I recently attended a week long Consulting Workshop at our very own chateaux Les Fontaines ,a Capgemini Training Facility. What really stood out apart from the great facilitators, lovely weather and amazing food was the experience I had working and interacting with colleagues from other countries.
In one session we were given a group exercise to develop a business case for a telecom operator to move to online solutions.. I witnessed some cultural stereotypes developing within our group: the Germans immediately focused on the design and processes element of the problem meanwhile the Swedish members were good team players happy to take on any role while the Indians were the most technology savvy. I also observed that the French kept us from becoming too serious and of course the British took a supervisory role! It seemed to work like this for most activities, ranging from issue identification to business case preparation. To my delight on this occasion, it was a winning formula, where we won quite a number of ‘Bar tokens’ as reward for a job well done.
For most of my life, I have worked for multi-national companies with colleagues spanning the globe and I thought I was sufficiently aware of group dynamics across cultures. After this intensive five day workshop, with a truly global team, I started to ask myself some questions about how important diversity and inclusion is in this day and age.
What does diversity really mean? I like the definition provided by CIPD – “Diversity is valuing everyone as an individual, whether they are an employee, a customer or another stakeholder”.. There is a strong business case for having a workforce across age, race, ethnicity, gender, physical ability and religion..... and I feel the key factor is recognising individuals’ differences and celebrating these as an asset for innovation and diversification as a business.
Most companies and countries have accepted this truth and made great strides in this field: Procter & Gamble have one global diversity strategy with a consistent set of measures, but also encourage customisation at the regional level. For example, in Western Europe the regional leaders focus on generational issues and an aging population. In Turkey, they have done a lot of work around maternity leave and getting women to return to work afterward.
HP was the first international information technology company to hire female employees in Saudi Arabia. In 2006, the government implemented new regulations allowing women to work in the private sector and HP hired its first female employee then. Today approximately 15% of the company’s employees in Saudi Arabia are women, and they work across multiple functions and the turnover is less than 1%, versus the industry average of 10% to 20%
Much closer to home, although the successful Olympics and Para Olympics can be attributed to a number of reasons, the greatest contributor to the success of the games was unarguably the ‘Games-makers’. The 70,000 wonderful volunteers included people across age, religion, culture and economic status. The LOCOG displayed best practices through the various schemes they undertook like ‘Attitude over age’, ‘Access Now’ and special outreach program for BAME (Black, Asian and ethnic minority). For the disabled volunteers, they phased the application process to give them more time to consider their applications.
A study conducted by Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) and the Economics Intelligence Unit on Global Diversity and Inclusion mentions the next frontier is diversity efforts extended to the supplier base. This ensures increased competition among suppliers and improves the buying company’s access to new technologies and products.
The LOCOG went that extra mile and ensured diversity among its suppliers and procurement too. They encouraged contractors and suppliers to encourage diversity by making this a key element of their contract bids. The aim was to ensure under-represented businesses, especially those run by women, ethnic minorities, disabled or older people, have an equal opportunity to compete to supply goods and services.
So it seems like there is lots of great work being done but there is still a long road ahead...
The previously quoted study by SHRM on Global Diversity readiness index places UK at number 7 with a ranking of 68 on 100. In terms of highest percentage of female workers Forbes Insight study places UK with 56% lagging at number 7 again.(The highest country, Iceland has 78%).
We know why it’s needed and what can be done, so let’s learn from the Olympics and inspire a new generation.... to be inclusive.