By Yolanda Conyers−Vice President, Global HR Operations and Chief Diversity Officer, Lenovo
There is no more perfect analogy to describe what diversity should mean to an organization than a recipe. A great recipe is much more than a basket of ingredients randomly thrown together. It’s an enticing and complex combination of flavors and textures mixed together with care and attention. A recipe, like diversity, is a classic case of the whole being greater than the sum of its parts.
Without a doubt, diversity is the signature dish at Lenovo. Although it’s a company of Chinese heritage, Lenovo possesses a highly diverse leadership team, and people who represent over 60 countries, 40 languages, and a variety of experiences and expertise. It is an extraordinary combination of ingredients that, in addition to cutting-edge innovation, a highly efficient business model and a rock-solid brand, makes this the world’s leading PC company and a role model for all businesses seeking to walk the talk and become global in the truest sense. Put simply, the incredible diversity of Lenovo’s people mirrors the tastes, perspectives, and experiences of the growing multitudes who buy our brand of products.
Lenovo leaders live, sell, manage, and work all over the world. Our customers also live everywhere, work everywhere, and shop everywhere. We respond to their individual needs with diversity in our range of products and services, meeting customers where they live. A wealth of cultures working together cohesively and seamlessly, enables us to be in every home, office, and school throughout the globe. This is much more than paying lip service to fashionable concepts of multiculturalism and inclusion. It is Lenovo’s very DNA.
Lenovo’s leaders know that different strategies in different markets require different people with different perspectives. By honoring a diverse workforce, we are able to use the talents of all our employees to create more innovative ideas, bring more creativity to our products, and tailor our strategies to different markets and customers around the world. In short, we can compete more effectively.
Of course, redefining diversity for the global marketplace and learning how to manage a multicultural organization doesn’t happen overnight. Great recipes require a little experimentation before we get them just right. For Lenovo, it’s been a delicate balancing act of leveraging the values and best practices of East and West to become a significant player in the world of technology.
Based on this experience, I’d like to share the four basic ingredients that, when combined, have proven to be a winning formula for Lenovo’s employees and leaders, our customers and communities, and our remarkable business achievements.
Know the Recipe You Want to Make—have a vision, know where you’re going, and then put a plan in place to get you there.
If you are trying to sell diversity or build the business case for “why” diversity is important for your senior leaders, you’ve got a big problem. If the value of diversity is not intuitively understood by your leadership team, then the company is not really serious about competing in a global marketplace. To be a global company in today’s world means understanding the hearts and minds of global customers. And that can only happen if the company reflects customers’ cultures, values, and unique needs. This is why it’s essential that you embed diversity into your core values and HR processes. Processes must be modified to embed the right behaviors and accountability in the organization, transforming diversity as a checklist to diversity as a business driver.
Or, to go back to our culinary theme: A great recipe needs a great chef who believes in what he or she is making, trusts in the ingredients, and is committed to making the best dish possible.
Do the Necessary “Prep” Work—understand the levers that will enable you to leverage diversity as a competitive advantage and a driver of business results.
Do a thorough and honest assessment of the situation on the ground to learn exactly what is working, and what is not. Once you’ve determined the gaps, give employees the practical tools they need to excel during this time of transition. Create short-term wins where possible. Enable and empower teams by listening to their concerns and giving them exactly what they need. Only then will they move past the status quo and embrace global diversity as a new way of thinking and doing business.
In other words, be a good chef, and make sure your kitchen has all the equipment it needs to effectively execute the right recipe for diversity.
Bake Diversity into the Culture—build and implement programs and interventions that turn diversity into a way of living, a way of thinking, a way of doing business.
Diversity is nothing more than empty rhetoric unless it is fully embedded into a corporate culture. For it to have any meaningful impact on employees—for it to improve productivity, creativity, and accountability, and contribute to the overall success of the business—it has to be part of the very DNA of a business. But this doesn’t just happen overnight. It takes incredible commitment from the top leadership, who must be willing to set the example and hold themselves accountable. It also takes concrete, practical programs that enable teams to embrace and integrate diversity into their best practices. So mix those ingredients well, and then bake that mixture until it flavors the whole culture.
Let It Set, Tweak, then Taste—measure effectiveness, monitor progress over time, and course correct as necessary; then, celebrate your wins and challenge yourself to keep the momentum going.
Expect this major transition toward an inclusive corporate culture to take time. You’re changing the hearts and minds of a diverse group of people, and the success of any new policy depends on their willingness to embrace and act upon it, so force feeding will only backfire. Instead, offer incentives and tools that make sense, and enable your people to flourish in an inclusive environment. Typical of a company of Chinese heritage, our top executives took the long view, and their patience has paid off. That doesn’t mean we leave it alone to gel. We still have to stir the pot, have a taste, and adjust the seasoning accordingly. One of the biggest mistakes corporations make is starting off strong, but failing to keep the focus on diversity, which should always be a work in progress.
At Lenovo, our diversity is our competitive advantage. Our cohesive global culture is critical to driving the speed, efficiency, innovation, and execution that separates us from the competition. And it’s about working together to create something that has either not been thought of before or never existed. Because of Lenovo’s vision to become an industry leader, operating with a global mindset was a critical competency required of our executives. Our leaders needed to think strategically, problem solve, lead change, build organizations, manage people, and grow their business in a borderless economic environment to be successful. They quickly understood that developing strategies for effective inclusion and integration was critical for both Lenovo’s success and their own. As you think about how you can foster success in your own organization, I recommend that you make diversity a key ingredient. Drawing on the strengths of every individual has worked for us, and it can pay similar dividends for you.
Meet Yolanda Conyers
As one of China’s first global brands, technology giant Lenovo is a unique blend of East and West—and as the company’s chief diversity officer, Yolanda Conyers has developed industry-leading expertise in navigating across boundaries to create a company culture that’s built to last. In addition to founding the first-ever diversity office for a company of Chinese heritage, she is in the process of transforming Lenovo’s day-to day Global HR operation by ensuring one HR tool for managing employee data and consistent HR processes globally. During her tenure she led the foundation of “The Lenovo Way” culture, working closely with the senior executive team. The Lenovo Way resonates with employees in over 50 countries.