Taken from CPO Celtic Manor Event, October 9th 2018
Genine Whitehorne- Director Contracts and Commercial - Royal Borough of Kingston (Moderator)
Craig Cherry, Procurement Director - Dentsu Aegis Network
Claire Lawrence-Downs, Director of Procurement & Commercial- N Brown Group plc
Siobhan Linard, Procurement Director – GSK
Claire Lawrence-Downs, Director of Procurement & Commercial- N Brown Group plc-
On the matter of diversity, we are an all inclusive business and our strapline is ‘Fashion That Fits.’ In Ladieswear, our sizes range from 12-32 and in Menswear we go up to 5XL.
We also target a market that is 50+ in our JD Williams catalogue in terms of our proposition of accessibility to our product, we have a financial services business that allows people to access and pay in different ways. So for me, diversity is about inclusion, acting without fear or favour and treating everyone equally.
Craig Cherry, Procurement Director - Dentsu Aegis Network-
In terms of diversity, I think the easiest way to explain the position of our business, as well as my personal view, is that we have global clients that covers the biggest brands in the world. So if we are sending teams of people to sell a creative idea to them, that team of people needs to be diverse and representative of the brand we are trying to be involved with. Otherwise, you are not being true to yourself or the client.
As far as our workforce is concerned, our diversity is built around inclusion also and I think the real important thing to say is that we have do have a long way to go as do many organisations. That flip from being diverse to being inclusive and representative shows we have a way to go, but we have many different tools with regards to how we try to walk the walk and talk the talk.
I also chair a group called One Network which is a gender inclusivity organisation which celebrates and champions many different causes such as CALM (Campaign Against Living Miserably).
Siobhan Linard, Procurement Director- GSK-
For me, having a great team means having the best set of people wherever they come from and it’s important as an organisation that we just to ensure in all stages of the process, from recruitment to how we talk about ourselves, that we set ourselves up to have the most inclusive team, because that will build the best results.
On a personal level, what I am particularly passionate about is the fact that GSK has a female CEO at the top and we have an exceptional number of graduates coming from different backgrounds, but there is a bit of an imbalance in between. And I’d like to make sure over the legacy of my career that can help people in a general capacity. Then as a side, outside of work I am a volunteer at Pride of London.
I always think of two personal examples; one where I have hired someone into my team who has a different way of thinking to me and they have challenged me as a manager or leader and how we address stuff. Sometimes that tension has been personally a bit frustrating and we all probably have someone like that who we know is going to ask those questions, but it irritates us because it is the right question to ask and will lead to better business decisions.
From a GSK perspective, we have a heavy set of work around supplier diversity in the USA. We work closely with the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce, which is starting a chapter in the UK, which is part of our piece around supplier diversity. We also deal with minority businesses, women led businesses etc.
I think it is carried out in various different ways, some of which are quite natural, some will grow organically and some are driven by certain individuals who have this passion around technical areas and when we add it all up together, it becomes quite potent. We introduced our shared parental leave piece as an example which was at the time a groundbreaking thing.
Another thing we talk about nowadays is agile working, which with a youngish demographic like ours, lots of people thought that meant they didn’t have to come to work and could do it on their phones in Starbucks. However, the whole agile working piece was implemented properly which gives people a level of empowerment. And you then overlay that with the various organisations that we work with or deal with internally such as I Am Proud.
I’ve recently seen from the other side of advertising for the first time ever the amount of work that goes into putting that together, which is the bread and butter of running a business. You are trying to get inside the mind and culture of the organisation that you want to work it. The only way we can do that though is if that team is representative of what the brand should be all about.
If you look at diversity and inclusion from a business perspective, it should be imperative, but overall is should be a society group decision and making that work in a business environment in a fluid way is something that I think is beyond important, but I am actually seeing it for real in our own organisation.
In our business, we have to work really hard to understand the customer to create the brands and know how to advertise. In terms of our organisation and talking to others, the organisational culture that we purvey influences how procurement can perform and the change that procurement may need to bring about in recognising the benefits of working with a diverse supplier base.
We encounter very different cultures and it’s the ability to understand and respect those cultures that brings the different perspective into our business that supports our brand proposition to our customer.
Again going back to different industry verticals, working in retail and fashion, they have been reflective of diverse businesses. The population that a retailer employs has to be inclusive, otherwise we wouldn’t have enough people to operate those businesses. When I was a Debenhams, we had one of the first female CEOs on the board.
