“Diversified teams deliver very convincing results in a short time”

LEAD: Ms. Peters, what must a holistic diversity strategy look like in companies?

Stefanie Peters: First, a company needs a target image that shows what it wants to achieve and what its aspirations are. This requires a clearly defined value in terms of a corporate culture that lives diversity and integrates all forms of diversity. The corporate culture should also be backed by concrete targets – no quotas – to measure progress.

This is above all a good balance between complexity and complexity of the diversity measures and cohesion in the company. It is also very helpful to build a base, in effect taking up the initial situation of the organization, by gathering in-house statistics, but also incorporating up-to-date attitudes and values ​​in the business to better understand causes of hindering behavior and grievances about diversity. On the basis of this initial assessment, concrete weaknesses can again be identified, which the company should tackle in a targeted manner.

That sounds like a good start. Which steps do you recommend afterwards?

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Finally, from the insights gained, an overall concept can be worked out that defines initiatives differentiated according to diversity groups (gender, nationality, age, professional background, etc.). The concept must be supported and demonstrated by the top management with full commitment. The next step requires a governance model that coordinates the implementation of the various initiatives.

I recommend starting with one to two showcase projects to ensure a high visibility and a high probability of success. These projects should be accompanied by sufficient resources and diversity-experienced enablers or coaches and their progress should also be systematically pursued.

Also interesting: “Managers have diversity-related annual goals”

If these flagship projects have achieved good and measurable results, it is important to launch further diversity initiatives that address the barriers that have since been identified (such as unconscious bias). Ideally, these should be integrated into existing change projects, so that diversity (analogous to digitization) as a cross-sectional function is promoted and lived throughout the organization. This will enable a holistic diversity strategy in the company.

In which diversity dimensions do German companies still have some catching up to do and why?

In almost all, but especially in the not immediately visible dimensions. Most German companies limit themselves to the obvious dimension of gender, some also take into account the age and the origin. In my opinion, that is too brief, because there are many other dimensions of diversity that are often neglected in companies. Many companies underestimate the positive impact of targeting a range of diversity issues.

The following graphic illustrates this:

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Graphics: enable2grow

What concrete tips do you have to integrate previously neglected groups?

My recommendation is, above all, to consider professional expertise as well as different personality types in order to optimally position teams and thus to ensure that complex problems can be tackled as holistically as possible. Studies prove my experience that a diversified team can deliver very compelling results in a short time if more than four dimensions of diversity in the company are taken into account. Although important strategic decisions often require a little more time when they are met in a diverse team – they are really well thought out and therefore sustainable.

More diversity topics can be found in the current issue of LEAD magazine 04/18, which you can also order online.

What experiences have you made of how a successful inclusion will work?

The more dimensions an organization takes into account – be it in staff selection, team composition, or even in human resources development – the higher the potential that brings real added value and measurable positive impact to the organization. According to McKinsey’s latest study, companies with a high proportion of women in management positions have a 56 percent higher EBIT (earnings before interest and taxes) than companies without women. And this difference is based on just one dimension.

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What difficulties do you have in companies to accept innovation? Is Germany open and versatile in this area?

Since I really see the entire bandwidth in German companies:
On the one hand, there are traditional companies such as BOSCH, Klöckner or Viessmann, who place great value on innovation, invest a lot and are open for new experiments. Examples include corporate ventures, innovation labs, and small teams in other locations that are intentionally developing disruptive ideas.

On the other hand, there are also established companies that are struggling to be really innovative. Most of them are still doing very well, because they live in a kind of comfort zone in which threat potentials are talked down or ignored – except small optimizations or a few “fig leaf projects”, nothing happens. There is a lack of strategic leadership that detects the changing market conditions as well as new trends and technologies. Unfortunately, this inappropriate comfort will take revenge, because those who do not keep up with the times will keep up with the times.

What qualities do companies need today to master change?

The German corporate landscape is definitely versatile, but it requires an agile and forward-looking leadership that postulates and demonstrates continuous change as the only constant in the company. This is less a matter of age than of mindset. Those who count the days until they exit and only optimize for a short time instead of investing in long-term growth can not make a company fit for the future.

Also interesting: companies benefit from new perspectives

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