A diverse workforce bears enormous innovative potential, helping to better anticipate customer requirements, optimize products and offer more customized solutions in markets around the world. This leads to greater customer satisfaction as well as to greater motivation and engagement among employees. In my experience, companies need to balance three key factors to sustainably foster diversity.
The people of Japan are known for their high life expectancy and also for their especially balanced and nutritious diets. At a very early age, Japanese children are taught the “three-color code” that says meals are only healthy if there are at least three colors on the plate. For food to be tasty and nutritious, they have to get the balance right.
Linking eating habits with the business world might seem a little far-fetched, but there are some parallels to be drawn. In a globally operating enterprise, diversity and balance are critical factors in securing long-term success. If we are to use diversity as an effective tool, we need the right corporate culture, systematic diversity management and communication, and a business strategy that is sustainable and robust.
1. Corporate Culture
Globalization touches industry at every level, from small businesses to huge multinational enterprises. As international trade continues to expand and grow, workforce mobility keeps pace. This puts market leaders in a position to recruit the best of the best, regardless of where they come from or where they live. In many Blue Chip companies, experts from a variety of cultures work side by side. Such diversity harbors huge potential. To tap it, we must make diversity integral to corporate culture from the outset and create an environment where employees feel accepted and appreciated irrespective of gender, origin or age. At Deutsche Post DHL Group, we have anchored our commitment to diversity in our globally binding Code of Conduct. I believe this is an essential first step for any company seeking to embrace workforce diversity as a strategic resource.
2. Diversity Management and Communication
At conferences and symposiums, I am often asked about the measures we have used to create a corporate culture in which diversity is welcomed and promoted. Our approach rests on two pillars. The first comprises systematic diversity management, with a dedicated decision-making body and clearly-described responsibilities and tasks. Deutsche Post DHL Group has its own Diversity Council in which top managers from the various divisions regularly convene. This is complemented by a Diversity Core Team that drives projects and initiatives at regional and local level. The second pillar involves broad-based, multi-channel internal communications, ensuring that as many employees as possible are reached. Personalized formats featuring inspiring protagonists and success stories prove especially effective here. In addition to traditional channels like the corporate intranet and employee magazines, we use other formats such as Group-wide diversity days and weeks, employee initiatives and awards. These can all be used to promote and develop corporate policies and programs – for example, to increase our numbers of female employees. As one of the most international companies and largest employers in the world, Deutsche Post DHL Group has in recent years been able to increase the share of women in our workforce by almost one-third. Women already occupy one-fifth of our first-tier management positions. This is significant progress in the traditionally male logistics world.
3. Diversity and Business Strategy
Creating the right corporate culture, developing a diversity management approach and installing the communications structures needed for both cannot be achieved overnight. These involve long-term processes that must be made integral components of corporate business strategy. In implementing management projects and setting corporate targets and goals, it makes sense to develop diversity KPIs which are then constantly reviewed. This is where a Diversity Dashboard can be particularly useful. At Deutsche Post DHL Group, we use our dashboard to track women’s quota trends, both in specific regions and in divisions within the Group. Digital tools are also useful in illustrating target requirements and in providing employees with guidance to help them perform their work. For example, employees can use DPDHL Group’s diversity app to keep abreast of current statistics, read the inhouse Diversity Magazine, log into online diversity training modules and search for diversity specialists across the Group.
Just like the simple, three-color code in Japan, diversity can become part of the DNA of any company when the right balance of culture, systematic diversity management and business strategy are found. But the code offers an additional insight: Imagine what could happen if our teams, committees and councils all reflected three nationalities, three languages and three regions. We need ambitions like that to further embed diversity in the fabric of our organizations.