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Diversity management at Bosch

Trix Boehne

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Making the most of opportunities for the company and associates

Developing complex products for markets around the world is a process that benefits from a variety of perspectives – after all, a mix of viewpoints sparks creativity and ideas. Robert Bosch, the company founder, recognized this early on and enshrined cultural diversity as one of his corporate values. Today, Bosch views diversity as potential that can be leveraged for the company’s success and as a crucial factor in its attractiveness as an employer. For this reason, diversity is an integral part of its corporate strategy. The definition of “diversity” is not limited to variety of cultural background, gender, or age groups. Instead, it encompasses the full breadth of various mindsets, experiences, perspectives, and life models of all associates across the globe. Bosch seeks to foster a corporate culture in which all associates feel valued and which gives rise to innovativeness based on similarities as well as differences.

More successful through diversity

Research shows that mixed teams perform better, develop more innovations, have a better understanding of different markets, and are quicker to respond to change. According to the “Innovation, diversity, and market growth” study published by Harvard Business Review, companies that exhibit diversity at the management level are 70 percent more likely to capture new markets. They are also 45 percent more likely to boost their market share, and as much as 75 percent more likely to bring innovations to market. For a global supplier of technology and services like Bosch, these are key success factors. This is even more true in light of trends such as digital connectivity, emerging markets, and differing population pyramids around the world. To foster diversity in the company, Bosch creates awareness for diversity among its associates and encourages interpersonal relationships based on respect.

Building on a wide range of perspectives

The success of this strategy clearly in evidence throughout the company. One of the first milestones in its diversity management was the women@bosch associates network, founded in 1995. Women now make up more than a quarter of the Bosch workforce. Mixed teams develop groundbreaking innovations, such as the Bosch Ixo, a compact cordless screwdriver: the world’s best-selling power tool is no longer confined to the basement workshop, but has become a device in the home. Associates from over 150 countries work together at Bosch locations worldwide. One example of this collaboration is automated driving, a key project for the Mobility Solutions business sector. The project is currently undergoing testing in Germany, Japan, the United States, and also in China. The developers and engineers working on the project represent all age groups and come from Germany, the U.S., India, and Italy, to name just a few countries. Bosch fosters this intercultural exchange with more than 6,000 international assignments each year, as well as language courses and intercultural training.

Combining development and experience

Expertise is not a question of age – it is the combination of practical experience and fresh ideas that counts. That is why at Bosch, up to five generations work side by side. Since 2015, “generation tandems” have made it possible for younger associates to learn from more experienced associates, and vice versa. In such tandems, the participants regularly exchange information, and in this way gain an understanding of different life stages. In reverse mentoring, younger associates show more elderly ones how to use digital tools and give them the benefit of their knowledge. At the same time, they benefit from elderly associates’ experience. And Bosch retirees can still apply their expertise, often earned over the course of several decades at the company. In 1999, the company established Bosch Management Support GmbH, which coordinates the consulting services of retired associates on limited-term projects throughout the Bosch Group. Its aim is to retain Bosch expertise and allow younger associates to benefit from the experience of senior experts. All told, those in the expert pool have over 40,000 years of experience.

In addition, Bosch invests more than 250 million euros in occupational training and professional development each year.

What we need to foster diversity

One of the challenges encountered when fostering diversity lies in meeting each associate’s individual needs. These can change depending on their current stage of life, cultural background, or career path. Bosch responds to these needs with a range of worktime models tailored to different life stages, as well as the option of working flexibly and remotely. This offers associates an optimum way to achieve their professional and personal goals.

Bosch’s “Guidelines for a flexible and family-friendly working culture,” first introduced in Germany, have since been rolled out to many other countries in which Bosch operates. Flextime, telecommuting, job-sharing, and part-time work make associates’ everyday lives easier, and sabbaticals give them an opportunity to take some time off. The purpose of the guidelines is to promote a working culture that provides associates with the necessary freedom and in which the focus is on their results, not the time they spend in the workplace.

