Category Archives: People

Diversity: A Contribution To Commercial Success – Expert interview with Michael Stuber

 

Mr. Stuber, when ‘Diversity’ is mentioned, many people primarily think about having more women in management positions. But that's not really the right way to see it, is it?

Whether rightly or wrongly, the perception is understandable. We have, over the years, regularly analyzed the Annual Reports of large corporations. The results show that the focus on gender has remained practically unchanged over the past twenty years. However, the breadth of topics covered has indeed developed, as has dealing with all aspects of diversity.

Initially, gender was an obvious priority, partially because the concept of equal opportunity already existed. Diversity became a broad-platform approach in the 1990s. The aim was to work on multiple aspects of diversity at the same time, in a synergistic way. The thought behind it was simple and ingenious: The challenges in handling differences in gender, age, culture or religion are similar, so they can be dealt with in a consistent way. I call this approach the ‘propelling performance principle’.

The great thing about it is that people rediscover themselves in this concept, because it is all about recognizing individuality. Everyone has a gender, an – ever changing – age, a cultural background, etc. Our work-related diversity, such as collaboration skills, or language skills, mobility or creativity can be more directly linked with business objectives such as productivity or customer focus. That’s important for at the end of the day, in a corporate environment everything has to be aligned with the business.

This coherent and holistic approach to Diversity fell apart when political decisions led to a single-sided focus on women in management a few years ago. Since then, it has been more difficult to convey diversity in a comprehensive, and hence credible way, and to get support for it. Many companies actually exceed the legal requirements when it comes to gender employment ratios. Actually, half of Europe’s top 50 companies cover five or more aspects of diversity, saying clearly: diversity is more than gender.

 

Does that mean that companies don't only involve themselves with diversity because of political regulations? What are the commercial reasons, then?

Our analyses show that there are three distinct business reasons: Firstly, it makes strategic sense. That's because, in an age of globalized business models and rapid change, companies need concepts that promote collaboration and innovation amongst diverse groups of people. Secondly, there is the operational necessity. That's because customers and candidates expect companies to welcome diversity and offer an open, flexible work environment.

Thirdly and finally, there is commercial viability: Companies are increasingly finding, that they cannot afford not to fully utilize existing diversity. Amazingly, that still used to be the case. Our marketing analyses, for example, reveal a clear waste of potential sales due to one-sided advertising. There are also many examples of failures caused by a lack of diverse perspectives in decision-making processes. Diversity also increases individual productivity. That's because we work better, engage more, and work harder, if we feel valued and respected.

 

That sounds like some kind of magical means of production – in fact, a panacea for the economy: is diversity really as simple as that?

Yes and no. Our evidence-based ‘propelling performance principle’ describes the value creation process of diversity and inclusion: according to that model, it takes more than simply deliberately recognizing differences, it is also necessary to be consciously open-minded and to acknowledge the potential of different talent and perspectives. As in so many situations, goodwill alone is not enough. Creating value from diversity also requires involvement. That is true both for processes, which must be equally fair, and work equally effectively, for everyone involved, as well as for people’s behavior. What is involved here is collaboration and leveraging individual strengths for joint success.

To sum up, we have to say: Diversity is neither an end in itself nor a silver bullet for success. Since everyone finds it easier to work with people like us and ignore others, we must overcome our lazy human attitude and break the mold.

 

Which objectives can a company like ours set, to justify this effort?

First and foremost, companies must be clear about the contributions diversity can make to their business – for the company as a whole, and also for its parts. These commercial considerations should then lead to the setting of objectives for diversity. Having more women in management positions can be an indicator that the HR processes and the corporate culture take better account of the available talent pool than before. But having them as an end in itself makes little commercial sense.

Objectives should also be defined for the corporate culture or the company's image, for example, how its customers perceive it. Striving to win awards or prizes can be also be meaningful objectives, as has been shown in other contexts.

 

Can one of the aims of diversity be to create understanding of difference and break down stereotypes? And how would one work to achieve such an objective?

