A change of shift – and perspectiveInclusion and diversity drive innovative ideas
Honoring International Day of People with Disabilities, global enterprises around the world choose to light their buildings in purple, the color that communicates the importance of disability equality. Siemens Energy recognizes that inclusion and diversity are important drivers of innovation in an enterprise.
This is why the company, for example, takes part in the “S(ch)ichtwechsel” day of action where people with and without disabilities swap jobs for the day. A regional example of how inclusion and diversity help to eliminate preconceptions.
By Roman Elsener
“We should do this more often” – participants in the Fall 2020 “S(ch)ichtwechsel – ‘Change of Shift, Change of Perspective’” event at the Siemens Energy Gas Turbine Plant in Berlin are in agreement. The Working Committee of Sheltered Workshops Berlin has organized this day of action, where people with and without disabilities swap jobs for the day, for four years now, with Siemens Energy being part of the initiative since its inception. This year’s event took place on a smaller scale under special safety precautions due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The swap offers Siemens workers the opportunity to experience sheltered workshops firsthand, while letting people with disabilities have a close look at a workplace such as the Siemens Energy Gas Turbine Plant in Berlin.
“Many people don’t know how to interact with people with disabilities. An event like this offers great opportunity to eliminate bias.”Jörg Wallenschus, team leader at Delphin-workshops for people with disabilities, Berlin.
Erkan Kutlutuerkan and Christian Ziebell, overseeing the guide-disc production line of the Siemens Energy Gas Turbine Plant in Berlin, were surprised at the level of technical ability shown by the two participants assigned to their department. “I was immediately able to involve them in the basic production process; they performed their tasks perfectly,” says Ziebell, who supervised the visitors’ work on compressor blades used for Siemens Energy gas turbines.
“Many people don’t know how to interact with people with disabilities,” says Jörg Wallenschus: “An event like this offers a great opportunity to eliminate prejudices.” Wallenschus is team leader at a sheltered workshop participating in “S(ch)ichtwechsel 2020” and accompanied the two visitors at the Siemens Energy Gas Turbine Plant.
The project offers people ways to connect and talk about their experiences,” Wallenschus continues. “People in the regular job market become aware of the fact that people with disabilities are no different. That is a big step forward.”
The reception was very cordial. “You could feel that the Siemens Energy people were excited to work with members of our team,” says the Manager of Cable Manufacturing at the Delphin Workshops in Berlin. He is of the opinion that, generally, companies should work more on diversity and inclusion of people with disabilities in the workplace by offering internships, for example.
Hidden talents emerge
Andreas Wilde has worked at the Delphin Workshops since 2008. He has limited mobility and only partial use of his right hand. He would appreciate the opportunity to put his problem-solving skills and his talent with numbers to good use at a company like Siemens Energy.
He says: “It is my dream for Siemens Energy to give people with disabilities the opportunity for internships, and for executives to realize the huge potential in their advancement.” Wilde was deeply impressed by the skillful management of the plant.
“My interests lie in data management, statistics, everything involving numbers – questions such as ‘How many turbines are needed and where are they needed?’; ‘How is the market evolving?’; ‘How is quality control implemented?’.” Pondering these questions, his takeaway was that being part of an inclusive team would greatly raise one’s self-esteem.
“It is my dream for Siemens Energy to give people with disabilities the opportunity for internships, and for executives to realize the huge potential in their advancement.”Andreas Wilde, Delphin-workshops, Berlin
Andreas Wilde considers himself an unconventional thinker, and he is convinced it is this kind of thinking that drives company innovation. Speaking candidly, he says: “Many employers are stuck in long-established patterns. People should break free of these structures to see what can happen. People with disabilities can work magic in a good team environment. Many people are shy to come forward when something doesn’t smell right; I’m not one of them.”
Andreas Wilde is not deluding himself, but, like the organizers of “S(ch)ichtwechsel,” he has hopes that executives at big companies will take a step back and consider innovative and surprising ideas they would otherwise dismiss. “People with disabilities could be much better integrated in many areas of the industry,” says the lively Berliner. He continues to talk about the ongoing digital evolution of the workplace, where employees don’t have to share the same office, where they might be judged by appearances. In today’s performance-driven society, digital and real, ideas brought forth by individuals should be considered more proactively. Wilde laughs: “And here’s Andreas with a new idea we couldn’t possibly have come up with!”
December 3, 2020
Roman Elsener is a news, business, and technology correspondent for various international media such as the Neue Zürcher Zeitung NZZ and the news agency Keystone-SDA.
Combined picture credits: Siemens Energy, Siemens SRE
“S(ch)ichtwechsel – Change of Shift, Change of Perspective”
The “S(ch)ichtwechsel – ‘Change of Shift, Change of Perspective’” event gives company employees the opportunity to meet people working in sheltered workshops and to gain insight into the various products and services they manufacture and provide.
Employees of sheltered workshops, on the other hand, get the chance to have a closer look at workplaces in the regular job market and spend the day getting to know a business.
The Working Committee of Sheltered Workshops Berlin has organized this day of action, where people with and without disabilities swap jobs for a day, since 2016, with Siemens Energy being part of the initiative since its inception.
Read the Statement by the visitors from Delphin-workshops at the Siemens Energy Gas Turbine Plant, Berlin.