Soccer team in a huddle

Why Diversity Must Be Our Greatest Strength

Feature Article | June 12, 2017 by Katja Mehl

The term diversity became a standard quotation in today’s corporate environment. Among most of the researchers and business executives there is a broad consensus that advancing diversity is both a moral and a business imperative.

SAP CEO Bill McDermott explains our commitment to diversity and inclusion: “Our vision is to help the world run better and improve people’s lives. This means the entire world and all people. Let our only bias be for trust, the ultimate human currency.”

These thoughts are well represented in SAP’s reality: At SAP, there are five generations of workers with more than 150 nationalities creating a new dynamic. Eight-seven percent of SAP employees embrace workplace diversity. We know that to perform at our best, all employees must feel free to be their authentic selves. (See more key facts on diversity and inclusion on SAP.com.)

Just like at SAP overall, in the EMEA & MEE region diversity is our everyday life. Our regional Marketing team works in 40 countries across three continents with more than 90 spoken languages and seven major time zones. Our workforce stands out due to a great variety of cultural backgrounds, currently 5 different generations at work and an accurately equal distribution of men and women in Marketing EMEA & MEE management positions.

That’s why I’m of the opinion that it is actually not diversity, that is a strategic topic for us. We do not need to strive for greater diversity, but rather for better inclusion, to make the existing diversity our greatest strength. Inclusion means involvement and the integration of diversity in organizational systems and processes, and thus, to shape a work environment that gives everyone the same fair chance to deliver their best work.

This becomes even more obvious when we think of diversity beyond aspects like culture, gender, sexual orientation, age, or physical abilities. In a big organization like ours, diversity comes quite naturally also from a personal traits and strengths perspective: We have all-rounders and specialists, “captains” and “sailors,” strategists and project managers. And we need all of them. For example, having a group of team builders will get you nowhere, as everyone will be out trying to create a team. Likewise, having a group of doers will get you nowhere as everyone will be trying to accomplish something without a clear goal or vision to guide them.

Not emphasizing these differences but focusing on the common goal of SAP and our shared vision requires a certain mindset and creating an inclusive culture requires new behaviors. It means to go beyond the easy solutions common in like-minded groups. It means to disrupt conformity and prompts us to question assumptions, scrutinize facts and think more deeply. This finally benefits the company: According to a research by Deloitte, the most diverse and inclusive organizations are 1.7 times more likely to be an innovative leader. They are 1.8 times more likely to be ready for change and finally have a 2.3 times higher cash flow per employee.

These numbers show that inclusion is a strategic business driver. Because only with an inclusive culture we can unlock the power of diversity in our region. We already have great examples to share and to be proud of. In the following months, we will showcase people from Marketing EMEA & MEE who have interesting stories to tell on how we drive inclusion in our region.

So stay tuned: The first story will be about Maya Price’s personal journey through three cultures and the importance of inclusion not only from a cultural perspective, but also within a team.

Katja Mehl is head of Marketing for EMEA and MEE at SAP

Tags: ,

Leave a Reply