As part of its Mission 26 group strategy, GEA is seeking to strengthen its diversity and integration activities.
The Cultural Coffee initiative aims to enhance and support the company’s effectiveness through cross-border and cross-functional interactions. GEA employs more than 18,000 people in 55 countries – a huge pool of diversity that is our capital. Cultural Coffee is a unique opportunity to meet employees from all over the GEA world, build company-wide networks and get to know other cultures. It is a 20-minute virtual coffee break that enables employees to broaden their horizons and have a relaxed conversation with a randomly assigned coworker.
The initiative’s slogan is “Meet the people driving GEA”. According to Birgit Lechelmair, Senior Director People & Talent Development at Human Resources, this is exactly what the coworkers who sign up will experience – the chance to meet and chat regularly with a wide variety of people who drive GEA’s success.
“It’s about expanding your own network and horizons over a cup of coffee or tea,” says Lechelmair. “I would like to encourage everyone to take this opportunity to spend 20 minutes getting to know a new coworker and learning about their culture, background, hobbies, job and responsibilities – you choose what you want to talk about.”
Participation is free and very easy. Employees just sign up and indicate how often they would like to participate in a conversation. The Cultural Coffee program draws each pair of coworkers randomly and sends both an invitation. A brief guideline providing tips for the conversation can be downloaded from the GEA intranet.
Senior Director People & Talent Development
Another aspect of GEA’s strategy to improve diversity and integration is the establishment of a women’s network. It is important that we provide a safe, inclusive and progressive workplace for all of our female employees. As part of “Mission 26”, we have set ourselves the target of filling at least 21 percent of the positions in the top three management levels with women by 2026 (2022: 18.6 percent).
An equal world in which all women can achieve their goals – that is the mission of Lean In. Founded by former Facebook director Sheryl Sandberg, the non-profit organization is dedicated to helping women realize their goals and creating equality in the workplace. An important part of the Lean In concept are the Lean In Circles. Comprising up to twelve women, these groups serve to build a female network that empowers its members to support each other and assume leadership roles at their companies. At GEA, however, this network is not limited to existing and potential managers. Instead, it is intended to support all women at our company
The Lean In concept is an ideal way to achieve this. According to a Lean In survey, 85 percent of members experienced a positive change through their Circle and nearly two-thirds of women have taken on a new challenge. That is why GEA chose this concept.
The Circles meet once a month and their members support each other in learning new skills through dialog and sharing experiences. The aim is to identify new opportunities, build connections with other Circle members and encourage women to become more 21% As part of “Mission 26”, we have set ourselves the target of filling at least 21 percent of the positions in the top three management levels with women by 2026. confident and improve their leadership skills. Meetings can take place anywhere – over a coffee at home, during lunch at work or virtually with people who have similar interests – and in any language. More than 400 women at GEA have already registered and established 39 Circles. At the same time, the Lean In network makes it possible to connect with other groups outside the company. Over 50,000 women in more than 180 countries have created Lean In Circles.
Senior Director Talent & Development
At GEA, a mentoring program has been set up to foster the further development of women. Starting in the fall of 2022, this involved pairing 20 female executives with 20 female mentees. The aim is to support the development of female candidates in a one-year program, starting with a pilot program for female employees from the Chief Operating Officer’s departments and the Liquid & Powder Technologies Division.
“If you really want to advance your career, one of the most effective things you can do is find a seasoned mentor interested in sharing their own experiences and giving you their time and resources to support your personal development,” says GEA’s talent developer Birgit Lechelmair. “What’s more, you benefit from your mentor’s network. So building your relationships within the company and networking are truly the key to your development and career success.”
To start things off, 20 female mentors from across the group were paired with 20 female mentees from various departments which report to the Chief Operating Officer (Corporate Responsibility, Engineering Excellence, Procurement, Global Production, QHSE, Corporate Real Estate, Supply Chain and Transformation Management Office, TMO) and the Liquid & Powder Technologies Division (LPT). The program runs for one year before a new group of women at GEA will be given the chance to be matched with mentors. “The mentoring process has three phases: initiation, growth, and dissolution and redefinition,” explains Lechelmair.
“The initiation phase is when mentor and mentee reach agreements and get to know each other. The growth phase consists of structured conversations about the steps needed to achieve the goals set. The dissolution and redefinition phase involves joint preparation for bringing the mentor-mentee relationship to a close.” While the mentors and mentees for the current program have already been selected, a global mentoring initiative for women and men is being planned for next year.
A company owes its success first and foremost to the performance of its employees. At GEA, too, our business success relies on the expertise and commitment of our more than 18,000 employees worldwide. Each individual personally contributes to the bottom line through their daily work and helps us become a little better every day.
Diversity and equal opportunities are not just core values for GEA as a global group, but are essential to our long-term success in the face of international competition. That is why we have set specific and quantifiable targets for our Human Resources department as part of our “Mission 26” group strategy. One of our goals is for 80 percent of employees to agree with the statement that they would recommend GEA to others as a good employer by 2026. Analysis of the 2021 employee survey that is relevant to the reporting period showed that this figure stands at 75 percent. We are also committed to making good progress with regard to gender equality. Our goal is to fill 21 percent of positions in the three upper management levels with women by 2026. Currently, that figure is 18.6 percent. GEA remains committed to respecting human rights as well as the generally accepted core labor standards of the International Labour Organization.
