A talk with… Martin Seiler
“Therefore, we understand diversity as a process that is conditioned by social change and that will very likely hold other facets of diversity in store for us in the future as well.”
At Deutsche Bahn you believe in „Diversity of Minds“ – which dimensions of diversity are meant by that?
Martin Seiler: We have defined seven core dimensions for Deutsche Bahn: generation, social origin, ethnical origin, physical and psychological abilities, religion, gender identity and sexual orientation.
For other facets of diversity and individuality that do not always seem immediately recognizable at first, we have introduced „Diversity of Minds“. Specifically, this means the individual background of our employees in relation to, for example, different life and work experiences, perspectives and skills.
We continuously want to map, integrate and promote this holistic understanding of diversity in our company. Therefore, we understand diversity as a process that is conditioned by social change and that will very likely hold other facets of diversity in store for us in the future as well.
Tolerance and diversity cannot (only) be prescribed from above – how do you combine a top-down with a bottom-up approach regarding diversity issues?
Martin Seiler: In order to live tolerance and diversity as a company, diversity issues can not only be on the agenda of top management alone. Our goal is to involve all employees, to mobilize and motivate them through targeted nudges, measures and events.
Our employee networks, DB Cultures, Frauen bei der Bahn und „railbow“ – the LGBT*IQ-network – call for and promote awareness of the topic of diversity in the company and thus create more openness and respect in dealing with one another. Also, our external allies, such as PROUT AT WORK, support us in continuously developing ourselves.
In order to reach out to even more employees, I launched the first company group wide Diversity Week last year. This year the motto of the Diversity Week is „Mehr Erkennen. Mehr Sehen. Mehr Erreichen.“ and focuses on Unconscious Bias – which means unconscious prejudices and linear thought patterns.
In 2019, Deutsche Bahn stratetigally realigned its Diversity Management – what has changed since then?
Martin Seiler: Last year we anchored diversity with the initiative „Einziganders.“ in the corporate strategy „Starke Schiene“. As a result, diversity is incorporated into the strategic implementation and the overall goals, across the corporation and all departments and is therefore promoted more comprehensively. Diversity has been declared a top priority and every board member has taken on the patronage of one of our diversity dimensions. In addition, in every business area, people who are responsible for diversity were found, which is expanding our participatory network even further.
In terms of the coronavirus pandemic, we had to digitally redesign some of our concepts in a short time. Instead of the planned participation in a total of six Christopher Street Days, we have started our own Pride Ride campaign with our LGBT*IQ network. The wish to create visibility with our community regardless – or precisely because of – the crisis was also supported by our four TopOut100Executives. Rainbow flags were hoisted at 63 train stations, we made a video together and a rainbow-colored locomotive is still carrying our message across the country.
For our employees and network members we have designed rainbow-colored mouth and nose protection, which is also worn proudly by my fellow board members and myself.
PROUT EMPLOYER Deutsche Bahn
“I am convinced that we need the potential of this diversity more than ever to develop the innovative strength that is required today and to perform better as a company.”
Martin Seiler has been the member of Deutsche Bahn AG’s management board with responsibility for human resources and legal affairs since 1 January 2018. Previously, he held a variety of HR positions at Deutsche Telekom, most recently director of human resources and industrial relations in 2015. In that role, he was responsible for 70,000 employees at Telekom Deutschland. As management spokesperson for Telekom Training, he was responsible for all trainees and cooperative education students in the group. He started his career at Deutsche Post in Baden-Baden in 1980. After working in different parts of the company, including for the German Postal Workers Union – which would later merge into ver.di, the German United Services Trade Union – where he also served as a member of the European Commission’s Social Dialogue, Martin Seiler took on various management positions at Deutsche Post in Bonn from 2003 onwards.
Mr Seiler, in January 2018 you took up your new role, Deutsche Bahn AG’s management board member responsible for HR. A strong focus of your current activities is on recruiting. To what extent do you think LGBT*IQ talent in particular could benefit from this?
Martin Seiler: It’s true that our recruitment is currently at a record level: in the past year alone, we welcomed more than 24,000 employees to the group. These are new colleagues who add to the great diversity of our workforce in all respects: age, ethnic origin, religion, gender as well as sexual orientation. We value this diversity and believe that it enriches our company. Our current employer campaign is called “Welcome, you fit in well” and represents exactly this openness. All motivated applicants are very welcome, irrespective of their sexual orientation, gender identity and ethnic origin.
What activities has Deutsche Bahn offered so far relating to LGBT*IQ in the workplace?
Martin Seiler: There a lots of examples. For instance, we were a pioneer in recognising registered partnerships: all arrangements regarding benefits for spouses of our employees (e.g. travel benefits, exemption arrangements and allowances) have also been applied to registered partners. We concluded an anti-discrimination agreement with the works council that covers both everyday cooperation and career opportunities. Our aim is to have a corporate culture in which homophobia and transphobia do not exist. That’s why I am very proud that DB employees are among Germany’s Top 100 Out Executives. We support our internal LGBT employee network “railbow” and are also active outside the company: we’ve taken part in the CSD parades for years and last year we decorated Berlin main station for the first time with flags during Pride Week.
“As a group comprising 200,000 employees in Germany alone, we have been championing equal opportunities, appreciation and respect for many years, and as the member of the management board for human resources and legal affairs, I am constantly impressed by the diversity of our workforce.”
Deutsche Bahn is part of the PROUT EMPLOYER cooperation. In your view, what are the objectives pursued by Deutsche Bahn with this cooperation?
Martin Seiler: Being a member of PROUT AT WORK enables us to provide specific and practical support to our employees if they decide to come out at work or with networking. We want to put them at ease, give them the chance to talk to each other and encourage them to tell us when something isn’t working so well. The numerous events and publications of PROUT AT WORK also enable us to expand our expertise relating to LGBTIQ issues in the workplace and spread new impetus within DB.
Your strong focus on HR and recruitment indicates that your colleagues have a special importance to you. To what extent are equal opportunities for LGBT*IQ people also a matter close to your heart?
Martin Seiler: As a group comprising 200,000 employees in Germany alone, we have been championing equal opportunities, appreciation and respect for many years, and as the member of the management board for human resources and legal affairs, I am constantly impressed by the diversity of our workforce. I am convinced that we need the potential of this diversity more than ever to develop the innovative strength that is required today and to perform better as a company. Last but not least, our customers benefit from an open, appreciative culture in which employees do not hide their sexual orientation and feel comfortable in their workplace.