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Where everyone can belong

In business and society, awareness of diversity, equity and inclusion is growing. These principles are fundamental to how we operate at Sonova and help us bring the delight of hearing to everyone.

Inclusion is such an important part of what we do at Sonova. Untreated hearing loss can cause isolation from family, friends, and colleagues. Since 1947 our company has looked for ways to help people with hearing loss live life to the full. Through audiological care, and hearing solutions that range from personal audio devices to hearing aids and cochlear implants, we strive to make sure everyone can not only hear, but be heard as well. 

This spirit carries through into the culture of our organization, where the principles of diversity, equity and inclusion (D&I) are central to how we work together. Sonova has a workforce of almost 100 nationalities and a presence in every continent. Our global D&I strategy aims to ensure our people share the same experience everywhere we do business. 

The global Diversity & Inclusion Council is chaired by CEO Arnd Kaldowski and meets regularly to review the progress of D&I at Sonova. “We’ve achieved a lot in a short amount of time,” says Navleen Kaur, Senior Manager for Diversity and Inclusion. “It helps that inclusion is deep in the DNA of Sonova due to the products we make. Then having D&I as part of the CEO’s agenda really adds momentum to our goals. If we’re not where we should be, Arnd will ask what we need to move faster.”

Heading in the right direction

Sonova’s D&I performance is measured through data from our annual employee engagement survey. The percentage of favorable answers to questions on D&I improved from 80% in 2021 to 84% in 2023, a rating that puts Sonova ahead of others in our industry according to the survey provider. 

Yet there’s more to do to create a truly diverse and inclusive organization. On gender equality for example, where our targets are for women to fill at least 35% of senior management roles (2023: 22%) and 50% of middle management roles (2023: 36%) by 2028/29. Change is happening, as shown by the greater proportion of women on the board of directors and management board of Sonova. As Navleen explains, this is an area where visibility really matters: “People believe in what they can see, so having women in high-profile roles sends an important message to the organization and the outside world about equity and inclusion at Sonova.” 

That message is reinforced by our global Code of Conduct, which demands zero tolerance of discrimination and harassment. Employees can use a dedicated website called ‘Speak Up’ to report concerns. “Respect for the individual is fundamental. If employees are not comfortable with something they see or hear in the workplace, they need to know they can speak up safely,” says Violey Xie, who’s part of our human resources team in China.

Breaking down barriers

Education helps break down barriers to equity and inclusion. The Sonova training curriculum includes guidance on inclusive language to support respectful communication with colleagues and customers. Patricia Taparelli is part of the team responsible for training and leadership development at Sonova. While all employees receive basic training on inclusive behavior, Patricia is developing more in-depth training on the interpersonal skills required to manage a diverse workforce. “As one of our values at Sonova is to build the best team, we want to develop leaders who have the emotional intelligence to relate to others and understand situations outside their own experience,” she explains.

Training is complimented by awareness raising from employee resource groups. These voluntary groups advocate for women, the LGBTQ+ community, and people with hearing loss at Sonova. As well as advising on how to make Sonova a better place to work for people with hearing loss, the members of the Hearing Loss Network offer insights on how we can be more inclusive with customers. “We are a hearing solutions business, so it makes sense to listen to people in the organization with hearing loss,” says group member Jackie Drexler.

Diversity does make a difference

We are convinced that being diverse and inclusive makes a meaningful difference to our performance. That’s backed up by data like our workforce retention rate, which has improved in every region compared with 2022. 

Building the best team isn’t only about retaining people though. We also need to attract the best talent to help us keep growing, and that means appealing to people from all backgrounds. Diversity and inclusion were high on Yohana Onyango’s list of priorities when he was looking to take the next step in his career. “A lot of places say they are diverse and inclusive, but it’s genuine at Sonova. I feel understood as a human being. The person comes first here, and that’s rare to find,” he says.

Committing wholeheartedly, setting targets, being prepared to listen, and learn — it takes them all to make Sonova a place where everyone can feel like they belong.