The Pillars of Diversity

In our effort to promote Diversity & Inclusion (D&I) in the workplace, we have put together this publication featuring case studies from BP, EY, Vodafone and The Economist with an aim to inspire change and provide a deeper understanding of how D&I can improve
business and help create an inclusive work environment within organisations.
 
Through this publication, I hope you find inspiration and practical examples that can help you champion D&I within your organisations.
 
- Hugo Walkinshaw, President, British Chamber of Commerce - Singapore

Why D&I

 

Embracing Diversity and Inclusion has become a priority for businesses from large MNCs to start ups.  With talent pipelines becoming ever more complex and the increase in competition for the best talent, companies that have developed robust D&I strategies have consistently seen the benefits to their bottom line. Amongst the numerous studies showing the importance of D&I, there are several areas that stand out.
 
According to McKinsey, companies that embrace gender diversity are 15% more likely to outperform the market. Companies with ethnic diversity have a staggering 35% higher chance of outperforming the market. In Singapore, many companies have a multicultural workforce but must make their workplace culture inclusive in order to get the best out of their people. Successfully implementing inclusive workplaces can see productivity gains of 30% or more. 
 
Our diversity pillars of Disability, LGBT, Gender, Multicultural and Generation were designed with businesses in mind. We know from data that embracing these pillars and having a diverse and inclusive workplace will lower staff turnover, increase productivity, generate more diverse strategies, improve public perception and ultimately will help businesses thrive in a globally competitive landscape.
 
 

Case Study 1: BP

 
 
 
 
In support of BP’s “D&I Ambition”, the firm’s strategy to embed D&I, guidelines for diversity best practice in recruitment and selection for senior level roles were introduced. Called ‘Rules of the Road’ these guidelines highlight practical actions that businesses must take and represent tangible steps in BP’s progress towards improving gender diversity.
 
The Rules of the Road underpins BPs’ D&I Ambition to attract, motivate, develop and retain the best talent from the diversity the world offers and provides a common language and framework for BP leaders. Each leader has the opportunity to assess hiring decisions to help prevent unconscious biases getting in the way of the longer term agenda. D&I is an explicit part of our core values and strategic planning processes.
 
As a global company we aim for a workforce that is representative of the societies in which we operate. The purpose of these rules is to ensure that managers are systematically inclusive in seeking out diverse talent so that they can make a selection on the basis of merit. There are 5 elements to Rules of the Road:
 
1. When recruiting, all candidate shortlists for senior roles should include a qualified male and female candidate. 
 
2. The interview process (or interview panel) should include at least one male and female interviewer / assessor.
 
3. All selection decisions for senior roles are endorsed by an Executive Committee member or delegate and they must satisfy themselves that the selection recommendation complies with all laws, equal opportunity policy and long term diversity aspirations.
 
4. All succession plans for senior roles should have a qualified male and female candidate on the list.
 
5. Quarterly reports that track Rules of the Road metrics are reviewed by the Executive Committee. Although the Rules of the Road focus on gender diversity, we make it clear that all regional and local diversity laws, practices and so on need to be complied with throughout recruitment and selection processes.
 
“Ensuring that we are able to bring the best talent into the organisation is our top priority. Over the last fifty years, BP has evolved from a refining and marketing company to a knowledge and trading hub for the region. People are at the heart of that evolution; a result of a culture where everyone is able to give their best and be recognised for their contribution.” Terence Yuen, Country President, Singapore.
 
 
 

Case Study 2: Vodafone

 
 
 
 
 
“Diversity is the ‘new normal’ for any global business today – and rightly so. Diversity initiatives ‘work’ when they align individuals’ unique circumstances with their personal goals and those of the enterprise. Vodafone’s initiatives, and those described throughout this booklet, all derive from a common belief: that all people want to work and live in as fulfilling a way as possible. Only by acknowledging differences at the individual level are we able to build a more cohesive and innovative workforce.” says Ben Elms, President – Asia-Pacific, Vodafone Global Enterprise
 
 
Vodafone is the company that pioneered mobile technology 30 years ago – and now has mobile operations in 26 countries, partnerships with mobile networks in 55 more, and fixed broadband operations in 17 markets. 
 
