Adidas strebt weltweit eine einheitliche Firmenkultur an. Die unterschiedlichen Kulturen der Beschäftigen und die verschiedenen Märkte, in denen sich Adidas bewegt, werden berücksichtigt. Die spezifischen Adidas-Werte sind für alle Beschäftigten auf der ganzen Welt gleich. Wie das funktioniert, erklärt Karen Parken im Interview.

PERSONALquarterly: Herzogenaurach is located in a very typical German region and Adidas is a very typical German company. You came to the company in the UK in 1997. What is the difference in culture then and now?
Karen Parkin: Since I joined the company 20 years ago we have evolved to become a significant player in the sports industry. Sport is our DNA and we want to make the world a better place, through sport. Our mission is to change lives through sport. That hasn’t changed over the years. What has changed is the scale of our company, the size, the brands and the environment that we represent and the truly exciting opportunities we offer our almost 60,000 employees. In Germany around one third of the 7,000 people are from different countries, coming from almost 100 nations. We live in a very young dynamic sports environment where we encourage collaboration, creativity and with that a spirit of confidence. That’s who we are. This is the footprint we have established globally. And this is how we attract and recruit talents into our company and how we retain them. Our DNA is entrenched in sports, so we constantly live through sport, through global sporting events, whether it is the World Cup for football or the Olympics. That gives us another platform to really embrace globalization as well and ensure that we live alongside that environment and attract people that want to come with us on that journey.

PERSONALquarterly: So it’s the selection of people during the re­cruiting process which is very important to form this culture?
Karen Parkin:
Every company has to take recruitment very seriously. I don’t see it just about the people we employ. It is also about our consumers. We focus very much on who our con­sumers are. And how our consumers are excited about what we do. And those consumers are the people that also want to come and join our company. Therefore it is important to excite our consumers not only about our brands but also about who we are as an employer. In 2016 over a million people applied to join our company. In our recruitment process we have to make sure that the people we want to hire fit our culture. It is important that the talents understand our culture and see that our culture can help them grow and develop.

PERSONALquarterly: Adidas has many international teams being part of the company culture. How do you define this?

Karen Parkin: We have always been a truly international company. Diversity is very important to us as a company. One pillar in our people strategy is that we want to bring forward fresh and diverse perspectives. One of the ways we do that is by embracing different cultures within the organization. If I look specifically within Germany, about one third of our workforce is not German. Even from a local perspective we encourage diversity of different cultures. This is something we focus on and we think it’s important to ensure that our culture is authentic and truly international.


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PERSONALquarterly: Are there different management styles in the regions or would you say that Herzogenaurach is everywhere?
Karen Parkin:
Let’s be proud, let’s be clear, our global headquarters is in Herzogenaurach and that’s part of our DNA and we love that. Outside of Germany we have key international locations such as Portland, Shanghai or Amsterdam with many important functions. But we drive our global policy as well as our business strategy from our headquarters. Let’s make one thing clear: our culture doesn’t change just because we are in a different market or location.
We will always respect local culture, that brings diversity, but our core DNA is the same everywhere. We have just created a global leadership framework, which defines lead­ership in our company. The leadership framework defines, no matter where you sit, in what location, in what function, what behaviors we expect from our leaders. We want to en­sure that our employees have the same leadership experience globally, no matter where they work. We have one plan, one leadership framework, one culture and one people strategy. We are very, very clear and focused on who we are and where we are going.


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PERSONALquarterly: Is there no conflict in regional characters?
Karen Parkin:
We don’t want to wipe out cultural differences; we want to embrace cultural differences. And we want to do that through sport. It is important that the people we hire understand our culture and who we are. I believe it is important that our talents have a personal connection to us. You don’t want to work for a company where your heart and soul doesn’t connect, do you? I believe we are an incredibly exciting company to join, in China as we are in the US as we are in Argentina as we are in Germany. But do we want one size fits all? No we don’t. We like diversity and we love the diversity of culture.

PERSONALquarterly: How many diversity dimensions are important in your HR policy?
Karen Parkin:
Within our diversity strategy we focus on gender, generations and cultural differences which we also call our ‘passport’. Our fourth focus, especially in the US, is race. Gen­der is a key focus for us. We have a 50/50 gender split in our organization. What we need to focus on more is that this split is better balanced throughout all areas of the company. We need to have more female leaders in the organization.


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PERSONALquarterly: You are the only woman on the board.
Karen Parkin:
Yes, but it is not just about the board. The question for me is how we can ensure we get more female talents in more senior executive roles. Our goal is to have at least 32% women in leadership positions. But let me be clear, we don’t want to hire or promote a woman just because of the quota. We always want the best candidate for the position. That’s really important for everybody to understand. We want to stay authentic, and therefore we will not change this. It is very important that the women know they have been selected because they are the best, not just because they are a woman.


