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Ingredients for Managing Diversity in Your Business

In 2005, when Lenovo took on the challenge of acquiring IBM’s personal computer (PC) division and its iconic ThinkPad product line, we knew we had a lot of learning to do, and we had to do it quickly. The marketplace was not going to wait for us to figure out how to integrate our eastern and western cultures. We had to jump in head-first and find ways to leverage our diversity in order to produce relevant products and stay financially successful.

We grew from a $3 billion China-based company to a $39 billion global company and became the #1 PC+ company in the world by leveraging our diversity. Today, we have more than 54,000 employees, who speak over 40 different languages in 60 countries and a highly diverse leadership team made up of unique thinking styles and work experience – much more than just race and gender.

There is no more perfect analogy to describe what diversity should mean to an organization than comparing it to a recipe. Like diversity, a recipe is a classic case of the whole being greater than the sum of its parts.

Diversity is the heartbeat behind Lenovo’s business practices and culture. Our diverse and balanced leadership team represents a variety of different backgrounds and specialties. Global leadership can be an extremely tough task to conquer while maintaining a highly efficient business model and household brand. Lenovo’s diversification has led to incredible growth internally and externally, which elevates Lenovo to being a trustful and respected company. In addition, our corporate culture has added competitive edge in an already saturated PC market. Lenovo’s cores strengths are its culture and talent diversity, and to be the most innovative, you must leverage the best talent everywhere.

Geographically, Lenovo leaves a footprint all over the world. Our leadership’s capabilities are spread across more than 50 countries (only 5% of business is located in the US), answering to customers, partners or employees to make it a seamless communications process, no matter the distance. Our Top 10 executives are of 6 nationalities and 20 in the top 100. Lenovo takes prides in our ability to serve all global markets in a timely and cohesive fashion, ensuring inclusion and trustworthiness. Additionally, our East and West business approaches enables us to be more efficient in decision making, to make us better at meeting our customer’s needs.

Creativity and diversity go hand in hand when building a global, billion dollar company, that needs to continuously be innovative and at the forefront of its industry. Lenovo values a diverse set of skills, experiences, cultures to make us unique and one of a kind. Different perspectives, different backgrounds and different viewpoints together help create a mixture of creative thinking and original strategies, which in turn leads to groundbreaking products.

Putting all of these moving parts together is, of course, never easy. Since acquiring the IBM’s personal computer business in 2005, Lenovo has had to work extensively on building a company culture that is desirable. Certain strategies and tactics behind each decision has led Lenovo to find a stable, reliable and trustworthy mixture, usable for years to come. A major player in finding the perfect mixture is the HR department’s involvement in building a high-performance, multi-cultural organization that could deliver outstanding business results by starting at the root of the situation, Lenovo’s employees.

Lenovo’s past experiences and expertise have produced a winning recipe for success worldwide. When combined, these four basic steps, or ingredients, have led Lenovo’s employees, leaders, and communities to achieve remarkable accomplishments:

Know the kind of culture you want to create

Before you begin to immerse diversity into your corporate culture, you must fully reflect and understand your customer’s needs, values and perspectives. Creating a vision of where you want to go is imperative for your leadership team to understand and create a plan to achieve set goals. Meaning, a company must intuitively know what’s in the hearts and minds of global customers around the world. In turn, the integration of diversity will create a driver for your business and success.

Prepare and assess the ingredients

To understand diversity and create a competitive advantage by it, you must complete a full assessment of your company’s current situation. Determining the gaps, pinpoint exactly what is missing and how you can fill the void, is imperative in creating the correct strategy during the time of transition. In your HR processes, take time to empower and motivate employees to voice their concerns and answer by taking action to enable the company to move forward in achieving global diversity.

Bake diversity into the culture

To imbed diversity into your corporate culture, you must commit to a long-term process to build productivity, accountability and creativity. This, of course, will happen over a long period of time, which your leadership team must stay consistent with messaging and be held accountable by setting a proper example for employees. To do this, you must build and implement programs that immerse diversity as a way of living, thinking and doing business. Mixing all of these components well will create a mixture that will be the perfect fit for your global corporate culture.

Let it set, modify it (if needed), then taste

Once your mixture has been created and implemented for an extended period, it’s time to measure the effectiveness and impact. During the process, be sure to monitor the progress through employee check-in’s and Q&A’s to raise any concerns or issues. If you do run into concerns, edit the process accordingly by asking your global leaders to increase their involvement or alter the messaging to employees. To ensure your employees are flourishing, provide incentives or rewards to keep the momentum high and on a consistent incline. But, staying consistent doesn’t mean to never touch the process again. Once you find the right mixture, it’s important to always stir the pot periodically, to keep your employees fresh and fruitful. This is also the time to celebrate your wins as a new, diverse corporate culture. Let it be known to your employees how proud and appreciative your global leaders are of their hard work and dedication.

Mix in the ingredient

Diversity has become ingrained into Lenovo’s culture since day one. Lenovo takes pride in what diversity brings to our company – cutting-edge innovation, a highly efficient business model, and a trustworthy brand. All of these characteristics make Lenovo the world’s leading PC company. Lenovo’s vision to become an industry leader would have not been possible without the incredibly diversity of Lenovo’s people, tastes and perspectives. Our leaders and employees understand the development of strategies, how to create the perfect mixture for success and how to properly integrate diversity into our corporate culture. We’ve had great success and take immense pride in the way our culture has evolved, and continues to succeed and grow. Without a doubt, Lenovo would be nothing without the strength and commitment of every single person that has worked with us to foster prosperity and growth year over year.

As you consider adding diversity to your organization, I recommend you make diversity the most important and robust ingredient in your mixture of characteristics. The importance of diversity lies on working together to create something altogether different that has never been tried before.


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About The Author
Yolanda Conyers
Yolanda Lee Conyers is Vice President of Global HR Operations and Chief Diversity Officer for technology giant Lenovo, one of China’s first global brands and the world’s number-one personal computer-maker. In this role, she has developed industry-leading expertise in navigating across boundaries to create a company culture built to last. In addition to founding the first-ever diversity office for a company of Chinese heritage, she has transformed Lenovo’s day-to-day human resources operations by ensuring consistency of processes, systems and data for a complex global company with employees in more than 60 nations.

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