As a global telecom brand, Vodafone understand the importance of having a diverse workforce. Women account for 35% of its employees worldwide but only 21% of the international senior leadership team. Vodafone’s new maternity policy announced in March 2015 – is expected to play an important role in helping to bridge that gap.
 

DIVERSITY DRIVING BUSINESS OUTCOMES

For Vodafone, diversity is inseparable from business performance. That’s because embracing diversity directly correlates to the breadth of perspectives, skills, and experience that a global business can bring to bear on any challenge. The economic repercussions of doing so are immense.
 
This is especially true in Asia where the breadth of cultures working together both, from within the region and abroad is perhaps more varied than anywhere else in the world.
 

MAKING MATERNITY LEAVE A BASIC RIGHT

Having a child is a life changing experience – but for many new mothers, returning to the workplace can be difficult or nearly impossible. And according to research that Vodafone commissioned with KPMG, global businesses could save up to $19 billion by offering maternity leave to all women after having a baby. The policy then isn’t just the right thing to do, it makes business sense too.
 
So, in March 2015, the company defined a mandatory maternity policy for every office worldwide. New mothers now receive 16 weeks’ fully-paid maternity leave, the same as what the United Nations offers its employees. Once they return from leave, they can work a 30-hour week for the first six months while still receiving full pay.
 
Since launching the policy in April, over 600 women globally have gone on maternity leave, and this has had a hugely positive impact on their families. The benefits are already being felt by many of the employees in Asia Pacific. The policy “empowers me to give more than 100% at work for 4 days, then work from home and spend time with my son on the last day of the week,” says Munira Rangwala, one of Vodafone’s Product Managers in Singapore. “It has provided me with ‘flexibility minus the guilt’ at this important juncture of my life.”
 
KPMG’s study suggests that globally, four-day weeks would give mothers a cumulative 608 million additional days with their new born babies. As more companies follow suit on maternity leave, they too will benefit from retaining women in their workforce.
 
 

Case Study 3: The Economist

 

 

 

BY MICHAEL BRUNT, Chief Marketing Officer The Economist Group

 
Corporations must go beyond being LGBT-friendly; they have to let prospective employees know they'll be respected.
 
I’ve worked at The Economist for nearly a decade, but I almost didn’t. Though I was first given the opportunity to work for the century-old brand in the mid-’90s, I turned it down because I perceived it to be an old boys’ network. The publication has stood up for socially liberal causes since it began, arguing against capital punishment, slavery, and bigotry toward people of colour, but its stance on gay employees was a mystery to me, and I didn’t think I would thrive there as an openly gay man.
 
This unease is no doubt why 62 percent of today’s LGBT university graduates slip back into the closet when they begin their first job. I initially did this too; out of college, I worked for two advertising agencies, at which I let only a few colleagues know I was gay (although, let’s be real: The rest of them probably knew). Within a few years, I came to the conclusion that to be truly successful and engaged, I had to be 100 percent authentic. If I’m using a chunk of my brain to hide away something about myself, I’m not at full capacity. In 1996, I accepted a job at an agency in London and, for the first time in the workplace, I let myself be… me. 
 
This kind of authenticity doesn’t always yield a happy ending. Nearly one in 10 LGBT employees have left a job because the environment was unwelcoming, and as most governments don’t provide legal protection for LGBT employees — such as prohibiting discrimination or harassment because of  sexual orientation — LGBT people understandably want to work someplace they can feel certain their rights will be protected.
 
Today my name tends to frequent the media lists that call out notable LGBT business leaders, but I well remember a time when I didn’t feel confident that The Economist would be comfortable with my advocacy or with me. I was wrong about The Economist, but there was no way to know that then. I’ve since worked to make its meritocratic culture public knowledge, and I think other companies that haven’t yet spelled out their position on workplace diversity and inclusion should follow suit. The freedom to be authentic at work is incredibly important — and not just for my well-being or anyone else’s, but for all organisations that want to attract the best talent and want the best of what that talent has to offer.
 
