Mara Zavagno: If you want to move the needle in D&I, you need to be structured and systematic

28 tammikuuta 2022

Mara Zavagno is Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer at Konecranes Oyj. Konecranes specializes in the manufacture and service of cranes and lifting equipment and employs approximately 16,500 employees in 50 different countries.

Includia Leadership asked Mara to share her thoughts about D&I work and the most critical aspects of successful organizational culture change.

Q: Since when would you say Konecranes is working to increase diversity and inclusion?

A: In a systematic way since February 2019. Previously we had a few processes, few procedures, done locally. When I was appointed Chief D&I Officer in February 2019, I was the first one to have that role in the organization. One of the reasons for hiring a Chief D&I Officer was to make the business really understand how to make an impact with diversity and inclusion within the organization.

Q: Konecranes is a big organization, how is D&I work organized at Konecranes?

A: Well first of all I have created champions in the regions. Champions are people who have volunteered to accelerate D&I. These people are supporting D&I activity in their geography and making sure that we work, basically 360 degrees on the processes, goals, and raising awareness. Diversity and inclusion are very much embedded within the business now.

Secondly, there are multiple people who decided to take ownership on a few topics. For example, in talent acquisition, we are now developing inclusive language. There’s one person from talent acquisition who volunteers to help in talent engagement and rewards together with somebody in my team. All the HR processes should be speaking diversity and inclusion: recruitment, performance, rewards.

Q: How would you describe Konecranes’ current status of D&I? How far have you come?

A: We are very proud of our work so far. We have a three-year roadmap, and we just celebrated the achievement of the goals we had set in just two years and a few months. So, the progress has been outstanding. In addition, I see Diversity and Inclusion part of the business agenda.

Q: How would you describe the goals you had set, and what you achieved?

We had three main steps on our roadmap. The first one was to create the baseline, which was about understanding our current position and creating goals. The second was to gain reputation and be more visible with diversity outside. By being more visible, we also learned from others and that was very, very important. The third one was to reshape our goals, which we are doing right now. We shaped our ambition level this year by creating our new vision and the 4T strategy. T stands for Transforming, Talented, Trust, and Together. We establish actions for each T and also long-term goals until 2025 with different tactics to go there.

Q: Congratulations for the achievement! How could you do all of this in that short time during COVID?

To be honest, the process was actually accelerated by COVID. When COVID started, we felt immediately that there was a need to respond faster and in a more agile way. People were at home and feeling alone. So, we tried to find ways to give them more social interactions and support. And that is how we launched our Coffee and Cultures webinars. The Coffee and Culture webinars bring people together and give them a safe place where they can reflect, express themselves and where we discuss D&I topics. The Coffee and Culture webinars have become a really important event within the organization where people come together periodically to listen about inclusive culture, learn about best practices from external speakers and other companies and spend some time reflecting together. For now, we are continuing with the meetings. We had the latest one in mid-December, and it was pretty insightful and successful.

Q: Looking back at these couple of years, how would you describe the main learning points of leading this work?

Yes, well first of all I have to say that an important part of this process is learning from others. We all have similar challenges. We all struggle with questions like: how to make an impact? How to make sure that it’s not just a “nice to have”, but really part of your DNA and the way to conduct business? Looking at the others’ challenges and how they have overcome them you learn a lot, and it might be that your original plan about your next actions change, and get better.

Q: We all know how crucial it is to get managers at different levels onboard. What has worked best for you in convincing leaders? My guess is that not all leaders are convinced with the same arguments or the same methods?

A: That is true, creating buy-in, and accepting D&I — like all the other business priorities — is a journey, and the attitudes and behaviors of inclusive leaders should be shaped. I think the main challenge is to get leaders who are thinking pragmatically, understanding how a topic like diversity and inclusion can be equal to any other business topic. I think that raising awareness and creating dialogues, bringing role models, both internal and external to the discussions, is what has worked well for us. What you also really need is to find internal champions who are a step further as role models and examples for the more hesitant ones, as well as creating accountability on the topic. But you shouldn’t forget about the external voices either. For some reason external experts are sometimes much more listened to.

Q: What do you see as your most important target or objectives for the year to come?

A: For the year to come, we will focus a lot on the local levels. Now we have D&I in almost all the global processes, but we need to make sure that these are really applied and happening locally. To do this, we are creating local targets, demographic targets. We always start from the bigger countries because it’s where we have the major impact. By this we can share experience and provide tools based on what we learned and really help to customize what we did globally more according to the local culture.

Q: What do you think are the most important characteristics for a D&I leader?

A: I think being humble is so important. And willing to be open to others. Also accepting mistakes and shortcomings is really crucial, because there is a lot to learn, and you will not be perfect in what you are doing. But I think mistakes should be viewed as a resource, you can enrich yourself and learn much more from each mistake or error. And last, but definitely not least, you need to drive results. If you want to move the needle with diversity and inclusion, you need to be structured and systematic.

Q: Is there something that you would hope that people understood about your work that they don’t understand at the moment?

A: I think in general the work is appreciated, so I feel really positive about it. I wish that people will continue to understand that with diversity and inclusion we are stronger leaders and make a difference every day, we do the right things business wise and from a sustainability perspective. At the end of the day, we are doing business for money, but not just for money. It’s also about creating a better society, a better world for us and for our children. That is something that I would like everybody to understand.

Includia Leaderhip is FIBS’ diversity and inclusion Partner

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