Over the decades, ZF has witnessed strong growth. As a result of other companies joining the Group through mergers and acquisitions, the Group managed to harness opportunities in many market regions worldwide by opening new production locations or service centers. In 2015, ZF will also experience another surge in growth with the acquisition and integration of the US-based company TRW. This growth makes it all the more important to endorse a culture of social cohesion that has shaped the Group throughout its history and helps to incorporate new companies. It is promoted by a strong customer focus, the Corporate Principles, and the ZF Corporate Social Responsibility policy. All this underpins the ZF Group's strong image as an attractive employer.
The acquisition of the Lemförder Group in 1984 was the first time a major company with its own history and identity was integrated into the ZF Group. It proved to be the first of many: Although the ZF management respects organic and profitable growth, ZF also recognizes the importance of company acquisitions and takeovers to expand the service portfolio and leverage market opportunities. 2001 saw the former Fichtel & Sachs AG join the ZF Group, followed by Cherry, the electronics Group, in 2008 and Hansen, the wind power specialist, in 2011. The integration of these companies ensured the constant international growth of the ZF family. Corporate cohesion within the foundation company helps us to nurture a corporate culture shaped by common objectives and values.
Many suppliers in the automotive industry recognize the importance of customer orientation – this is also an attitude that all ZF employees worldwide share. This aspect played an important role in the restructuring of the Group in 2010: It involved actively realigning and streamlining the company's structure, which had developed over time, to comply with market conditions. The new structure could be implemented successfully thanks to the well-established cooperation between all networks, locations, and countries within the ZF Group. Besides just identifying themselves with a specific location of ZF or one of its predecessor companies such as Lemförder, Sachs, or Cherry, many employees have over time come to embrace a new corporate identity that centers around an international, globally networked Group and its principles: "one global ZF".
Employees in focus
A profitable business is only possible if you have competent and motivated employees on all Group levels. Active responsibility for its own employees has a long tradition in ZF's history that extends back to the residential buildings of the 1950s, to the mobility and recreation facilities in the 1960s and 1970s through to the modern day with its continual improvements to occupational safety and health and ergonomics. The company pension scheme and campaigns aimed at creating a better balance between work and family also underscore ZF's commitment to its employees. The (further) training and qualification of colleagues as part of a dialog-based leadership culture plays an important role today - on a global scale. ZF also assists graduates in joining the company by cooperating with universities of applied studies and other universities around the globe – including the Tongji-University in Shanghai (China), the University of Michigan (USA), and the RWTH in Aachen (Germany). The percentage of international executive managers at ZF is set to increase exponentially in the coming years as a result of the company's plans for growth.
And last but not least: The Supervisory Board of ZF Friedrichshafen AG allows employee representatives the opportunity to be directly involved in crucial business decisions.
Adherence to values
With its Corporate Principles, ZF has formulated a set of values regarding identity, sense of responsibility, values, culture, and vision in the ZF Group. All employees of the ZF Group can orient themselves on these principles. In 2012, ZF also signed the UN Global Compact to apply its embedded principles in a broader, international context. What applies to the Group's own employees should also be taken as a guideline when working with partners and suppliers. Alongside over 10,000 companies and organizations, ZF has committed itself to the ten principles of responsible globalization that were set out by the UN General Secretary Kofi Annan in 1999.
ZF also embraces its social responsibility with by sponsoring activities and with various funding programs. The company is actively involved with young people and education, culture and sport. The nonprofit organization "ZF hilft" is also active worldwide helping people in need. The charity was founded in 2004 as ZF employees donated extremely generously for the victims of the Tsunami in the Indian Ocean. The company responded and collected these donations. This willingness to help others also has tradition in ZF's history on a regional scale: ZF employees took part in rescue operations following an avalanche in the Alps in the 1960s and were given time off by the company to help.
This tradition helps ZF consolidate its image as a special employer. In future, a company will need to offer far more than just good career opportunities to attract and ensure the long-term loyalty of excellent technical expert and executive managers. The young generation of executive managers and skilled workers are looking for strong employer brands, in other words attractive employers that offer excellent career and development opportunities but also respect individual plans and values. This is why we regard the employee-based corporate culture and values of the ZF Group as far more than just "soft", disposable factors. They will be precisely the deciding factor for ZF in the future when the competition to attract the best brains becomes fiercer, a trend that has been forecast and is already reality in many regions.