Understanding difference and breaking down stereotypes are core issues when it comes to diversity. They are used to strengthen employee motivation and engagement, increase team performance, and improve the utilization of talent.

In practical terms, this is a Herculean, or Sisyphean, task. It's Herculean because many of our most strongly-held views and opinions were formed many years ago, and companies find it difficult – even if it's only workplace related – to question some of their established values and assumptions that also formed and fostered in the family and social environment. Hence, everyone brings their perceptions of gender roles and cultural dynamics perspectives to the workplace, where they can act as a barrier.

Diversity is also a Sisyphean task, because progress made with great effort can be undone in a moment by unexpected and mostly unwanted events. We can see that happening currently with regard to the integration of minorities in society. Society's view of migrants had improved over the years. Studies showed that migration improved the prosperity of the indigenous population and was a necessity for industrial nations. And yet: since the subject of migrants has been taken up for political purposes, doubt, prejudice and even attacks have increased drastically. Against other minorities too, by the way.

 

And what progress are we making with gender equality? Is this also under threat?

The majority of indicators show that gender equality is on the right track. However, we are far from fully utilizing the huge potential of well-educated young women. Even if they generally do not realize this while they are young. But then, in the rush-hour of life they encounter the same effects as their mothers did: when they become parents, they agree with the father that HE will continue in full-time employment, particularly as companies are much less willing to support the careers of employees who work part time. And here, we can observe a rarely noticed phenomenon in the allegedly hip, Generation Y: it includes several sub-groups some of which have traditional views, which do not promote gender equality.

 

What can Prettl do to promote diversity?

As already said, it is smart for every company to identify the contribution that diversity makes to its commercial success and recognize that first of all. This usually creates the basis for a range of strategies, which should be implemented in a well-coordinated framework, and not as a series of stand-alone initiatives:

  • Increase awareness of difference in many everyday situations, for example, through regular communication and interactions
  • Make adjustments in Human Resources, marketing and sales
  • Form business relations with external partners that expands the current talent pool
  • Continuously work with senior management, who promote diversity awareness through their behavior, give a sense of direction, define expectations and are default role models.

All of this must be carried out on the basis of high standards for openness, meritocratic performance management and fair, transparent processes. In this respect, moments of truth – situations in which you have to practice what you preach– are particularly important: How does the company or a manager react if a customer or employee does something that goes against diversity? If the company gives in, because that person is ‘an important customer’ or ‘a valued employee’, then the diversity house of cards collapses. It is necessary to demonstrate the right attitude, take a stand, adopt an attitude and lead by example. To that end, Diversity is no different from other leadership missions.

 

— End —

Michael Stuber is known as a pioneer regarding the topic "diversity" in Germany and at European level. Learn more about him and his work under http://de.diversitymine.eu/

 

Test: Rational or emotional at work?

Do you wear your heart on your sleeve or do you think that emotions should be kept outside of the workplace?

Take our test. Simply mark the option that you think best applies to you. You will find the solution at the bottom of the page when you click the “Results” button.

1. You have just landed a new project for your team. You couldn’t be more excited about it and can hardly wait to begin. How do you behave?

Break out the champagne! I need to call all of my colleagues and tell them about the project right now. I’m going to need their help and then my project will have top priority!
I start by talking to my boss about the project, creating a project plan and inviting my colleagues to a meeting based on who I need help from. We can celebrate the success at a brainstorming session and then discuss how we will proceed.
I talk to my boss about the project, create a project plan and then send it to my colleagues so that they are informed regarding the upcoming tasks. They are welcome to get in touch with me if they have any questions.

 

 

 

2. You have a boss who is clearly discriminating against you and makes you feel as though he can’t stand you. How do you behave?

My boss pays my salary and doesn’t have to be my best friend. I can bite the bullet and get through the work day, and then in the evening I don’t have to deal with him anymore.
How can he be so mean? I talk to my friends about him behind his back. I am very intimidated when he’s around and often start crying due to anger and frustration.
I want to have a word with him! If he is dissatisfied with my behavior or with my work, then the only way to fix the issue is through discussion between two grown adults.

