Foto: Werner Schüring für WirtschaftsWoche
Anka Wittenberg, SAP’s chief diversity and inclusion officer, received the award from McKinsey’s Frank Mattern. (Photo: Werner Schüring/WirtschaftsWoche)

Colleagues from different countries and cultures, women at management level, mixed teams consisting of experienced employees and millennials: Promoting diversity seems to have become a fundamental tenet for most enterprises these days. Diversity is even said to boost a company’s business success. It’s against this background that the business consultancy McKinsey & Company and the German business magazine WirtschaftsWoche recently presented their German Diversity Award, for the second time since its inception in 2011.

This year’s jury nominated three finalists in the category large-scale enterprises: SAP AG, Deutsche Telekom AG, and Hewlett Packard GmbH. The latter two companies were ultimately given an “excellent” rating, but the title of “Germany’s Most Diverse Employer” went to SAP. Anka Wittenberg, SAP’s chief diversity and inclusion officer, accepted the award from McKinsey manager Frank Mattern on behalf of SAP. In handing over the prize, Mattern said the judges were convinced that diversity and inclusion were firmly anchored in SAP’s business model. WirtschaftsWoche explained that SAP won for a number of reasons, such as: SAP employs colleagues from 95 different countries at its German locations alone, it has a global diversity team, and around 4,500 SAP employees are actively involved in promoting diversity at the company, for example in groups like the Business Women’s Network or the HomoSAPiens group for homosexual colleagues.

E-commerce company has a multicultural staff

The winner in the small and medium enterprises category was Urbanara GmbH, an e-commerce company in Berlin that specializes in home textiles and accessories. It, too, has a diverse team, made up of 40 people from 12 different countries (including Australia, France, and Pakistan) at its Berlin and Shanghai locations. Urbanara’s product line-up, ranging from curtains to bed linens to bathrobes, stems from four continents, so this international configuration enables the company to communicate and collaborate with manufacturers around the globe, even in their respective national language.

Next page: Post-qualification of foreign IT specialists

Robert Bosch GmbH won the “Best Diversity Image” award. The Stuttgart-based technology company came out on top in a representative survey of 30,000 students and young careerists who rated companies on the equality of men and women, flexible working conditions, and opportunities for international collaboration. Christoph Kübel, Bosch’s labor relations director, believes that diversity promotes creativity and employee motivation, so he expects it to provide “fresh impetus for further innovations.”

The jury also honored two individual projects: Chemicals giant Lanxess Deutschland GmbH won a prize for their “Senior Trainee Program,” an 18-month program that helps employees return to work after an extended absence to care for family members. During the program, participants are supervised and guided by a mentor and receive advanced training alongside their regular work.

Post-qualification of foreign IT specialists

The University of Duisburg-Essen and the University of Regensburg, meanwhile, were honored for their “ProSALAMANDER” project, which makes it possible for immigrant academics to obtain comparable qualifications in Germany. The goal of the initiative is to provide professionals with IT or engineering degrees from abroad with relevant language, subject matter, and methodology training so that they can obtain a recognized degree accepted in Germany and pursue a career in relation to their actual qualification.

Next page: Potential to save €21 billion

Management consulting studies seem to confirm the notion that promoting diversity does in fact lead to more benefits for a company – such as the boost in creativity, motivation, and financial success mentioned by Bosch director Kübel earlier. McKinsey’s own study, entitled “Diversity wins!”, analyzed the figures and performance of 180 companies worldwide, including the DAX 30 German stock index. It found that companies with a particularly high level of diversity weathered the volatile years 2008 to 2010 financially much better than other companies. What’s more, the top quartile of companies with the highest number of foreigners/ethnic minorities and women on the executive board achieved a 14% higher EBIT margin during this period than those companies with the lowest management diversity.

Clearly measurable positive impacts of diversity such as these are, however, the subject of considerable debate. WirtschaftsWoche itself recently cited an economics professor at the University of Konstanz who warned that the relationships presented in numerous diversity studies, especially the connection between gender diversity and economic success, cannot be generalized. This does not mean that companies do not benefit from diversity, merely that diversity does not automatically guarantee a tangible financial gain.

Potential to save €21 billion

According to a study by Roland Berger Strategy Consultants, promoting diversity is no longer a peripheral phenomenon. In fact, 95% of all companies had already launched diversity programs at the time the study was published last summer. The consultants estimate that diversity measures alone could save the German economy around €21 billion – the reasoning behind this being that diversity makes well-trained employees more satisfied with their jobs and increases their sense of loyalty to the company, thus reducing the costs of high employee turnover. But the Roland Berger study also revealed that most companies are still a long way from promoting diversity on a wide enough scale. Four out of five German companies, for example, only understand “diversity” to mean the promotion of women – older and foreign colleagues are much less likely to receive similar support.