The Importance of Belonging

Transformation in any industry begins with people. Creating a sense of belonging is a fundamental priority in any business. People need to feel a connection to a company and its purpose to be passionate about coming to work every day. As we embark on this journey, we are focused on people; those that will help us to upgrade the organization to design and deliver Ready products faster.

Make It Personal


At HARMAN, we want our teams to have a clear vision and an understanding of how each role helps to achieve that vision. Our vision is to be the leading automotive electronics supplier for in-cabin experiences and to deliver “Consumer Experiences. Automotive Grade.” We want everyone in our automotive division to feel “under the hood” with this common strategy.

Every person is a critical link in the chain – leaders guiding the way, contributors providing expertise and supporters delivering scale to drive the plan forward. All team members must feel relevant and important every day when they come to work. This sense of belonging and purpose fuels the good days as well as the more difficult days, which we all know will happen. 

While I'm a physicist with a PhD in acoustics and psychoacoustics, I’m also a long-time piano man. My hobby is to “play along” so I intimately understand the importance of every member of the band. Each musician must be plugged into one another to play in harmony and to create a song. A work team needs this same synergy with each individual adding to a collective vision – and driving it forward.

Future Engineering

We took a careful look at our long-term strategy and saw an opportunity to create a sense of belonging in the engineering community through collocation. We’re focused on three specific ways to make this happen.

  • Customers – Positioning Sales Engineers close to the customer deepens understanding and strengthens communication – fueling a stronger relationship.

  • Engineering – Collocation of engineering teams allows hardware and software developers to share expertise and leverage synergies, explore simulations etc.

  • Product – Our goal is to place teams for a singular product in one location. This will spur cross-discipline engagement to solve challenges and get products ready for market. 

As a global company, we respect employee desire for flexibility. Our immediate plan is to ensure that teams are located in the same time zone. The return-to-work topic is a lively one, but for me, the physical office fundamentally instills a sense of belonging. 

When I come into the office, I visit with people without always having an agenda. Simply starting a conversation creates a connection far beyond an agenda on a video call. In-person interaction and information exchange cultivate community in a way that video calls just can’t replicate.

Setting a New Standard

Our collocation in the past was mainly focused on projects: hardware testing, software development etc. In our upgraded organization, we’re shifting to a product mindset. Unlike a project that has a loose connection of people working together for a short period of time, product collocation means long-term roadmaps for people. This creates an enduring connection as teams are united in a mission to bring a product to life. 

HARMAN is setting a new standard in the industry with a totally different approach. Our model balances the need to have both project and product development. It’s a shift from a traditional positioning as a tier-one supplier to a company that develops Ready products that deliver on future customer needs.

Once the vision was clearly defined, strategy sets the direction for how we organize our teams. We are flipping the conventional industry model from a place of “We have a new technology, how do we sell it?” to “We need to address an emerging market need, how do we create it?” ​

Horizontals on the Horizon

HARMAN is also creating engineering horizontals to marshal expertise in business-critical areas and to provide value to all strategic business units (SBUs). We have identified technology and aligned roadmaps so that everything we do is relevant for all SBUs. 

By merging in-house expertise, we are creating two horizontals:

Centers of Excellence will be close to product and project engineering. These Centers will serve all SBUs with universal services – helping to establish, unify and standardize engineering processes.

Divisional Technology will provide a safe space for experimenting and for incubating knowledge in fields like AI/ML, Electric and Electronic Architecture. Our Lab-concept will grow talent and knowledge.

What Success Looks Like

Being together with a team day by day instills a shared sense of passion and purpose. Collocation will create a culture where everyone feels connected and critical to the success of the business. At the end of the day, we want people to enjoy their work life and being a part of this team. We believe that this sense of belonging will increase retention and attract new talent.

Feeling connected to your team and to a greater purpose can be the difference between a career and a job. HARMAN wants everyone to understand our vision and know exactly why they are coming to work each day. When I wake up, I think about how I can shape my day in a way that I’m providing the most value for the people around me and the organization. 

Creating a sense of belonging means everybody is part of the band. Each individual knows their own instrument best, and only when we harmonize, can we create a new masterpiece together. This is what we are aiming for at HARMAN – to create new masterpieces through a shared sense of belonging.

If you're interested in joining a company with a strong sense of “belonging,” search for an open position​ now. Also, learn more about the HARMAN Ready products that are making a real change in the transportation industry today. 

Dr. Joern Otten

Dr. Joern Otten​

Leader, Future Engineering Initiative at ​HARMAN International​​

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