Honestly. Perhaps you also think you’ve done enough if half of your management team consists of women? Gender balance is important but it is not enough. Diversity is about seeing the entire person and cultivating differences in an environment with equal conditions. Only then will you be able to see the value of diversity in your business. But where do you start?
According to Heidi Nygjelten, Head of HR in Amesto, diversity work tends to be controlled by subconscious and biased attitudes. She works actively with diversity as part of their recruitment processes.
“There is such a wealth of ideas to be found in diversity. Diversity is about accepting, understanding and valuing the people around you. It’s about different perspectives and opinions and about the values and strengths that are inherent in our differences. I have no doubt that there is a willingness to ensure diversity, but our subconsciousness has a tendency to draw us towards those who are most “similar to ourselves,” whether in terms of gender, age or personality.”
Loveleen Brenna, the founder of Seema, a centre for diversity management, largely agrees. However, she believes that the current debate around diversity focuses slightly too much on the problem.
Ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation and age are all just parts of what it means to be a humanbeing. Diversity cannot be defined solely on the basis of mathematical principles, Loveleen explains.
In order for a business to survive and recruit diversely, Loveleen believes that management must choose to familiarise themselves with and understand the thinking, preferences, behaviours, knowledge and insight of other people, as well as understanding global trends. It is important to invest time and effort in creating an inclusive culture across all aspects of the organisation. Only then will you be able to realise the value of diversity.
Diversity enriches work life and contributes directly to profitability and value creation, according to Ariane Spandow, Head of Corporate Social Value at Amesto. Customer segments experience rapid change, especially from a global perspective. Sales representatives increasingly have to adapt to new customer groups, new cultures and new business structures.
“To learn from one another and to be open to new stimuli and opinions create improved dynamics, competitiveness and the ability to act,” says Ariane. By creating equal opportunities, we also lay a stronger foundation for innovation and value creation.
This is something Galina Pivovarova, in Amesto Sweden, agrees with. She was born and raised in Russia and, as someone with a minority background, she has experienced scepticism towards diversity.
“People have suggested that I change my name to increase my chances of finding employment, but why should I? My name is an important part of my identity. It reflects who I am.”
The fact that her name stands out in a stack of applications is something she feels should be a positive rather than a negative factor, as she sees that diversity helps create strength and energy in the workplace. She considers differences between colleagues to be a strength, but suspects that the media has contributed to fostering a negative view when it comes to different personalities in the workplace.
“Lively discussions do not create discord, but rewarding debates and shared motivation for us all.
In order to realise the value of diversity, we need to broaden the way in which we think,” according to Heidi. Amesto has, for a long time, focused on increasing the proportion of women and the age range of the employee mix but, at the same time, we are also looking at how we can increase the transparency within other dimensions within diversity.
“Of course, we are extremely proud that we have a continuously growing number of women in leadership positions and that there is increased spread in the age range within our company . These are important goals, but we are also committed to raising awareness relating to diversity throughout the entire organisation.” Who do we hire, how do we hire and how does the new expertise complement existing expertise?
Only the other day, I was listening to a podcast in which a business leader bragged about having hired from the top educational institutions in Norway. Where is the diversity in that? (only hiring people from “the best educational institutions”)” she asks rhetorically.
In order to strengthen diversity, you need to start with the very basics, namely becoming aware of the diversity within your company. Who works for you? Which complementary strengths do they have? What expertise are you missing?
“It’s simply a case of getting better at getting to know people,” says Ariane. We need to dare to become more personal, seek feedback and facilitate transparency. At the same time, we need to recognise that we are not always champions. We might need to bring in external expertise to get started. Through Seema’s expertise in diversity management, we have obtained crucial input on our diversity processes.
“Diversity can’t be “imposed” as a tool to improve a company’s reputation,” Loveleen explains. If employees fail to understand why they need to focus on diversity, you will encounter resistance and there will be a similar decrease in profitability and innovative power. It is therefore important to highlight the benefits and change attitudes.
For many of us, the work starts with the recruitment process. How can we attract different types and how can we involve more people? How should we design job adverts and what words and phrases should we use?
“A lot of it is about asking the right questions,” Heidi explains. Diversity is about accepting, embracing and utilising differences., The adverts need to reflect the companys focus on diversity . Of course, it is equally important to have excellent mechanisms in place to ensure “diversity awareness”inside the organisation.
In order to nurture, identify and cultivate differences, we need to make both time and space for change. Be aware of team compositions and take steps to help each other improve. Ask for and encourage input and discussions from your employees .