Finding a competitive advantage

Diversity itself can be a competitive advantage, emphasises BNZ chief executive Anthony Healy; one which needs to extend well beyond the frames of gender and ethnicity.

Says Healy: "A true commitment to diversity should, to my mind, spur old institutions to act in new ways.

"That might sound a little ironic coming from a middle-aged white man in a suit but I am the CEO of BNZ and a true organisational commitment has to be led from the top."

The Top 200 judges were unanimous in agreeing that BNZ is putting its commitment into practice and has "stepped out as a vocal leader of diversity".

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The bank's strategic diversity priorities are paying dividends and the judges note that while internal initiatives and reporting have been important, so has BNZ's focus on external facing initiatives. Panel adviser and Treasury deputy chief executive Vicky Robertson highlighted BNZ's "flexi-working offer to all employees makes it a leader in this field.

"The bank has a very strong approach of to diversity," she adds. The BNZ's Diversity Council, established in 2011, represents a concerted effort by bank's executive team to lead by example.

As BNZ said in its entry for the inaugural Diversity Leadership Award: "Change is not possible without the board, chief executive and the executive team taking ownership of their diversity efforts and steering the ship in the right direction."

BNZ has set a hard target for their graduate recruitment outcomes -- a 50/50 split down the middle of their newest recruits between the genders. The newest additions to the BNZ team are not the only focus of the company's gender equality efforts. The bank is also looking to change the face of senior management.

In 2010, the percentage of senior leaders who were women sat at 21 per cent. The company aims to raise that to 33 per cent by the end of 2015. By the start of this year, it had hit 26 per cent.

The membership of the BNZ's executive team was made up of 17 per cent women in 2010. Their target for the end of 2015 was 33 per cent -- it's already hit that.

The bank is also taking a multi-pronged approach to diversity in key market segments such as Asian and migrant engagement. "It's not just as a reflection of our deeper institutional commitment to diversity," explains Healy. "But also because it makes profound business sense when one pauses to consider the changing character of the communities that sustain us, and New Zealand's ever deeper trading ties with China and other Asian countries."

The bank kick-started its diversity journey with the BNZ Diversity Council. Comprised of senior leaders from across the business, it is the tone-setter for the bank's diversity efforts across five areas: governance, gender, age, culture, and accessibility.

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BNZ knows that -- much like the rest of New Zealand -- their workforce is ageing. In 2013, they saw that they had more workers over 55 than they had under 24. The potential damage from the loss of long-serving, seasoned employees had to be mitigated. Ensuring the preservation of the knowledge held by the long-timers is a key-focus.

BNZ began an intense exploration of their workforce in 2012, conducting one-on-one ethnic interviews, focus groups and employee surveys to gather and analyse data by ethnicity. The results made clear the broad variety of cultures on their team and the differences in experiences that each culture might have. This lead to the appointment of BNZ's "cross-cultural ambassadors" -- leaders from within each of New Zealand's largest ethnic groupings who meet regularly to discuss issues of cultural diversity within the BNZ workplace.

On top of that, BNZ has undertaken to provide Maori awareness training throughout the organisation on topics such as Maori protocols, norms and experiences.

They've also driven to accommodate the disabilities of New Zealanders -- 20 per cent of New Zealanders live with a disability and because of that, they make it a priority to be accessible to everyone.

Debbie Teale, Diversity Manager BNZ , says that from the beginning the bank has focused on the workplace and customer.

"Many organisations just look at workplace and set up their case for change only on the EEO or equity perspective. There is a great economic case -- and an inclusive society case -- having everyone engaged and earning a good living is good for a sustainable economy and long-term growth."

Teale says the board is committed to the diversity push and engages regularly. "Our previous CEO, Andrew Thorburn (now chief executive at parent company NAB in Australia), initiated the work and was key in ensuring we had time at the top table, backing and resource. Our current CEO Anthony Healy was the inaugural chair of our council. He has been right behind this all the way and continues to drive the organisation's focus.

"We argue that diversity is not political correctness, but delivers a distinct competitive advantage for organisations that invest in encouraging a culture of diversity, flexibility and inclusion; that a diverse workforce encourages fresh thinking, new perspectives and better decisions, leading ultimately to better returns for shareholders.

"But it's not enough to bring together a diverse mix of people. It is about having an inclusive culture.

