Like other legacy automakers, Volkswagen historically has not always been a model of diversity. The top board of management at the German automaker is made up of white men and one white woman, while all of its brand CEOs in North America are men.
But as a company committed to promoting from within, the key to changing that lies in making sure its ranks are filled with the best candidates, with backgrounds as varied as the customers it serves as the world's second-largest automaker. That will take not just extended recruitment efforts but mindfulness and commitment from current leadership to improve, something that is growing, said Kelechi Ikemefuna, senior director for diversity and talent at VW of America.
"We use what the business goals are and what the business objectives are as our jumping off point, meaning that all of our DE&I activities have to show value back to the business, whether it's through how we train our current employees, how we bring in external applicants from a diversity and inclusion perspective, how we provide leadership development training to our current employees or how we develop employees internally within our organization," Ikemefuna said.
She said VW of America in recent years has expanded its sourcing pipeline for potential interns as well as for recent college graduates and other potential early-career employees to make sure they "mirror the communities that we serve within our respective locations."
Those efforts have allowed VW to add to its bench strength of potential candidates for higher-level positions.
Filling the bench with a diverse group of job candidates is a great first step, but the decision makers who actually select successful candidates need to be dialed into the mission as well as mindful of why it exists, said Andrew Savvas, VW's head of U.S. sales.
"Once all these future leaders are within our organization, it's our role as a leadership group ... to not just bring them in but to make them feel comfortable" within VW, Savvas said. "That's a role we have to recognize in the industry — that once we get them in the door, we have to make sure they feel comfortable and they're included within the organization. We have to help."