Diversity: A Key to Solving Big Problems

As a provider of sustainable solutions for electricity distribution, Ensto aims to help solve some of the world’s big problems. To do that it needs to grow, and that growth demands diversity, equity, and inclusion.

Want to solve the world’s big problems? You need people to do it. And the more technically-savvy people you need, the harder they are to find. Case in point: There was a highly specialized product management position at Ensto in France which remained unfilled for over two years. 

“Two years is an extreme example,” says Kirsi-Marja Ura, Ensto’s SVP, HR, Marketing and Communications, Sustainability. “But it demonstrates the critical importance of people in a business that is a leading technical expert. It also shows us the future, how we’ll have to think about things differently and do things in a new way.”

Diversity for growth

"You can't have big growth without diversity, equity, and inclusion,” says Ura, and a good diversity and inclusion (D&I) program is the key to recruitment. “We want to attract talented people of different ages, genders, races, religions, ethnicities, physical abilities, and sexualities. This improves innovative collaboration across teams and functions. D&I means you can recruit new talent and retain current stars."

Ensto has always been diverse. “Over 20 years ago, Ensio Miettinen, the founder of Ensto, said that Ensto wants to solve the world’s big problems, and that requires diversity and inclusion,” says Ura. “Ensio used those exact words. D&I is nothing new for Ensto, and we’re not bad at it. But we need to do more.”

With employees in 15 different countries and even more than 30 nationalities employed, Ensto is already fairly diverse. All age groups are represented. The male-female balance is good. "But in director, manager and senior specialist roles there are too few women, about 20 percent of total," says Ura. "That we need to improve. There’s an industry barrier in tempting young females to study tech, which is a global issue that takes years to change. Still, our target is one-third by 2025."

Doing more

Ensto's first step has been to train all of its leaders in inclusion, diversity, and unconscious biases. All leaders, from shop foremen to the CEO, have been trained through a mandatory three-hour online training program. "The trainings have included teamwork and small group discussions," says Ura. "D&I really can't be taught; it's got to be understood. That’s why the subject demands time for discussion and joint reflection." This year the online trainings will be expanded and target is to train all employees.

Another change has been to improve Ensto's recruitment ads. An AI tool called Develop Diverse finds discriminatory or unequal wording in ads. "It might tell us that a certain usage suggests a preference for males," says Ura. "I think we were pretty good before, but this tool helps us find any hidden messages we weren't aware of."

Ensto has also begun using anonymous recruitment during the first phase of the process. Similar to the blind audition process used by some symphony orchestras, the name, gender, and race of an applicant is hidden from the recruiter's view and only the skills are on display. "Since we all have unconscious biases which cause us to choose a familiar or safe option, this is a tool to keep us focused on what’s most important," says Ura.

Local roadmaps

Ura says what's important to realize is that D&I principles are not things that can be cut and paste across cultures. "We can bring more cultures, different sexualities, different ways of thinking, physical differences. We can define the target of what we want to be and provide the training. But in the end, local leaders have to do it in their own countries. What does diversity mean in France or India? Local leaders are building the local roadmap."

To support the work and define the current status, an annual D&I study is carried out throughout the company, and based on the results, teams make their own development plans to improve D&I.

"In some countries they say we’re not allowed to touch people's private life," says Ura. "In our view, your private life is separate from your work life and what you choose to share is your decision. But, if a workplace is inclusive, then it's a place where you're not afraid to share. You don't feel you need to hide anything."

In India, recruiting female employees is more difficult than in Europe. “If we have to double our efforts in Europe,” says Ura, “then we have to do 100 times more in India. That’s why leaders at every level in the organization must run this process.”

Ensto's offices and factories also find their own ways of celebrating Pride month and the equal rights of LGBTQIA+ communities annually. "For example flying the Pride flag is only one small gesture that we can make," says Ura. "But it's an important one.” Ura says she believes all Ensto leaders share the same understanding of diversity. “Diversity makes us more innovative. A heterogenous team is always more innovative than a homogenous team. We all agree on that."