Unilever Shares 5 Ways Diversity is Good For Business

September 21, 2015

If I told you that I worked at a ‘diverse’ company, what would you think that meant? That there is an equal number of men and women in my office, or perhaps there is a cross-section of different cultures represented in the organisation? Maybe just that some of my colleagues are PC users, while others prefer Mac. Whatever your interpretation, diversity has become something of a buzz word in the corporate world today - but why does it matter?

Diversity1 According to Amita Chaudhury, Global Diversity Director at Unilever, diversity is about embracing difference at all levels – across physical and cultural boundaries, time zones, life stages and management styles – to come together as a perfectly synced team. This assimilation of difference is a powerhouse which will drive your company to win against the competition.

Amita is based in Singapore and champions diversity not only in APAC, but across Unilever’s 140 global offices. Her role is to facilitate the development of a Diversity and Inclusion strategy which drives business growth by enhancing Unilever’s employee experience and performance culture. I had the chance to sit down with her and discuss why diversity is good for business and how it can directly affect your bottom line.

Here are five ways that diversity can positively benefit your company, according to her:

1. Differences strengthen a team 

Amita says building and fostering a diverse team is imperative for a company’s long-term growth. Unilever recognizes that value isn’t created when we put aside our differences, but when we channel these differences into positive business benefits.

A breadth of experience and perspective is necessary for businesses to excel in an increasingly volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous (VUCA) world. By working with people with different backgrounds, experiences and working styles, we learn and get contrasting viewpoints that enhance our own.

At Unilever, attracting diverse talent starts with the recruitment process. Globally, they ensure hiring managers present balanced slates in at least 80% of job openings. This means selection panels will pick the best candidate from an equal pool of male and female applicants.

2. Powers creativity and innovation

Diversity unlocks innovation and drives market growth by creating an environment where “outside the box” ideas are heard. It deepens the talent pool through varying perspectives to inspire breadth of thought, making teams creative powerhouses. A cross-section of talent enables you to see the world through different lenses that you would not otherwise see. Diversity enables us to be constantly challenging the status quo in a way that’s very productive.

In a diverse team, employees are more likely to speak up and share ideas, listen to others, share credit for success, and give actionable feedback which is incorporated to enhance work.

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3. Enables global thinking, locally

Businesses with workforces that mirror their markets are more likely to perform better and deliver long-term value to consumers. A culturally diverse team helps to represent both local and global mind-sets, and thus ensures that your product or service is relevant to your market and appeals to a global audience.

More than 172,000 people representing 150 nationalities work for Unilever. The company has more than 400 brands and sells products in 190 countries that two billion people use every day. Therefore diversity is vital in order to truly understand today’s complex consumer, and to create products that will resonate and perform at all levels and in all markets.

Amita says “Diversity is not a challenge but an opportunity. The more our organization represents our consumers, the more we will be able to meet their needs.”

4. Improves recruitment and retention

Embracing diversity is critical to being an employer of choice. It not only gives you better access to talent, but is also proven to increase talent retention, as people want to work in an inclusive workplace that promotes equality.

Unilever’s diversity agenda has helped them become the number one FMCG employer of choice among students in 32 countries. Through Unilever's Future Leaders Program (UFLP), fresh graduates have the opportunity to gain global experience early on in their careers and work across multiple functions, broadening their experience and ability to work in multiple working environments and styles.

5. Enhances personal performance

Once you have achieved a diverse mix of employees, fostering an inclusive environment is the next step to enable talent to thrive. Inclusivity allows people to bring their best selves to work, feeling comfortable, confident and encouraged to perform to the best of their ability.

Unilever aims to create an environment in which all employees can realize their full potential, because a highly fulfilled and effective team is a critical lever for sustained and profitable growth. Unilever provides this through the New Faces of Leadership program, where employees nominate co-workers who endorse inclusive behaviors to become champions of change, spreading their positive influence to the wider team.

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Diversity is about creating balance in an often unbalanced world. Companies must unlock the power of diversity to remain ahead of the competition, build a winning team, create market-leading products and services to fuel progress which is vital to survive in an increasingly VUCA world.

To learn how you can achieve diversity in your workplace, download our e-book, Four Ways to Achieve a Truly Diverse Company.

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