Head of Local Engineering Manager Traction Switzerland, ABB Motion Initiator and promoter of D&I in Traction
Please shortly introduce yourself and your position in ABB
My name is Thorsten Schröter and I lead the department of Local Engineering Traction CH with about 90 employees. In that role, I try to be an empathic and authentic leader and not just a manager.
You started the initiative, and you are a big promoter of D&I in Traction. Why is D&I so important to you and what do you want to achieve?
D&I helps ABB as well as me to learn, grow, and to reach greater goals. Being able to constantly learn, we need people around us who challenge us by bringing up new and diverse perspectives and ideas. This diversity of thoughts can be achieved when people of different ages, genders, abilities, and so on are brought together, but unfortunately, they are often the minority in a group. To engage these minorities, a certain working culture is needed. A culture where we feel valued, are heard, and everyone has equal chances. But how shall we support such a culture? As Mrs. Bohnet, a behavioral economist at Harvard University, said—at least one-third of our teams should include diverse people so that they are no longer haunted by social categories and can take full advantage of their diversity. Finally, for that, we need more than words. We need action. This is what I want to achieve. Take action to embrace D&I, give equal chances, and use it to help people and ABB at the same time.
How do you make everyone feel included and part of your team?
To feel included, we need to feel like we’re part of the group and we need to feel free to show and live our uniqueness. For that, we offer different work models (part-time contracts and hybrid work), support job rotations, offer internal/external training, offer jobs for disabled persons, and encourage people to look after their mental health and support them with it. Furthermore, we train our leaders to be able to give everyone the needed space by paying attention to unconscious bias and interrupting it. Additionally, we launched job crafting workshops in some teams last year to find out everybody’s strengths and enable them to use them. Also, to feel included and part of the team, we need to feel heard and be allowed to talk freely about anything and to anyone. No matter if you are an apprentice, manager, or anyone else. To support this culture, my door is open as often as possible and I am open for everyone to discuss with me. Finishing a certain task is a matter of planning, but talking to people oftentimes depends on the right moment. Therefore, finishing a task and talking to people are equal in importance to me.
What are the challenges of living and taking action to enable D&I in your team?
The challenges can be found within as well as outside of ABB. The main challenge is to show the outside world, people being interested in working for ABB, that there is an open door and space for them inside ABB. We need to show, that D&I is not just a nice slogan for us. Everyone needs to feel free to discuss their questions and doubts with us through the various channels we offer, and at the events we attend as a company. Internally, of course, we need to guarantee that people from majorities do not feel excluded if we are talking to and supporting the minority groups more actively. Therefore, all of the inclusion measures I explained before are accessible to everyone. My door is always open if anyone has questions, doubts, ideas, or simply needs a moment of social interaction. Our Human Resource and Talent & Learning functions have a constant focus on D&I topics, which is great! Additionally, we from the business side need to actively support D&I. I believe this is the key to success. Full participation is needed to live and support D&I. Since our business is growing constantly and we are working under pressure, it is not always easy to keep focused on D&I from a business point of view. The energy and time needed for D&I must be secured before it is eaten up by the daily business.
Anything else you would like to mention?
Even though there are challenges in D&I, I very much appreciate that I get the time outside of my direct business function to support ABB's D&I journey. Thanks a lot to ABB and all the people who are keen on taking the journey with ABB and me. And of course, while supporting D&I internally and externally, we might make mistakes or miss a certain viewpoint. I do, therefore, really appreciate people sharing their opinions with me and highlighting the things I and the organization could have done better in the past, both in general and in regards to D&I.