All of these goals are intended to consistently improve GEA’s appeal as an employer and to cement our status on the labor market as an attractive employer. This does not affect our firm commitment to a culture of honesty, sincerity and loyalty. In 2022, we increased our support for individual employee training and continuing education opportunities as well as for achieving personal career goals within the company. We also maintain a work environment that prioritizes occupational health and safety, with responsibility shared between all those involved.
GEA employees are the backbone of our company. This is why it is in our own best interest to ensure that the Human Resources (HR) department is optimally positioned for the future, given the skilled labor shortage, and that its managers have all the relevant expertise and support they need for their work.
Human Resources is closely involved in the operating business through the HR Business Partners organization. HR is a global corporate center and reports directly to the CEO who is also Chief Human Resources Officer. The latter is the only corporate function with a permanent seat on the Global Executive Committee in which the Executive Board members regularly meet with the divisional and regional managers to discuss and take decisions on fundamental GEA issues.
Offering support to divisional and regional managers, the HR business partners are available to answer any questions related to human resource management. The internal HR operations teams at the Berlin and Kuala Lumpur sites provide state-of-the-art HR support services. In addition, the centers of expertise – including Labor Relations/Labor Law, People & Talent Development and Total Rewards & Mobility – develop new ideas for how to establish GEA as an employer of choice over the long term.
The search for diverse and qualified employees is becoming increasingly challenging, above all due to demographic change and the fierce competition for talent on the labor market. Retaining employees over the long term is an important focus for GEA as a sustainable company. To make sure we are viewed as an attractive employer on the labor market as well as to secure the company’s future viability, we attach utmost importance to a corporate culture that fosters diversity, equality and inclusion. Additionally, as part of “Mission 26”, we actively encourage all employees to obtain specific further training and to achieve their medium- and long-term career goals.
Two talent acquisition teams within HR are tasked with searching for talent more effectively. The goal of these teams of experts is to scour the market to find and recruit the right talent using the latest methods such as active sourcing. At the same time, they advise GEA managers and HR business partners on how to find the best and most successful hiring solution on a case-by-case basis. The talent acquisition teams also establish external talent pools through the company’s careers page and relevant career portals. These platforms are used to cultivate ongoing contact with external candidates in order to improve the applicant experience.
We have additionally introduced a referral bonus for our employees at various sites, as we know they are our best and most authentic ambassadors. We hired a total of 2,374 new employees worldwide in 2022 (2021: 2,080). The total number of new hires as a percentage of the average headcount increased from 11.1 percent to 12.6 percent as of December 31, 2022.
Each year, GEA conducts a group-wide employee survey. The overriding objective is to maintain a culture of dialog and communication, to actively involve the workforce in the company’s development and to respond specifically to the feedback provided after evaluating the survey findings. Since 2019, we have been working with an independent opinion research institute with the aim of professionalizing and standardizing the process. To optimize comparability, the standardized questions are always asked in the same form. This fosters acceptance of the process and makes it possible to track and drive the measures implemented.
The employee survey is accompanied by extensive communication at all levels with the aim of strengthening employee confidence in the survey program as well as in management. In addition, all executives receive training to help them respond to and implement the survey findings, with a view to continuously improving our employer branding.
Eighty-one percent of all GEA employees participated in the 2021 employee survey that is relevant to the reporting period – an increase of seven percentage points compared with the previous year. We saw improvements in ten of the survey’s twelve dimensions, with the highest scores recorded in the engagement and sustainability dimensions. Both were already the best-rated dimensions in 2020. The employee communication and growth opportunities categories each scored six percentage points more than in the previous year.
GEA takes the employee survey very seriously. That is why we identified three topics from the 2021 survey as the focus for improvement in the reporting year and worked on these across the company in 2022. Another insight led us to make it easier for executives to access the detailed survey results. A total of some 5,500 initiatives were launched across the company in response to feedback during the reporting period, using findings from the survey to optimize existing processes or introduce new ones.
In addition to being well received by the workforce, the employee survey is held in high regard, as indicated by the high participation rate. At the same time, it is fair to say that our employees know the survey results will be addressed and acted on. With a score of 71 percent, the main category of engagement remains highly rated and we are also seeing improvements across all categories. Nevertheless, the findings indicate a number of areas we need to improve on as we join with our executives and employees in following up on the results.
The participation rate for the 2022 employee survey was 82 percent, with a score of 74 percent in the engagement category. Like its predecessors, this survey will be analyzed in depth and corresponding measures developed for implementation in 2023. We are particularly gratified that 78 percent of our employees would recommend GEA as a good employer. This motivates us to continue on our chosen path and further enhance employee satisfaction.
Director of Continuous Improvement North America
Vice President Indirect Procurement DACH, EE & NCE
GEA is one of the world’s largest systems suppliers for the food, beverage and pharmaceutical sectors. Our portfolio includes machinery and plants as well as advanced process technology, components and comprehensive services. Used across diverse industries, they enhance the sustainability and efficiency of production processes globally.
GEA is listed in the German MDAX and the STOXX® Europe 600 Index and is also among the companies comprising the DAX 50 ESG and MSCI Global Sustainability Indices.
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