Following worldwide crises like the COVID-19 pandemic, businesses are under increasing pressure to tap into fresh talent sources. Steelcase, a leading furniture designer and manufacturer, has emerged as a pioneer in embracing social change and actively incorporating migrant talent into its workforce. As the world grapples with workforce gaps, Steelcase, in collaboration with Ashoka’s Hello Europe initiative, is setting out to create a blueprint that encourages other firms to follow suit.
1. Recognizing Overlooked Talent: Steelcase’s journey began five years ago when the company’s human resources lead in Grand Rapids, USA, reached out to a local refugee organization. This initiative aimed not only to fill job roles but also to enrich the workplace experience and introduce new perspectives. The company, recognizing the potential of under-represented racial and ethnic minorities, has successfully integrated approximately 45% of its workforce in Grand Rapids from migrant communities.
2. Catalyst for Change: The tragic death of George Floyd in 2020 prompted a reevaluation of Steelcase’s diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) efforts. This led to a complete redesign of their approach, launching a new program with defined goals, measurements, and systems. The key focus became building diverse talent through innovative pipelines and inclusive recruiting strategies.
3. Tailoring Solutions to Local Dynamics: Steelcase acknowledges that a one-size-fits-all solution doesn’t apply when working with migrant talent. The success of the initiative depends on understanding the local community, and the approach varies across different departments and locations within the company. Prioritizing listening and asking questions is crucial to ensure impactful collaboration with migrant communities.
4. Building a Culture of Inclusion: While Steelcase already had a culture of supporting changemakers, adjustments were necessary to ensure the inclusion of everyone. The company’s commitment to dignity and respect, core values embedded in its culture, required consistent practice. The introduction of experimental approaches has raised awareness and humanized the migrant workforce.
5. Addressing Practical Challenges: Several challenges, such as legal rights to work, language barriers, transportation issues, uniform provision, and appropriate spaces for prayer, need to be considered by companies aiming to replicate Steelcase’s success. Partnering with outside agencies, providing translators, and involving existing employees as interpreters have proven effective in overcoming these challenges.
6. Documentation and Knowledge Sharing: Steelcase, in partnership with Ashoka, is documenting its successful roadmap in Europe to inspire and assist other businesses. Sharing principles of design thinking, creative thinking, and social innovation, the collaboration aims to create a system that facilitates change in different parts of an organization to make inclusive practices work.
7. Measurable Impact: The initiative has not only inspired employees but has also led to tangible shifts in the company’s management mindset. Initial skepticism gave way to recognition of the value brought by a diverse and inclusive workforce. Steelcase attests that the effort has not only benefited the business but has also enriched its culture in unexpected ways.
Steelcase’s journey in integrating migrant talent into its workforce serves as a beacon for other companies navigating the complexities of diversity, equity, and inclusion. Through documented experiences, practical solutions, and a commitment to social change, Steelcase and Ashoka provide a blueprint that encourages businesses to embrace diversity, leverage untapped talent, and build workplaces that are not just inclusive but also transformative.
Here are some links for our readers with valuable perspectives from reputable sources that support and expand on the ideas discussed in this article. Explore and enrich yourself.
- Ashoka’s Hello Europe Initiative:
- Link: Ashoka’s Hello Europe
- Ashoka’s Hello Europe initiative plays a significant role in Steelcase’s efforts. This link provides additional information on the initiative, its goals, and the broader context of social entrepreneurship.
- Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in the Workplace:
- Link: SHRM – Diversity, Equity & Inclusion
- Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) offers insights into diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workplace. This link provides valuable resources for companies looking to enhance their DEI efforts.
- Design Thinking in Business:
- Link: Harvard Business Review – Design Thinking
- The article discusses design thinking, a key element mentioned in the Steelcase initiative. It provides insights into the application of design thinking in business and problem-solving.
- Global Talent Acquisition Strategies:
- Link: Forbes – Global Talent Acquisition Strategies
- Forbes offers expert insights into global talent acquisition strategies. This link can provide readers with additional perspectives on sourcing talent from diverse backgrounds.
- Social Impact and Corporate Social Responsibility:
- Link: CSRHub – Corporate Social Responsibility
- CSRHub is a comprehensive resource for corporate social responsibility (CSR). This link can provide readers with a broader understanding of the impact of businesses on society and the importance of social responsibility.