Not all markets are subject to the same social conditions, which calls for different approaches. In Brazil, for example, parents at the Curitiba location have had access to on-site daycare since spring 2016 – the first such facility in South America. Associates in Germany who wish to split their position with a colleague via job sharing or part-time work can find each other using JobConnector, an in-house online platform. Locations in other countries have introduced new options such as working from home.

Strengthening awareness of diversity

However, appreciation of the advantages of diversity management and a thoughtful approach to stereotypes that may be unconscious are not necessarily a matter of course. For this reason, Bosch not only provides regular information but also employs measures that further raise awareness of the benefits diversity offers for associates and for the success of the company. Together with mentoring programs, seminars and training courses that examine unconscious bias help managers take action specifically to promote diversity in their teams. Besides the first associate network, women@bosch, a host of other voluntary networks have been established to facilitate dialogue and thus foster diversity. These include afric@bosch, chinese@bosch, 50plus@bosch, family@bosch, software@bosch, and the Turkish Forum Bosch. Bosch has received many awards for its diversity management.

Awards (selection)

  • Diversity Award of the Hungarian Business Leaders’ Forum, Hungary (2019)
  • Human Resources Management Award, second prize in the Leadership category for the “Brain Snack – Impulsgeber im Dialog” learning format, Germany (2019)
  • "Women in Leadership” award, Latin America (2019)
  • United Nations Global Award, Brazil (2018)
  • Big Impact Initiative Award from Prout at Work, Germany (2018)
  • Total E-Quality Award for several Bosch locations, Germany (2018)
  • German Human Resources Management Award, first prize in the Leadership category for the entire Bosch diversity strategy (2017)
  • Trendence Employer Branding Awards, first prize in the Diversity category, Germany (2016, 2017)
  • Engineer Powerwoman 2017, award for Bosch women manager, Germany (2017)
  • Human Resources Excellence Awards, first prize in the Best Use Of Technology category for the JobConnector, Germany (2016)
  • XING New Work Award 2016, Germany (2016)
  • Private Company Supporting Women in Business award, Turkey (2015)
  • German Diversity Award, best diversity strategy, Germany (2013)
  • Most family-friendly large enterprise, Germany (2012)
  • Certificate of gender equality, Mexico (2012)

Tags: Diversity

About Bosch

The Bosch Group is a leading global supplier of technology and services. It employs roughly 410,000 associates worldwide (as of December 31, 2018). The company generated sales of 78.5 billion euros in 2018. Its operations are divided into four business sectors: Mobility Solutions, Industrial Technology, Consumer Goods, and Energy and Building Technology. As a leading IoT company, Bosch offers innovative solutions for smart homes, smart cities, connected mobility, and connected manufacturing. It uses its expertise in sensor technology, software, and services, as well as its own IoT cloud, to offer its customers connected, cross-domain solutions from a single source. The Bosch Group’s strategic objective is to deliver innovations for a connected life. Bosch improves quality of life worldwide with products and services that are innovative and spark enthusiasm. In short, Bosch creates technology that is “Invented for life.” The Bosch Group comprises Robert Bosch GmbH and its roughly 460 subsidiary and regional companies in over 60 countries. Including sales and service partners, Bosch’s global manufacturing, engineering, and sales network covers nearly every country in the world. The basis for the company’s future growth is its innovative strength. At nearly 130 locations across the globe, Bosch employs some 68,700 associates in research and development.

The company was set up in Stuttgart in 1886 by Robert Bosch (1861-1942) as “Workshop for Precision Mechanics and Electrical Engineering.” The special ownership structure of Robert Bosch GmbH guarantees the entrepreneurial freedom of the Bosch Group, making it possible for the company to plan over the long term and to undertake significant upfront investments in the safeguarding of its future. Ninety-two percent of the share capital of Robert Bosch GmbH is held by Robert Bosch Stiftung GmbH, a charitable foundation. The majority of voting rights are held by Robert Bosch Industrietreuhand KG, an industrial trust. The entrepreneurial ownership functions are carried out by the trust. The remaining shares are held by the Bosch family and by Robert Bosch GmbH.

Additional information is available online at www.bosch.com, www.iot.bosch.com, www.bosch-press.com, www.twitter.com/BoschPresse.

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