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Dissecting diversity in the workplace

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Diversity has been gaining significance as an integral pillar of effectiveness in the corporate world.

HR leaders from McDonald’s, Standard Chartered Bank, Unilever and Thomson Reuters gathered at Human Resources‘ first ever Recruitment Interactive 2013 late last week to discuss the role of diversity in fostering sustainable success.

Debbie Rogers, director of HR for Abbott Nutrition International in APAC, kicked off the panel discussion by explaining the fundamental principle underlying a diverse workforce.

“A group with the same types of people will not generate the different types of ideas that you need,” she said.

Sehr Ahmed, senior director of HR APMEA at McDonald’s, agreed and expanded on how her company is aiming to be as diverse as possible.

“By getting diversity right, we unlock the value of the brand through innovation and decision making. McDonald’s has seven female MDs, going from zero six years ago, and recently, we have had our first female VP in Japan.”

Jacqueline Rolf, head of group diversity and inclusion at Standard Chartered Bank, added diversity in the workforce encompasses more aspects than just gender; it also includes generational diversity, the LGBT community and those with disabilities.

By making diversity and inclusion an integral part of the bank’s overarching priorities, “a more inclusive work environment” is created, allowing “employees to feel they’re able to bring their best to work every day, and that they’re respected”.

Amita Chaudhury, global diversity director at Unilever, summed up the essence of the diversity pillar: “I don’t think diversity should be called diversity. It’s a big business opportunity”.

Commenting on how best to spread awareness of the importance of gender diversity, Subarna Malakar, head of diversity and inclusion for Thomson Reuters Asia, said you cannot avoid having men as part of the overall conversation.

“When you have a gender initiative, you have to engage men. And you have to have policies that are friendly to all employees. Engage men in the gender dialogue”.

He added developing and catering to Thomson Reuters’ Asian employee community is an important business strategy in converting local talent to successful leaders.

“It’s also about positioning, and making sure Thomson Reuters is an employer of choice,” he said.

Rounding up the panel, Rolf said flexibility is key to leveraging diversity within the workplace.

“The only way we can bring out our strengths is if we’re allowed to work the way that fits us best,” she said.

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