People invest in people, and nowhere is this truer than in the consultancy business. We recruit, equip and develop our people across the globe from diverse backgrounds to contribute to building the fabric of the company. Global companies that have a number of employees working off-shore in places around the world have an inherently diverse workforce from different backgrounds, religions, cultures and countries. This work force is essential in building relationships with local customers and helping to solve their problems.
For technology businesses in particular there is a need for a diverse workforce to deal with a constantly changing industry where people need to be able to adapt to and drive innovation and change. A career in technology is hugely varied. Every year new technologies are born and new products are created, requiring our employees to think creatively, innovate, travel and work with a wide range of customers. All this requires a diverse workforce. Gender, diversity, talent management, talent legacy and the need to look beyond the academic score card are all important aspects that need to be considered in a quickly evolving industry.
We can see there is a significant opportunity for businesses that invest in bringing more diversity into their employee mix. When a company’s workforce does not match or exceeds the diversity found in the market, opportunities are missed. In fact, teams that achieve the best results are those composed of professionals with different attitudes, backgrounds, approaches and heterogeneous points of view. These teams will perform better because they bring multiple approaches into one unified solution. Companies are increasingly becoming differentiated and innovative by embracing creativity generated by diverse perspectives and innovative thinking.
Managers play an important role in diversity in the workplace, so it is crucial to train and support them in building diverse teams to achieve greater success. At Avanade we offer the “Career Manager Training” program which provides a host of on and off line resources for our managers globally, additionally every two weeks we broadcast a training webinar hosted by the diversity and inclusion team. For the extended leadership team we go one step further and offer “social styles” training” to help managers understand exactly how people communicate and work together best.
The next generation of IT professionals are crucial for the industry and companies must look beyond the academic score card when recruiting, drawing on practical life experiences and backgrounds. Aside from a new apprentice scheme that we launched this year, Avanade UK also runs an annual work experience scheme which is comprised of a small group of young people who join Avanade in London for two weeks from universities such as UCL, secondary schools such as Havering Sixth Form College, public sector initiatives including the Government Gateway scheme and charities, notably the Princes Trust. As part of our way to address the IT skills gap in the UK, both the apprentice and internship schemes offer participants the chance to obtain valuable skills across a range of Service Lines – from technical projects creating an automation tool, attending training courses about the latest Windows Operating System, to gaining sales and marketing experience. This is our way to help develop the next generation of consultants and IT enthusiasts, helping feed the bottom of the pyramid and think about this future cohort of workers. John Hibbert, The Princes Trust has told us that “there is a definite need to equip young people in this country with digital and technical skills. Internships and schemes help break down the barriers for unemployment and opens gateway to a career in IT.”
While heterogeneous teams create cultures that incorporate diversity to stimulate creativity, diversity also brings new challenges, as people from different backgrounds and cultures meet in the workplace. A company must manage the similarities and differences amongst employees (whether it be background, culture, personality, gender, work-style, accent and language) so as to gain as much value from its employees as it can. This includes effectively managing recruitment, supporting staff, and developing a cross cultural community that aligns, collaborates and communicates together to achieve business goals.
At Avanade we place a significant emphasis on gender and try to attract more women into the business. Women offer a unique and more well-rounded view on a business and technology problem which is often focused on the human aspects. Women can also offer unique strategic viewpoints that enable Avanade to help our customers in new and valuable ways.
Every employee has unique needs. Thankfully the consumerisation of IT has given birth to new opportunities as the world of work becomes more mobile and flexible. The 9 to 5 is no longer a default option and it’s increasingly beneficial to implement forward thinking processes that allow for a more virtual workforce. The Institute of Leadership and Management recently reported that 90% of women surveyed have worked flexibly over the last four years and that 79% of respondents believed that technology was a key enabler of this. At Avanade we encourage our employees to be open, virtual and mobile to ensure that they maintain a healthy work life balance. As such, many of our employees work flexibly to meet their own personal and family needs.
The benefits of a diverse workforce are clear for both the employer and employee and works well at Avanade to bring value to our customers. We are a growing organisation and are constantly creating new roles so there is no ceiling or set path that an employee will have to face. In any innovative and rapidly changing industry, employers need to attract and develop people from a range of backgrounds to suit the roles available and adapt to different customer’s needs and the changes in a fast-moving industry.
By Julian Tomison, UK General Manager at Avanade