Christa Fellner, HR Team Lead at InterNations, writes about the advantages of building a diverse workforce, and how embracing and celebrating diversity has shaped InterNations as a company.
Being the world’s largest network for expats living and working abroad, it has always been important for InterNations to recruit employees who could really identify with our mission: to make expat life a great experience. Additionally, as an internet-based company, it has also been critical that we have a team of highly skilled engineers on board. With the market so tight in Europe, and the war for talent so competitive globally, we can’t just rely on recruiting employees locally.
The search for globally minded employees within this competitive talent landscape naturally leads us to look internationally for our talent, resulting in a highly diverse workforce of 136 employees, representing 46 nationalities, and speaking 40 different languages.
Working within such a melting pot of different cultures and nationalities has many advantages, with diversity shaping the character and spirit of the team and providing the backbone of the company as a whole.
The Top 3 Advantages of a Diverse Workforce
1. Driving Entrepreneurship and Innovation
The diversity of the InterNations team has been pivotal to supporting innovation and driving the company forward. With employees from all over the world, each person brings with them their unique background and experiences, providing a wealth of different perspectives from which we can approach our work.
In my experience, workplaces that lack diversity often lack flexibility too. Non-diverse workplaces are typically more rigid, sticking to traditional ways of operating — regardless of whether these practices continue to best serve the company or are the most productive way of working.
We recognize the diversity of the InterNations team as a real asset to the company and embrace the opportunities for entrepreneurship that it facilitates. An especially tangible example of creativity driven by diversity is demonstrated at our regular leadership circles, which encourage our leaders to learn from and empower one another, exploring strategies to overcome challenges and obstacles using peer-to-peer support. Such sessions always provide for inspiring and fruitful discussions, generating wide ranging learnings and differing approaches as a result of a diverse leadership team.
I don’t think that such innovation would be possible within a non-diverse workforce, as teams comprising of employees who largely operate in the same way and have similar experiences have trouble thinking outside the box. Conversely, our diverse team nurtures a workplace that is always evolving and never stagnant. This fosters an inspiring and motivating environment, encouraging and challenging us to question the status-quo, consider alternate points of view, and be creative in our work.
2. Cultivating Inclusivity and Collaboration
As well as fostering innovation and entrepreneurship, the diversity of the InterNations team creates an inclusive and welcoming environment, where differences are not just accepted, but actively celebrated. We have always prided ourselves on this excellent team spirit, which is frequently cited by employees as an aspect they greatly value about the company.
I believe that individualistic attitudes are more likely to be found in non-diverse teams, with employees more commonly fixated on climbing the career ladder and focused on their individual achievements, or those of their immediate department. Such priorities can result in employees competing with one another and divisions that work against each other, which is ultimately detrimental to the spirit within the team and, of course, the company overall.
The inclusivity modeled by an employer that hires diversely is also reflected within the team, which is equally welcoming and collaborative. Rather than always wanting to know what is in it for them as an individual, employees within a diverse team are much more community-minded, looking at the bigger picture and how the company operates and benefits as a unity.
Hiring internationally attracts globally-minded people, who are not only familiar and comfortable with, but also value and appreciate differences. Colleagues are championed for their accomplishments, team efforts and achievements are celebrated, and employees and departments work together in collaboration. It is the diversity of the InterNations team that has produced such an accepting and supportive workplace, which is a real pleasure to come to each and every day.
3. Fostering Intrinsic Motivation
There seems to be an accelerating movement away from formal education as a critical requirement for a successful career, and experience, passion, and motivation are increasingly valued over learned knowledge. Even so, this shift is not yet evident in Germany, where stringent qualification regulations reflect the prevailing and disproportionate emphasis placed on formal education.
This is disadvantageous for German companies, who miss out on new entrepreneurial approaches and risk losing competitiveness in a globalized world. Moreover, German employees lose out too — with narrow fields of expertise leading to rigid career progression opportunities, stifling creativity as a result.
As an innovative internet company in a progressively digitalized world, InterNations is increasingly looking to fill positions that fall outside of conventional job profiles, and for which there may be no formal education pathway. For Germans stuck in traditional ways of thinking, it can be difficult to see the progression opportunities these positions offer, and how such work will add to their CV. For this reason, we normally only receive a handful of job applications from Germans, whereas we receive many from people living abroad.
In this way, hiring internationally and building a diverse team has supported InterNations to find intrinsically motivated employees, who bring genuine passion, interest, and originality into their roles.
Diversity Is an Asset
The multicultural character of InterNations not only reflects the values and ethos of the company, but also illustrates how diversity is our biggest asset — enabling us to celebrate differences within an innovative, inclusive, and creative workplace.
About the author: Christa Fellner, HR Team Lead at InterNations, lived abroad in Paris for two years during her graduate studies. This experience changed her way of thinking and interacting with people. With her background in recruiting and business coaching, she started to work for InterNations in 2011, and has built up the HR department in the growing organization. Together with her team, she is responsible for all HR related topics — from recruiting and payroll to personal development.