"A simple analogy that people can relate to and feel is -- 'diversity is getting an invitation to the dance, and inclusion is being asked on to the dance floor'."

Finalists

Vodafone

"Diversity isn't a buzzword at Vodafone; it's ingrained in everything we do and supported across our executive team," says Kirstin Te Wao, Diversity Lead at Vodafone, a finalist in the DiverseNZ Award.

"Our goal is that Vodafone's make-up mirrors the diversity of New Zealand. We want an environment where differences thrive so we can better serve our customers, our people and the communities we operate in -- and that's why Vodafone employs me full-time, to drive that diversity agenda and outcomes."

The judges praised Vodafone's Plus One policy where targets are measured twice yearly on a global scale. When person leaves the vacant position is filled with a female until there is a 50:50 ratio at senior levels of the organisation. The focus on diversity runs all the way to Vodafone's most operational front line, with diversity a key area of attention in their retail employee training.

Panel adviser Vicky Robertson said the company was further through their journey of diversity and inclusion than most. It was clearly trying out more initiatives than most and some were more successful than others.

Russell Stanners, CEO of Vodafone New Zealand, along with his Human Resources Director, Antony Welton and GM of HR, Jan Bibby, appointed a full-time Diversity lead in Te Wao to ensure the wheels on Vodafone's diversity efforts keep turning.

Genesis

Genesis Energy sees its commitment to a diverse, inclusive workplace as essential to driving commercial success. Albert Brantley, CEO says Genesis has a high level strategy and three-year road map focusing on both company-wide diversity programmes and targeted initiatives. "This approach provides a point of difference, and will enable us to achieve better outcomes for all our stakeholders.

"We have developed a set of ground rules for fostering inclusive leadership practices across the company to help drive the right mindset and behaviours to truly leverage diversity in Genesis Energy.

"We are working hard to create a company where talent wants to work. To achieve this we need to honour the diversity of our people, our customers and the way we think."

Genesis Energy has set set three high-level strategic goals to frame their diversity journey:

• Creating a place where talent wants to work

• Understanding their customers and how Genesis can create value for them

• Leveraging diversity of thought to create greater business value for their shareholders

Its diversity policy, available on Genesis' website, is targeted at all levels of their business and seeks to make diversity a way of life within the organisation. Genesis doesn't believe a prescriptive quota driven approach is the way forward.

Instead, it sets broader targets for the components of the organisation to meet. These targets include initiatives like mandatory unconscious bias education for all executive leaders, with the aim to have more than half of senior leaders go through the training this year.

Genesis is also developing a cultural calendar to create awareness for the array of celebrations that might be important to their diverse workforce.

Other initiatives include the organisation-wide promotion of Maori language week, a targeted minimum of three high-potential female employees through an executive development programme per year, and an internal apprenticeship programme designed to combat the effects of an ageing workforce.

Prime Minister's Office backs Diversity Leader Award

This year a new category of Diversity Leader was added to the prestigious Deloitte Top 200 Awards.

The Prime Minister's Office has provided government sponsorship for the new Diversity Leader Award, which recognises organisations for their policies, programmes and values to enable greater diversity across their business.

The addition to the awards illustrates the growing importance of diversity and its undeniable impact on the success of organisations. Diversity enables an organisation to grow into new markets, evolve business models, innovate new products and services, and attract top talent.

A greater focus on diversity by New Zealand's most successful companies will spur economic growth and social change for our country.

The Top 200 Diversity Leader Award emerges from an annual listing of the 200 largest corporations based on revenue, and a separate listing of New Zealand's Top 30 financial enterprises based on asset value. The lists comprise public listed and unlisted companies, New Zealand subsidiaries of multinational companies, co-operatives, societies and state-owned enterprises (SOEs), plus private companies prepared to supply audited accounts.

From the Top 200 index only those top 25 organisations that show strong gender results will be asked to apply for consideration for the Diversity Leader Award. This analysis was undertaken on the basis of publicly available information only.

Assisted by advisor Vicki Robertson, Deputy CEO of Treasury, a panel of independent judges assessed award applicants on the basis of their commitment to promoting diversity and inclusion throughout their business, including on issues beyond gender, as well as their development of innovative solutions to a diversity challenge or opportunity they recognise as business critical. Organisations will also be required to disclose their diversity policy.

The award is expected to encourage organisations to look deeply into their talent pool and increase diversity across their business, recognising advantages of diversity and inclusion to their business performance.