Experts in London, Shanghai and Delhi convened for a series of roundtables on diversity which underlined the importance of leaders who set the tone from the top in harnessing the strengths of diversity for business growth and innovation around the world. The outcome of these discussions is summarised in ‘Driving Business Performance through Diversity’ published today.
The three expert panels were organised by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) and ACCA (the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants). They brought together chief executives, CFOs, entrepreneurs, renowned academics, HR directors and heads of diversity from organisations such as Credit Suisse, KPMG, the Equality and Human Rights Commission, Henkel China and Max India Foundation.
The discussions took a broad view of diversity, describing it as “not just an ethical or moral imperative, but one that can drive performance and innovation through the positive management of different perspectives.” This enabled a free-ranging discussion, which also looked at the economic, political and sociological aspects affecting diversity in business.
The two factors promoting business growth that attracted the most interest and discussion in all three cities were talent and leadership.
Helen Brand, chief executive of ACCA, said: 'It is clear from all three events that diversity is about people and that is probably why the issue of leadership received such emphasis at each roundtable. Most panellists said that having the right leadership was essential to drive diversity, and that the right tone needs to be set at the top of the organisation.'
Professor Paul Boyle, CEO of ESRC and Chair of the Delhi panel, said: 'Effective talent management was also seen as essential to driving diversity. Organisations that seek to harness the creativity and innovation that can result from greater diversity need to adopt a broad mindset that encourages and accommodates a range of perspectives, fresh thinking and autonomy.'
The expert panels also discussed the need to train managers in how to bring out the diverse strengths and viewpoints of people in their teams. An important attribute for leaders today and in the future is cultural intelligence. The report’s author, Alison Maitland, said: 'We know about emotional intelligence and IQ, but the London panel raised the important issue of cultural intelligence and the need to instil this into children, early at school, as a valuable asset for work in the future. Panellists also spoke about the importance of CEOs and other leaders having their hearts and minds open to accepting differences, such as different cultural perspectives, if they are to keep up with the realities of global business today.'
Comments from the roundtables include:
- 'Diversity is not about innovation, diversity is about survival. It’s not a luxury. It is essential thinking.'
- 'India has more diversity in one country than in the whole continent of Europe.'
- Panellists questioned how diversity and innovation could be encouraged in a culture where people are highly respectful of hierarchy.
- Panellists in Shanghai looked at the need for managers to upgrade their soft skills especially as China shifts from low value to higher value manufacturing.
- Panellists also said there is a war for talent, and that the country benefits from a relentless approach to innovation with an attitude of 'if it doesn’t work, try another way.'
- Future expansion was a concern for panellists, questioning how Chinese business should handle overseas expansion and acquisitions.
- The economic downturn has posed many challenges for diversity - if jobs are being cut, how can companies best encourage an influx of new and diverse talent?
- One panellist said it was a problem relying only on the HR function to find and recruit diverse talent, rather than using women / ethnic minorities already in the workplace to do this.
- A panellist said the UK should do more to showcase its own best practice when it comes to diversity: 'There’s a job to be done to showcase how we can leverage the diversity that we have within the UK to other parts of the world.'
The expert panellists were:
Ravi Chaudhry, founder Chairman of CeNext Consulting and Investment Pvt Ltd
Andrew Jackson, British High Commission
Lalit Jain, Senior Vice President & Company Secretary, Jubilant Life Sciences Ltd
Ashish Makhija, Corporate Consultant and Lawyer
Vandana Saxena Poria OBE, CEO, Get Through Guides
Mohini Daljeet Singh, Head, Max India Foundation
Charlie Walker, Director of Programmes, British Council
Christina Antoniou, HR Partner, Deloitte China
David Cavanna, CFO, HSBC China
Stewart Chen, Learning and Development Director, Asia Pacific, Honeywell
Chun Wee Chiew, Head of Policy, Asia Pacific, ACCA
Michael Gui, Senior Consultant in Talent Management, Right Management
Jing Ning, Staff FP&A Analyst, GE Industrial Solution, Asia
Jason Wang, CFO, Henkel China
Yanqing Yang, Deputy Editor-in-Chief, CBN newspaper
Bieneosa Ebite MPRCA, Managing Director, Bright Star Public Relations
Alan Gillespie, ESRC Chair, Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC)
Lord Hastings of Scarisbrick, Global Head of Citizenship & Diversity, KPMG
India Gary-Martin, Managing Director and Chief Operating Officer, J.P. Morgan
Monder Ram OBE, Director, Centre for Research in Ethnic Minority Entrepreneurship (CREME)
Michelle Mendelsson, Director EMEA, Global Diversity and Inclusion, Credit Suisse AG
Alice Teague, Head of Policy, Equality and Human Rights Commission
Andrew Leck, Head of ACCA UK, Association of Chartered Certified Accountants