Diversity & Leadership. We need an inclusive corporate culture!

  • Diversity

By Florian Schmitz

Especially in eastern Germany, but also in other German and European regions the lack of skilled workers and managers is slowing down the economic upswing. More diversity, i.e. the employment of older employees, women, people with a migration background or disability, can counteract the negative trend. However, in many cases, a change in corporate culture is necessary for successful talent acquisition and integration. This is a leadership challenge. 

In many industrial sectors in central Germany, vacancies are considerably slowing down the upswing. The figures from Saxony show how dramatic the situation is: the companies in the Saxon Chambers of Industry and Commerce and the Chambers of Crafts reported 64 vacancies per 1,000 employees last year – a new record. Technicians and master craftsmen in particular are desperately needed. Compared to 2020, there will be a shortage of around 210,000 employable persons in the Saxon labour market in 2035. In key industries such as mechanical engineering, there is already a shortage of suitable young people throughout eastern Germany. Although four out of five eastern German mechanical and plant engineering companies still train their own young skilled workers, the number and quality of applicants are falling continuously. There are many reasons for this, ranging from demographic change and the trend towards part-time employment to the high tendency of young people to study.

However, there are still population groups that are underrepresented in the labour market: Besides older employees, women and people with disabilities, this is especially true for people with a migration background. And even in Europe, there are still countries with high unemployment among well-educated skilled workers that are (not only) interesting for eastern German companies. One central problem that remains is the recognition of foreign educational and professional qualifications. And politicians are only gradually beginning to remove these barriers to enter the labour market. The political parties in Germany may argue about the nature and extent of immigration, but none denies that the problems in the labour market can only be solved with immigration in the long run. Simply making people available in the labour market and lowering bureaucratic hurdles will not solve the problem. Integration into the value chain in a way that is meaningful for both sides is a question of corporate culture that ensures that these groups of people can fully realise their real potential.

Leaders shape the corporate culture

An inclusive corporate culture does not fall from the sky, nor does it come about through the posting of well-formulated guidelines. It requires the active action of managers at all levels:

  • Anchor diversity in the corporate strategy
    In order for managers to know what is expected of them, the corporate strategy must set the goal of diversity. Not as an end in itself, but with the objective of eliminating the already existing or foreseeable shortage of skilled workers. Because without sufficient and adequately qualified employees, the company's economic goals cannot be realised. And this is precisely the message that must be communicated to the staff already working in the company.
  • Leadership Selection
    A new corporate culture can rarely be implemented entirely without personnel changes at the top or additional recruitment from outside. With professional support and the use of aptitude diagnostics, you can ensure that you bring on board the right leaders with the personalities that fit your company.
  • Releasing untapped potential in employer branding
    Companies should analyse the composition of their workforce and leadership. Where does the workforce differ greatly compared to the local population, i.e. which groups should be targeted preferentially? Which employees can be used for a marketing campaign to specifically recruit older employees, women or people with a migration background? What further training measures can the company offer in cooperation with local educational institutions to tap unused potential?
  • Onboarding and employee integration
    It is of great importance that both existing and newly recruited managers align themselves with the company's goals. In addition, they should have the individual skills and abilities to lead their areas, motivate employees and develop or attract talent. And they should do this regardless of age, gender or origin, but according to objective criteria. Another important task is to actively promote the integration of new employees.


The all-encompassing demographic changes in the labour market are endangering the stability of small and medium-sized enterprises in particular. At the same time, reservoirs of blue-collar workers, highly specialised professionals and the managers of tomorrow often remain untapped. Diversity – the formation of a heterogeneous team with regard to age, origin, and gender – is absolutely not an end in itself. And this is the direction the discussion often takes. Research shows that heterogeneous teams achieve better results. Creating an inclusive corporate culture is therefore not only an absolute advantage in a competitive labour market but also a guarantee of achieving the company's goals in the future.

If you would like to know more about this topic or would like to contact us personally, please do not hesitate to contact us:

Florian Schmitz  |  Principal Consultant & Practice Lead MU Consumer Practice | MU Dresden
Mobil: +49 170 316 34 94  |  Office: +49 35 18 07 32 0