The Together4Integrity (T4I) program is triggering a cultural change within the Volkswagen Group. Workshops and discussion rounds show where the Group currently stands and whether and how the established processes are having an impact.
“Who is of the opinion that we are carrying out these activities because of the diesel crisis,” asks Tobias Heine, head of the Together4Integrity program at Volkswagen AG. Together with Arno Antlitz, Member of the Volkswagen Brand Board of Management, Heine is standing next to a large table before a group of employees.
Almost all of the one hundred or so participants in the room raise their hands and look serious. The audience, sitting together at many individual tables, is mixed. Department managers and IT staff are present – some in pinstriped suits or white blouses, while others wear white T-shirts or striped sweaters. What all Volkswagen employees have in common in this room of the MobileLife Campus in Wolfsburg: Integrity and compliance are important to them. “In the past, we have painfully experienced how important trust is and what it means to damage this asset,” explains Antlitz with regard to the consequences of the diesel crisis. “With Together4Integrity we want to regain this trust. We want to send a strong signal that we are perceived as a company that keeps its word.”
Together4Integrity, part of “TOGETHER 2025+”
The Together4Integrity program was launched in spring 2018 and consists of various Group-wide activities. These activities relate to integrity, compliance, culture and values within the company. The aim is to create an understanding and motivation for behavioral change. Specifically, it is about things such as a constructive speak-up culture. An open approach to mistakes and risks, as well as cooperation at eye level – this is to be increasingly practiced within the Group in the future.
Together4Integrity – T4I for short – is part of TOGETHER2025+, the Group strategy for sustainable mobility of tomorrow. The initiative is designed to create a corporate culture that enables every employee to act with integrity and in accordance with the rules at all times. Part of the T4I program are so-called perception workshops, with which Together4Integrity begins and ends – a workshop that is being led by Arno Antlitz and Tobias Heine. The initiative aims to show where Volkswagen stands on issues such as integrity and compliance in everyday working life, what has been achieved so far and where there is still a need for action. This will be measured, among other things, by an anonymous survey conducted digitally and in real-time on-site. The results are compared directly with those of the first workshop one year ago.
One of the participants of today’s T4I workshop in Wolfsburg is 28-year-old Isabell Gorki from the IT security department. “It is helpful to exchange ideas with colleagues from other areas – this way you get a view of what it looks like elsewhere and can take tips with you.” She can confirm that there has already been a change in everyday behavior. “Now the topics of integrity and compliance are more present in people’s minds and they act more consciously in everyday life. Everyone is more open and alert to the topic. A few years ago, it was different – now you question things more.”
The second perception workshop: What has changed?
A central element of the T4I workshop are the surveys among the workshop participants. For this purpose, the participants simply connect to the WLAN via smartphone or tablet and log in to an application via the browser. “Disagree”, “Agree”, “Neither nor” – in total, employees can choose between six options to vote. After the participants have evaluated statements such as “Compared to the past, I feel safer addressing problems and grievances” or “Our superiors are demonstrating the behavior they expect of us”, the joint evaluation begins. “My request to you: Let us be honest with each other, because only then can we really understand where we stand and where we still have to act,” Arno Antlitz appeals.
In a conversation with colleagues, Maik Sohnemann, the Quality Assurance Officer, explains: “Acting with integrity and complying with the Group’s Code of Conduct becomes difficult when pressure is exerted, and certain goals have to be achieved. I would have no problem admitting errors to my superiors. Nevertheless, there are colleagues who are so shy. They may not talk about risks and mistakes because they are afraid of the possible consequences.”
In a large discussion group, Antlitz and Heine respond to the statement, “We must increasingly develop a culture in which we learn from our mistakes in order to become better,” emphasizes Antlitz.
Conclusion of the event
Most values have improved in comparison to the first workshop. At the end of the workshop Arno Antlitz is satisfied: “We want to become a role model again for a modern, transparent and value-based company. What we have experienced here today in terms of open discussion about our values, openness and transparency in general, makes me feel confident. We have gained a good overview of what we have already achieved and what we still have to work on.”
However, despite the good results, all those involved are not completely satisfied. Because everyone is aware that changing the corporate culture all over the world is a long way off. The verdict: it’s good that there are workshops like this one, which is one of 72, in 29 countries so far. One thing everyone agrees on, however, is that work is worthwhile. Because T4I is creating a workplace you can once again be proud of.
Three questions for Tobias Heine, head of the strategic program for Together4Integrity
Why is Together4Integrity (T4I) important?
T4I is important because it helps us to achieve one of the goals of our “TOGETHER2025+” strategy. As a company we want to become a role model in integrity and compliance. This means that we must enable everyone to act with integrity and in compliance at all times. We want to show that we keep our word and strengthen our customers’ trust in our company.
Is Together4Integrity already successful?
From around 660,000 employees at 122 production sites, we have already reached more than 430,000 employees. 29 personnel processes and instruments have been adapted with regard to integrity. By the end of 2019, we will have reached a total of 209 Volkswagen Group companies – from 2020 and the subsequent years, T4I will be launched at around 500 additional companies.
What could the company look like following the implementation of “TOGETHER2025+”?
In the future, it should be standard practice for every individual in our Group to openly address critical situations and errors and jointly seek solutions, take risks in our working environment seriously and assign them transparently and clearly.