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PERSONALquarterly: But you have flexible working regulations, kids’ campus, coaching and lifelong learning – are these special programs for women?
Karen Parkin:
Let’s be clear, we don’t bring those programs to life just for women. All of these programs like off-campus working give all our employees the opportunity to have a family and a career. We want to ensure that we have the right programs in place to encourage both males and females to grow and develop their careers. It is important that we have the right infrastructure in place that everybody can ‘lean in’. It is important that we also have a strong female talent pool we can select for lead­ership positions. That’s something we are focusing on because we clearly haven’t done enough in the past.

PERSONALquarterly: Is it still difficult for women to boost their career like you did and to go to different markets? And is it still helpful for the career?
Karen Parkin:
First I think it’s the same for everybody, no matter if you are a man or a woman. Living and working abroad is a brilliant experience, I would encourage everyone who has the opportunity to go and live in a country that is different to the one that they grew up in. Is it easy? Of course it’s not always easy. But today is different than when I started my career. Today we have good programs in place to support you on that journey. We support our employees and their families as much as possible in the relocation so they can concentrate on their work and enjoy the experience.


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PERSONALquarterly: You are happy to be in a young company, but what is about the older ones, are there any employees at Adidas who are 55 years or 60?  
Karen Parkin:
We have a lot of young people working at Adidas. This is mainly because of our retail organization. About half of our employees work in our own stores. Here the people are usually a lot younger than in the office locations. Today we have about five generations working at Adidas. We talked earlier about diversity. Next to gender and culture, generation is an important factor in our diversity strategy. We want to provide an environment that suits all generations. Our goal is to provide an attractive environment everyone loves to work in. An environment that embraces diversity. An environment where you can share your experiences and where you can grow together. Every generation has a role to play, whether you are the Millennial or whether you are the Gen-Z that is just joining the workplace or whether you are my generation. There’s a wealth of knowledge the older generation has. It is important to collaborate. We encourage exchange through our mentorship programs.


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PERSONALquarterly: What kind of experience do you expect from the older ones in the digital world? Often they have no experience.
Karen Parkin:
Let’s not be too black and white. Just because we might be older doesn’t mean we haven’t embraced digital technology as it’s come along. From my perspective experience is about life, and that is something a 25/30-year-old has not had the opportunity to have yet. We have experience in developing a career, in balancing family and work and so on.

PERSONALquarterly: Employees bring another kind of experience into the company if they have a handicap. Adidas supports the Paralympics, but what kind of jobs do disabled persons have in Adidas?
Karen Parkin:
Again, we do not want to exclude anyone. We want to have a balanced workforce and that includes people with disabilities. The athletes of the Paralympics are role models for us. These people show us how sport can change lives.

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PERSONALquarterly: Do you fulfill the five percent mark of disabled employees in Germany?
Karen Parkin:
No, we are not at that five percent, but it’s something that we note every year and it’s something that we strive to work with agencies to help us get better. We welcome everyone to join our company. We encourage everyone to apply if they think they have the right skills for a position. Our goal is to always recruit the best person for the job. No matter if that person is disabled, black or white, male or female.

PERSONALquarterly: In order to avoid advantages if being female, disabled or part of the LGBT community, do the employees then build special groups at Adidas?
Karen Parkin:
Grassroots, as I call it, are part of our diversity strategy. It’s very important to have such networks in our headquarters and main office locations. At Adidas we have a women’s networking group, an LGBT networking group and since this year we also have an experienced generation network in Germany. And we have a race network group that start­ed in the US and is now getting global. Our diversity strategy supports the networking groups and we meet regularly with them. We work closely together. Every year we have a global diversity day where the networking groups play an important role and have an active part.  

PERSONALquarterly: Is there a connection between the diversity activities and digital leadership?
Karen Parkin:
Digital transformation is changing the way our consumers live and shop. It offers unprecedented opportunities but also presents challenges for our brand and for our digital work environment. Digital is a key strategic pillar of our Creating the New strategy. Our Digital Brand Commerce department is the fastest-growing department within Adidas. A clear business focus for the future of the brand, our team oversees most of the core digital touchpoints and experiences across our Brand, Sales and IT departments to create an industry-leading and holistic digital experience clearly centered on our consumers. That means that we have to recruit the best digital talents. We have about 150 positions to be filled in the digital field. Currently we are also recruiting a new global Senior Vice President of Digital.
Digitalization is also important for how we collaborate. We need to be able to work together in an efficient way with quality and speed. With the latest technology and video tools I don’t have to be in the headquarters in Germany all the time. No matter where you are in the world, you can be available and join the discussions as they are taking place.

Das Interview führte Ruth Lemmer für PERSONALquarterly.


Hinweis: Das gesamte Interview sowie mehr zum Thema Diversity lesen Sie im Schwerpunktthema der Januar-Ausgabe der Zeitschrift PERSONALquarterly

Schlagworte zum Thema:  Diversity, PERSONALquarterly