March 7 2024  |  Retailers

Female leadership and cultural diversity shape company culture at Avolta

By Laura Shirk

Katrin Volery, Chief People & Culture Officer, Avolta

In celebration of Women's Day, Global Travel Retail Magazine connected with Katrin Volery, Chief People & Culture Officer at Avolta, to learn more about the impact of her role, the key to effective and inclusive leadership and the integrating of culture and strategy at Avolta. Speaking about her role Volery says, “My core responsibilities revolve around people; around attracting, retaining and nurturing people, contributing to their development, and giving them a place to belong.”

With over 60,000 employees spanning 73 countries, Avolta proudly represents more than 150 nationalities. Counting on the support of her team, it is up to Volery to create an environment where every Avolta member can thrive and contribute to the organization’s collective success. Having marked one year since the integration into Avolta, Volery says her role during this time has been pivotal in shaping its organizational structure. “Beyond my day-to-day responsibilities, I have a much broader vision: to cultivate a workplace culture that champions collaboration, equal opportunity, and inclusion. As a global organization, we leverage our wide-ranging expertise and celebrate diversity,” she shares.

According to Volery, effective leadership hinges on a number of qualities: visible commitment, accountability, adaptability, open-mindedness and cultural awareness. Volery believes a person should not shy away from challenging the status quo and strive to make a culture free of biases, working to foster an equally-driven environment. As an advisor within a truly global workforce, Volery is attentive to the different cultures within her team, as well as other groups, and tries to adapt as necessary to promote inclusivity. “In today’s diverse work environment, leaders must possess an open mindset, approach colleagues with deep curiosity, listen without judgment, and seek to understand those around them,” she explains.

Having worked in many different industries throughout her career, Volery notes that she is lucky to have been surrounded by mentors along the way, who have shared their vision and helped to shape her approach to decision-making and leadership style.

Prioritizing people and partnership

When asked how the wellbeing of the people and the state of the culture at Avolta are reflected in its Destination 2027 strategy, Volery shares that the organization is guided by four principles: bravery, passion, collaboration and inclusion. Volery’s department works together as a human resources leadership team, but also within the D&I Steerco and ESG Committee to enable the adoption of these principles and find ways to embed them across Avolta’s team membership lifecycle.

The retailer is currently in discussion with prospective wellbeing partners to provide its employees with a strong platform and workshops around various topics of overall being, including physical health wellbeing, mental wellbeing and financial wellbeing. “I believe that prioritizing people in a business strategy is not only the right thing to do, but also a key driver of business success,” says Volery.

Equal opportunity and cultural diversity

Alongside Volery, Regional CEO and Asia Pacific President Freda Cheung, has been newly appointed to Avolta’s Global Executive Committee. The appointments mark a move toward a more balanced gender representation. With women making up more than half of the workforce at Avolta, Volery states it is crucial that the organization continues to strive for a greater female presence among leadership positions. At the same time, the officer points out that looking only at gender diversity is not enough when it comes to establishing a global and diverse workforce or leadership team. In this sense, Volery is also proud of the cultural diversity within the committee.

Looking ahead, Volery is optimistic that as the next generation experiences career advancement in the coming years, it will see improvements in representation at all levels. With this in mind, it is essential that Avolta works toward this goal by encouraging mentorship, providing leadership development opportunities and fostering a culture of equal opportunity.

Overcoming obstacles

Discussing the barriers to female leadership, Volery comments that we need to overcome the persistence of gender bias and stereotypes in both company culture and society in general. “As a baseline, women should feel empowered to decide if they want to have a career, and if so, what they are willing to give up or sacrifice to get there,” she says. The image of the stay at-home mother still exists; this is compounded by potentially limited childcare services and in some cases a lack of family support.

“Some workplace initiatives begin to address these barriers, like hybrid working for example, giving enhanced access to the workplace and making personal and professional schedules more compatible. At the same time, biases can manifest as unconscious bias in hiring and promotion decisions, limited access to mentorship and networking opportunities, as well as in the earlier mentioned expectations around traditional gender roles,” explains Volery.

As voiced by Volery, overcoming these barriers requires proactive efforts to challenge and change deeply ingrained perceptions and norms, along with concrete policies that promote gender equality and diversity at all levels of leadership. “Workplaces need to work together with purpose to create a space for and attract diverse professionals, to secure the future leadership of our companies,” she adds.

Offering advice to aspiring female leaders who aim to achieve executive roles in their careers, Volery warns struggling, falling and doubting is normal. However, the end result and how you get there is what you make of it. “Fight for your beliefs and for your values. And make sure you have someone to coach you along the way,” she says.

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