Individualisation as an opportunity: Designing Diversity and flexibility as added value. Focus: International Dual Career Couples

The recruitment of international staff is becoming increasingly important in filling high-calibre key positions in business and science. In order to survive as an attractive location, cities and municipalities must strive for innovative offers. One possibility is the promotion of dual careers. The Stuttgart Region, in particular the Dual Career Center of the Wirtschaftsförderung Region Stuttgart GmbH and the Dual Career Service of the University of Stuttgart work closely together in this regard.

Both institutions hosted the informational event “Dual Career Center of the Wirtschaftsförderung Region Stuttgart GmbH und der Dual Career Service der Universität Stuttgart” in Stuttgart on July 16, 2014. The event provided practical information and facilitated an exchange of experience among the participants. Michael Stuber also gave suggestions on the topic in his lecture.

The trend towards individualisation is one of many changes to which companies must respond. Globalisation, the Internet and migration are leading to increasingly heterogeneous societies. Diversity management reacts to this phenomenon and provides an approach to create added value from Diversity. Diversity describes the principle of potential, with which Diversity is systematically used to the advantage of all participants through consciously positive consideration and active inclusion. The use of diversity influences internal interaction as well as image. Ultimately, it opens up new opportunities, for example by addressing new target groups and opening up new market segments. The promotion of dual careers fits well into this picture.

Companies need to respond to the changes around them. These are taking place at different levels: demographic change, value change and relationship change – as some of the concrete directions of this change trend – are bringing about a number of other changes both within and outside companies. Specifically, four operational functions need to change: Recruitment (employer branding, search and selection, recruitment), development (competencies, identification, careers, training), retention (employment, evaluation, compensation, separation) and use (corporate culture, leadership quality).

Work/life balance has a concrete influence on some of these functions in companies. Working time, place of work, work organisation and instruments have a direct impact on the relationship between work and leisure/family. Classically, work/life balance is associated with women. The study by Rochus Mommet from 2012 suggests why: 48 percent of women in middle management have foregone a career step because it was not possible to reconcile their private lives with their working hours (e.g. due to inflexible working hours, rigid working hours model or lack of care opportunities).

The increasing importance of this aspect is well illustrated by the example of recruitment: in graduate surveys, work-life balance ranks among the top 3 factors for the selection of your future employer.

It is worth integrating work-life balance into the company and making it part of everyday business life.

International dual career couples fall into this grid – after all, this is a method that allows employees to not have to give up their private lives when they change jobs, while also allowing employers to recruit qualified personnel.

Most skilled workers are recruited from OECD countries. The increase in female employment is one reason for the increase in recruitment. Dual-Career means an increase and exchange of knowledge and competence.

Surely Dual-Career has a number of questions in tow. From the company’s point of view, the application of the concept was previously family-friendly and was rather a question of individual cases. In the future, however, there will be more vacancies and more mobility in demand. The accompanying partner is faced with the challenge of finding a new job as well as connections in a new country. Which is the right platform and the right medium to do justice to these questions? What does this mean in terms of additional expenditure for the respective organisation? And is there sufficient demand at all?

Many companies respond by initiating or participating in networks. One example is the IDCN, a volunteer organisation organised by Nestlé. The guiding idea was to make mobility easier for companies, to discover and promote talent and to strengthen the employer brand. Partners should find local support and be made aware of development opportunities. A number of events help to establish links, obtain information on job search and exchange experiences.

The network promises international candidate pools; in Geneva alone, 71% full-time positions are sought. In 2013, 100 jobs could be placed with partners through the network.

One contribution to success is the correct establishment of the programme. The positioning and responsibilities within the company must be clarified in advance. Networks only run through the right communication, so both factors are important components for a successful result. A program works really well if it is no longer just a program, but an ingredient of the corporate culture.

Next: Perspectives for Diversity

What are the prospects for Diversity in terms of family and life-phase personnel policy? If the focus is on the corporate culture, the intersections between career and family become clear. Flexible working hours and locations or the scheduling of meetings show direct points of contact. Of course, the need and benefits must be clearly stated and visible to all, even if access is business-related. New tasks and challenges arise for the top management – in terms of human resources, but also in terms of the instruments that have to be implemented in their area of responsibility – in order to pave the way for change. In this sense, processes within the company must be analyzed and questioned so that the propelling performance principle can take effect.

How: Diversity in Practice

For Diversity to be implemented meaningfully, it must take on a clear position in the company. A connection to the strategic priorities of the company, the values and identity, and to the challenges, forms the basis for a successful implementation. The new concept will be given further support by taking stock and developing clear objectives.

When introducing the concept, top-down and bottom-up strategies must not be strictly separated, but have to be used in combination. In the long run, Diversity will be carried by anchoring it in the regular corporate communication, HR processes and marketing. In the past, the importance of the corporate culture was often underestimated. However, this is where we find the greatest leverage for change processes.

Why: Necessity of design

Society is developing in the direction of heterogeneity. Companies, as part of this society, must adapt accordingly. That requires a lot of reflection work. The acceptance of the “other” encounters reservations and prejudices that must be addressed. Not only the individual himself is in demand here. It is also on the interpersonal and the organizational level that different so-called biases can be found. A targeted design is therefore necessary so that potentials can unfold and improvements can be achieved both at the external and internal level. These include new market segments, improved credit ratings, easier access to broader labour market segments and higher prestige. Internally, Diversity convinces through improved production, motivation among employees, improved teamwork and greater openness to change.

What: From Diversity to the Propelling Performance Principle

The motto of Diversity Management is “Not only to accept the existing diversity, but to create targeted added value”. Summarising diversity in the usual Diversity dimensions is a good idea, but it does not go far enough. In addition to gender, ethnic-cultural diversity, age, ability/disability, religion/belief and sexual orientation, diversity also includes the type of personal lifestyle, organisational aspects such as length of service, but also criteria such as career planning and consumer behaviour. What, then, is the difference between diversity and Diversity? “Diversity describes the principle of potential with which diversity is systematically used to the advantage of all participants through consciously positive consideration and active inclusion”, Michael Stuber summarizes in his introduction. Only by linking open attitudes with inclusion can added value be developed, and thus improvements produced. The decisive factor is open-mindedness: only those who think outside the box can recognise untapped potential. Diversity works as a holistic resource-oriented approach. The use of individual potentials is systematic, but must be consciously designed.