Diversity Is Not A Goal, But It Must Be Our Greatest Strength

Katja Mehl

Part 1 of the “Diversity Is Our Strength” series

The term diversity has become a standard in today’s corporate environment. Among most researchers and business executives, there is a broad consensus that advancing diversity is both a moral and a business imperative.

According to SAP CEO Bill McDermott, a commitment to diversity and inclusion is guided by a mission: “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 our reality: There are five generations of workers with more than 150 nationalities creating a new dynamic. Eighty-five 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.

Just like the global business, diversity is our everyday life in Europe, Middle East, and Africa (EMEA). My regional marketing team works across 40 countries, three continents, and and seven major time zones, with more than 90 languages spoken. Our workforce stands out due to a great variety of cultural backgrounds, generations (with five different generations currently at work), and an equal distribution of men and women in EMEA and MEE marketing management positions.

That’s why I’m of the opinion that increasing diversity is not a strategic topic for us. We do not need to strive for greater diversity, rather for better inclusion and to make our existing diversity our greatest strength. Inclusion means involvement and integrating diversity in organizational systems and processes, and thus shaping 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 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.

Focusing on a common goal and shared vision (rather than emphasizing these differences) 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 also benefits the company: According to a research by Deloitte, the most diverse and inclusive organizations are 1.7 times more likely to be innovative leaders in their industry. They are 1.8 times more likely to be ready for change and have 2.3 times higher cash flow per employee.

These numbers show that inclusion is a strategic business driver. Because only with an inclusive culture can we 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 EMEA and MEE marketing who demonstrate 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.

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Katja Mehl

About Katja Mehl

Katja Mehl is Head of Marketing for Europe, Middle East, and Africa at SAP.