INSIGHTS: MAKING THE CASE FOR DIVERSE COMMS TEAMS
This year's Corporate & Financial Awards takes place on 24 September. BNY Mellon Investment Management is shortlisted for the awards
Up until recently, attention surrounding diversity in the workplace has predominantly focused on gender. Yet diversity comes in many shapes and forms, from ethnic and religious, to socioeconomic to name but a few. Equally, I have always argued that diversity of experience and personality in a team is just as important. By this, I mean taking into account personal life experiences as well as their backgrounds and how this has shaped their thinking and approach to working life.
It is this emphasis that went into creating the BNY Mellon Investment Management’s central communications team – a five-strong team based in London, with colleagues in Italy, Spain and Australia, making up an international team of eight.
We are a diverse group. Though most of us are women, we have a blend of ethnicities, nationalities and career backgrounds: a trained journalist and father of two, former communications agency staff, a Bath University student, a language graduate raised in Hong Kong, a central European national who grew up in three continents (and features an American accent), a finance major and mother of two, and me – a first generation Indian immigrant, born and bred in London.
Why does this type of diversity matter? Ultimately, it brings together greater diversity of thought and discourages a one-dimensional thought process. It fuses different perspectives, which is invaluable, as it means we do not operate in a one-size fits all fashion and instead embrace creativity and fresh ideas. The skills of each team member are also complementary with each possessing individual and distinct strengths – and weaknesses. This in turn cultivates a more dynamic team culture, allowing each member to think independently and openly in an environment that encourages learning from one another and to share insights. It also fundamentally avoids the pitfalls and consequences of groupthink.
I believe that when leading efficient, effective and empowered teams you need to look at diversity at an individual level and take into account changing personal circumstances and distinct motivations. As a leader, you need to be able to take the time to respond with flexibility and adaptability to get the best out of every member of the team. Having a greater understanding of motivations, strengths and capabilities of different people at different stages in their career and personal lives is paramount. This helps to build trust both ways – leaders trust that their team members are dedicated self-starters accountable in their roles, and individuals who trust their leaders to support and nurture their progress to become the best communications practitioners. It also helps to extend their career opportunities as they, and their circumstances, change.
When cultivating hard-working, results-driven teams, balance is important too. For example, most teams have members with children and at some point in their careers, members of your team may also be carers; allowing them to work flexibly to meet the needs of their family is crucial in building loyalty and maintaining productivity. It is also important to acknowledge that team members may also decide to pursue personal ambitions that require flexibility over a certain period of time, such as further studies or temporary career breaks.
It is true to say that in our team diversity is part of our DNA – we are open minded, welcome free discussion and respect ideas from a range of viewpoints.
Malcolm Forbes, the American entrepreneur most prominently known as the publisher of Forbes magazine, once said, ‘Diversity: the art of thinking independently together.’ We hope to see more of a move beyond gender in the search for fresh freethinking.
Asmita Kapadia is the head of international communications at BNY Mellon Investment Management