 

 

 

3. How do you interact with colleagues on the same level of the hierarchy as you?

I spend a great deal of time around my colleagues, so naturally I genuinely care about them. They don’t need to know everything about me and at the end of the day I have my own private life.
My colleagues always know about everything going on in my life! They are like friends to me and I confide in them completely.
I share very little private information with my colleagues. When I’m around them, I’m working. Therefore, our conversations and interactions should relate only to work.

 

 

 

4. Your partner left you unexpectedly and you feel completely lost. How do you behave at work?

I bury myself in my work and keep silent about the incident. Work is the best distraction and my personal issues are no one’s business.
I tell my colleagues what happened so that they understand that I am going through a rough time. I do not go into detail.
I am completely distracted and cannot concentrate properly on my work for an entire day. Best case scenario: I call in sick.

 

 

 

5. A colleague of yours is promoted to the position that you have been working toward for years. How do you react?

I give my colleague a formal congratulations on the promotion.
I congratulate my colleague and try to be happy for him/her. I admit that I would have liked to have gotten the position, but I wish him/her all the best in facing the new challenge.
How can something like this happen? My colleague is taking my position from me? This isn’t over yet! Just you wait!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

„In-house mutual support“ instead of „in-house health management“

Dr. Walter Kromm, a medical expert who holds special consultations for managers,  tells us why companiesshould add „in-house mutual support“ strategies to their „in-house health management“ programs, to help them succeed and grow, and why some of us should learn how to stand back a bit and not be so committed to the job.


Dr. Kromm, when is a company healthy?
A company is healthy if it is strong in its market. Then, its jobs are secure. And that's a healthy thing. However, for a company to remain healthy in the long term, it needs healthy employees, who are ready and willing to be fully committed to their work.

So, who has responsibility for a "healthy" company?
It's the people who work there – it's everyone who's involved in it!

Many companies believe that they can make their company healthier by doing something "healthy." Depending on the size of the company, this can cover everything from providing baskets of fruit to running yoga courses. What do you think to these approaches?
Some of the ideas implemented by "in-house health management teams" can be very good, and important for the staff. However, if employees don't actually get on too well together, even holding the kinds of courses and events you might find at a health resort won't succeed.

Is there a way to quantify how healthy a company's workforce is?
The number of days absent from work can be recorded pretty accurately. An average employee has about 20 days off a year, due to illness. But the quality of their contribution when they're at work often remains hidden. I estimate that only about 20 percent of the workforce has a real emotional attachment to their employer. That's not very much.

A sense of well-being is closely connected with good feelings.

When looked at the other way round, that means that 80 % of employees have either a very slight attachment, or none at all. How can this be created?
A sense of well-being is closely connected with good feelings. Knowing that you're accepted, respected and appreciated creates this. If you interact with someone on equal terms, you show that you respect them. If you take them seriously, you give them a feeling of importance. These are the "good reasons" people need, if you want to motivate them to do something.

What exactly can be achieved with "connectedness"?
If you feel connected to something, you also want to retain that feeling! This means that people see the purpose of striving to achieve a common goal.

What's your advice to companies?
Success is a consequence, and work is a social interaction. I recommend that companies add "in-house connectedness management" to their "in-house health management" strategy.

Why?
If people don't interact well with each other, this will be a major obstacle to success. However, if people do get on well with each other, this sparks off a whole series of interactive processes, which otherwise just wouldn't happen. Here are a few pictures which highlight the most important aspects of these processes. These illustrations come from a recently published book, "Die Kraft der guten Gefühle" ("The power of good feelings).

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What exactly does this depend on?
Working successfully together, and therefore also staying healthy, is the greatest benefit, for everyone! A company should constantly strive to create an environment in which this can happen, because this is where the potential talents, and resources they depend on, lie dormant.

"an employer should also be able to leave things alone."

