Sue Brooks: HR lessons from Wimbledon – Murray goes for diversity

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The issue of diversity in the sporting world has come under closer scrutiny in the last twelve months than perhaps ever before. Although tennis may have had a comparatively quiet year on this front, Andy Murray certainly raised a few eyebrows this month when he selected former Wimbledon Ladies’ Champion Amelie Mauresmo as his new coach.

While it may be commonplace for female tennis players to be coached by men, it is still extremely rare (if not quite unheard of) to have a female coach on the men’s tour. The fact that such a bold move has been so well received within the tennis world shows us that sport may well be making a major step with regards to diversity. However, for Murray this decision has not been made simply to toot the horn of diversity – it has been made because he believes Mauresmo can progress his career.

Why Mauresmo is the right choice

The former world number one comes with a huge amount of experience and a history of success as a player. Having won two career Grand Slams (as many as Murray himself currently holds) and having been Wimbledon Champion once herself, she has more pedigree as a player than many of his previous male coaches. So while she may have limited experience of the men’s tour, her inside knowledge of the game is second to none.

Mauresmo’s appointment comes following a similar development in the football world, which saw Helena Costa given the manager’s job at French side Clermont Foot. This meant she became the first ever female head coach in the top two divisions of Europe’s big five league – Spain, Germany, England, Italy and France.

Like Mauresmo, Costa has a proven track record having been very successful managing both the Iran and Qatar women’s national teams and leading Benfica’s male youth team to two World Youth titles. So while it is fantastic to see a sport which has so often been lagging behind in the diversity league table make a positive step to address this, it is just as important to see that she has been chosen for her quality and not just for the sake of diversity.

The challenge of integrating people from different backgrounds into corporate teams is never ending in the HR world. Although human resources professionals fully recognise the importance of diversity, they must ensure that every “different” hire is entering an environment that is ready to accept them. Because if it’s not, the newcomer will struggle to communicate their ideas, however positive they may be.

Is your culture open to embracing diversity?

It’s often overlooked just how important it is to have a culture which will allow a diverse workforce to flourish. If your company structure is too rigid, you may well find that even if you do hire talent with fresh ideas, these individuals merely bounce off the corporate wall and the company culture never truly changes or evolves.

It is therefore vital that a business’ HR strategy does not take the ‘tokenism’ route – whereby it hires members of different genders, ages and nationalities simply for the sake of satisfying diversity quotas – and that all employees are able to contribute to the development of the business. It is unlikely Mauresmo will struggle exerting her influence at Wimbledon having been hand-picked by Murray to lead the coaching team.  And while this may well be harder to incorporate in the world of HR, it is just as important.

Having a diverse workforce for the sake of it may get you some PR points, but unless you can find diverse talent that contribute new ideas then it is unlikely to impact your business success. But if you can source these people, and develop the culture which allows them to flourish, you may well have found that Grand Slam-winning HR formula.

 

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