Hiltrud Werner on Volkswagen’s Transformation [Podcast]


Post By: Adam Turteltaub

The Volkswagen Dieselgate scandal captured global headlines and was profoundly disruptive to the company, resulting in substantial penalties and a three-year monitorship under former Deputy Attorney General Larry D. Thompson that ended in September.

So, how has Volkswagen changed, and what was it like from the inside? In this podcast we learn the answers to both questions from Hiltrud Werner, who serves as a Member of the Board of Management — Integrity and Legal Affairs for Volkswagen. From this position, which was introduced in 2013, she oversees the integrity program, legal affairs, compliance and risk management. She also oversaw the US monitorship from the Volkswagen side.

As she explains in this podcast, the position has been a great vantage point for seeing the transformation of the company in response to the scandal, and she notes that the role she occupies reflects as a clear mandate from the supervisory board.

When she took over the job the key priorities included launching a 10-point plan in compliance and another 10-point plan in risk management. At the same time there was a need to implement the obligations under the agreement with US authorities, including changes ranging from improvements to the whistleblower system to realignment of the entire board structure. Compliance and risk management were separated, and working with colleagues, she created a new integrity program.

What were some of the keys to a successful transformation of the company? She reports that there was a strong commitment to creating much more of a speak up culture, from hire to retire. Right from the start they focused on the human factor and sought to create and live transparency.

Cooperation with the monitor was seen as crucial, and a liaison office was created with the vision of being much more than just a processor of requests.

Volkswagen is now looking beyond the monitorship, she tells us. As Herbert Diess, chairman of Volkswagen’s management board said, “But the end of the monitorship is not the end of our journey.” It is just a milestone.

Listen in to learn more about what Volkswagen did to improve its culture and compliance function, and lessons that can help your organization should it, too, need to make a profound transformation after a crisis.