Scientific research shows that results improve in a diverse and inclusive organizational culture. What measures are companies taking to promote diversity & inclusiveness in their organizations? And does this affect leadership style? We are curious if and how entrepreneurs are picking up on this.
Arjen van Hijum
Managing director of Excap, responsible for strategy, marketing and finance.
Research and consulting firm that helps companies and organizations become better at customer and employee experience, market leader in mystery shopping. Excap employs 36 people from offices in Amsterdam, Groningen and Antwerp.
How do you describe your leadership style?
Functionally, I am the leader, but that term does not appeal to me very much. I feel responsible and am also seen as the one responsible for leading Excap. Employees like having someone to steer and cut the knots when necessary. During my quarterly presentations, when I look back and forward, my colleagues see me mostly in that role. I am not a hierarchical leader. I get to know everyone who comes to work with us, whatever their function or position. I then state very clearly that I am primarily a colleague 23 hours a day. I also put this question to my colleagues. They indicated that I am clear in what I want, concrete in what I expect and people-oriented in my actions. I think that's a nice description.
What does diversity and inclusiveness mean to you?
As far as I am concerned, we always had to be diverse and inclusive with each other. But that is not so obvious. There is currently a lot of attention for the book The Seven Winks by Joris Luyendijk. That is also about me. I too am a white man with seven ticks and don't know how it feels to be discriminated against. That is precisely why it is important that people like me continue to pay attention to this subject, I am very aware of that. It's not easy. It's easy to say something wrong. The way reactions sometimes go off the rails can also cause us to keep our mouths shut. I think that's a danger. We have to make sure we stay in conversation.
What are you doing about D&I within Excap?
The recent news about abuse of power and sexual misconduct at companies is appalling. As a company, you are increasingly forced to make policies about this. And that's a good thing. At the same time, we must guard against D&I becoming a trend. Because a trend is only temporary. At Excap we pursue a sustainable policy. That is why we hold diversity and inclusion in high regard. But we have to be honest, building an inclusive culture takes more than raising awareness and saying you're paying attention. We are going to focus on concrete steps that fit our company. There is a lot of room for a lot of people at our company. The challenge is that as we get bigger we will have to describe more. In a month you can read on our website what our policy is on D&I. And as long as we are an organization in which I think I know everyone, I am as much about "practice what you preach. How we treat each other is something we have always paid a lot of attention to.
What would you like to give to a next generation of employers?
The tight labor market requires open communication with employees about their interests and wishes. About income or a flexible approach to work through part-time contracts. As an employer, this should not scare you, but it should be taken into account. I also think that director-owners of companies should become more visible and accessible. The greater the distance from the shop floor, the greater the chance of situations that you, as the person with final responsibility, do not hear about or hear about too late. Show that you are there, that employees can talk to you about anything that concerns them, and that you are open to feedback and criticism. That is also the style of me and my two associates at Excap. They are the preconditions for future success. I am convinced of that.
To whom do you pass the baton on this topic?
To Esmeralda van Boon, Noorderpoort's diversity & inclusivity program manager.