Knowing that you know nothing. Accepting new experiences. Having active discussions with exciting insights. That’s what the Diversity Days 2019 were about.
The Diversity Days, which were hosted for the first time on the METRO Campus in Düsseldorf, took place from 19 to 21 February. The aim was to capture the employees’ interest for the topic of diversity with all its different facets, to inspire and sensitise them.
The “Diversity and Inclusion Days” kicked off with a panel discussion about the topic “Is LGBT+ something for the workplace?”. Veronika Pountcheva, Global Director Corporate Responsibility at METRO AG, moderated the discussion and gave the panel participants sufficient scope to explain their personal and professional point of view. Besides Heiko Hutmacher, CHRO of METRO AG, also Sarah Ungar from ThyssenKrupp, Sascha Kuhn from Simmons und Simmons, Stuart B. Cameron from UHLALA and Dr. Jean-Luc Vey from PROUT at Work, participated in the discussion.
Heiko Hutmacher summarised his professional experience as follows: “When confronted with a cross-cultural challenge, you should just never assume that you know the answer. You should defer judgement and ask somebody from the respective culture or minority to help you understand the background.” The Chief Human Resources Officer of METRO AG answered the question as to why LGBT+ is also a topic that is relevant for the workplace as follows: “Each of our employees should find the best conditions he or she needs to develop their full potential. Feeling comfortable is essential at the workplace. When you have to pretend, when you cannot be your own self or when you have the feeling that you have to hide yourself, this will prevent you from performing at your best.” Sascha Kuhn, Simmons und Simmons, elaborated this point further. “Employees don’t just want lip service from their employer, they also want to see action. LGBT+ colleagues would like to be able to put a picture of their partner on their desk in the same way as everyone else.” Sarah Unger shared her personal experience – how extremely exhausting it can be to continuously have to pretend. How much it wears you out when you cannot be your own self because the environment is not aware of your situation. The participants in the audience also had some questions – for example regarding the topic ‘positive discrimination’: How do you include those colleagues in a minority discussion who are obviously in the majority? Because, after all, inclusion means that we all pull in the same direction.
The consensus at the end of the panel discussion was that we have to jointly involve all employees in order not to exclude any colleague – mostly also because it takes every man and every woman to put diversity into practice at the workplace.
Experiencing different dimensions
Although the Diversity and Inclusion Days kicked off with the sexual dimension of diversity, all facets of this thematic complex came into focus during the three-day event.
In a self-experiment, METRO employees had the opportunity to find out what life feels like for a colleague who is blind. On the occasion of a blind lunch, the team from Corporate Social Responsibility not only provided the blackout glasses, but also assisted the participants in dealing with challenges such as finding the water bottle on the table, pouring water into the glass without spilling, and finding the cutlery. “To realise the challenges that you have to master at lunch alone was an eye-opening experience. I participated in this lunch because experiencing something for yourself is definitely much more impressive than imagining such a situation in theory”, said Sandrine Vinay describing her blind lunch experience.
Generation and Gender were the topics of the panel discussions that followed on the next two days. The question addressed here was: What challenges and opportunities does generational diversity offer for the labour world? Interesting questions were discussed with the participation of the audience, among them also questions relating to the cultural change being driven within METRO: Have we achieved it already? Is there a connection between organisational change fatigue and an employee’s age? As a company, how do we address the different phases of life? How do we get employees to leave their comfort zone in order to embrace change or do they need to do that at all? The panel discussion concluded with the insight that, ultimately, it is not the age of an employee which is decisive for his motivation, but that work motivation is determined by views and values.
The last day of the Diversity and Inclusion Days started with a panel discussion on the topic: Women and Networking. Andrea Och, management consultant, coach and keynote speaker, gave a lecture entitled: ‘Valuable Relationships – Your Number One investment’: “In the beginning there is your performance, but that’s only the admission ticket”, says Och. “80% of the jobs are landed through networking and it all starts with your goals.” She provided the audience with valuable advice for simple networking and with some food for thought.
As a food specialist, METRO also relied on the diversity of its employees in culinary terms: During that week, national dishes from different countries were served. The recipes were suggested by the employees.
In addition, also the art exhibition #WE ARE PART OF CULTURE was on display on the METRO Campus during that week. The exhibition portrayed more than 30 LGBT+ personalities, from Antiquity to the present day, who have profoundly shaped our society and culture.