Diverse volunteer group raising handsWhen you hear the word “diversity” most often you think about race, especially when it comes to the workplace. But Anka Wittenberg, chief diversity and inclusion officer at SAP, is here to teach us how race is just one of the many aspects of all that diversity entails.

A diverse workforce includes gender, and age, and most importantly, a foundation built upon culture. Diversity has many components, which all work together to ultimately affect the success of an organization.

Recruiter.com had the opportunity dive deeper into the subject with an expert who not only knows a thing or two about diversity, but works to support and maintain this area each day at SAP.

Read on to discover what Wittenberg had to say about diversity’s true definitions and why creating a diversity strategy to develop a diverse workforce is so detrimental to an organization’s bottomline:

1. The recent diversity study sponsored by SuccessFactors found that business growth depends on attracting and retaining a workforce with globally diverse values and demographics. Can you define diverse values and demographics when it comes to a business?

Speaking with my children who are now 28, 24 and 21 years old and represent the GenY (or Millennials), I learn first-hand about their thoughts and expectations, including the fact that they expect more flexible working arrangements. They don’t want a 9-5 job. They want to have freedom to engage in social activities; they want to nurture their talent and bring their passion to the next level. This goes so far that they even consider multiple, totally different jobs or engagements. A fixed contract – to some of them – seems to be a bigger burden than an advantage. Diversity, in this regard, is to strike the balance of all the demographics.

Diverse values in general are all forms and differences that deal with our unique combination of culture, race, ethnicity, age, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, physical or mental ability and work-life situation.

2. Since when did diversity have such a significant influence on a company’s attractions and retention successes? Or has diversity always played a key role in these areas?

Diversity has always been an important part of a company’s attractions and retention successes, since it allows companies to better meet and understand the needs of its customers as well as ensuring that we have a cross section of unique experiences, thoughts and perspectives which we know enables innovation. For SAP, focusing on a diverse and inclusive environment gives us the foundation to ensure that we deliver innovative solutions for the challenges our customers are facing today and in the future.

Diversity is now increasingly important with our globally connected world and the technology that is available today.

3. What types of strategies are HR professionals currently using to attract and engage diverse workforces?

HR professionals are increasingly using social media to attract and engage diverse workforces. Additionally, HR professionals using innovative events to attract diversity, such as Women Hackathons, which is a crowdsourcing event to encourage young women leaders in computer science.

4. Are any strategies or best practices more useful/helpful for diversity initiatives than others?

A top strategy is to get the full support and commitment from the CEO. If the CEO is not fully supporting your strategy or believing in the vision behind diversity, then you won’t succeed. Additionally, it’s important to look at diversity as a new mindset for the entire company as it will lie at the heart of all HR strategies and initiatives. Diversity needs to be executed by the business itself, and not just HR. Some global staff function, such as a Diversity Officer, cannot be expected to do this alone. Furthermore, diversity initiatives need to be data enabled. This means companies should use data to identify where diversity is needed in the workforce and any roadblocks. In short the ground rules for a successful diversity strategy are to understand the issue, getting commitment and identifying the levers. Anka Wittenberg

5. How can a company implement the strategies and best practices from Questions 3 and 4 into their own diversity schemes?

It starts with culture. You need an environment where open communication is not only appreciated but also enforced and supported. This would not only include a culture where employees are speaking up, but a culture where everybody is a part of the conversation to build a diverse environment. But, if you’re asking people to share an opinion, it’s important to be prepared to respond to concerns. It may seem like a stretch for hierarchal, silo-working cultures to have open, honest environments. But in today’s world with innovative collaborative technology, nothing is impossible.

6. If you had to advise businesses on the key thing to remember when it comes to a diverse workforce, what would it be?

It is not so much about the difference anymore – diversity is about making a difference. This means making a difference to a company’s productivity, innovation and bottom line. Diversity is the vehicle to change the status quo and in the end shape the world of tomorrow.

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