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Laundry Care Technology-Team China, Nanjing: About the benefits and challenges of a multicultural and diverse team

Laundry Care Technology-Team China, Nanjing: About the benefits and challenges of a multicultural and diverse team

Reading time for this article: 8 minutes

Finding common ground and a mutual understanding in a multicultural and diverse team comes with its own challenges and struggles. For our BSH campaign “Nominate Your Diversity Champion”, we highlight those who actively try to overcome boundaries and foster Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in the workplace. This particular nomination included not only one role model and colleague, but a whole team. The Global Product Development Laundry Care Technology-Team consists of sixteen employees working at the BSH factory in Nanjing, China: They are between twenty-one to forty-nine years old, with five different nationalities and practice five different religions. Today some of them share their thoughts on different working dynamics, varied cultural norms and how they overcome challenges that come with being in a diverse team.

As a team, how do you feel about being nominated as Diversity Champions and what does it (the nomination) mean to you?

Alberto Manas Molina (Spanish, 44 years old): As an international team, we are very proud of the nomination. Our department is an extension of the Production Laundry Care organization in Berlin, focused on projects in China. We work in an international environment with high multicultural links where Diversity, Equity and Inclusion are a part of our daily life.
DEI is a fundamental pillar for us because we are different and that's an incredible power. Our differences in levels of experience, gender, culture, religion or even age make a great colorful contribution to BSH. Therefore, the nomination is a recognition of the diversity in our team.

How would you define Diversity, Equity and Inclusion? 

Johannes Cholewa (German, 29 years old): Diversity is not simply the inclusion of those outside the ‘norm’ (from a non-dominant group), it is the fundamental practice of delineating identity characteristics from what an individual has to offer as a person. This inevitably leads to significantly higher rates of team diversity – that is, people from different backgrounds, ethnicities, genders and experiences. I believe that equity means providing a platform for anyone with these different experiences, in order to bridge the gap between understanding and access. This is something I promote through the inclusion of colleagues both socially and professionally.

How do you incorporate the values of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in your team?

Yang Yu (Chinese, 29 years old): We are a department with people from five different countries, with a generational difference close to 30 years and five different religions. Different countries have their own habits, culture and beliefs. Take China, for example – there are 56 different ethnic groups in it. Respecting and including everyone are fundamental ways of inclusion because every one of us has their own character and understanding of the world. Be an open-minded person, try to create a safe and progressive environment for an open discussion to reveal our blind spots and progress together as a whole for a better future. 

Do you think there are certain skills or abilities that you gained by fostering DEI at your workplace?

Bulent Cetin (Turkish, 43 years old): I think having a diverse and multicultural workplace brings us several skills and abilities such as improving our language skills and learnings about different cultural behavior – especially since the East Asian culture is so much more diverse than the European one. I had the chance to lead a project with a local Chinese supplier. In the beginning, there were some challenges but in the end, BSH got a good benefit-cost advantage with the highest quality thanks to an open mentality and flexibility. If you work inside a diverse department, people are becoming more polite and interested to work with each other, resulting in better synergies and higher productivity.       

Have there ever been challenges for you as a team because of your different backgrounds (age, culture, gender etc.)?

Tong Zhifeng (Chinese, 37 years old): Our department belongs to an international team that develops new projects and introduces new technical knowledge. Production and technical solutions should be considered a standard for the future of the whole Laundry Care Product family. 
We are now involved in a global, high technological project for the Nanjing factory. Our team members all come from different countries and locations, speak different languages, and have varied ages, backgrounds, and cultures – but we are all experienced. As a Engineering Project Leader, you may feel it is really hard to get agreement among different team members for specific topics, but it is of value for us and BSH as a company. I do believe team cooperation becomes more and more essential for final success.

What do you think is the biggest challenge of fostering the incorporation of DEI?

Wang Niwen (Chinese, 30 years old): Teamwork requires the unity of values and goals. A considerable part of values come from cultural learning and education.
The biggest challenge in fostering the incorporation of DEI is to extract values that can be recognized by everyone with their individual backgrounds and respect each other in an integrated team.
Our team is an international team. Therefore, mutual respect is the cornerstone of teamwork. Such a team needs not only respect for people, but also respect for culture. We respect the lifestyle and habits of our colleagues from all over the world.

How did your team spirit evolve while fostering DEI at your workplace?

Zheng Hengyi (Chinese, 35 years old): Because of our diverse backgrounds, we sometimes think there is divergence and barriers between team members, especially at the beginning. But in another way, the diversity of our colleagues can also offer team members a good chance to learn the strong points and offset the weaknesses between each other – basically, to make the best of both worlds. For example, young people can learn a calm manner from elders, and meanwhile the elders can feel and profit from the passion of the young people. As a member of a diverse team, we can learn not only from different experiences and technologies, but also how other cultures deal with certain situations and issues. By reinforcing communication and cooperation between team members, sincerity and honesty inside the team, we can grow further and be ready for bigger challenges and diversification in the future.

Being a diverse team surely brings interesting dynamics. Are there certain benefits or even challenges, for example regarding larger age gaps of colleagues?

Huang Dingfang (Chinese, 49 years old): Trying to balance different age categories needs strength and good management skills. Communication and mutual respect among colleagues will achieve wonderful results. In our team, we have the chance to get a different understanding of different life periods, we can learn together about new technology and we also have the opportunity to teach younger people about our working experiences. 
Challenges were, are and will always be a part of the working life. For instance, I sometimes struggle to understand certain new ways of thinking or understanding new technology, like digital industry 4.0 topics, for example. But my colleagues always support me in better understanding it.

Do you have a special story or memory to share that comes to mind when thinking about the diversity of your team?

Alexey Ivanov (Russian, 37 years old): There are people from Germany, Spain, Turkey, Russia and China in our department. Every day is full of funny stories, misunderstandings, and jokes. Sometimes these are not easy to understand because we have different mentalities or a different sense of humor…but after two minutes of explanation, everybody laughs. You have to imagine that we have passed through four months of festivities and religious holidays: Western and Orthodox Christmas time through to the New Chinese Year of the Tiger, connecting with Ramadan time and finishing with Easter and Qingming Festival. A real ode to empathy and diversity!

Finding common ground and gaining trust is essential for teams. How do you go about that? Do you have open discussions to get different viewpoints for example?

Alberto Molina Manas (Spanish, 44 years old): We have biweekly Jour Fix meetings to speak about ongoing projects and share our own experiences. Additionally, we create small groups for visiting events, exhibitions or suppliers in order to get more personal knowledge about and from each other. Trust is gained day by day.
We are also lucky that there is a big commitment to team-building activities in China. Human resources make a huge effort to support all teams. Team spirit is a core cultural element and very strongly emphasized in China. There is no celebration without a big table, a hot pot, some drinks, laughs…and for sure, ending in karaoke!

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BSH all over the world.

BSH Hausgeräte GmbH, with a total turnover of some EUR 15.6 billion and 62,000 employees in 2022, is a global leader in the home appliance industry. The company’s brand portfolio includes eleven well-known appliance brands like Bosch, Siemens, Gaggenau and Neff as well as the ecosystem brand Home Connect and service brands like Kitchen Stories. BSH produces at 40 factories and is represented in some 50 countries. BSH is a Bosch Group company.