Let’s talk about diversity: The what, the why and the how
In addition to playing a key role in attracting and retaining talent, diversity can yield major business benefits as well. Research has shown that more diverse organizations are more innovative, solve problems more effectively, and have better reputations than their peers.
To mark Global Diversity Awareness Month, we would like to take a moment to look at “what," “why” and “how” you can create a more diverse organization.
What is diversity, really?
Let’s start with the “what” of diversity. It is not one-dimensional based on characteristics or visible cues. That is an element, but a more complete picture takes into account diversity of background, experience and thinking. An organization is not diverse if everyone looks the same. It is also not diverse if everyone looks different but thinks the same.
This is a challenge that needs to be consciously addressed. We all have our own map of the world, our own lived experiences, ideas and perspectives. One of the easiest things in life, and work, is to surround ourselves with the familiar. To build teams of people who look, think and behave like us. It is a basic human trait, connected to how we survive as a species: seek out the similar and the safe.
An organization is not diverse if everyone looks the same. It is also not diverse if everyone looks different but thinks the same.
As an organization, we are focused on recognizing differences, being intentional in our actions and becoming comfortable with being uncomfortable!
However, if we only surround ourselves with like people, we limit growth and potential because we limit perspective. In an organization, we can create a dangerous environment that lacks challenge or conflict, which enables critical flaws to go unnoticed or serious threats to be ignored.
Why diversity is important
So, the “what” is clear. How about the “why”? Why do we need diversity?
Diversity challenges our thinking, drives learning and broadens our horizons. If we approach with an inclusive mindset being curious about others, taking the time to listen and understand, it enables us to create meaningful connections. Likewise, if we are humble, accepting that no single person has all the answers, and we create space for others to contribute, we can discover new solutions and outcomes. We can realize the power of our collective minds and come together to collaborate, innovate and grow. This growth at the organizational level is a critical benefit. An organization will be more successful, more innovative, more productive with a diverse workforce and an inclusive culture.
The importance of the element of inclusivity should not be underestimated. It is not enough to have diversity in your workforce. Of course, this is a critical step. However, if those diverse individuals are not thriving, then you will not truly realize the benefits. If they are unable to progress, if they feel suffocated, have no voice, lack recognition and have no platform to influence or drive change, then you may have a diverse workforce, but you will not have an engaged, thriving and productive one. This is why diversity can never be about quotas or about having notional members of a team to tick a box. We have to create an inclusive environment that supports individuals to thrive.
As leaders within the organization, we need to be structural in our approach - being diverse by design. We must also get comfortable with being uncomfortable — deliberately bringing together diverse teams and allowing our thinking to be challenged. Of course, this challenge must take place within a healthy and supportive environment with a forward focus on developing solutions and driving the organization’s success. By focusing on a core set of values, beliefs and a core mission, we can be intentional about bringing together individuals who think and act differently, who have walked different paths, who can challenge and innovate to create something that would not have been possible otherwise. It is the ultimate example of the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
How we have made it work
At Atos, we are focused and intentional about diversity, equity and inclusion. We target long-term ambitions and shorter-term actions across the five pillars of our DE&I Framework: Culture, Career, Community, Collaboration and Communication.
We drive global initiatives such as our Women’s Executive Mentoring program; our Inclusive Leadership training series or partnerships with companies like Textio, Valuable 500 or L’Autre Cercle. Our employee networks operate globally and locally, focused on developing an inclusive culture by raising awareness and providing a forum to network and build connections. They are open to everyone, providing support and learning opportunities via shared content, newsletters, webinars, and events.
This is a great example of how we bring one of our core principles to life: Think globally, act locally.
In our different countries and business lines we develop programs and actions that incorporate local context and needs. For example, within our cloud practice, our Cloudreach Talent Academy is focused on hiring from underrepresented communities — providing a route into technical careers. In India, our STRIDE program supports women employees in a targeted development program designed to accelerate their careers in technology. And in Germany, we partner with Siemens to deliver events such as the annual United in Diversity Day.
Of course, this is a journey and we still have further to go. As we move forward, we are focused on recognizing differences, being intentional in our actions, and becoming comfortable with being uncomfortable!