Puma SE, a German sporting goods company, signed a diversity charter for 2010 and conducted a survey of its employees last year on diversity and inclusion. In Berlin, Dietmar Knoess, HR Head, explained how Puma SE tries to live in diversity during a lecture.

Knoess said that diversity and inclusion are not about ticking a box, but about equality at the start of his talk at November’s retail congress. He advised, “If it’s something you want to do, then do it with your heart.” If you are going to do it, do it with great credibility. It always looks contrived.

Knoess demonstrates that Puma is committed to diversity and starts his presentation by sharing a bit of corporate history. The Dassler brothers, founding fathers of Puma, provided shoes for Jesse Owens in the United States at the 1936 Olympic Games in Munich.

man in black jacket standing beside man in black jacket

Diversity in numbers

It is not enough for a sporting goods manufacturer to show diversity efforts through sponsored athletes or advertising campaigns. Customers and employees are demanding more diversity and inclusion in the workplace.

Puma currently employs 18,000 people worldwide. A tenth of these employees are located in Germany. The overall number of women in leadership positions is 50.6 percent. Puma employs 158 nationalities from around the globe. The head office is located in Herzogenaurach (Germany), and employs 73 nationalities.

Knoess stated, “It’s about attitudes and not nationalities per se. Whether you are open to working in international environments and if you accept diversity.”

Puma’s international business strategy is aided by a diverse workforce. The company’s turnover has increased in recent years. Knoess also demonstrated this through graphic evidence in his presentation.

Numerous studies have already shown that diversity in leadership teams correlates with financial success. McKinsey’s research showed that diversity and profitability were positively related in companies that had more women on their leadership teams. Ethnic diversity is also positively correlated with profitability.

Women in leadership positions

Research has also shown a link between diversity in leadership and financial success. It has been shown that language plays an important role in addressing women and men. The same holds true for imagery. Puma also exerts influence in certain fields where underrepresented groups work. Puma does not use the suffix m/f/d in job titles, but rather relies on the statement that all are welcome.

Puma’s chief sourcing officer Anne-Laure Descours is the first woman to sit on its board. Puma still needs to do more in lower management positions, as 80 percent are internal recruits.

Knoess is optimistic because the foundation is already equal. There are as many female employees than there are men. With a share of 42%, the level of department heads looks promising. From here, women can rise.

Employees should be self-sufficient

Puma established a strategy approach many years ago. The Group believes that diversity fosters creativity, and that global recruiting provides valuable skills.

Knoess stated, “We believe our employees are happy when they’re diverse.” The HR manager stated that it is important to document your strategy. This was what Puma did with its Code of Ethics 2008. To further accelerate the process of change, the topic should be presented at events.

“Puma hires with diversity in mind. This means that international employees are hired, but that the employees should feel at home in their own country.”

It all starts with the recruiters learning about visa procedures and then continues with language. English is the company’s official language. It is not important to speak German. The company ensures that all employees speak English even among store managers. Area managers don’t have to be fluent in German.

Last but not the least, employees need to feel good about what they eat. The canteen at head office has eight to nine nationalities employed and caters for different holidays, such as Eid with halal meat.

Puma encourages its employees to be honest and openly share their opinions. It is vital that employees feel comfortable in their work environment. Knoess believes that this is the only way to feel at ease in your workplace.

Knoess also pointed out that diversity and inclusion can be difficult for human resources teams. However, it’s not about denying people equal opportunities.

“Diversity can be a conversation that will never end. But at some point you must start the discussion.”

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