How Telekom backs ethics

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An contribution by Manuela Mackert, until July 2021 Chief Compliance Officer (CCO) and Head of Group Compliance Management Deutsche Telekom AG.

Manuela Mackert, until July 2021 Chief Compliance Officer (CCO), Deutsche Telekom AG

Manuela Mackert, until July 2021 Chief Compliance Officer (CCO), Deutsche Telekom AG

How ethical do we behave at Deutsche Telekom? Do we stick to the common rules? This is the first time that we have comprehensively investigated this with an initiative called "Compliance Based Corporate Culture". With the findings, we are now strengthening our value-based corporate culture.

It's easy to say: be ethical, take the rules seriously. But what about the claim to persevere in everyday business? If it's difficult for a single colleague, how do we create such an attitude across the enterprise?

Some cases of Dax companies in recent years have shown that when companies break laws and regulations, they lose their reputation and pay high fines. This must be prevented. But are compliance processes enough for that? No. We also need a suitable corporate culture at all levels. Compliance cannot be a paper tiger. Rather, it should be commonplace for everyone to behave in accordance with their values and standards.

But is that so? To what extent are values and rules anchored in everyday business? What are the causes of wrongdoing? We wanted to find out for ourselves. The European School of Management and Technology (ESMT) and the Hertie School of Governance have examined our corporate culture with a scientific study. An independent and renowned group of experts closely followed this international initiative.

For the study, we invited 140,000 employees to an online survey. More than 29,000 colleagues have completed both consecutive questionnaires. A high number of participants so that brings a strong meaningfulness. In addition to the survey, there were numerous individual interviews and discussions in groups. 

The bottom line

Overall, the value-based corporate culture at Deutsche Telekom is good. For example, 97 percent of respondents support the statements in our Code of Conduct. The overwhelming majority are committed to their own values and would not be willing to deviate from these ethical demands even under pressure. In addition, a majority of the respondents state that they would consistently report concrete misconduct. Therefore, ESMT certifies a good corporate culture regarding ethics and compliance. A great strength of Deutsche Telekom is the clarity: The employees know the rules and are guided by it. 

The study also revealed weaknesses. So there is a lack of an open feedback culture. Some employees do not dare to address problems. Others have gained negative experience. Still others said top management itself was not always ethical. These factors influence the willingness of employees to abide by rules - or not.

Develop corporate culture

For us, this was an important starting point to further develop our corporate culture. To this end, we worked with the expert group to develop detailed measures. On the one hand, we conduct "Ethical Leadership" trainings with all management boards and their leadership teams. With case studies, we encourage them to reflect their own ethical behavior. We simulate and discuss difficult business decisions. At the same time, executives are being asked to take employee references to misconduct seriously and to pursue it consistently.

On the other hand, we started voluntary trainings for our employees under the motto "Speak Up!". In doing so, they get to know communication techniques in order to openly and adequately address grievances and sensitive topics. The demand is enormous. The training sessions were already overbooked three times after the announcement. In Germany alone, between March and August 2018, we will have trained around 2,500 employees.

In addition, we are currently reviewing our processes for hiring executives. We want to take those with an "ethical compass" on board. This means managers who follow the rules and live ethical standards. At the same time, we provide internal communication for employees on sanctions and consequences of misconduct. After all, the study shows that we need to become even more transparent.

In short, we have developed compliance in recent years. Initially, our view was predominantly legal. Today, by contrast, the value-based corporate culture plays an important role. In light of rising fines for rule breaks and higher social expectations, good compliance pays off more than ever. To promote constructive contradiction, to secure trust in the customer, to lead a company ethically: these are all activities that correspond to our mission statement of a transparent corporate culture. We will continue to promote this.

Statements of members of the expert group

"It is impressive that Deutsche Telekom has conducted this thorough assessment. It also impressive that, based on the results, the initiatives Deutsche Telekom already took and the initiatives it is planning to take. It is hopefully inspiring for others to assess and improve themselves in such a way."
Prof. Dr. Muel Kaptein

 "Deutsche Telekom was the first major German company to undertake such a comprehensive analysis of its ethical corporate culture. That was a courageous endeavor, and in addition to many positive aspects, some less beautiful sides have come to light. I wish the Board and senior executives to stick to their will and to be able to ensure the integrity of a serious compliance and integrity management for this important company. "
Prof. Dr. Stephan Grüninger

 "Expressing a dissenting opinion early on or pointing out a problem or conflict can help to avoid later trouble and in some cases even serious mistakes. That's why promoting the Speak Up culture is so important. At the same time, this requires the superiors to listen and take criticism. The fact that the corresponding trainings were overbooked so quickly is further proof of Telekom's great interest in ethical behavior. "
Mrs. Sylvia Schenk

Manuela Mackert, until July 2021 Chief Compliance Officer (CCO), Deutsche Telekom AG

Birds of a feather flock together – or do they?

An article by Manuela Mackert, until July 2021 Chief Compliance Officer (CCO) and Head of Group Compliance Management Deutsche Telekom AG.