"It’s not just about hiring a certain number of women, or minority groups, and so on. We have to build workplace cultures that truly foster a sense of belonging in all of our employees."
Companies have been embracing diversity and inclusion for some time now. There has been a lot of emphasis on numbers: how many people you hire from certain groups and making sure your organization has a good balance of cultures and backgrounds.
Although this is a step in the right direction, in my opinion, we need to go one step further.
We need to move on from diversity as just a numbers game and build workplace cultures that truly foster a sense of belonging in every employee.
This is the glue that really binds people together. At Siemens, we haven’t just looked at quotas and put a diverse workforce in place. We constantly focus on creating a culture that makes all these people from diverse backgrounds join us, stay with us, and thrive and develop within our organization.
Overcoming barriers to true diversity
I believe we should stop thinking about diversity from a cognitive perspective. Whoever you ask in an organization will say “we should have more diversity.” Everyone loves the idea. But the problem comes with execution, because that’s when people go into the default mode and bias creeps in. It’s human nature to gravitate towards people like ourselves: that’s how we unconsciously make hiring and promotion decisions and even how we assess performance. We think we are trusting our gut instinct, but in reality, it is unconscious bias.
So instead of thinking cognitively, we need to be thinking about what everyone can do consciously to really contribute to diverse teams.
I feel the industry probably needs to focus more on equity rather than equality. For example, with internal job opportunities, everybody has an equal right to apply, but someone from a minority group may choose not to because they don’t believe they have a chance. This mindset denies them a chance at getting the job. With this in mind, we need to create a process that is truly equitable.
The steps we’ve taken to ingrain real diversity
Solving the diversity problem is not as simple as just hiring more women, more people from minority groups and so on. It worries me when people think it’s all about talent acquisition. It is so much more than that. As global Head of Talent Acquisition, I am always reiterating that “this is like a bucket – I can put more water in, but if the bucket has holes, we are never going to get to the numbers that we want.”
To combat the common challenges surrounding diversity, we have taken three key steps at Siemens:
- We have analyzed every single step of our hiring process: how we market our jobs, how we screen candidates, and how we make hiring decisions. Then we have identified areas we can change and adapt to strengthen our diversity initiatives.
- We have looked at diversity as a topic in a very holistic way, delving into what really matters when it comes to making everyone feel they belong. How do we create a culture of genuine inclusivity?
- And finally, we have incorporated a lot of technology to help optimize our processes and capture the right data.
Technology now touches every aspect of the talent acquisition process. Firstly, it enables us to be much more personalized in the way we market our jobs.
For example, we use an artificial intelligence platform that tells us if the language we’re using is male-driven, which subconsciously puts women off applying.
We’ve been testing it with fabulous results: The percentage of female candidates we receive has significantly increased.
We are also using video to advertise our positions. Instead of a job descriptions, we post engaging videos that describe what it’s like working for Siemens and often feature the hiring manager, too, discussing what the job is all about. It gives people a feel for our organization which helps them assess if it’s somewhere they would be comfortable.
Building an environment that reaps the rewards of true diversity
The foundation of diversity in any organization is the right training, and you need to lead from the top. We have been doing a lot of unconscious bias training, not only for talent acquisition but all managers. We are also very conscious of including people from very diverse backgrounds when planning big events, like our Siemens management conferences.
There also needs to be a conscious effort to go beyond just understanding what diversity is – you have to drive it intentionally. This means creating diverse teams and ensuring that leaders are giving everyone an equal voice.
Other small gestures can matter a lot too. Ten years ago, everyone at Siemens came to work in formal attire, but we are loosening the strict dress code now and encouraging everyone to bring their true selves to the office. You would be amazed how much easier it is to cultivate an atmosphere of diversity when everyone is seeing the CEO walk around in jeans and no tie!
In my view, true diversity starts with really tackling the feelings around that important sense of belonging and addressing the root causes of people feeling excluded. The ultimate objective of diversity should be true inclusivity and belonging. It’s our goal to make everybody, wherever they come from, feel that they belong, that they can speak up, and that their voice is heard.
Are you interested in taking the next step in your career at a truly inclusive organization? Head to our careers page, where you’ll find all of our latest job openings.