Diverse workforces enhance all companies, making them more sustainable and successful. This is backed up by several studies. In this interview Robert Szwedo, Head of the Human Resources Department at KfW, explains how diversity is put into practice at KfW and why the bank signed the Diversity Charter.
About Mr Szwedo
Robert Szwedo joined KfW in 2016, taking on the role of Head of the Human Resources Department. Before moving to KfW, he was the Group Human Resources Director at AXA.
How high a priority is diversity at KfW?
ROBERT SZWEDO: Diversity and equal opportunities are a matter of course for KfW. As one of the world's leading promotional banks, we aim to set a good example by flying the flag for diversity. In doing so, we send a clear political message of respect, appreciation and integrity, regardless of nationality, age or sexual orientation, to name just a few. These principles are an integral part of our mission statement.
We signed the Diversity Charter last year, which is our public pledge to embrace diversity within our company. However, a mere signature on its own does not mean the job is done. The aim is to further embed all elements of diversity within our corporate culture.
How is diversity already visible at KfW, and how will it be promoted further?
The fact we are on the right path is shown by our employee survey conducted in 2019, where 85 per cent of employees agreed that equal treatment of all employees is practised on a daily basis. Our diversity is evident, for example, in the 50 different nationalities represented at KfW, along with the networks that have been formed by our employees, such as our Rainbow Network.
Equal opportunitiesfor men and women remains a hot topic. How is the situation at KfW in terms of reconciling work and private life?
We heavily promote and practice the idea of reconciliation. This allows individual job role models and ways of life to be combined in the best possible way. As an example, we offer our employees childcare facilities, emergency childcare, support in caring for relatives and extremely flexible working hours. Our Equal Opportunities Plan not only sets ambitious targets for women in management positions, it also embeds the further expansion of equal reconciliation options for men and women too. An example of this is our Fathers’ Network, which was established last year and provides a platform for men in particular to communicate with each other.
And how is the situation at KfW in terms of the ratio of employees with severe disabilities, as stipulated by law?
The ratio of employees with severe disabilities is a good indicator of inclusion. Here at KfW, this amounts to 5.7 per cent. For us, inclusion is much more than just a ratio. One particular measure, for example, is the enhanced level of collaboration between the Recruiting Team and the representative for employees with severe disabilities. We have also established a good level of close and trusting collaboration over many years between the Staff Council, Equal Opportunities Officer and representative for employees with severe disabilities. This collaboration represents an important basis here.
In your opinion, what added value does a diverse corporate culture and diverse team bring?
I personally believe cooperation in diverse teams is extremely important, as different viewpoints and skills make it easier to find better solutions to problems and achieve better results. It is also for this reason that I place a great deal of importance on diversity in the structure of my own team. An example of this is the fact that the youngest female team head at KfW works in my department. We need diverse ways of thinking, skills and talents in order to increase the level of creativity and innovation and, in doing so, shape a sustainable working environment. Combating intolerance and discrimination will also lead to an improved atmosphere at work.
What is the actual difference in the way diverse teams work?
The key factor here is respectful collaboration, which can only succeed if there is an open and impartial corporate culture in place. Here at KfW, we pay particular attention to appreciating each other. This is the basis of our work and is also largely responsible for our employer appeal – a key factor in retaining the best employees and attracting new talent in future too.
The eighth German Diversity Day is due to be held on 26 May. How will KfW be taking part, and what impact is the coronavirus pandemic having in this respect?
Everyday life at work has changed for all of us due to coronavirus. Meetings are being held in the form of telephone or video conferences, and the fact that people are working from home and events have been cancelled is also reducing personal contact. This means that our exchanges and communication are primarily happening via digital channels. For the eighth German Diversity Day, we had made plans for numerous hands-on activities and face-to-face meetings at our three sites in Frankfurt, Berlin and Bonn, to be held under the motto of ”Discover Diversity“. We needed to rethink our options and find new digital exchange platforms and communication channels while still keeping our employees actively involved. KfW is now managing to do this through online workshops, newsletters, video interviews and a regular series of articles posted on the Intranet. Over the next few months, we will gradually discover the six elements of diversity, looking at them as individual puzzle pieces that we need to make into a complete puzzle by the end of the year.
You can follow this process on our Instagram Careers account kfw.karriere.
Published on KfW Stories: 20 May 2020.