The keyword is resources – you have said that "an employer should also be able to leave things alone." What exactly did you mean by this?
For many ambitious people, moving with the times actually means not having any time.
In actual fact, we should all be "time millionaires." At least, we should all have more time than we used to have, back in the days before freeways, high-speed trains, e-mail, cellphones and the Internet. But we're faced with a paradox: our lives are getting longer, but our working times are getting shorter. We're saving time everywhere, yet have less and less of it.

What happens to the time we save?
Most people want to save time so they can do more things. It's not that we're short of time, it's just that we want to do too many things in the time we have.
Improving effectiveness is the top priority.
Many of today's high achievers are running hard to stand still. When they're not working, they're either out consuming products and experiences, or playing sport.
They run frantically
• from the office chair to the gym
• from the couples therapy session
• to their evening course
• from business dinners
• to adventure weekends.

How can they break free from this vicious circle?
By calming down and setting limits.

"If you rest, you rust." But we're not made from iron.

What does that mean?
What's the reason that people go away on retreats, to remote mountain cabins or to a monastery? Quite simply, because the number of options for doing things in these places is so strictly curtailed. However, you don't have to run away to the mountains or a monastery to achieve this. Simply doing nothing from time to time is a good idea. As the old saying goes, "If you rest, you rust." But we're not made from iron. It is precisely these performance-oriented people who should not only be determined entrepreneurs, but also be determinedly able to let things go. Our "operating system" needs space to recuperate, and high achievers also need the "ability to relax."

Do you have any tips for our readers about how they can achieve the ability to relax?
Yes, simply go out for a walk with someone you like on a bright, sunny day, and don't worry about missing out on anything else.
This will do more for your health than any medicine in the world.

Do you find "letting things go" easy?
No. But I am starting to learn how.

 

About Dr. Walter Kromm

dr-kromm

Dr. Kromm is a physician with an economically and philosophic education. He knows the medicine for companies to be healthy and successfull. For him it´s for sure: Healthy and motivated employees as well as the long term business success are two sides of the same medal – both are being affected centrally by the determining factors of good leadership.

–    But what is good leadership?
–    How do you lead others and yourself?

In his experience, the management and the course plans of business schools only deal with these questions in a very restrained way. That is what he wants to change with his work. Click here to learn more.

 

 

 

Five Anti-Stress Exercises for the Office

Who hasn't experienced this? The phone rings… as soon as you've put down the receiver, your Inbox pings with new messages every few seconds, and then the reminder function on your cellphone goes off, for the third time, to tell you you're late for that meeting. Your head's pounding, and the only thing you want to do is pack your bags and run away to a remote desert island.

These anti-stress exercises, which are ideal for the office, can help you escape, at least for a few moments, in your imagination:

 

  • Breathe deeply: it sounds simple, and it is just that. Breathe in through your nose for around 4 or 5 seconds, hold your breath for around 5 to 8 seconds, and then breathe out again slowly, through your nose, taking about 5 to 10 seconds. These deep breaths stimulate a nerve which connects the areas of the brain that calm the body.

 

  • Relax your muscles: the reciprocal effect of tensing and relaxing individual muscle groups is the decisive factor in this exercise. Start with the muscles in the lower part of your body, and work upwards towards your head. The important thing here is to release the tension in your muscles after around 10 seconds. Tensing and then relaxing these muscle groups increases the circulation of blood around your body, and gives you a new burst of energy:

     

    • press the soles of your feet hard against the floor
    • clench the muscles in your buttocks as hard as you can
    • tense all the muscles in your stomach (and your upper and lower abdominal muscles at the same time)
    • clench your hands into fists, and press your arms to the sides of your torso
    • tense your face muscles: press your lips tightly together, screw up your eyes and wrinkle your nose

 

  • Go for a walk: even if your desk is covered in paperwork. Movement and fresh air are the secret weapons against stress. Take five minutes for a walk round the block. You'll notice you can come back to your tasks with new energy. If you're not able to leave the office, there's another way in which you can get fresh air: intensive ventilation. Open all the windows and doors in your office wide, for a few minutes, and fill the space with fresh air.

