Diversity as an enabler for creativity & innovation

We asked Lotte Hjortlund Andersen five questions about diversity and inclusion. She points out that there is still a gap between what we know and what we do about diversity. In the future, she expects a larger part of the supply chain to require diversity and inclusion from their partners. Read the article to get Lotte’s full perspective on diversity and inclusion, and how ISS implements it.
What were the reasons for joining ISS back in 2016?

From a very young age, I have had a passion for people, and I have always been inspired and energized by collaborating with diverse people. Therefore, one reason as to why I joined ISS, for the second time in 2016, was because ISS genuinely is a people company; our people are at the heart of our business and everything we do. ISS’ DNA and values highly matches with my personal convictions. At ISS, we truly care for our employees, for example, by making sure that all employees receive proper working conditions along with many career and development opportunities; no matter their gender, sexual orientation, age, background, ethnicity etc. I am proud to work for a company that is built on high ethical standards and a company that creates a positive impact around the globe. We do this, for example, by providing jobs and equal opportunities and hereby enhance the work and life conditions for many people. Secondly, I find ISS highly attractive due to our size and global reach which creates a pool of almost endless career opportunities.

I experience an increasing focus on diversity and inclusion which possibly will create another change within the HR industry and beyond

What are the key changes you have seen in the HR industry since you started in ISS?

I believe the key changes in the HR industry – basically in most industries – arises from the major technological advancements which has created a bunch of new possibilities. Technology has, for example, made it possible to strengthen and align certain HR processes globally. This is truly helpful in terms of ensuring one common mindset and approach to our services across our organization. Also, new technical reporting tools and follow up systems have generally increased the quality and level of detail in our data which have, in turn, improved our foundation for decision making.

Furthermore, I experience an increasing focus on diversity and inclusion which possibly will create another change within the HR industry and beyond; and with more employees and customers expecting organizations to actively take a stand and engage with initiatives on diversity and inclusion. Additionally, an extensive amount of research shows how diversity and inclusion has a positive impact on the bottom line along with many benefits from a people perspective.

At ISS, Diversity and Inclusion is nothing new. This agenda has been at the heart of our business since our establishment in 1901. We have demonstrated this commitment by setting high social, ethical and environmental standards throughout our history. To name a few examples; ISS was one of the first companies in the world to hire a Human Resource Manager as well as be a front runner for paving the way for women in the workforce. Additionally, ISS has actively worked with inclusion and integration of immigrants and other minority groups in our workforce while paying great attention to the development and engagement of employees through targeted programs and Engagement Surveys. Even with our promising history, we still have a lot of work to do on this agenda.

How do you expect diversity in business to evolve in the next five years? 

I expect diversity to – hopefully – become an even more integrated aspect of driving a business. I expect that more customers, suppliers and partners will set up requirements for diversity and inclusion that should be met in order to collaborate. Additionally, I expect that diversity will improve the way we manage our business and engage with our employees. I believe that society appears to be progressively changing towards more tolerance, acceptance and recognition for the positive effects of diversity and multiculturality within the workforce.

In the actual work with diversity, research confirms that a multicultural workforce is more productive, and that gender balance is the foundation for strengthening other dimensions of diversity.

Furthermore, I believe that the corporate world has a responsibility for pushing this change within society. The UN Sustainable Development Goals will keep informing the framework for how we can improve lives, communities and cultures beyond our own organization and hopefully create a consensus that diversity should not be viewed as a “business issue” in isolation.

In the actual work with diversity, research confirms that a multicultural workforce is more productive, and that gender balance is the foundation for strengthening other dimensions of diversity. Despite this evidence, we still find push back in public discussion which means that there is a gap between awareness and action. At ISS, we will focus on creating gender balance within all leadership roles within the next five years. We expect that our newly established internal Diversity & Inclusion Community and our various initiatives will continuously develop and expand in the coming years. Moreover, we will continue to push the agenda with ambitious diversity targets, which other companies undoubtedly will do as well.

How do you see companies use diversity and inclusion to grow their business?

Companies can use diversity and inclusion to meet ethical standards and societal expectations from customers and society. Actions taken with regards to diversity and inclusion will reinforce the position of being a socially responsible partner and the corporate stance on these issues will be conditional for how and with whom business relationships are formed.

From an internal perspective, diversity and inclusion is key within all people processes, for example, with succession planning, retention and recruitment. Additionally, in order to nurture a culture where employees are encouraged and supported to be their authentic selves at work. This will, furthermore, promote diversity of thought which is key to fostering creativity and innovation. A truly inclusive culture increases productivity, along with employee health and engagement. If we are to keep a high standard of performance and deliver the best possible services; we must attract and retain the very best employees, and this will only be possible if the organization is inclusive and champion diversity.

What do you see as the most challenging aspect of working in a diverse working environment?

The most challenging, yet, also the most crucial aspect is that we are dealing with people. People create culture and therefore people must be the ones to get to move in the right direction of inclusive work environments.

A diverse working environment can be a challenge in the sense that tensions can arise in terms of culture, religion, age or other dimensions of diversity – no matter how proactive the business is with regards to inclusivity. However, the productivity of a team and prosperity of the business relies on how we may approach those challenges. Within a multicultural workforce, language can be a challenge too, and it demands awareness from leaders and colleagues to avoid that language barriers become an unintentional mean of exclusion. Creating alignment in the working environment for people with different backgrounds demands strong leadership and focus in order to build a culture in which the diversity and differences is an advantage rather than a weakness. Leaders therefore need to have the correct tools and competencies if they are to achieve productivity and champion employees to be their authentic selves at work. 

The most challenging, yet, also the most crucial aspect is that we are dealing with people. People create culture and therefore people must be the ones to get to move in the right direction of inclusive work environments. Shaping – or re-shaping – a culture and individual mindsets takes time and requires an extensive amount of work with regards to assessing the progress and development in how to take appropriate action. We know, however, that a diverse workforce is beneficial – not only in a business perspective – but for the well-being of every single employee as well. The challenges that come along in dealing with a diverse workforce should be approached as a learning curve. It will not only create more awareness of diversity, but ultimately strengthen the work environment.

Lotte Hjortlund Andersen is the People & Culture Director & Global Head of Diversity & Inclusion at ISS – one the largest Facility Services companies in the world with nearly 500.000 employees in more than 65 countries. She will join the conference as a panelist for the panel debate “Diversity and Inclusion as part of Global HR”.

 

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