Audi receives Industrial Inclusion Prize

One of the reasons the jury gave for its decision in favor of Audi was the company’s special focus on the continued employment of people with physical disabilities. To firmly establish inclusion at Audi, the company is training its management staff, and together with the Works Council is promoting “soft factors” such as respect and communication.

“Each individual employee contributes to the company’s success,” stated Audi’s Board of Management Member for Human Resources Thomas Sigi. “We see it as essential to deploy our employees where they can best apply their strengths.” He believes this is especially important with regard to inclusion: “People with physical disabilities give us a new, unfamiliar perspective and strengthen the creative potential of their teams,” emphasized Sigi. “This diversity is enriching and is part of the diversity culture that we encourage at Audi.”

Audi employs people with physical disabilities as long as possible in their usual teams, in the area of production for example. When an employee can no longer carry out his or her normal work, the line manager, Human Resources department and Works Council work together to find ergonomic aids or improved possibilities for deployment in the usual working environment. Other tasks within the same team are considered, for example. If this is not possible, a move to another department is examined. Since 2010, Audi has created approximately 1,000 new jobs for disabled people in areas close to production.

For Peter Mosch, Chairman of the General Works Council, this commitment is an obligation vis‑à‑vis the employees with disabilities. “For us, every person is an individual and must be treated as such,” he stated. In order to promote equal opportunities, the Works Council places priority on strong representation of people with disabilities. “We not only stand up for the interests of disabled employees, we also support their integration in the company and continue to be available for advice after that,” continued Mosch.

A joint study carried out by Audi and the University of St. Gallen has confirmed the success of this integration concept: Mixed teams with disabled and non‑disabled employees generate more ideas and work more creatively than homogeneous teams. Key factors for successful inclusion are respectful leadership by team leaders and managers and good cooperation within the team. These so‑called soft factors have a significant impact on the employees’ satisfaction and health. “With ergonomic workplaces, we create the right conditions for the integration of employees with physical limitations,” stated Hubert Waltl, Board of Management member for Production and Logistics at AUDI AG. “It is even more important that managers and colleagues accompany and support these employees.”

Audi has integrated the findings from the St. Gallen study into its new management model, in which respect and appreciation play a major role. The company also trains its management staff on this basis. They are trained in working with disabled employees in specific scenarios and thus gain more confidence in challenging management situations.

The Industrial Inclusion Prize is regarded as Germany’s most important award for integration and inclusion issues. The current prize is awarded to companies that carried out exemplary projects and activities in 2015 and 2016. The initiators of the prize include the Confederation of German Employer Associations, the Federal Employment Agency, the Diversity Charter and Unternehmensforum (an association of companies for the promotion of inclusion at work).