Double interview Internationaler Freundeskreis Wolfsburg e.V. (IFK) Kerstin Stackmann and Volkswagen, Global Assignments, Wibke Bittner
In Wolfsburg there are people from many different cultures and nationalities living together. Various contact points of information and networking for Wolfsburg’s newcomers already exist through diverse intercultural groups, associations and institutions.In order to support Impats, i.e. employees and their families coming from abroad, Internationaler Freundeskreis Wolfsburg (IFK) and Volkswagen AG have been cooperating for several years to support a better integration into the city.Now this cooperation should be further expanded and a possibilities have been searched to make even better use of existing structures in Wolfsburg and the region.
It became obvious that a communication channel within the city of Wolfsburg would be necessary to spread news and services to all interested people. Wolfsburg Wirtschaft und Marketing GmbH (WMG) lent itself to be a partner due to their already existing intercultural online platforms and to their professionalism to present Wolfsburg as an attractive location.In response to this vision, during November 2019 a new project group called “Amazing International” was founded. Future activities, such as new events and a community for all internationals and Wolfsburg citizens who are interested in intercultural issues are planned.
„Amazing international“ is not only the title of this new column but also the name of your project group. What was your motivation?
Kerstin Stackmann: Within the IFK we find it very important to develop formats that appeal to our target group. Through our regular events we want to encourage to start a dialogue. From my own experience abroad I am aware of which kind questions of newcomers with international background are and which kind of offers they expect for a smooth integration in their new environment. This is something I try to bring into our project group.
We asked ourselves within our team how which offers might be interesting for our „customers“. Then we bundled our ideas and place them where Wolfsburg’s newcomers can search and find them.
Wibke Bittner: The good integration of our employees, especially of the partners and families, is very important to us. A contact point or community to orientate yourself in the city, which also offers uncomplicated exchange helps there a lot.
But doesn’t Volkswagen offer professional support for this?
Wibke Bittner: Yes, we support the entire arrival process with professional service providers as well as the first steps for a safe arrival in Wolfsburg.
But to build a social environment and to get to know the full range of opportunities in Wolfsburg, it is necessary to network with internationally and intercultural experienced institutions such as the IFK on the one hand and a well-established communication structures like the WMG on the other.
As internationality is the common denominator, from which countries do your members or employees come from?
Kerstin Stackmann: Yes, one of the main goals of the IFK is to promote dialogues and encounters between nationalities that are represented here. Therefor we offer different events and formats that make this possible. We have members from many different countries and we maintain a lively exchange with the associations represented here, which in turn represent the culture and language of their homeland.
Wibke Bittner: In Wolfsburg there are around 400 employees from 20 different foreign locations. Nearly half of them bring their partners and families with them. In addition to that, every year we welcome back employees returning from their assignments who have gained valuable experiences abroad.
Which kind of people do you want to address with your offers?
Kerstin Stackmann: We want to address all people so that we can be a place to go for all cultures. With our offers we don´t only address our members but everyone who is interested. A lot of our events are designed to be open and we are happy about each guest. But of course it is in our associations DNA to promote intercultural communication, therefore Impats and their families are particularly welcome.
Wibke Bittner: Preferably all interested employees! Those coming from other countries to live in Wolfsburg as well as those returning from their experiences abroad. But we would also like to reach out to our colleagues who come from other German corporate locations and those coming to our region as new employees.
Which ideas did you develop until now?
Kerstin Stackmann: As an association with an intercultural orientation our first step was to cooperate with Volkswagen and the WMG. Not only to make use of the large target group in Wolfsburg but also in order to use the already very good existing communication and marketing channels.
Above that, we have been working on the implementation of proposals and communication channels which are in English, given that not every newcomer speaks German.
Wibke Bittner: We want to enhance networking with local initiatives. Therefore, the founding of this project group was an important step. We are interested in an intercultural community with people that want to experience intercultural exchange and feel at ease in Wolfsburg.
What makes the city of Wolfsburg for you so special?
Kerstin Stackmann: Well, I can just speak from my personal perspective. I see and experience Wolfsburg indeed as an “amazing international” city. Integration is already being practiced in many areas here. My family and I had a warm start here and we already feel like “real Wolfsburgers”. In addition, Wolfsburg offers a very wide and diverse range of free time and cultural activities.
Wibke Bittner:: We at Global Assignments really enjoy presenting Wolfsburg to our international colleagues. Here you can find tradition, our Volkswagen heritage, the advantages of a green city and a lot of leisure time activities altogether in one place.
Are there other partners planned for the project group?
Kerstin Stackmann: Yes, for example the Welcome Center and the educational institutions in Wolfsburg.
Wibke Bittner: We also network with our colleagues from the Recruiting-factory and the diversity management, as well as with our HR-service-providers. I believe that the international network at Volkswagen will continue growing in the upcoming years.
For more than 14 years, the „Internationaler Freundeskreis Wolfsburg e.V. (IFK)” with over 400 members has been committed to expand and maintain Wolfsburg’s intercultural relationships as well as the towns twinned to Wolfsburg.
The IFK contributes to a friendly and peaceful coexistence of all Wolfsburg’s citizens with different projects and events and promotes the integration of newcomers into the city. The IFK also strengthens the international image of the city and the region. Our members are committed citizens, companies and associations of Wolfsburg.
What is special for the IFK is what we call „Young Friends“ to also involve the younger generation in the associations life. The IFK offers different formats which are specially designed for this target group.
Fact-Box Kerstin Stackmann
Kerstin Stackmann has been president of the “Internationale Freundeskreis Wolfsburg e.V. (IFK)“ since spring 2019. With her presidency she particularly wants to support the integration of people of different origins in our region. Together with her team and members she develops new formats and offers which contribute to this integration. Because of her numerous assignments abroad she knows what it means for oneself to adjust to a new environment and what it needs to support newcomers.
Fact-Box Global Assignments
The Global Assignments team support the global mobility strategy of the Volkswagen group and promotes the global exchange of the best fitting employees. Around 70 colleagues in Wolfsburg are working closely with the international HR experts abroad to fill management positions and find technical experts.
Today around 1.800 employees are being professionally supported in their Assignment abroad by the experts of the Global Assignments team. The goal is to smoothen a sometimes complicated assignment process as good as possible, for the employees and their families.
Around 400 employees and families live in Wolfsburg and other German Volkswagen locations. They are being managed and supported by ten colleagues of the Impats team. Most of the team members have also worked abroad.
Fakten-Box Wibke Bittner
Wibke Bittner has been working for the Volkswagen Group since 2001 and has been responsible for the Partner Support Program since 2011. As a contact person for all international HR colleagues and their partners, integration and an appropriate welcome culture are particularly important to her.
In her work she focuses on the further development of supporting international families as well as cooperating with professional contacts to establish and expand expat networks.