Carte blanche: In multicultural Luxembourg, diverse teams need diverse management, writes Alison Macleod.
Lunchtime at 39JFK (KPMG’s Kirchberg headquarters). After piling your plate high with Mettwurst and Gromperekichelsher, you waltz into the cafeteria and try to track down that all-elusive spare seat. When you gratefully slide into an empty chair to start tucking in, the chances are that the person vacating the seat has very little in common with you in a number of ways.
As a Brit like me, there’s almost 99% probability that the person in question is of a different nationality, a 97% chance that they have a different mother tongue. And, for a Brit, the chances are relatively high. If you’re American, Latvian, Tunisian or Czech, you can be more or less 100% certain that you haven’t taken the chair of a fellow countryman. Such is the way of Luxembourg. So, in a country like this, we must be getting diversity right.
Or are we?
In this kaleidoscope of cultures, we could be forgiven for believing that the debate around diversity, taking place the world over, is old news for us. Logic dictates that if diversity drives innovation, and the country that we’re living in is so diverse, then we’ll soon be topping all the innovation tables. Yet new research suggests that we don’t just need to be diverse to promote performance and creativity, we need to do something with that diversity.
The new research has come out of the University of Trier, where Professor Thomas Ellwart has been looking into how diversity works in teams. We invited him along to our recent Diversity Summit to present his research, and explain how we can better draw on diversity to ensure business success.
After looking at 74 finance and controlling teams, Professor Ellwart found that managers have to work on key areas--like team climate, time for knowledge collaboration and clear goals--if they are to turn a diverse team into a diverse, high-performing and creative team. It’s not just diversity that makes a difference in a company, it’s also knowing how to leverage on it.
Our International Women’s Day campaign was fully in the spirit of this research. We asked our senior leaders to make their own commitments for gender parity: concrete ways that they could better leverage diversity in their daily lives, for the benefit of their female colleagues, their daughters, their wives and all the other women who they come into contact with.
The results were astounding. We had over 40 senior leaders, including the managing partner and whole leadership team, make a promise about how they would personally change their practices in the future. I’ll leave you with a few of the stand-out pledges and invite you to consider how one little step from each of us could unlock the power of our teams:
I pledge to continue to support KPMG Luxembourg as an organisation for which cultural, age and gender diversity is a way of life rather than management tokenism.
Encourage more female colleagues to be ambitious in their career with KPMG and target top senior positions.
My pledge is to promote flexible working hours to retain emotional intelligence in top management, which is mainly contributed by women!