teams are already helping it to avoid bias, thereby preventing potential mistakes arising from its use.
Of course, we can't forget that diversity and inclusion are an important part of our corporate responsibility. We don't only think of the impact our business has on the environment, but have always considered the impact our business has on people – both inside and outside our organization.
Over 155 years ago, our business was founded on the principle of protecting people, assets and the environment from technology-related risks. And this remains our aim to this very day. We need to face an increasingly complex world and its interactive technology with appropriately multi-faceted approaches. This works best with a range of experiences, as diverse as possible, coming together in one team.
What role is the TÜV SÜD Leadership Team playing with a view to inclusion and diversity in the workplace?
Senior management have a very important role to play here – both as role models and as amplifiers. We can only instil in the wider organisation things that we are living and breathing at management level.
Our managers need to have the skills required to lead diverse teams – diversity can also be challenging. It takes strong leadership skills to really make the most of diverse teams. Soft skills and communication skills will continue to become ever more important.
It's also crucial that we increase every single colleague's awareness of the problem of unconscious prejudice. We aim to refine our processes to create guidelines that avoid personal bias as much as possible. In particular, this impacts our HR processes, which are an important tool in our promotion of diversity. In areas where bias or unconscious stereotyping could have an impact on decisions regarding selection (such as recruitment or promotion), it's especially important to counteract the potential influence of bias. Here again, senior management in particular must scrutinise their attitudes and decisions.
What are the priorities for diversity and inclusion in the next 2 years?
We feel a greater sense of openness and know that a lot has already been done over the past years. But we appreciate that diversity is still not visible at all levels, and that progress is moving slowly in certain areas (for example women in management positions) – we are not alone on this one – unfortunately.
For this reason, we have decided to increase our commitment to diversity management, by developing concrete goals. And that's not only goals regarding more women in management positions, but other forms of diversity too. Diversity can't be a 'nice to have'. We want to move forward strategically and ambitiously, and we'll keep track of our progress, just as we do with other key business targets.
In order to achieve these goals, each and every TÜV SÜD office and colleagues can and need to play their part. This requires all of us – because openness, tolerance and acceptance are everybody's responsibility. Diversity can only succeed through togetherness.
Learn more about the world of TÜV SÜD and our diversity activities.
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