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Michael Müller-Camen

Video Michael Müller-Camen

Michael Müller-Camen

Researcher of the Month

The activ­it­ies of HR de­part­ments are grow­ing in scope and im­port­ance as en­ter­prises are be­com­ing more and more aware of their eco­lo­gical and so­cial re­spons­ib­il­ity. Com­pan­ies doc­u­ment the sus­tain­ab­il­ity-ori­ented activ­it­ies car­ried out by their HR de­part­ments in their sus­tain­ab­il­ity re­ports. A re­cent study by WU Pro­fessor Mi­chael Müller­-Ca­men shows that even though these re­ports are based on global stand­ards, there are con­sid­er­able dif­fer­ences in how com­pan­ies around the world define their pri­or­it­ies in sus­tain­able HR man­age­ment. These in­ter­na­tional dif­fer­ences are par­tic­u­larly strik­ing when it comes to meas­ures for sup­port­ing wo­men.

Today, di­versity man­age­ment is regarded as one of the key strategies for the suc­cess of busi­ness en­ter­prises: Di­versity is en­rich­ing, it stim­u­lates in­nov­a­tion, and it helps to en­sure that many dif­fer­ent in­terests are equally rep­res­en­ted. This devel­op­ment is cre­at­ing new re­spons­ib­il­it­ies and chal­lenges for HR de­part­ments. These re­spons­ib­il­it­ies and chal­lenges are part of the sus­tain­able HR man­age­ment ap­proaches in­creas­ingly ad­op­ted by com­pan­ies, sub­ject to their own spe­cific cor­por­ate di­versity strategies. The sus­tain­able di­versity man­age­ment activ­it­ies car­ried out by HR de­part­ments are doc­u­mented in the sus­tain­ab­il­ity re­ports is­sued by the re­spect­ive com­pan­ies. In­ter­na­tional norms like the GRI (Global Re­port­ing Ini­ti­at­ive) stand­ards have been developed to en­hance the com­par­ab­il­ity of com­pan­ies’ sus­tain­able HR ini­ti­at­ives and data. As part of a joint pro­ject with re­search­ers from the WU In­sti­tute for Gender and Di­versity in Or­gan­iz­a­tions, Mi­chael Müller­-Ca­men, head of WU’s In­sti­tute for Hu­man Re­source Man­age­ment, has in­vestig­ated the dif­fer­ences and sim­il­ar­it­ies between sus­tain­ab­il­ity re­ports is­sued by com­pan­ies in the US, Ger­many, Ch­ina, and Ja­pan, fo­cus­ing espe­cially on the field of HR man­age­ment. For bet­ter com­par­ab­il­ity, the ana­lysis was based on the sus­tain­ab­il­ity re­ports is­sued by the biggest banks from these coun­tries, ac­cord­ing to the For­bes Global 2000 rank­ing. The res­ults clearly show that des­pite the ex­ist­ence of global stand­ards, con­sid­er­able dif­fer­ences can be ob­served from coun­try to coun­try in the field of sus­tain­able HR man­age­ment.

Di­verse ap­proaches to di­versity man­age­ment

The di­versity strategies of US banks were found to be par­tic­u­larly de­tailed and nu­anced. “Di­versity man­age­ment was developed in the US, so it’s little won­der that the im­ple­ment­a­tion of these ap­proaches is espe­cially ad­vanced there. It’s very in­ter­est­ing to take a closer look at the in­di­vidual di­men­sions, however: In ad­di­tion to gender, eth­ni­city, skin color, and sexual ori­ent­a­tion, also factors like vet­eran status are taken into ac­count,” Mi­chael Müller­-Ca­men points out. By in­clud­ing these factors, US banks em­phas­ize their pat­ri­ot­ism. Banks from Ger­many and Ja­pan take a less com­pre­hens­ive ap­proach to di­versity man­age­ment and fo­cus primar­ily on in­creas­ing the num­ber of wo­men in man­age­ment and, due to demo­graphic devel­op­ments, age di­versity in the work­force. The di­men­sion “sexual ori­ent­a­tion” is only in­cluded in re­ports from Ger­many and the US. “Ja­pan­ese and Chinese banks do not men­tion this cat­egory in their sus­tain­ab­il­ity re­ports. This may be evid­ence that sexual ori­ent­a­tion is regarded as a ta­boo in these coun­tries. Chinese re­ports also avoid the con­cept of ‘di­versity’,” Pro­fessor Müller­-Ca­men ex­plains. “In gen­eral, these dif­fer­ences in the ap­proaches taken can be at­trib­uted to his­tor­ical factors, dif­fer­ent legal frame­works, and also dif­fer­ent pop­u­la­tion struc­tures.”

Dif­fer­ent ways of sup­port­ing wo­men

The goal of strength­en­ing the pos­i­tion of wo­men is a pri­or­ity in the sus­tain­ab­il­ity re­ports of all banks in all coun­tries covered in the study. However, the meas­ures taken to achieve this goal vary greatly between the dif­fer­ent coun­tries. In the US, Ger­many, and Ja­pan, the fo­cus is on edu­ca­tion, net­work­ing, and coach­ing ser­vices for sup­port­ing wo­men’s ca­reers, but com­pan­ies in Ch­ina are tak­ing a com­pletely dif­fer­ent ap­proach: The sus­tain­ab­il­ity re­ports is­sued by the Chinese banks in­clude meas­ures tar­geted at fe­male em­ploy­ees that do not fo­cus on ca­reer devel­op­ment at all. In­stead, they in­clude gender­-ste­reo­typed activ­it­ies such as fash­ion shows or cook­ery courses for wo­men only. “At first glance, many top­ics, for in­stance meas­ures in sup­port of wo­men, ap­pear to be the same in all the dif­fer­ent re­ports, but our re­search has brought to light sig­ni­fic­ant in­ter­na­tional, cul­tural dif­fer­ences,” says Pro­fessor Müller­-Ca­men. “Our res­ults clearly show where im­prove­ments are needed on the way to­wards a type of stra­tegic di­versity man­age­ment that is in­clus­ive and com­pre­hens­ive and takes into ac­count the most im­port­ant di­men­sions that are re­cog­nized as es­sen­tial in the cur­rent dis­course on di­versity, for in­stance age, eth­ni­city, dis­ab­il­ity, gender, sexual ori­ent­a­tion, and re­li­gion.”

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