By Peter Vogt, Global Head of Human Resources at Nestlé
This year on the 'World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development', we are celebrating leaders and teams that embrace cultural differences, making Nestlé a stronger team.
Cultural diversity can be a driving force of development. It can enhance economic growth of countries as well as performance of teams. Working in a culturally diverse environment can also increase personal satisfaction of individuals and lead to a more fulfilling intellectual, emotional or spiritual life. My experience of working in multi-cultural environments and with multicultural teams has certainly enriched my life.
But cultural diversity often challenges our own beliefs, norms and social behaviour. It is therefore critical that we have the right mindset and approach. Respect, openness and curiosity is the best way to make the most of diversity. This holds true when interacting with consumers, customers, business partners as well as with our colleagues.
When working as a diverse team we need to go one step further; we need to be inclusive. This means accepting others as equal members of a team and being aware of unconscious bias. Unconscious biases are social stereotypes about certain groups of people that individuals form outside their own conscious awareness. Everyone holds unconscious biases about various social and identity groups including gender. At Nestlé we run workshops that raise the awareness of such biases and how to minimise them.
To be successful as a global organisation with strong roots locally our company diversity must be a reflection of the society in which we operate. I learned this from personal experience. When I was working in one Asian country our marketing team was mainly comprised of young men and women from prestigious universities and well-off families. It was quite a homogenous team. We struggled to understand the needs of middle and working class people, and we failed to offer them relevant products and services.
Diverse and multicultural teams are more challenging to manage at the beginning, but it is worth doing so. They can be more creative, more in tune with the different societal trends and thus better able to respond to the needs of consumers and society. And they demand that we question ourselves more regularly, keeping in mind that a 'yes' is not necessarily a yes, it can be a 'maybe' or an 'I hear you', depending on the culture.
Cultural diversity and inclusion is an integral part of Nestlé’s culture. We are over 300,000 employees around the world, made up of more than 150 nationalities. The diversity of our company is reflected both in our people and in the thousands of products that we sell around the world, adapted to the local preferences of our diverse consumers.
Our inclusive environment leverages the diverse skills, cultures, other ways of thinking, knowledge and experience of our people. All of which fuels our innovation. By embracing our differences and making best use of them, we stay true to our values rooted in respect: respect for ourselves and for others, respect for diversity and respect for the future.