Diversity is set to be an increasingly important topic in tomorrow's working world and offers companies an array of different social and strategic opportunities. With their very individual backgrounds, employees not only strengthen a climate of tolerance through successful diversity management, but also contribute strategically to the success of their company: It is common sense that companies can boost their economic success through diversity in their workforce and culture. How is SMS digital in Germany rated in terms of diversity? We asked Bernhard Steenken, our CEO at SMS digital.
Bernhard, what importance does diversity have for companies?
Diversity in the workplace means that all people are able to develop their professional potential – regardless of their gender, origin, disability, or sexual orientation. For many years, diversity management has focused primarily on discussions involving the proportion of women on supervisory boards or the gender pay gap. Yet the debate surrounding diversity in the workplace covers a far wider range of topics. Various groups of people are still systematically disadvantaged at work or when applying for positions, which is why training courses to increase diversity awareness are an important approach.
How does SMS digital perform in terms of diversity?
With 17 different nationalities working at SMS digital, they are a good example of inclusion and diversity. SMS digital not only benefits from the diversity within its own company and its partner companies. Above all, the various companies and subsidiaries worldwide with which SMS works in close cooperation contribute to a highly differentiated exchange about the different expertise from all around the world. SMS digital utilizes knowledge from seven different countries: Germany, Luxembourg, Italy, Brazil, India, China and the USA. The intercultural exchange, SMS digital not only expands its professional portfolio, but also its very personal strengths. Colleagues all over the world can exchange ideas on various topics and the influence of such different cultures has a cross-national effect.
What initiatives do you use to promote diversity?
With regard to women's quotas in particular, there is still a lot work ahead. So, we always ask ourselves the question: how can we not only inspire more women to work in the metals industry, but also increase the number of women in leadership positions? We want to strengthen our education activities with the overall goal to bring young women into the company early on. A strong presence at universities, recruitment fairs and portals, and cooperation with women's associations are essential raise awareness of an industry that is certainly not just "something for men". The motivation, appreciation and development of female team members are important elements of bringing each other closer to achieve a balanced relationship between the sexes.
What about other internal initiatives?
Diversity must be an integral part of everyday working life. A company does not immediately become diverse by signing a charter, hiring employees from different cultures, or setting a quota for the proportion of female employees. We offer flexible working hours and the option to work at home or remotely. This helps reducing the workload on parents or commuters. Employees prefer businesses that value a proper work-life balance and provide for extra services such as corporate childcare.
None of these measures, however, will work unless they are accepted equally by managers and team members alike. Working from home is not on a par with being on vacation. This kind of perception has an adverse impact not only on the work environment but also on the promotion of diversity.
In what ways is a diverse company superior to other companies?
The diversity resulting from various identities, cultures, and opinions is the foundation on which efficient and future-oriented ways of working are built. Thanks to a diverse environment, companies benefit from creativity and performance that enable them to meet challenges with different perspectives and continue to improve themselves. SMS digital combines different competencies from different nations with the most diverse backgrounds. This allows us to develop on both a professional and personal level. With every new culture and every new story, we continue to grow. That is why we appreciate the differences between our employees and encourage all team members to bring their own culture actively into the company.
So, does diversity make companies more successful?
Yes – the more diverse, the more successful. An international study undertaken by McKinsey shows a clear correlation between diversity and business success. Companies with a high gender diversity have a 25 percent higher and thus significantly greater probability of achieving above-average profitability. If you factor in ethnic diversity on management boards, this rises further to 36 percent. Especially younger generations are specifically looking for fair and diverse employers who are socially engaged. According to a representative study by Stepstone, 77 percent of all respondents say they would rather apply to a company with a living culture of diversity.
Since 2020, SMS digital has been a signatory to the German diversity charter (Charta der Vielfalt). The diversity charter is an employer initiative to promote diversity in businesses and institutions. Its stated goal is to cultivate diversity in German working life and thus promote recognition and appreciation among employees and toward employers. By signing up to and taking part in the initiative, SMS digital wishes to show its employees and the outside world that it is free of all forms of prejudice, whether it's related to age, ethnic origin and nationality, sex or gender identity, physical and mental abilities, religion, opinions, sexual orientation, or social origin.
By signing the diversity charter, SMS digital has undertaken to promote diversity and appreciation not only within the company but also in the world of work in general. Together with over 4700 other companies that make up 14.9 million employees, SMS digital is helping to make the world of work a bit more colorful. After all, diversity is what makes SMS.
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