“The journey toward inclusion” by Cynthia Hansen
Head of the Adecco Group FoundationJune 21, 2018
Studies show that diverse teams lead in creativity, innovation and competitiveness. Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) is a hot topic in the media and at conferences. But what does D&I mean in practicality? What are institutions really doing about it? How do you create a workplace where diverse ideas are truly heard and respected, and where the contribution of different points of view drive genuinely innovative solutions? There is no simple solution. Harnessing diversity as a driver of innovation, requires a long-term, holistic approach of training, empathy, incentives and culture change. It must touch people as individuals, as employees and as members of their communities.
To bring D&I to life, to make it personal, we held our second Global Sports and Inclusion Day (GS&ID) last Friday. Through a mix of sports, workshops and learning experiences, we brought together employees, clients, athletes and experts to share their experience, air their challenges, and most importantly to co-create real solutions.
The Swiss Paraplegic Centre in Nottwil provided the perfect backdrop to the GS&ID. It is a place where science, research, sport and passion converge to help thousands of people a year recover from injuries and to prepare for a new phase of life. In this environment where people re-learn skills and re-shape their identities, we brought together a broad mix of men, women, able-bodied and with impairments, young and old, mainstream and out-of-the-box individuals. They heard from experts and shared their own concerns. They tried new activities like wheelchair basketball that pushed them out of their comfort zones. And in the final workshop, they grappled with real-world D&I challenges and worked together to design actual solutions to take home and test in their own organisations.
This dynamic mix of participants showcased that D&I is not a business-specific challenge. All institutions face the same issues -from companies to NGOs, from international organisations to start-ups. And no single actor has the answers. An ecosystem of actors and initiatives is the key.
For example, victims of land mines struggle not only to heal the physical damage. They have to re-define their lives, learn new skills and re-integrate into society and work. With the Adecco Group Foundation, we partner with the ICRC on the Physical Rehabilitation Programme. This programme works in conflict zones to reintegrate people with disabilities into communities and then into the workforce. While they can employ trainees in their own centres, they struggle to get the local job market to recognize the value of their graduates. This is where our expertise can help. We are helping them to drive broader integration with the business community. Jess Markt, the ICRC’s Sport and Inclusion Advisor, who pioneered this programme, joined us for the GS&ID to share his expertise and brainstorm solutions.
In Vietnam, young women often struggle to enter the workforce. With Plan International, we are launching the Fit for the Future programme. This provides young, disadvantaged women with IT training and then facilitates job placements. We were pleased to have Suba Umathevan of Plan International with us for the GS&ID to share how the programme will change lives.
At the company level, Adecco Group is on a journey to both reshape our own workforce, and to leverage the value of D&I to help others. The Adecco Group has a long track record of driving the many dimensions of inclusion. Through the Athlete Career Programme, we have supported more than 40,000 athletes and 2,500 para athletes to build job skills and make the transition into other careers. But training and placement are not enough; businesses have to understand the value that diversity brings. So, we also support employers with training and coaching. These are concrete actions that create tangible impact.
At the country level, shaping a diverse and innovative workforce also requires time, commitment and collaboration.
So how do we keep driving change? Inclusion is inclusive, it requires a leadership mandate, but more importantly it relies on a change of mindset. Policies and practice alone are not enough. Behaviour needs to be embedded, reinforced, and rewarded until it becomes second nature. Sometimes we will get it right and other times we will struggle. We are on a journey, and have not cracked the problem yet. But, at the Adecco Group, 2018 is a milestone as it is the year we lay the foundations for a new, integrated approach to D&I. Working collaboratively with our clients, partners and colleagues around the world, we will drive toward a more inclusive environment that fosters openness and exchange, that welcomes new perspectives, and builds the skills we need to turn diversity and inclusion into a competitive advantage.
The Global Sport and Inclusion Day, in Switzerland and around the world, is one step on this crucial journey. We invite you to come with us!