 

  • Blink your eyes: it sounds trivial, but it has a really good effect. Spending an entire day looking at a screen subjects your eyes to stress and harmful emissions. Look away from the screen and blink your eyes for a minute, as fast as you can. This not only exercises your eye muscles, and releases them from staring at the screen, but also has another beneficial side effect: your eyes are irrigated by a thin layer of tear fluid. Then, close your eyes for about another minute, and allow them to relax.

 

  • Brain food: there are many ways in which people can gather energy and cut stress levels. One of them is by eating. But here's a note of caution: sadly this doesn't mean chocolate, cookies and gummy bears. To help it concentrate and work longer, your body needs complex, long chain carbohydrates, good quality protein and omega-3 fatty acids, among other things. Studies have shown that the foods listed below will help your brain get back into gear:

     

    • wholegrain bread or oats for breakfast
    • trail mix: nuts and dried fruits as snacks between meals
    • fruit or freshly pressed fruit juice
    • yogurt with fruit or a buttermilk smoothie
    • You should drink a lot of water or unsweetened tea – when your body is stressed, it needs more liquid. To prevent long-term health problems, it is essential that you drink enough

 

be connected. The new corporate video of the Prettl group is online

Expertise, quality and emotions, visualized in a two minute corporate video: The Prettl group is granting their customers, business partners and suppliers an exclusive look behind the scenes of the diversified group of companies. After more than 60 years of company history, there has now been generated a video, where mostly employees and their brands/products take over the direction.  During 120 seconds the corporate movie leads through the five divisions of the group of companies. “For us the corporate video is an ideal tool to visually illustrate wherefore we stand. Plenty of our customers and potential employees for example have no idea of the wide variety of expertise we have to offer”, says Daniel Stuckert, Head of Communications at the Prettl group.

In cooperation with the visavis film production from Berlin the film was created at various company locations worldwide. Besides sequences from the company headquarter in Pfullingen or the manufacturing of Prettl electronics in Lübeck, the corporate video represents authentically the daily work routine of over 9.500 employees worldwide. As of now the film can be found on the Prettl website, the blog and on YouTube. It is also going to be used for exhibitions and presentations. In addition, the two minute sequence is supposed to convince potential employees of the qualities of the Prettl group as an employer.

 

 

PAS – a choice for the future

Become trainee at PAS

You don´t have a training place for 2016? We have the solution: Become a process mechanic for plastics technology with specialization in molding at PAS in Neuruppin! PAS has spoken with their current trainee Maximilian about his profession.


Max, you are now in your3rd year and have your final exam in summer. What do you think about your last years here?
I have really enjoyed them. The training is very varied and fun in every way , too.

What are your favorite tasks?
"Working with the material plastic is generally a topic of interest. Due to the fact that training at PAS isn´t reduced to injection molding but also for example laminating and extruding, I like a lot of things and tasks here."

Why did you choose the profession process engineer?
"When I was looking for an apprenticeship I see the best prospects and opportunities for my future in the process mechanics."

What requirements do you think should a candidate have to apply for this training?
"Important are definitely basic knowledge in the natural sciences of chemistry, physics and mathematics, a certain technical understanding and spatial thinking are a good base for applicants. Otherwise the training can become difficult."

Whom would you recommend this career?
"I recommend the profession to anyone who is interested in technology and would like to work in the production with different machines. With respect to the fact that you cover a very wide range of tasks through this training you can work in different jobs. That leads you to good future perspectives. Like plastic itself does, because of the fact that it is a relative new material with future potential.”

Thank you Max and good luck for your exam.
 

About the trainee
Process mechanics for plastic technologies work in our plastic production. They set up our injection molding machines, maintain the machines and equip them for production. Furthermore, they are responsible different peripheral devices, such as robots, temperature controllers, mills and dryers. Also the measurement of plastic parts according to defined quality criteria is an essential part of the work. The training lasts 3 years and is carried out in network with the Schwerin Training Centre. The professional education takes place in Neustrelitz. The cost of housing on site in Schwerin and Neustrelitz are taking by PAS. After passing the test, you will be a part of PAS production team.


 

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