29.10.2017  |  Strategi & ledelse

Adapt or Die?

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Managing diversity and creating inclusive leadership in- and outside the company is a must in 2017 as globalization, digitalization, and the drive for sustainable business models are stressing the ”same old –same old”-”-Modus Operandi of yesteryear.

Corporate diversity expert Heidi Rottbøll Andersen and her global consultancy team at Copenhagen-based Living Institute are busier than ever these days as the many implications of a modern competitive environment are sweeping through boardrooms and strategy teams. ”For many the issue of diversity has clearly shifted from a reluctant ’Why diversity?’ to an almost needy ’How diversity?’ – and clearly many are coming up a bit blank”, she says.

The premiere of the Innovation Fund Denmark supported ”Inclusive Leadership Program” – presented globally via an event at the headquarters of the Federation of Danish Industries, August 2017 is a poignant example – instead of rethinking well tried diversity bottom-up approaches inclusive leadership is basically a targeted top-down approach, just as Google founders intended (see USA Today).

The program includes diversity experts and facilitators from around the globe, creating a module-based avenue for both global brands and more local, nationally oriented organizations to identify diversity blind spots, transform management perspectives, and create a true inclusive leadership to tackle and solve all different issues of e.g. culture, gender, ethnicity – in a way that both recognize the importance of these differences in humans, yet find a path to integration of them into organizational strategy to truly harness the potent value of diversity (see “Diversity matters” report from McKinsey).

”The challenges of this transformation fall into both identification, analysis, problem solving, and goal setting – though we are clearly working with the existing good will and empathy of the individuals – it needs help to become a useful tool at either team, division, or full organizational level”, Heidi Rottbøll Andersen adds, stressing that the end result in many ways is a bottom line oriented strategy; Diversity means Dividends.

Key components of the Inclusive Leadership Program are therefore: Conscious leadership, empathy, creating trust and psychological safety, mitigating unconscious bias and cultural & gender intelligence. This cocktail of crucial leadership traits and competencies enables the participating leaders to create the much-coveted culture of inclusion and innovation in their companies.

How is your cultural intelligence these days?
For many years, a key focus area for Living Institute has been to explore and expand the boundaries of cultural intelligence in the global corporate world. For Heidi Rottbøll Andersen measuring and establishing this “cultural quotient” is only the first small step for man ;) – transforming this into actual business strategy in negotiations, in managing, in attracting and retaining the best talents and in customer service, in all types of interactions is the tricky and interesting part.

Having worked with global brands like LEGO, Siemens, L’Oreal, Dupont, Merck, Novo Nordisk, Maersk and Carlsberg in the last few years Living Institute has created eye openers and insights in almost every type of business culture. “This is never a quick fix. But unless you specifically choose to destroy your own market potential – few would – the path from an initial better cultural awareness to a cultural intelligent organization, capable of not shooting itself in the foot, is possible for all. One could say, that it is easier than you might think, but longer than you can imagine, as it opens up to a lifetime of better and stronger understanding of the world and of business,” she says.

A must for Sustainable Brands
Getting the issue on the agenda hasn’t always been easy, Heidi Rottbøll Andersen points out – she thinks the decision to include gender equality and diversity in the Sustainable Development Goals are playing a role.

“Clearly any lack of diversity or inclusiveness are becoming a major challenge for the international corporations, and can have affect company performance not only through poorer performance, but also via the public eye – as seen with recent cases in Uber, Google, or Fox News. All students of branding or management were busy taking notes,” Heidi Rottbøll Andersen points out, and especially those with ambitions to truly build a responsible, sustainable brand and organisation. “Conscious and indeed also unconscious bias left unchecked can nowadays destroy brand value very.”

This is also a core message of Mrs. Andersen, speaking at the international Sustainable Brands conference in Copenhagen next month. “All organizations striving towards sustainability have to take all the elements of the SDGs into account, so with gender equality and diversity in the workplace as two central points it’s no surprise – still it is quite important to stress that this is not simply an issue for the sustainability oriented – changes in demographics, gender perceptions, and social media use makes this a must for all,” she adds; even more so at events such as Sustainable Brands or similar high-focus arenas.

”Classical examples of all male, white speakers at a supposedly multinational conference are by now quite easy to spot for most – and so becomes almost instantly a problem”, Heidi Rottbøll Andersen points out, ”Such are just very simple, obvious cases. In a modern organization and their events – all kinds of issues like choice of speakers, venue, seating, food, entertainment, team building activities and all other kinds of choices - conscious or not - shape the outcome and effectiveness of these meetings and events,” she adds – and reminding us all that we seen this shift before.

“Perhaps some 10-15 years ago we had a similar paradigm shift at the CEO-level as Chinese, Japanese, Indian, or other emerging markets fuelled new, admired brands and business leaders. This in turn raises the bar for all – if you want a global brand, your managers better have a diversified and inclusive approach in their leadership toolbox”

5 key paths to diversity – based on Inclusive Leadership Program
1. Equip your managers with the knowledge and tools to perform inclusive leadership
2. Create a culture of inclusion and innovation – and watch how best talents join your company
3. Make sure you spend your resources on impactful diversity initiatives – and drop the rest
4. Focus on creating a gender balanced organization from top to bottom – and watch your bottom line grow rapidly.
5. Hack your company - remove any barrier preventing diversity.

See full programme for Sustainable Brands Copenhagen here - and the sister conference Responsible Business Events held same place back to back here.

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