However, I don’t think that is true of every industry vertical. It would be interesting to hear from others where their organisations sit because it isn’t difficult for procurement to be represented by senior females. We have a very diverse team who bring different perspectives to my way of thinking.
For most of us, we belong to a professional body that should be supporting diversity. I can’t tell you that are because I don’t see any evidence of it and stand to be challenged on that point.
It is a difficult question to answer because you have this societal piece of ‘what does your company/industry do?’ which is all intertwined. I am a member of many initiatives and I think it is important that you have role models throughout those. I may go to a women’s leadership initiative but I want to see male representation there. I may be a role model for someone, but if you are standing out from the crowd, you become the role model.
The role models you see at CPO level are what inspires people throughout and I think that is incredibly important, but we need to have that supportive environment behind it and the systems in place. I don’t think it’s too much to underestimate things like the recruitment process, the role descriptions and uncovering any unconscious bias that we may have in our own process.
From personal experience in the different organisations I have worked in, when I look at the candidate base that have applied, some people will miss it because they don’t feel ready and some will apply who are not ready. So how do we address that in our teams and talent processes to make sure we are giving that support? We need to call out to our business to look a few runs down as we look for successors etc.
If you look at industries that are doing well, what can we do to bring in talent from other industries? Procurement is not everyone’s obvious career step, but it’s that kind of diversity that can also help improve business.
I think the procurement image problem is prevalent when it comes to the subject we are talking about. There are ways and means of marketing and presenting anything really. In our business we have something called ‘The Code’ which tries to encourage kids from the inner city and show them what advertising and procurement are about. They are tough audiences, but they can interest some, including those you’d never expect and also incentives can bring a lot of engagement.
So we shouldn’t give up as far as certain generations are concerned because of backgrounds. And while we work in a very diverse industry, it can be a bit graduate heavy initially who can come from certain backgrounds. So to be able to offer that out to a broader audience is important.
I actually don’t think it needs prioritising. I think it should just be a general way of thinking. To a degree, we are almost in danger of positive discrimination and overthinking the diversity piece. It needs to be just the way we do things rather than prioritising an activity that makes us think about inclusion and diversity.
For me, it is just essential to what we do and I would instinctively communicate with colleagues and do something about it. In terms of a priority, it has to be a priority that you can catch and call out which isn’t happening. And giving yourself the tools to talk about stuff that is great, which in a large organisation only needs to be something small to make a difference.
We have various schemes bringing people from different backgrounds into work and that becomes a natural in society. So I would say to just look around you; if you are not seeing diversity in your office, prioritise some kind of call to action, bring someone else on that journey get them to bring someone too.
I think the piece around box ticking is wrong and I think anyone who has any responsibility for diversity and inclusion and sees it as just a way to tick boxes shouldn’t be in that role. There is still much work still to be done and will happen as long as we move away from the box ticking or quota filling. In procurement it is a big ask but there is certainly stuff that can be done in the industry to drive change as well.
I don’t have the data to back it up so I loathe to give a concrete answer, but I would say as we move to states where we want the best people and as things becomes more data driven, what is the need for you to look or be like the consumer? If you are giving the best insights and you are delivering the results, that should be the driving force and the expectation.
I used to have a receptionist who I could see had something and could be something more. She was from Lithuania and was quite and unsure of things because she wasn’t confident with English. It turned out she had a degree in Structural Engineering, a Masters in Management liked to make things on a 3D printer in her spare time. She is now into further education and is growing in confidence everyday.
So it’s just about unearthing these unbelievable diamonds and trying your best to nurture them and I think this is a great example of them
I think there’s a bit around as we mature as a function in an organisation, we are able to push our brand out. Rather than poaching, we want to encourage people to want to leave to be a part of our organisation and I think that is very powerful in terms of the credibility we will garner with our stakeholders.
Diversity is something that we just need to do inherently. Not thinking specifically about how we behave and a box ticking exercise to make sure we have the right range of people. I do believe we should levy our professional body for a number of things, including diversity. I do also agree that we are the role models for future generations of procurement teams and we should lead by example.
Following on from the empowerment piece, I still see a lot of not empowered activity. I’d really appreciate it if the whole industry would stop being so heavily price driven for example. As far as being empowered internally is concerned, get involved in things that encourage social responsibility and sustainable procurement. These are pieces that we all love to do and get involved in.
1) Tell people about the business benefit of inclusion and diversity. 2) Get yourself your own internal examples. 3) Call it out when you see it.
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