Diversity and Inclusion Community Manager, Siemens GB& Ireland
General Counsel and Company Secretary, Siemens GB & Ireland and board ambassador for Diversity and Inclusion
Businesses that thrive on creating dynamic solutions can’t play at diversity and inclusion. To ensure they keep innovating, D&I has to be central to everything they do.
Think it’s simple to implement a successful diversity and inclusion strategy throughout your business? Think again, says Harriet Padina, Diversity and Inclusion Community Manager, Siemens GB & Ireland. No-one is saying it will be easy or that it will come naturally. But doing it well is absolutely critical if you’re seeking to generate innovation. And what business doesn’t want to be innovative?
Keep innovating to stay ahead of the competition
“Diversity and inclusion is fundamental to the success of our company, which is all about ingenuity and creating innovative solutions to complex problems,” says Padina. “To be able to solve those complex problems we know we need diversity of thinking.”
When I meet people from other companies, we all share and learn from each other because we’re working towards a common goal.
Unfortunately, some businesses too readily fall into the trap of surrounding themselves with people who all think alike, notes Simone Davina, General Counsel and Company Secretary, Siemens GB & Ireland. “If you’re successful and profitable, it’s easy to become complacent and repetitive,” she says. “But you have to keep innovating, otherwise the competition will take over. Now, it’s not always easy to hear a different voice at the table — but you need it if you’re to keep challenging yourself and making sure you’re ahead of the game.” The bottom-line is don’t be resistant to different thinking says Davina, because different thinking is a gift.
Making diversity and inclusion the essence of your business
It’s also important to be aware that diversity and inclusion can’t be added on as an afterthought. To be real and effective, it must become part of your company’s DNA. “D&I isn’t just a separate HR topic,” says Davina. “It has to be the essence of your business.”
Padina points out that there may be those in your organisation who will view diversity and inclusion as a hollow box ticking exercise. It’s therefore important to effectively communicate the purpose of D&I in order to make it meaningful to staff. “But this is something that doesn’t happen overnight,” she warns. “Behavioural change is a slow evolution. Every single time you have a conversation, you have the opportunity to bring one person along with you. We’re working to build a culture of trust and empowerment here — and that’s a gradual shift that we have to keep working at.”
Plus, realise that diversity and inclusion isn’t something you can do in isolation. You have to include wider society, too. For example, Siemens works with schools to encourage different diverse groups to study STEM subjects, runs training programmes for teachers and talks to customers and partners about their D&I processes. “D&I isn’t an area where businesses feel competitive,” says Padina. “When I meet people from other companies, we all want to share and learn from each other because we know we’re working towards a common goal.”