Diversity wins

PeterMészáros is Managing Director of the Customer Service company at RWE Hungária and Head of RWE East Customer Service Coordination. In his article, he talks about personal experiences with diversity and the success factors of diverse teams.

Research shows that building a diverse work team takes longer than a homogeneous team. I was not really aware of that fact when I was asked to do so and to work on the RWE Top 10 project “Learning & Development”, which became part of the Delivery Breakthrough Performance (DBP) Program. The team was set up very quickly: we have people from the UK, Hungary, the Netherlands, Germany, different RWE profit centers, different ages, different genders and different professions. Moreover, we work mainly as a virtual team.

It quickly became apparent that the primary challenge for our team was, in fact, that we are all different. Misunderstandings, different points of view and stereotypes sometimes contributed to some weaknesses in the team. We went through phases where the team was inundated with challenges and pitfalls. I would say that one reason for this was that we did not immediately understand what the really important aspects of diversity are. It’s not nationality or gender or age, but  rather each other’s differences and similarities, characters, different opinions and management styles, skills, abilities, strengths and weaknesses.

A deeper understanding of this is crucial to forming a high-performing diverse team. We all had to understand the environment in which we work. What is the advantage of having staffing experts and people who do not work in a Human Resources Department together on such a project? What are the visions, missions and goals which would guide our team? A common purpose is the key word here. Our DBP facilitator was decisive in this respect, and supported us in seeing and understanding all the advantages diversity brings.

Looking back, I must say that working with this extremely diverse team was much more of a challenge than working with a homogenous team. However, the team’s performance exceeded that of homogenous teams. Our work was characterized by  great spirit and creativity, high target orientation, the will to drive change within RWE and tough, but very constructive, discussions. The advantages by far outweighed the challenges faced by such a team. Our diversity fostered new ideas for Learning & Development. I truly hope that RWE will increasingly staff teams with diverse personalities in the future. Our Group can only gain from that.