3M has long-standing initiatives that directly champion female leadership, such as Women's Leadership Forum (WLF), which now has over 5,000 employees in its 65 chapters worldwide, including Singapore. We find out more about 3M's commitment to DEI in Priya Sunil's exclusive interview with Rozl Bautista, People Relations Leader, Asia, 3M.

Q Why is DEI such a strong business imperative at 3M?

The case for diversity, equity and inclusion is very much a business one. They foster innovation and collaboration, which are the lifeblood of 3M.

In Southeast Asia, Boston Consulting Group found that 75% of employees who rated their organisations the most diverse felt their organisations were outperforming competitors, nearly twice that of employees who rated their organisations the least diverse.

In Singapore, PricewaterhouseCoopers found that increasing the average number of woman independent directors on boards, by as little as one, boosted companies' financial performance by 11.8%.

To explain further, let me break down how diversity, equity and inclusion foster innovation and collaboration.

First, diversity benefits customers. 3M thrives on creating diverse solutions for customers. Different perspectives help better meet their diverse needs, therefore driving growth. In Southeast Asia, diversity is strongly linked to innovation. Companies with five or more dimensions of diversity attributed 46% of revenue from new products, 10% more than those with only one dimension.

Second, diversity benefits employees. 3M drives diversity and inclusion, which helps employees feel welcomed and engaged, and impacts all employees across the board – current, new, and potential.

New employees feel supported and included, helping them adapt much quicker. It also reduces employee absenteeism and increases employee loyalty. As much as 53% of employees in Asia believe that greater diversity and inclusion would help employers better retain talent.

Diversity also matters to the new generation of workers. According to Deloitte, 58% of Millennials from diverse organisations agreed that their companies were good at attracting and retaining talent, compared to 41% who said the same from non-diverse organisations. 

DEI brings undeniable business benefits, and we work hard to advance this in 3M.

Q Talk us through the initiatives 3M is undertaking to push for DEI across the organisation.

At 3M, we work hard to ensure fair treatment, opportunity, and advancement for all.

First, we have long-standing initiatives that directly champion female leadership, such as 3M's Women's Leadership Forum (WLF). WLF provides platforms for guidance and mentorship, helping develop leaders at all levels to accelerate the inclusion and advancement of women. I’m happy to announce that WLF has now over 5,000 employees in its 65 chapters worldwide, including Singapore.

Second, we are redesigning the recruitment and interview processes to ensure a fair playing field for all.

With a cumulative goal across all diversity categories to double the pipeline of diverse talent in management globally from 32.6% to 65.2%, 3M is working on removing individual discretion and bias from interview processes, and investing in a new interview management system focused on skills-based hiring.

Third, we are introducing employee training to address unconscious biases, starting in the United States. This will help employees identify and understand potential biases and the the tools to change them, and strengthen our inclusive culture.

Lastly, we are supporting gender equity-focused non-profits and empowering employees to donate their time and skillsets to such causes. In Singapore, 3M is partnering with United Women Singapore in their Girls2Pioneers programme, which organises Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics educational activities and mentorships for girls from disadvantaged backgrounds. This encourages more females to pursue education and careers in the field, driving gender equity.

Q What challenges did you and the team face pushing these initiatives out?

Similar to others in the corporate world, COVID-19 has presented challenges. Nevertheless, we recognise the ability to respond to changing circumstances or expectations is necessary for winning in business, encouraging diversity and inclusion, and maintaining a healthy work-life balance.

Thus, we leveraged our recent experience working remotely to refresh and deepen our flexible work programme, FlexAbility, to reflect our new normal. First introduced in 2015, our refreshed FlexAbility 2.0 programme enables all our employees, especially working mothers, to make impactful contributions while making time for family needs and personal interests.

Q Overall, what have been the key results of this journey so far? How has diversity at 3M improved now compared to five years ago? Do share the key metrics used.

First, we have increased diversity across all categories such as gender, race, disability and more by 10.7 points to 43.3% currently.

Second, we have increased the share of employees who feel included from 71% in 2017 to 76% in 2020.

Third, our global CEO Inclusion Council has grown to include 25 leaders since launching in 2018. This group of leaders will continue to advance our DEI commitments and activities.

As a company, we want to contribute to a brighter future. In 2021 and beyond, we will focus on moving the needle on our representation goals to double the pipeline of diverse talent to 65% diversity; champion efforts to ensure all employees feel included; and continue investing in our communities to address opportunity gaps through workforce developments and STEM educational opportunities.

Q Lastly, what advice do you have for other organisations looking to take that step and push for DEI in their workforce?

I think organisations can push for DEI through multiple areas from corporate philosophy, culture to implementing company policies and protocols. Incorporating these values into corporate philosophy helps establish trust and loyalty with all stakeholders – employees, customers, partners, shareholders and our communities.

In terms of culture, organisations can create environments where all individuals are respected, and valued for their unique voice and abilities. This helps everyone feel safe to engage, driving full participation.

Companies can also advance systems and processes that counteract social inequities and prevent additional barriers from forming. They can start with seeking a diverse mix of candidates. Some key ways include employee referrals; utilising data to choose channels that produce most diversity; and working with specialist recruitment agencies to engage applicants from underrepresented groups.

With COVID-19 threatening to undo much of the progress made in gender equity as women across the globe are disproportionately affected, I believe the need for companies to strengthen diversity initiatives and policies is stronger than ever.

Photo / Provided by 3M [Pictured: Rozl Bautista, People Relations Leader, Asia]

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