Diversity is at the heart of innovation | Business
âInclusion and diversity are extremely important to an organization like ours,â says Rebekah Martin, AstraZeneca (AZ) Senior Vice President for Reward and Inclusion. âMaking sure we have diverse teams, with different ideas and an environment where people can challenge conventional wisdom, is really at the heart of innovation. And innovation is the lifeblood of the industry.
Martin explains that AZ has invested considerable effort and resources in recent years to ensure that the value of diversity is recognized throughout the multinational organization. âIt all comes down to making sure we appreciate the fact that people think differently, people have different backgrounds. All of these different dimensions of diversity have something different to contribute, and that’s really special. ‘
âWe need to look at every step of our talent pipeline,â she says. âAre we attractive as an employer of choice to a wide range of candidates? Â»This attractiveness can only be maintained if it is supported at all stages of the recruitment process – are the interview panels diversified? Have managers received training on inclusion, diversity and unconscious bias? âThe conversation between our talent acquisition team and managers is also important,â says Martin. This takes into account the current composition of the team, what might be missing or what might strengthen the team in terms of difference and different thinking. âIt helps get the right candidates into the mix. “
All these different dimensions of diversity have something different to contribute, and that’s really special
But, she warns, all of this is pointless if – once people get into the organization – they look around, don’t see anyone like them, feel out of place, and leave. It means creating an inclusive environment where people recognize their uniqueness is valued. âWe have development programs focused on specific demographicsâ, for example to support the progression of women or employees in emerging markets to leadership positions. âWe also have global goals for representation above and below. “
AZ also has a Global Inclusion and Diversity Council – a group of senior leaders from across the company, chaired by Chief Executive Officer Pascal Soriot. This group has governance roles in overseeing the activities of the company, as well as setting the organizational tone from top to bottom. âBut it was also a forum for making pilots,â explains Martin. âThey took things that are activators of inclusion, or tested how inclusive we are in practice, or looked at our diversity data in a slightly different way. They test this and then report it back to the board to report whether it worked or not, along with any unintended consequences.
Having good data is obviously useful when it comes to tracking the progress of representation at different levels, for example. “In some countries we have more aspects of diversity that can be disclosed by law, which allows us to assess where we are in relation to the general population, and then to gauge our ambition for the future. “said Martin. “And in countries where we can ask, we’ve opened up more fields of diversity data so that people can share this information with us on a voluntary basis, beyond what is legally required.”
But it’s important to recognize that this data can be deeply personal, and to have strong policies in place for how it will (and won’t) be used. âIt’s a measure of confidence. It is an indicator of how safe people feel working for you that they trust you for things that are private. Martin notes that in some countries, employees may be asked if they are willing to share information about their gender identity or sexual orientation. âThis information is not shared with an individual’s manager, for example – we don’t want to denounce people who don’t want to be exposed! The data is brought together for global human resources teams to visualize at an aggregate level. âIt’s about understanding what our people look like as a business and where there is room for opportunity,â she says.
We are testing different approaches to see how they work, as well as the unintended consequences.
On the other hand, it can be easy to over-aggregate data and oversimplify its interpretation, Martin cautions. She cites the UK gender pay gap reports as an example. âIt’s combining two different things. A large pay gap could highlight a pay equity problem, where people doing the same job are paid differently depending on whether they are men or women. Or it could be related to demographics and the number of men and women at the top levels, or a combination. “This is where you also need to be careful what you are testing because your exit is potentially a mix of factors, and the things you might need to do to fix it would be very different.”
Ultimately, Martin believes that this investment in creating an inclusive environment and promoting diversity contributes to AZ’s success as a company. âIt’s the people who do the science. Having people free to challenge convention and the status quo means that we will be creating the next generation of drugs that will support patients for years to come. ‘