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How Can Digital Create Diversity?

Feature Article | February 2, 2017 by Rhoda Springer

Diversity is good business. As the world continues to shrink due to globalization, the need to understand and encourage diversity may just seem like the right thing to do.

But it turns out, having a diverse work environment is very beneficial for your business. Companies that are in the top quartile for gender diversity are 15% more likely to experience financial returns that are above their national and industry medians according to studies conducted by McKinsey, a global consulting firm. They have also noted that when ethnic and racial diversity is added to the mix, financial returns can be 35% above median.

Attracting and retaining an excellent workforce is key to business success, and encouraging a diverse cultural environment can make that happen.

According to Mike Ettling, president of SAP SuccessFactors, “Bias in business undermines employee commitment, performance and retention.” But creating this kind of culture is daunting, right? Not necessarily. Sometimes what may seem like a small innovation, can create a very positive change.

Digital Collaboration for New Hire Learning

Sargent & Lundy started out needing a better way to perform knowledge transfer to a substantial wave of new hires supporting their expanding business. The 125-year-old company provides comprehensive services for complex power generation and transmission all over the world, including the design of 958 power plants serving both the private and public sector.

Sargent & Lundy had many engineers that had worked in the business for over 20 years, representing a deep well of experience and knowledge – knowledge that was in danger of being lost as that section of the workforce started to move into retirement. They needed a way to transfer this knowledge to their new engineers in many locations. It was apparent the conversations that may have traditionally been conducted one-on-one or across the wall of a cubicle needed to be more evenly distributed and captured for new employees.

As part of an effort to resolve this need, Sargent & Lundy implemented SAP SuccessFactors Learning Management and instituted SAP Jam as a collaborative platform. Using SAP Jam specifically as ‘communities of practice,’ they were able to tap into their existing knowledge base and readily distribute that valuable know-how.


“Having instant, anytime access to years’ of industry knowledge gives new employees the best possible start at their new job.”

– DeAnna Myers, Learning & Development Manager, Sargent & Lundy LLC


The rate of participation, even among the most senior engineers, exceeded expectations. Sargent & Lundy’s five generations of experts actively collaborate on the platform, creating a knowledge base that is readily accessible.

But What Does This Have to Do With Diversity?

Engineering has historically been a male dominated field. According to the Society for Women Engineers (SWE), almost 40% of female engineers leave the field by midcareer citing organization culture as the root cause for the attrition.

That kind of drain in talent has a direct effect on any company’s bottom line. Stemming this tide with a culture of inclusiveness can go a long way towards retaining women in the engineering field. Sargent & Lundy has found that a collaboration group on SAP Jam focused on the challenges facing females in a non-traditional work place has created a confluence of ideas; a ‘tribe’ so to speak, where staff members, both female AND male are invited to exchange information as part of the technical force within the company.

In addition to the technical knowledge shared in this forum, the group discusses emergent issues such as work-life balance and how to professionally navigate field assignments at the many remote worksites they are involved in that may have a different culture than the corporate operation. Having this digital place to convene fosters an environment of inclusion.

By leveraging a digital social collaboration tool, Sargent & Lundy has enabled a more unified culture and a bridge between differences of many types. This will help their business with talent – and knowledge – retention. And that’s money in the bank!

Follow me on Twitter:  Rhoda Springer (@rhodajspringer) | Twitter

This story originally appeared on Business Trends on the SAP Community.

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