The power of difference: how diversity strengthens Conclusion’s ecosystem

Diversity and inclusiveness are still high on the agenda of businesses, but are not always visible in the workplace. Nevertheless, a balanced representation of different social groups is needed in order to stay in touch with society as a whole. Management consultant Hakan Akdoğan shares what Conclusion is doing to promote diversity and inclusiveness.

April 19th, 2023   |   News   |   By: Conclusion


Hakan Akdoğan

What are your core values and how are they expressed?

Conclusion believes in the power of difference. In people, characters, and expertise areas. This is also intertwined in our organizational structure. Conclusion is an ecosystem of more than 25 expert companies focused on business transformations and IT services. There’s a very good reason why our mottos are ‘business done differently’ and ‘what makes us different makes us unique’. The cohesion in these differences is what connects and strengthens us.

In order to make use of the differences in our ecosystem, we are building an inclusive working environment at Conclusion based on our shared principles. An environment in which everyone is treated equally, is able to take part, and feels free. Not only does this help create a pleasant atmosphere, but it also benefits our business results. Because diversity – together with a strong sense of inclusion – leads to greater creativity and innovation. And, in turn, this leads to a future-proof ecosystem.

How do you ensure that your employees feel safe and welcome?

Having a diverse workforce makes little sense if employees do not feel safe and welcome. Inclusion is essential. It all starts with our onboarding programme. We understand that feeling safe and welcome may mean something different for everyone and also change as time goes by. That is why we conduct anonymous pulse surveys on this subject on a periodic basis. The results are implemented by our HR community in our line organization, which is where the performance dialogue takes place. This is overseen by our management board.

We have standard facilities in place, such as internal and external confidential advisers, and are also assessing our employee benefits in terms of inclusion and equity. One thing that we are doing is looking into equal pay. And we are also taking action to make our premises more inclusive. We organize training courses on desirable behaviour and open communication to try and ensure that employees feel safe and to broach problems such as exclusion. A good example of open communication is our internal podcast ‘Diversity Done Differently’.

How has your organization changed in recent years under the influence of diversity and inclusiveness?

The way the world is changing has increasingly determined our yardstick in recent years. We have become more actively involved in social purpose projects, for instance, with diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) forming an important foundation for our HR policy. This is translated in the management of our ecosystem as concrete actions and KPIs. And we provide support with a DEI strategy that includes a clear vision, mission, and ambition for the coming years. This is the result of an employees’ initiative, followed by the establishment of a focus group and a DEI taskforce.

What do our customers notice? A great deal, indirectly, because teams with different perspectives and backgrounds are better equipped than homogenous teams to generate new ideas and innovations. This is also evident from a study conducted by McKinsey & Company. In addition, organizations with greater diversity have a better understanding of the needs and wishes of customers, which makes them better able to meet market demands. It also ensures greater recruitment and retention of talented employees, benefiting our long-term partnerships with our customers.

We also notice a correlation between inclusion and better software. Professor Alexander Serebrenik of Eindhoven University of Technology studied the relationship between source code and communication. It is important to understand how teams work together and communicate and how this affects source code. By paying proper attention to this, you can ensure that your teams are happier, that they collaborate more effectively, and that they produce better code. In our experience, happy teams also lead to greater customer satisfaction. The Hot ITem Conclusion group, for example, already focuses on employee project satisfaction every two weeks. We see a clear link between greater customer satisfaction and greater employee satisfaction.

These types of studies and own experiences show us how important inclusion and leadership are in mutual collaboration and communication. And that you cannot get there with diversity alone. It’s not just about what colour you are, but about the colour you bring to the teams. It is only possible if employees truly feel free to be able express their diversity. This requires inclusive leadership, or simply leadership as it should be, as I call it.

What challenges have you experienced when promoting diversity and inclusiveness and how did you tackle these challenges?

One of the biggest challenges is our own diversity. The different companies in our ecosystem all have their own culture. This adds colour and makes us unique. But it also comes with certain challenges when you want to do something together. We want to facilitate diversity and inclusiveness centrally in a decentralized organizational structure. What helps us do so are the various communities and platforms in which employees already collaborate on other topics.

What also helps is following the business plans that are agreed upon with the parent company. Shared goals can help without a ‘one KPI fits all’ approach. Because not all ecosystem companies face the same challenge in terms of diversity, equity, and inclusion. This means that different solutions and objectives are required. By talking to the management and the employees of the ecosystem company, we want to take further steps in this regard.

What tip or learning opportunity can you share with organizations that want to do more in terms of diversity and inclusiveness?

Don’t get bogged down in point solutions and various events, but adopt a strategic approach. Commitment from the executive and managerial levels is not enough if there is little in the way of action from the layer underneath. A committed CEO, secretary general, or HR management has no added value if DEI is not integrated in your management and control cycle. Set up a means of control to check that your organization continues to learn and perform. Discuss the results and support them with fact-based insights. Make DEI part of your business operations instead of a specific programme, just as you would with finance and other business administration disciplines concerned with the organization’s continued existence.