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Interview

Diversity must be thought and lived together. This responsibility needs a strong foundation at all levels. That is why diversity and inclusion are part of our corporate culture and our self-image. Nicole Knaack and Nadine Ilgenstein (Co-Heads Diversity & Inclusion) tell us how this works.

Nicole Knaack, Global Diversity & Inclusion
Nicole Knaack, Global Diversity & Inclusion
Nadine Ilgenstein, Global Diversity & Inclusion
Nadine Ilgenstein, Global Diversity & Inclusion

Schaeffler has been pursuing the topic of Diversity & Inclusion (D&I) for some time now. A lot has happened in the past two years in particular. What is new?

Nicole Knaack: I began developing the topic in 2018 by myself. The Schaeffler Group then designated D&I as an important topic within the “People & Culture” sub-programme, as part of the Roadmap 2025, which created the basis for further important steps. One of these was bringing in Nadine as a reinforcement. Now we are taking it forward together.

Nadine Ilgenstein: Double forces are urgently needed in a global organisation like Schaeffler! Our international positioning alone means there is a high degree of cultural diversity. The transformation from a pure component supplier to a system supplier also increases the diversity of employees – in terms of expertise and ways of thinking. Therefore, it is all the more important that we create an environment in which different people can work together optimally.

Have there been any organisational changes in D&I?

Nicole Knaack: We have broadened the D&I organisation as a whole, but also adapted the global D&I Council, which has been in place since 2019. The members now better reflect organisational diversity. In addition to the members of the Executive Board of Schaeffler AG, top executives from all divisions are also represented. The members of the council want to strategically anchor the idea of diversity in the company, make it more visible, and connect different perspectives in the Schaeffler Group. The council ensures the accuracy, effectiveness, and implementation of our holistic diversity management strategy.

Nadine Ilgenstein: Since many people with different backgrounds come together within our four regions, we have created regional D&I Councils in addition to the global one. They act within the framework of our global approach but are tailored to local and regional needs and challenges. Specialists and D&I ambassadors then form local networks.

Nicole Knaack: As Co-Heads Diversity & Inclusion, we work closely with the different D&I Councils. In this way, we bring together the requirements of the company and the needs of the global workforce. And with the members of the councils, we have strong multipliers who in turn carry our messages and initiatives into their spheres of influence.

How do you make diversity and inclusion a tangible experience for the whole team?

Nicole Knaack: We rely above all on the openness and commitment of our colleagues. Within the framework of the three pillars – commitment, awareness and transparency – we use various formats for exchange among the staff, for example at network meetings. We sharpen the view for the unique, but also for unconscious bias. Above all, inclusion can only work if everyone is committed to D&I. This means finding out about D&I structures and inequalities, asking questions and, ideally, going one step further.

Nadine Ilgenstein: We develop various training courses for this purpose and offer mentoring programmes so that employees can raise their individual awareness, join internal initiatives and work on their own behaviours and understanding. These offers are well received.

What is your vision for the future?

Nadine Ilgenstein: Nicole’s favourite saying is “Inclusion starts with I”. And I see it that way too. We have laid the foundations by anchoring D&I within our organisational structure. But diversity and inclusion must be lived by all employees at Schaeffler. Our goal is for diversity and inclusion to be taken for granted: in daily interaction and in the company as a whole.

Nicole Knaack: We want our colleagues to see differences as an opportunity to enrich our daily work and make us more creative and innovative. This can be very challenging and exhausting, but in the end it is worth it. Our goal is that everyone feels up to the challenge.

Video AP Council Members

The world is multicultural and so is the Schaeffler team. With the right people, the right mindset and awareness, we can work towards great goals. Working together across cultural and geographical boundaries is fun, inspiring and connects. Our AP Council members introduce themselves.

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Mentoring

Better together: Everyone benefits from good mentoring.

Mentoring is a tool that strengthens diversity and inclusion at all levels. This applies not only to the individual stories that the participants bring with them, but also to the exchange of perspectives, opinions and experiences.

More mentees and more mentors: The “Women Mentoring@Region Europe” program is becoming increasingly popular at Schaeffler. With 40 mentees and 40 mentors, the third edition of the program in 2021/2022 is also significantly more extensive. At the start of the project in 2019/2020, there were 14 mentees and 7 mentors. Now former mentees are sharing their experiences as mentors. The participants come from various countries in Schaeffler’s European region and cover the three divisions as well as various functional areas.

The programme contributes to more diversity and strengthens the career perspectives of women in the company. To participate, mentees and mentors are nominated by the Regional Management Board Europe and/or the sub-regional HR Business Partners. The female talents from the European region select a European manager, to whom they do not report directly, as a mentor for the one-year programme.

This is how our mentees benefit:

  • Tips and assistance for further development
  • A better understanding of the big picture
  • Networking opportunities within the company

Monika Pietrzyk (Vice President Leadership, Talent Development, Recruitment and Schaeffler Academy Europe) is convinced that regular personal exchanges broaden perspectives, improve social and intercultural sensitivity and foster the sharing of acquired knowledge. Personal and professional skills are promoted, and the professional development opportunities of employees are supported.

At the launch of the 3rd edition of “Women Mentoring@Region Europe”, Sascha Zaps, Regional CEO Europe, emphasised the special nature of the project: “With this programme, we are taking on an important role in preventing silo thinking and strengthening cooperation in Region Europe through the cross-functional, cross-country, cross-gender and cross-divisional exchange that the programme offers.”

Nadine Ilgenstein, Global Co-Head Diversity & Inclusion at Schaeffler, also sees the mentoring programme as a great opportunity for diversity and inclusion: “It is important to create an environment in which female talents have the same opportunities as male talents and are empowered for challenging tasks through an inclusive leadership culture. This is diversity as well!”

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