Eighty-eight percent of Fortune 500 companies have now implemented non-discrimination policies protecting their LGBT employees, yet not many of them are making these policies conspicuous. It was The Economist’s appointment of an Orthodox Jewish CEO that led me to see that its network might be more open than I thought. I joined in 2006, and I was absolutely right. The thing that  changed in the time between when I didn’t and then did want to work for The Economist wasn’t its attitude toward LGBT employees so much as my perception of its attitude toward LGBT employees. The experience of almost missing the most exciting position of my career because of a misunderstanding has taught me that those organisations not proudly and publicly inclusive of the LGBT community are missing enormous opportunities for talent simply because of what that silence says about their organisation.
 
I’ve heard it said in practical terms that there are not that many gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people out there — perhaps 7 percent of the population, perhaps 1 percent of the population, all depending on the poll. Either way, statistically speaking, the LGBT community makes up a small minority of the workforce. If you’re looking at it coldly, you could argue that this percentage doesn’t matter much. But it really, really does. Companies that include messages of LGBT acceptance in their branding also send a signal to women and to those who are minorities because of their religion or their race. I know this anecdotally from female friends of mine who’ve said, “If a company is going to be friendly to the LGBT group, they’re probably going to be a company that’s grown-up enough to be open to the fact that I’m a woman.” If you add women and minorities to that small percentage, you start to see that the impact of inclusive messaging grows much larger and that the talent that a company may be missing out on with an ambivalent or absent message is potentially huge. From a commercial viewpoint, being openly LGBT-inclusive makes so much business sense. And from a human viewpoint, it is just the right thing to do.
 
 
 

Case Study 4: EY

 
 
 
 

BY GRAHAME WRIGHT, Partner, People Advisory Services – Mobility, EY

 
A colleague once posed the question, ‘If you had a graduate applicant who was in a wheelchair, would you hire him?’ ‘Of course - why not? We can figure it out…’
 
Some years passed until the 2013 graduate recruitment season, when I received a call from our recruiting team advising that one of the applicants was using a wheelchair – would we interview him for my team? ‘Of course – why not?’ Briefing the interviewers, the approach was clear: we must conduct the interview no differently to any other, ignore any perceptions of difficulty arising from the disability. After a successful interview, we offered a position to the candidate, which was accepted.
 

NOW WE HAD TO FIGURE IT OUT.

 
The first step was to review the physical space: is our office wheelchair friendly? What changes do we need to make to the physical space to accommodate our new colleague? Located in a new building, the EY office is wheelchair accessible and has disabled bathrooms available, however we found there were still a few adjustments required. The work station configuration was easily adjusted to make it easy to wheel in and out, and paths were cleared of clutter, ensuring clear access everywhere he needed to go. 
 
We also found that the disabled bathroom was the preferred bathroom for many of the staff, a behaviour that had to change to ensure it was available when required for its intended use. As part of a subsequent full renovation of our office, several small accommodations were made to ensure accessibility in the new space. These included a motorised sliding door with low buttons, standard height dining tables in the pantry, and an assigned workstation with plenty of space to move.
 
Next, we addressed the people aspect: primarily, how to provide a socially comfortable transition for everyone. To achieve this, a diversity training session was developed, focusing on the disability pillar. This provided staff with information and protocols related to interacting with people with disabilities in a respectful way, how to avoid potential faux pas, and an opportunity to share personal stories about disability-related challenges in the workplace.
 
The training was well attended and well received, and was successful in helping to provide a safe space for people to understand any challenges that lay ahead. Now in his second year, our new colleague is just another one of the group of associates in the team. In reality, his challenges have largely been no different to the other graduates coming into the workforce: learning new skills, settling into life in a professional services organisation. He has demonstrated an extra tenacity and positive outlook over and above many able-bodied colleagues, and creativity to overcome challenges. And together, we figured it out.
 
 

Please click here to read the full booklet

 

 

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