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Why diverse teams are essential to corporate growth

Why diverse teams are essential to corporate growth

Reading time for this article: 7 minutes

End of June 2021, BSH launched a virtual event to share and develop new ideas around the topics of diversity, organised by colleagues for colleagues. During the so-called Diversity Week all participants had opportunities to bring in their perspectives to provide a better work environment for all people regardless of their differences. In anticipation of the event, the organisers of the Diversity Week talked with Ayfer Flora who works as Global Category Manager in Global Purchasing at our site in Giengen and asked her to share her insights about creating a team spirit that encourages out-of-the-box ideas and new solutions.

Ayfer, tell us a little bit more about your background.

My name is Ayfer Flora, I am forty years old, and I am an industrial engineer. Originally, I come from the Southeast Turkey. In 2004, I studied in Portugal as an exchange student, where I met my husband. My husband is coming from Portugal, but he spent his childhood in Brazil. Now, we live together with our two sons in Germany. So, our children are growing up with different languages and different cultures. We celebrate for example Ramadan, Christmas, Carnival, also Oktoberfest. 

Thank you for introducing yourself. Speaking of your background, what does diversity mean for you?

Well, we are all different. This is how we are as human beings. Different nationalities, cultures, sexual orientations, backgrounds, education, or beliefs. Also, people have different mental and social abilities even though they might share the same culture and similar education. For me, diversity is having all these different people under an organisation or a team in harmony. I believe diversity creates different perspectives and approaches. We learn and enrich ourselves from our differences.

Imagine, a football team that prepares for the championship. It must have different talents coming from all around the world with different strengths. Each player must have their own role and importance for the team. You need all of them in harmony to get the chance to be the champion. You cannot make a team with eleven Cristiano Ronaldos, even though he is the “best” player. This will not work. You need all the different players to be successful. 

That’s a very interesting approach. Taking a step further, what does equity mean for you?  

I see equity as having the same opportunities and the same chances in an organisation or a team apart from your differences, based on similar qualifications. In my opinion, equity always requires fairness, transparency, and respect. 

Of course, we need to talk about inclusion, as well. How does that fit into your approach?

Coming back to our example. All football players have the same target. They play with cohesion. Each player does his best to contribute to the success of the team because they feel that they belong. Although they are different, they certainly have different values and perspectives, they feel they have a voice. Their presence and their ideas are valued. I believe, it is essential to have inclusion. Diversity without equity or inclusion will not work. You need all three dimensions to work in a team. 

How is it for you to work in a highly diverse team at BSH?

Currently, in Germany, I work for a diverse organisation in all aspects. We are approximately 40 people with different backgrounds, ages, and from different regions. We have colleagues from Spain, Russian, Greece, Brazil, China, India, even Kazakhstan. As you can imagine, all these colleagues have different perspectives and different upbringings to our team. I can call us a truly global team. We have a broad perspective and success due to these differences. Our idea combinations are varied and many. This enables us to find the best approach to the case, the best methods. On the other hand, we have experienced and inexperienced colleagues together. The senior experienced colleagues coach the junior ones, but the inexperienced team members sometimes bring out-of-box ideas to the case. 

How did you experience inclusion at BSH?

My journey at BSH began in Turkey in 2008. In 2011 I was assigned to work in Giengen, in Germany. Yet, we were not as diverse in the beginning as today. I must admit, I had some issues feeling included. The main barrier for me was the language. I was much slower to understand what is happening around me and what is asked of me, and this of course made me feel like I was not very included. 

I have to thank my peers who had patience with me back then until I learned German. Sometimes, they would repeat the same thing several times. But eventually, I realised that this barrier was gone. Also, since I am coming from a different culture, I had to learn to understand German bureaucracy and its working models. I could inspire my colleagues to be ready to take more calculated risks or being more communicative and open. I must emphasize that inclusion has something to do with both parties. As a new member, you should be patient to learn, and you should evolve but keep your authenticity at the same time. For the local ones, you should give a welcoming feeling and friendliness to your new colleagues and support them until their integration has been completed. 

As I mentioned, BSH becomes more and more diverse. Today acceptance is much stronger than ten years ago. Today’s environment shows more support. We became an international team. We speak mostly English or German in different accents. You should hear it; it sounds simply amazing. 

I like your insight about how inclusion requires a willingness from both sides. When we talk about inclusion, do you have any tips on how to be more inclusive?

Yes, definitely. For most, people should not hold back because of their differences. They must be aware of their strengths, and certain advantages out of their differences. We have to embrace them, avoid unconscious biases, learn more about each other, do not judge people from their physical appearance because there is always more than what we see. We need to understand their values and their emotions to get the right communication channel. We should not block our curiosity. This is the only way we learn about individual perspectives. And we have to be flexible and adaptive for changing for the better. I believe, the key role to ensure inclusion is having the right leadership. Leaders have to establish balanced teams with different skills, experiences, ways of looking at things. They should assure that all employees feel equally important, that they have the same vision and similar opportunities. Only then everyone belongs to the team and contributes with maximum capacity and motivation. 

From your personal experience, do you feel you have equal chances at BSH?

As a middle-aged mum, I believe the female quote for leadership positions is a topic that still needs advancement. We all have to admit: So far, mothers have had certain disadvantages in their career paths due to parental leaves. It was somehow perceived that mothers are not the right candidates for management positions that require frequent traveling and so on. But current life situations and flexible working models, the current professional environment can help parents to develop their careers further as they wish. For example, in my family, we support gender equality. My husband and I have changed our roles. He looks after our sons, and I can work full time. Beside the female quote and the fluent German knowledge, this was one of the aspects that helped me strengthen my career development. Today, knowing German is not as mandatory as it was. The flexibility has increased. So, yes, I feel that today we have equal chances. 

When did you experience the benefits of diversity, equity, and inclusion personally?

Knowing and experiencing different cultures has improved my collaboration with my colleagues remarkably. I see myself as a bridge between Europe and Asia because I know both cultures. This advanced our corporation especially with Chinese colleagues and Chinese suppliers whom I work with. By knowing differences and being open we could create contentment and balanced relationships in our department. Besides being colleagues, we are good friends.

In which way do you think it is important for companies like BSH to work on the topics of diversity, equity, and inclusion?

It is essential for a global company. A diverse attitude to any situation brings the chance to challenge the status quo. New ideas are encouraged. People participate more to get out of their comfort zone. They learn from each other, they evolve further. This way attitudes change automatically. Diversity, equity, and inclusion are the success towards the new normal. I believe, they are the key to solving conflicts, promoting innovations, and increasing productivity. Even with Covid19, we all have experienced the importance of having diverse and agile teams. Therefore, I always remember, our differences are our strengths and our beauty.

Thank you for your time and your insights, Ayfer!

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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.