Why diversity and inclusion should always be on the menu
Arslan Gilliani and Sotirios Krastilis – who work at Deutsche Post DHL Group's Post Tower headquarters in Bonn – come from very different backgrounds and have very different jobs. What connects them, however, is an open, inclusive space where everyone is made to feel welcome, and where friendships are forged over coffee and cake. Every workplace should have one they say, because it's often the simple things in life that bring people together...
What does “diversity and inclusion” mean to you?
Arslan: Diversity and inclusion is about accepting everyone equally, whatever their skin color, wherever they come from, however they speak, and whoever they are – and not judging them. I don't like the thought of anyone feeling uncomfortable in their skin. That's why I enjoy working where I do, because DPDHL is an organization that respects every individual equally.
Sotirios: I completely agree with Arslan: We are all human beings and diversity and inclusion is about ensuring equality for everyone. No-one should be treated better – or worse – than someone else, simply because of who they are or where they come from. Plus, diversity makes a place more interesting, instead of everyone looking and sounding the same.
Do customers expect – and indeed demand – diversity these days?
Arslan: They do: 101 percent! Take the hospitality industry. Customers want a friendly atmosphere. They don't care who serves them, whether they are black, brown, gay, straight, whatever. They just want to be treated with kindness – and they will treat the provider in the same way.
Sotirios: Yes. Speaking personally, I wouldn't want to go to places where anyone is being excluded, and I wouldn't buy products from any company that was doing so, either.
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In your experience, can simple things – such as a cup of coffee – bring different people together?
Arslan: Yes! For instance, we had a “blind coffee date” initiative a while back. Workers from different departments who didn't know each other were randomly emailed and came to the café. That was a great initiative which increased social engagement. Because if I ask two customers: “How does this coffee taste to you?” then they have a common topic to talk about. Whoever they are and whatever their background they get chatting. An environment like ours can make different people feel connected. In fact, customers have asked me: “I haven't seen so-and-so for a while. Do you know if they are OK?”
Sotirios: This is what I like about the World Net Café. It's so friendly and always open for a chat that it encourages diversity and inclusion. And having someone to talk to – someone “outside” who is unrelated to your work – is important for your wellbeing.
How do you see diversity and inclusion progressing in the years ahead?
Arslan: I believe we have to think about diversity and inclusion socially and politically. If a child asks their parent “Why does that boy look different to me?” it will be because they haven't seen anyone else like them in their community before. So socially it's important to convey to the next generation what diversity means, and to do that we have to live it and experience it. And we have to keep it at the top of the political agenda if future generations are to value it – and develop it.
Sotirios: I don't think companies recognized the value of diversity 20 years ago – even 10 years ago. But now, because employees expect their companies to have a diverse workforce, organizations are sitting up and taking notice. So companies should continue to accept individuals for who they are and support their interests, be it championing LGBTQ+ rights or gender equality. For example, I'm encouraging people from across our company to join DPDHL's Rainbow Net. This network originated in Germany, but we want to encourage colleagues across the world to replicate its success in their own countries. Similarly, it would be great if they felt encouraged to participate in Pride events, where they happen in their respective countries and cities. That would help blaze a trail for diversity and inclusion.
Arslan Gilliani was born in Lahore, Pakistan, and moved to Germany in 2003. Now based in Bonn, he has been working for six years as a barista at the World Net Café, a popular meeting point at the Post Tower, the headquarters of Deutsche Post DHL Group (DPDHL) “I talk to each and every customer to find out how they are and how life is treating them,” he says. “Our interaction might last for just a couple of minutes, but if it diverts their attention from their work, it can help them.” Arslan sees his role as “keeping employees going and making them happy... with the help of coffee!”
Sotirios Krastilis was born in Stuttgart, Germany. He joined DHL in 1998 as an apprentice – his first-ever job. He is currently working in Corporate Brand Marketing and also played a central role in enabling DHL’s #deliveredwithpride project that created DHL’s first Pride logo. Sotirios is active in DPDHL's LGBTQ+ network, Rainbow Net and wants to encourage colleagues across the DHL network to join and replicate successful initiatives. “When we lit our HQ in rainbow colors for the first time, to celebrate the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia, the Berlin Pride team contacted us, and I was so proud to help them ship special packages – designed and delivered by DHL with pride and our new rainbow logo.”
Published: March 2021
Images: Johann Diwiwi