Philips HR Head: Diversity and Inclusion is about empowering people

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In the HR sphere of knowledge, there are lots of buzzwords floating around.  Data, technology, recruitment are just a few.  One of the more powerful ones, or phrases at least, is diversity and inclusion.  That in of itself is a vast conglomerate of dimensions.  Most focus on just a couple of those such as gender or ethnicity, but there are so many more dimensions to consider:  people with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities, the formerly incarcerated, veterans, people who have been out of the workforce for an extended period of time and are trying to re-enter the workforce, the elderly.  The list goes on.

In an interview with HR Exchange Network editor Mason Stevenson, Philips Medical Systems Head of HR Mark Dickinson discussed some of these dimensions and why much of the focus of the diversity and inclusion conversation should be on inclusivity.

Mason Stevenson: Thanks for taking the time to chat with me today. We're going to talk about diversity inclusion. If you had the power to fix one thing within diversity and inclusion, and you had all the resources you needed, what would that be? What would the solution look like? 

Mark Dickinson: That’s where I want to go to, if I had the power, the challenge is around changing the conversation, around DNI of moving away from the early stage of just counting the numbers to creating an inclusive environment, where people bring their best self to work, that they feel truly empowered, and joyful to be there, and giving 100% of themselves.

As leaders, as HR people, that's where you want to create that right climate, environment that you want people to feel like; Hey, we spent a lot of time at work. If we spent most of our waking hours at work or thinking about work or doing work, that's a lot of time.

Mason Stevenson: What I really like about what you said is you're talking about inclusivity of the whole self. Basically, there's been this idea of… just bring yourself and not your baggage to work. But what you're saying inclusivity is about bringing all of that too, it's not work life balance anymore, it's just life balance. 

Mark Dickinson: It's the whole, like you said, it's hard; your head, your baggage, whatever -- If you check your old joke, or the old comment, like check your brain at the door, because it's an old definition of what people used to do at work. So if you're in a factory making cars in Detroit, I don't need you to work previous world. There's an old joke of; Hey, we just want you to move this from point A to point B, I just need your back and your arms and move it, and if you get hurt, see you, next man up, and we'll do that.

I often talk about this, we move from this mechanistic viewpoint of work and the workplace, to now should be a much more fluid and holistic view, an organic view of work, and that's where I sit there and go; you can’t bring your whole self. It's because, again, we use our brain more than we use our arms in a lot of work, we're changing workforce, we are changing what we're doing. So we talked about automation of the workplace. We want good thinkers, innovation; people with different points of view, different customer bases, we're all looking for that. That should be part of your DNI strategy to thinking through that of like; well, we should mirror what our customers are, and we should be looking at in a holistic viewpoint of the world, and bringing people in to help mirror that too.

Mason Stevenson: I think, sometimes in the HR space, folks get really focused on a solution that can fix a lot of problems. The reality is that, that's not always realistic. For instance, if you've got some problems, and you look to a particular technology solution, that solution may not cover all of your bases or a company may not offer enough types of technology to cover all the problems. But D&I is really one of those solutions, where it pretty much covers everything.

If you want to increase engagement, you bring in one of these groups, for instance, like someone with an IDD, they're happy to be there, they're performing well, you've got folks coming in and seeing that they're performing well, and suddenly, they're like, ‘’What else can I do?’’ You see an increase in performance, you see an increase in engagement, you see an increase in customer satisfaction. So your business is growing, just by bringing in somebody that falls in one of those categories, by being more inclusive, you are creating that environment where your employees, they're not just coming to work, this is who they are, they are just part of the organization, take pride in it.

Mark Dickinson: For creating the right environment and the right climate, and people want to be there.

Mason Stevenson: Right. Then those folks become your new champions, and become your new innovators, because they're like, ‘’Great, we've got these folks, but you know what, there's a whole other section of folks out there that we can do something for them, I’ve got an idea, let me talk to you about it.’’ The next thing you know, you are now expanding your diversity and inclusion bubble that you once had, you're now expanding it even further. That just pours over the organization of the company. That's the real business case for diversity and inclusion, is, how do we widen that net? How do we bring more people in?

Mark Dickinson: Yes, we need to broaden that out, to create that larger spotlight around creating the right environment. So in businesses, all of our organizations want to be successful, grow, increase revenue, the satisfied customers, all that, absolutely, we want all that. You got to create the engine or the right environment where that happens, and people want to bring their best selves to work, and not feel excluded.

So we have to address that. Its ability of work, whatever you call; being civil at work, but it's respect and dignity. You are part of my team, let's treat each other as equals, and help each other be successful. That's where I think where there's so much of this that we need to… I think it stems back to that whole self-respect, dignity, open to differences.

Mason Stevenson: What have you done in your professional career to further D&I? What's your claim to fame, if you will? 

Mark Dickinson: I’ve championed women in technology, and I partnered with my previous co-workers around making sure we have women in power to help power electronics.  It focuses on bringing finding more women engineers. So partnering with women engineers, partnering and bringing in populations, we had a struggle certainly in the technical world, whether you're in Silicon Valley, or Pittsburgh, or wherever for electrical engineers, that population of gender, or for women, in engineering is lower. So how do you make sure you're attracting and expanding the pool of candidates to get a good mix in diverse workforce there?

So we challenge ourselves to look broader, to widen the net, to go on campus, to bring in, to champion some internal coaching for managers.

Mason Stevenson:  Thank you for talking with me, Mark.

Mark Dickinson:  Thank you for having me.

Mark Dickinson is the Head of HR for Philips Medical Systems and was a speaker at the CHRO Exchange in May.  Dickinson is also a HR Exchange Network advisory board member.  To learn more about the CHRO Exchange, click here.