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How Microsoft Partners Can Drive Diversity To Build Great Businesses

We all struggle with finding talent, nurturing leaders and better understanding our customers. I believe that part of the resolution for these three problems is to make a serious bet on embracing and driving diversity.

Diversity for me is about making sure that the people who are working for you, and with you, do not come in the same shape. It is about actively hiring people who do not look the same as the ones already working for you. Embracing diversity is about actively recruiting women, young people, older people, people with different faiths, people from different cultures and countries, LGBTQ people and people with disabilities.

I strongly believe in giving mothers and fathers of young children the flexibility they need so they can work part-time or work flexible hours. This eliminates a problem that, in some cases, ends in the mothers staying at home full-time and never returning to work or returning at a much lower level. A few of my best performers over the years have been mothers with toddlers who had the flexibility they needed.

By making sure that you drive diversity in your recruitment policy, you will be able to recruit from a much larger talent pool. You will be able to more easily find top performers when you fish in a larger sea than just in a small pond. You tap into a much larger talent pool!

When I was running one of the largest cloud hosting providers in northern Europe, we had an advantage over many of our competitors because we actively embraced hiring people who came from other countries as long as they could speak a decent level of English. We didn't care at all if they were able to speak our local language or not. In fact, we had 18 languages spoken in our company and, as we serviced customers worldwide, it became an advantage that our people often spoke the same languages as our customers. I believe that we sealed the deal with the iconic Italian pasta maker Barilla when their CIO visited our office and he was able speak Italian with two of our specialists and with our vice president of cloud services.

For me as a leader, it has always been more rewarding to work in environments with a diverse group of people, as it is really enriching and I learn a lot while also having more fun.

Driving diversity doesn't stop with the hiring; in fact, that's only the start of the journey. Equally important is to give equal opportunities to everyone and to have a plan for how to create more diverse leadership at all levels, including at the most senior level. Senior leaders can mentor junior leaders, and everyone should understand that there is huge value in having diverse leadership teams because they will help you better understand your customers. After all, your customers are diverse, too. If everyone looks the same, you will get fewer perspectives and views, which might harm your business in the long run.

It's not only what you say that counts. Even more important is to lead by example and make sure that you take responsibility for diversity in promotions. When you set the example, others will follow, both inside your company and in our ecosystem.

I'm not talking about salaries as that is a given. Fair compensation is about paying for performance and actively making sure that a certain group is not underpaid compared to others. It is your duty to make sure that people at the same level, with equal responsibilities and performance, are paid the same regardless of gender, culture, faith, et cetera.

Whenever a leadership position needs to be filled, you should especially look to promote someone who is different from the rest of that team. In leadership teams, it is often about actively finding women and people from other cultures/countries. Sometimes they need a little bit of extra push to be willing to take a step up the ladder to a higher leadership position, but it's your duty as a leader to make them feel comfortable and be willing to make the step.

I believe that we as Microsoft partners can step it up a notch. We can become leaders in driving diversity. Microsoft is a great source for inspiration as it has come far in this field, and it is being very proactive about embracing and driving diversity, which has paid off well for it. Let's make sure that we as Microsoft partners become equally great in driving diversity.

Who is going to thank you? Your children will thank you, your spouse will thank you, your shareholders will thank you, your employees will thank you, your customers will thank you and our society will thank you for driving positive change and making sure that we are all equal.

We can all drive diversity and the time is now to make it happen!

Posted by Per Werngren on July 09, 2018


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