INCLUSION AND TOGETHERNESS

A lever to navigate through uncertainty and empowering valuable people experience

With the title of “The Hero’s journey” in May 2020, we introduced our first Coffee and Culture webinar in Konecranes that was dedicated to Diversity and Inclusion. It was a way to explore our individual sentiments and feelings together within our virtual global organization. And it was a way to create a forum of compassion, discussion and reflection. 

Inspired by Joseph Campell’s work describing the steps of the hero moving against many obstacles up to the victory and resurrection, the Coffee and Culture webinars became somewhat biographical portraits about what we were experiencing during the COVID-19 pandemic. Those sessions enabled us to share how to become helpful and inclusive to one another in a time that was very challenging for many people. 

The pandemic is an unprecedent period in our lives and our businesses. Nobody would have expected a change so drastic in our lives and in the way of working. 

I am currently a member of the board of an educational institute, and I remember how fast we had to rethink the way students learn and truly accelerate digitalization. 

I witnessed the same in my company, Konecranes. 

With the work environment and tools suddenly changing, our ways of working had to change too. We had to continue to be efficient, and at the same time, focus on wellbeing. We succeeded, but the work continues.

What does it mean for us?

After the initial shock life continued – with adjusted course. Suddenly there was a new dimension: where to study and work, and how to keep work-life balance. These have been the intrinsic goals that we have used to navigate through the situation. We have done it with a sense of urgency, speed, and learning fast. 

The COVID-19 outbreak rapidly changed the landscape of work including where people work. We experienced hurdles in adopting new ways to conduct business or school life, but we also crafted a new life that allowed efficient business continuity. We have been reinventing ourselves day by day, thinking and finding solutions that were not in our typical menu in the ways of working.

However, this is not enough. People need other people and performance is driven by a sense of belonging and engagement – and these have been profoundly challenged during the pandemic. In addition, the cuts in social life impact the health and wellbeing of people. There is an urgent need to support people in isolation adapting to this new reality by using interventions that will pave the way to a new “social.”

What has been your response to the new situation?

In one response: rethink the way of doing by fostering togetherness and inclusion. 

Diversity, equity and inclusion are important foundations to embed for the future. The pandemic has globally raised the importance of this aspect, by exposing the inequities and raising criticism on behalf of the most fragile groups in the society who have encountered hardship during the COVID-19 crisis.

Professionally, I experienced an acceleration of this culture.

At Konecranes, we learnt that diversity of ideas acts as an important source for problem solving, enabling our teams to react faster and with innovative ways. By leveraging our global set-up and spirit, sharing best practices, and helping others with your own experience – all these are a source for solutions in this context.

In addition, conscious that we need social connection, we fostered togetherness. We launched our internal Coffee and Culture webinar to boost diversity and inclusion, and to provide a platform for discussion and peer-learning. For example, in our first session, the Hero’s journey, a professional coach helped everyone to re-imagine their experience like it would be the journey of a hero. 

We introduced Coffee and Culture sessions for everyone to stay close virtually and maintain engagement. It was a combination of reacting, supporting, and transforming processes.

But that’s not all. We also created a learning path called “Staying Connected” which offered context and concrete tips for reflection, discussion, connection and compassion to create resilience for people and their teams. And we carried pulse surveys to measure peoples’ sentiment, focusing especially on the mental wellbeing of our community.

The new context and way of working requires different culture and menu of competences that people can use. Our recipe was, and is, togetherness and embracing global mindset. We have used, leveraged, and boosted our resilience, and learnt that we have valuable resources in our teams to utlize.

What is our lesson learnt?

Personally, my learning is that when it comes to change, you can be reactive but if you want to be in the driver’s seat, you need to look beyond the obvious and embrace the situation with innovation and new ideas. 

The way of working and thinking has fundamentally changed. At Konecranes, we embraced the change, holding on to that driver’s seat. We learnt how to revert crisis into opportunities, and most importantly, we enhanced our culture of togetherness, empathy, sustainability and diversity.

Like in the Hero’s journey, we are heroines and heroes in change, and by coming out from the “cave” of challenges, fears and thoughts, we are regenerated with a new set of strengths.

Like Darwin said: “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, not the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change’’. 

MARA ZAVAGNO, 1973, Laurea in Science Politiche, Master in Business Coach, Vice President Talent, Engagement & Rewards e Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer

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