Written by
Kristen Pressner

Published
10 Dec 2015

Driving diversity with innovation

10 Dec 2015 • by Kristen Pressner

How can HR innovate to drive growth and productivity?

Diversity and inclusion is a high priority. Diversity goes beyond visible differences (age, gender etc) to include educational backgrounds, professional knowledge, personality types and life experiences.

We support an environment where people are free to speak their mind.

How can HR leaders create this culture of innovation?

I am head of HR for the EMEA and Latin America and, as I’ll share in my keynote address, the first important step for all HR leaders is to move from only ‘intellectually’ getting diversity and inclusion to ‘really getting it’. Fundamentally, this includes realising that we’re all contributing to the lack of diversity and/or the creation of a truly inclusive environment, and then taking steps to correct that. 

Male and female leaders have a real opportunity to embrace the power of diversity in enabling a culture of innovation in businesses.

What challenges do leaders face in the Middle East?

In addition to creating environments that enable the success that a diverse workforce brings, it comes down to having a genuine interest in people. 

At Roche this means things such as wellness initiatives, maternity leave and other schemes that I still find to be unique in the Middle East. 

We need to realise that we’re whole people, not just the part of us that shows up at work each day.

What hurdles have you overcome to get where you are today?

Struggling with confidence. There were moments when I went for it without thinking too much. If I had, I’d have missed an opportunity. I think we all have those voices in our head that tell us we can’t do it or that we’re unsure how to do it. Men and women share these thoughts with me.

One of my tricks is to dive in even though it’s uncomfortable, yet I give myself permission to ‘renegotiate later’ if needed.

What advice would you give to someone aiming to get where you are?

I have one of the coolest jobs in the world, supporting more than 6,000 employees in over 150 countries. The advice I’d give would be: figure out your ‘why’. Most people want to leave the world a better place, and I believe there’s no place from which to have a greater impact on the world than via a senior leadership role in HR.