It is about doing the right thing out of ones own and personal conviction – this is how the term integrity can be summed up. Integrity plays a central role in the cultural transformation of the Volkswagen Group, i.e. the process driven by around 650,000 colleagues.
“Integrity is a top priority in the Group in order to strengthen trust in our Company," says Hiltrud Werner, Member of the Board of Management of the Volkswagen Group responsible for Integrity and Legal Affairs. She adds: “If we want to be fit for the challenges of the future, we must change as a Group. It is important that everyone addresses what is wrong so that previous mistakes are not repeated.” The new Volkswagen Group principles are the foundations of this culture:
These seven keywords stand for: Responsibility for the environment and society. Be honest and speak up when something is wrong. Break new ground and live diversity. Be proud of the results of ones own work. We not me. And keeping your word.
Dedicated ambassadors of integrity
This desired change in corporate culture does not happen by itself – the Volkswagen Group is driving it forward with numerous initiatives. For example, through so-called integrity ambassadors. “It is a question of employees committing themselves – in addition to their actual tasks – to their own motivation in order to anchor the issue of integrity at all levels of the Group,” says Tobias Heine, Head of the Volkswagen Group’s “Together4Integrity” strategic program. The “Together4Integrity” program bundles all activities that strengthen integrity, culture, compliance, risk management and human resources. The program consistently pursues the future-oriented “TOGETHER 2025+” strategy.
A task that requires continued dedication. An important component of the Togehter4Integrity program is the “Sounding Board”, a regular dialogue and networking event: around 150 of a total of more than 300 voluntary integrity ambassadors from various brands and locations came together for the 11th Sounding Board in Wolfsburg on June 12 to deepen the subject, exchange ideas and learn new things about “Integrity in everyday working life.”
“Many dedicated colleagues bring integrity to our daily work”
“This is great. In addition to the many committed colleagues who bring integrity to our everyday work, I was particularly impressed by this one film at the “Corporate Culture” information stand, which shows how quickly people simply do what everyone else does without questioning it,” says integrity ambassador Lars Hergeselle from the Technical Development department. He speaks of a YouTube film (Social Conformity - Brain Games), which will be shown at the Sounding Board at one of eleven stations: A small waiting room, a couple of actors and a social experiment that illustrates how easily people simply imitate what others do – without asking why.
“Integral behavior is our common foundation for the success of our company”
“That’s exactly what we must and want to anchor deeply with our colleagues as integrity ambassadors,” says Adriano Menna, who works in Technical Development at the pre-series center. Together with his colleague Dennis Winter, who is also an integrity ambassador, he has already held 11 of the planned 31 workshops and information events on the subject of integrity. “Our colleagues like to learn more about the topic through direct dialogue,” says Adriano, “because integrity and one’s own conduct of integrity must be our common basis. For the Group to be productive, we must all be honest with each other.”
Dennis nods: “It’s about decency. Everyone understands that. You don’t need an extra rule to realize that it’s good to help an elderly person across the street, for example.” You need to have the courage to talk to a manager if you can’t understand something. “I hear it again and again from older colleagues that our culture used to be very hierarchical and was shaped solely by the decision-making power of our superiors, which is not open to discussion. That is changing now!”
Eliminate silo thinking, open and transparent cooperation culture!
“The integrity ambassadors make an important contribution to cultural change because they credibly promote the topic of integrity in their working environment,” says Tobias Heine. “They also support their colleagues in behaving with integrity in certain situations.
But how do you recognize what is right and what is wrong in everyday work – what does it mean to behave with integrity? “Imagine what my own mother would say about my actions. And if everyone would act with integrity, fewer rules would be needed,” says Hiltrud Werner, the Board Member, in a dialogue with the integrity ambassadors.
But why do you become an ambassador for integrity? Beate Hossfeld from IT in Wolfsburg has been there right from the start: “It is important to me that everyone can express their opinion – and that rules can be observed, but also questioned. She thinks that a lot has changed already: “You can talk more openly. In meetings, in the coffee room, even at larger gatherings.” The ultimate goal hasn’t been achieved yet, but the current cultural change is a great opportunity to approach each other.
Being part of the change yourself, moving things forward
Jens Grzonka, an electrician in vehicle maintenance, did not want to wait for a change, but to be part of the change himself. He was not satisfied with the “old” corporate culture and is therefore committed to acting as an ambassador for integrity. He says: “People almost always act with integrity, but sometimes this is made difficult for them by a certain corporate culture. But it’s true that if everyone follows the rules, the company as a whole is guaranteed to work more productively.” He himself has played an active role, addressed something, relating to the area of high-voltage energy, and contributed to the introduction of a Group-wide code of conduct. “The great thing is that you really notice that something is changing. Integrity is important to our company!” Hiltrud Werner also praises: “Our committed integrity ambassadors are doing a great job. They are present in many parts of the company, authentic and approachable to their colleagues. And in doing so, they contribute to a fundamental change in the way we work together. We will continue to maintain and expand this functioning network of the Sounding Board.”