On the wings of diversity
Abstract goal: a leading multinational of consumer goods has expressed a wish to have 50% of women in all its worldwide executive positions, leaving to each business unit the choice of exactly what formula to use to achieve this end.
Project: the Spanish unit develops an innovative project that goes beyond just women in order to capitalize on diversity as a competitive advantage in the market.
Outcome: the employees have their own development paths and take the driving seat in their own career. Instead of a mere quota, a brand new approach to Human Resources has allowed talent to surface.
Many countries lag behind when it comes to the most innovative practices in terms of diversity, talent management or flexibility. Instead, the corporate culture is burdened by outdated behaviors such as presenteeism. This case is possibly all the more remarkable because of that. It reverses that trend so that a project conceived and developed in Spain may work as a beacon for one of the most charismatic multinationals in the consumer goods sector.
“El viaje de la diversidad” (roughly translated “On the wings of diversity”), is the slogan of the Iberia airlines business unit and stands as an example of the way that an ambitious outlook can enable a company to make the most of its talent while creating a culture of engagement among its personnel.
Setting the course for the participation of women
The journey starts at the company’s headquarters. Under the “Vision 2020” heading, the CEO announces that the organization’s goal is to have women covering 50% of executive positions. The destination has been set but each business unit is allowed to choose its own “course” to that end, with their own process adapted to local realities.
The Spanish unit raises the bar and resolves to implement a project with a wider scope. Rather than focusing only on genre, it sets the innovative goal of working on diversity of talent. The route that has been defined goes beyond strengthening the position of women and hinges on the company making the most of talent diversity as a competitive advantage.
“On the wings of diversity” is the evocative title for this innovative and original program. Buckle your seatbelts.
Studying the aeronautical charts
Just like any other journey, this one starts by testing the equipment and the study of the aeronautical charts. In this case, the market is benchmarked to analyze best practice by the leading multinational companies in terms of diversity implementation and the organizational tools used in the process.
The analysis also implies some soul-searching for the company in order to diagnose the root causes in its corporate culture currently hindering the development of talent. This research reveals some common issues in Spanish companies, such as a very masculine management style where presence at the workplace reigns supreme and there is little flexibility regarding work-life balance.
This is not only a clear barrier for women, but also for other talented individuals who the company wishes to nurture. These include a new generation entering the job market with a very different working philosophy. In fact, Spanish companies, which are traditionally ill-prepared to manage visible diversity in terms of religion or race, always show similar barriers – conflict between the genres and between the different generations.
The model for talent management
“On the wings of diversity” was a living and self-driven process, full of creativity and innovation, where a team, diverse in itself, worked side by side to develop a groundbreaking model:
- The company created an inclusive environment where all the professionals are in the driving seat of their own careers thereby instigating a sharp turn towards flexibility. Development paths for talented professionals, such as mentoring and sponsorship, offer employees with support.
- A committee with diverse talent within itself undertook the decisions and design of the process, with members from the Management Committee, the head of diversity, Talengo and a respected professional as an independent adviser. The objective was to avoid decisions stifled by the corporate culture and to take into account external vision and trends. This committee was in charge of defining roles, functions and the key points of the strategy.
- The project was complemented by a specific communication plan which involved sensitization meetings and work seminars with all personnel in order to raise awareness of the topic of diversity. The latter stressed the importance of diversity as a driver of change, how to manage diverse talent, barriers and obstacles for the careers of men and women, meetings with leaders and so on.
- There was also a strong commitment to new and inclusive leadership behavior, with workshops teaching how to avoid unconscious bias in decision-making.
The key to success
The “wings of diversity” carried the company to a safe landing because:
- The board was involved at all times. In fact, the project was proposed by it.
- Diversity was present at the very core, in the company’s own decision-making committee.
- The focus was not set purely on promoting women to leadership positions. A whole new outlook in the management of human resources was implemented instead, allowing talent to surface.