conversation #6 — purpose and cohesion
Cohesion is especially important in challenging times. How can a shared purpose help strengthen this sense of belonging?
Jochen Emde, Katharina Roehrig, Roberto Rojas, Dr. Stefan Scholle and Gunhild Wehmhöner of Melitta Headquarters are convinced that cohesion is the result of a functioning corporate culture.
Why is it so important to strengthen purpose and cohesion at this particular time?
Jochen Emde Over the past few years, I have noticed a significant increase in the need for purpose, in other words for work that is regarded as meaningful. For younger employees in particular, it is becoming increasingly important to see work as something that fulfills them and with which they can identify. The clearer the purpose is, the more it helps to foster loyalty and cohesion. And this is ultimately reflected in the commitment and passion of all employees.
Dr. Stefan Scholle I fully agree. Especially in times of crisis, this desire for purpose becomes even stronger and particularly important. This is because people tend to think much more about what they are doing and why at such times. At the same time, they want to know whether they can rely on each other and whether they form part of a cohesive unit. Purpose leads people to act much more on their own initiative, unlocks extra energy, and fosters a sense of pride in doing something meaningful.
Katharina Roehrig This was especially noticeable in the past fiscal year. As a result of the pandemic, personal contact had to be reduced and many employees spent months working from home. In times like these, however, it is particularly important that everyone pulls together and develops a team spirit. Purpose leads to cohesion, and cohesion in turn leads to passion. And that is exactly what is needed in such a challenging situation.
»Purpose leads to cohesion, and cohesion in turn leads to passion.«
»Cohesion and passion are not something you can prescribe, but are the result of value-oriented leadership that actively addresses employee needs.«
What is Melitta doing to promote cohesion and passion?
Roberto Rojas Cohesion and passion are not something you can prescribe, but are the result of value-oriented leadership that actively addresses employee needs. This includes a variety of measures: from regular and open communication, to appropriate compensation, joint celebrations, and corporate citizenship activities. It is important that these measures are consistently aligned with the Group’s corporate culture. And in order to be authentic, this cohesion and passion must be continuously nurtured and encouraged. The strong sense of cohesion at Melitta was demonstrated during the pandemic, for example, by the fact that the employees themselves took swift and largely unprompted action to create new communication channels for contacting each other.
Katharina Roehrig I believe that managers also have a special responsibility in this regard: they not only have to set a good example with regard to cohesion and passion, but must also demonstrate the necessary trust in their team members. Respect for others is a prerequisite for both cohesion and passion. Each team member must always feel that he or she has an important role to play. And: the better the cooperation, the better the result.
Gunhild Wehmhöner I also believe that certain gestures – large or small – are important for cohesion. At Melitta, for example, we occasionally organized food trucks simply as a way of offering something special during these difficult times. And Chief Corporate Management also sent out a strong signal by declaring right at the start of the pandemic that there would be no redundancies as a result of the coronavirus. Signals like these have a big impact and, taken together, go a long way toward building cohesion. It was also quite fortunate that we celebrated our anniversary year in 2019: this gave us plenty of opportunity at the time to discuss what our brand means to us and how proud we can be of our history and values. This helped us a lot in 2020.
»The clearer the purpose is, the more it helps to foster loyalty and cohesion. And this is ultimately reflected in the commitment and passion of all employees.«
»Purpose leads people to act much more on their own initiative, unlocks extra energy, and fosters a sense of pride in doing something meaningful.«
How do you convey values and visions?
Jochen Emde The word “convey” already indicates that this is not a one-off task, but a constant and evolving process. And you can only convey values and visions if you actively engage with each other. This is why, for me, ongoing and intensive communication is vital when it comes to conveying and nurturing values and visions.
Dr. Stefan Scholle Exactly. You cannot expect values to be lived if they are simply written down and learnt by heart. Values must be experienced and perceived, and they need to be exemplified and repeatedly addressed. And visions must also be made tangible in order to provide genuine orientation. This is why celebrating successes is so important, even if they are only small steps on the journey toward the vision.
Gunhild Wehmhöner As I see it, conveying individual values is not the right approach anyway. Values are a component or expression of a culture. Cohesion in particular cannot be simply imposed by emphasizing individual values. Instead, cohesion is created when there is a corporate culture that focuses equally on human aspects and target orientation – and thus both supports and challenges our employees.
Roberto Rojas I agree. And this culture naturally manifests itself in the behavior we display every day and in the way we treat our colleagues. But our corporate culture can also be recognized in the way we deal with problems and conflicts: for example, do we show respect for each other even in difficult situations? Do we always debate issues on an equal footing? And are we willing to find a good solution, even if we disagree? Only if we can answer “yes” to these and similar questions do we have a corporate culture that can play an important role in strengthening our cohesion.
»Cohesion in particular cannot be simply imposed by emphasizing individual values. Instead, cohesion is created when there is a corporate culture that focuses equally on human aspects and target orientation – and thus both supports and challenges our employees.«