Companies that don’t evolve eventually get left behind. Yet, what is the creative engine behind this evolution? One thing I’ve discovered through life experience and in my role as a female leader in the technology field is the power that diversity and inclusion brings to an organization. For companies looking to continually sharpen their competitive edge by becoming more resilient and creative, diversity and inclusion is one of their most valuable assets.
The case for diversity and inclusion is compelling
Research has repeatedly shown that diverse companies consistently outperform more homogeneous ones. It makes sense that organizations that leverage employees’ unique strengths maximize the potential for innovative thinking and collaboration, leading to better business outcomes. Companies with more diverse talent pools increase their ability to quickly identify both untapped market opportunities and potential business risks. A recent study in the Harvard Business Review found that companies whose decision makers share more traits with their clients, customers and end-users lead in innovation.
Dismantling the status quo requires a concerted effort
Many companies, particularly in the tech sector, have found it difficult to ramp up their diversity and inclusion programs despite all their advantages. The causes are many, but among the most challenging to overcome are those based on unconscious biases. Those that have successfully transformed their culture frequently did so by enlisting the leadership of their entire C-suite. Schneider Electric, for example, has implemented a broad range of best practices that have resulted in us being recognized as a leader in our industry and could help other organizations on their diversity and inclusion journey.
Empowerment philosophies that drive change
As an iMasons Educational Committee member and champion of continuous education, I’m all about cultivating young talent to embrace the wealth of opportunities our industry has to offer. Years of hands-on involvement in mentorship initiatives like the HITEC Foundation has made me a vocal advocate for building diverse workforces, empowered by inclusive corporate cultures.
I’ve found that the road to transforming a company’s culture involves more than establishing an initiative or a program; it requires an enterprise-wide investment to create real behavior change. For example, when I started my career at Schneider Electric, I was able to hit the ground running with help from the company’s “buddy program.” The initiative paired me up with a more senior colleague to navigate my new employer’s work environment, processes, and cultural nuances. As a seasoned sales leader new to the energy management and automation world, the onboarding knowledge was pivotal in empowering my career. Beyond mentoring programs for newer employees, the ongoing endeavor to establish a culture of belonging at Schneider Electric involves taking action on four fundamental principles:
1. Embrace diversities
Schneider has Employee Resource Groups (ERG), which aim to create a corporate culture that embraces employees from different demographics in order to enrich our mutual experience, perspective, and business outcomes. Activities include internal engagement, virtual learning, mentoring resources, and connecting executives with members. Our company ERGs focus on: gender, nationality, generation, LGBT, and people with disabilities.
2. Encourage equality
Integrating diversity and inclusion into the total employee experience is critical to ensuring fairness and equity. At Schneider, the emphasis is placed on:
- Pay equity
- Hiring and empowering a diverse workforce
- Flexible work structures that include benefits such as a Global Family Leave policy
- Ensuring employee success, such as with a buddy system to mentor new hires
3. Practice inclusivity
Increasingly diverse markets, customers, and talent mean leaders and teams need to respect uniqueness in order to build a sense of belonging, as well as drive business growth and innovation. Our leaders celebrate diversity with an empathic approach that allows others to be their genuine selves.
4. Advocate for others
Sharing stories internally and externally and leading by example are fundamental to building an inclusive and diverse work environment. Some of the examples where companies can lead as change agents include:
- Gender equality with commitments to the UN’s HeForShe
- UN Free & Equal Standards of Conduct for Business on Tackling Discrimination against LGBT People
- Mission in Tech for International Women’s Day
Don’t get left behind
Numerous studies, as well as intuitions, tell us that in addition to being more creative and agile, diverse, inclusive companies are happier workplaces where good employees stay, perform better, excel beyond baselines, and enjoy their work more.
As International Women’s Day is taking place this week, it is a good reminder that companies should take a fresh look at what they are doing to empower women as well as all employees. To learn more about what Schneider Electric is doing on this front, check out our diversity and inclusion site. What is your company doing to encourage diversity and inclusion? We would love to hear your ideas in the comments section. Let’s keep the conversation going.