Siemens: Strength in Diversity

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HRD: Where do you see the diversity space heading next? Perhaps a focus on some more neglected aspects, eg. disability?

DK: I see people with disability as always being a topical issue. We have a program at one of our U.S. headquarters called “Life at Siemens,” targeting kids at high school. They come in on internship – they all have special needs, whether it’s being slightly autistic or in a wheelchair – but whatever it is, they are absolutely able to be employed. They come in with their teacher and they learn life skills for working in a company. Then many have been hired by us, or they’ve gone on to jobs in other companies. They may not have had this opportunity if they’d stayed in school and did not get exposure to a work environment. Anytime someone can productively work, it’s great for society as a whole. It also changes the mindset of the people they work with; they can say, “I know this person at work who has Down syndrome, and look what they can do.”

HRD: Can you outline the Siemens Diversity Charter?

DK: About three years ago we set up a tool on our intranet where employees could go to a map of the world and click, “I believe in Siemens” principles of diversity, diversity of experience and expertise, with no silos, no prejudice, and that we give an equal opportunity to everyone. When you click, you are effectively signing the charter. We keep score about which country has the highest percentage of employees who have signed this charter. We’ve had over 15,000 employees worldwide sign this.

HRD: What other initiatives does Siemens have in place?

DK: We have a Facebook page called Diversity at Siemens. On International Women’s Day we encouraged people to post a story about women who inspired them, and I then responded to that story – it was like an online chat. We had hundreds of employees posting.

Diversity needs to mean something at your desk; you need to know that you are being included, that your voice is being heard, in a way that is relevant and meaningful to you at your desk – this was a way to get that engagement.

We also have 120 employee networks, varying from ethnically based groups, to women, to people with disability, and so on. We don’t overengineer this or put too many rules or regulations around them, but these networks typically get together and decide what their purpose is. Usually they’re about professional development and topics relevant to that group, mentoring and coaching other people like themselves, and recruitment. And then CSR.

What we find is people who join these types of groups are very interested in giving back to the community. Siemens as a whole is also doing this, but these groups are great multipliers of that.

HRD: How do you track the success of your initiatives – what metrics/analytics do you look at to prove ROI?

DK: Number one, there’s no question within the Siemens family this is the right thing to do and we need to do it.

You can look at it in different ways. For example, you can talk about it in terms of 17 per cent of college graduates today are white males. So we have to increase the intake from a wider pool – we can’t recruit from the 17 per cent of people because we won’t get all 17 per cent of them anyway. You can tie numbers into cost of recruiting and all sorts of other things. I can also talk about 10 people in a team but you don’t get the best from two of them, so you’re only operating at 80 per cent capacity. We’re engineers, so that data is maybe correlated but not causal. That’s a little tricky on the ROI. I can show numbers that show correlation, but there are other variables, other dimensions in play at the time.

We do keep a detailed scorecard, which we don’t share publicly, but we have about 50 KPIs which I track and change to ensure the efforts we’re putting in are getting a positive return. These are employee engagement, number of women in certain positions, age groups, etc. – the traditional measures of a diversity scorecard. From there I know we need more networks, more time on communication, or I can see when we did this we saw a spike in engagement over here.

Again, that’s correlation not causality, but that’s almost more important for me; it isn’t something like measuring productivity of widgets on a production line: “they used to do 10 and now they do 12.” It’s not as clean as that. When sceptics hear those numbers – “we have 40 per cent more of this or that” – they will immediately dismiss it. So I don’t give them that option to disregard the analysis. Instead you say, “There’s probably several correlations that are significant; however, it’s significant enough that it’s worth thinking about.”

Being a numbers person, I also then outline the story the numbers tell in a credible way. We can sniff when a number doesn’t seem right, so I’m always mindful of this.

HRD: What’s the significance of ‘Five different fingers, one strong hand’?

DK: When I started in this role three years ago, we started out with the slogan “Diversity means business.” We then moved to “All diversity is local,” to remind people it happens at your desk – and it’s everybody’s job, not just HR’s. Then last year we held a competition and asked all Siemens employees for their slogan for diversity. One of our service engineers in India came up with “Five different fingers, one strong hand.” He explained that if you look at your hand each finger is different and that’s what makes your hand strong. If you had five thumbs you wouldn’t be able to do much. Also, extend your hand: it’s about someone opening the door for you and pulling you into the room, not you trying to push your way in. It’s been such a powerful metaphor for us as to why everyone counts.

 
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