Personal passion, professional development and boosted performance
Published on July 18, 2022
The benefits of diversity are clear: it’s been over a decade since the first studies demonstrated that organizations with diverse staff and an inclusive culture outperform those with a narrower approach. Yet there’s a difference between knowing this fact and seeing it in action. That’s where Air Liquide’s Inclusion Movement, a hands-on project to derive strength from diversity, comes in.
“One of the pillars of our Inclusion and Diversity (I&D) Roadmap is ‘promoting a culture of inclusion’,” says Edith Lemieux, Head of Air Liquide University and HR Transformation Projects, “but ‘promoting’ doesn’t mean repeating a message until it goes stale. With the Inclusion Movement, we wanted to get people across the organization involved in generating and testing fresh ideas on how to really further and so harness the potential of inclusion at Air Liquide. And we wanted it to be fun, too!”.
Coming together to make a movement
Working on the premise that diversity is already a part of Air Liquide (there are over 150 nationalities in the Group, with 34 represented at the executive level), the Inclusion Movement brought together over 200 people from all areas of the organization who are willing to devote extra time and energy to I&D.
“We started during Covid,” recalls Edith, “so our worldwide online programme was perfect for this period as it was wholly virtual and helped foster new connections regardless of travel restrictions.”
Participants from all over the Group signed up for a program of seven days over seven months, centered around five online bootcamps where they tested out innovative approaches, building off the “viral effect” of the movement to develop and share new practices. “Individually through small-scale ‘sandbox experiments’, we can create a movement. And with a movement, we can create a huge culture shift ,” says participant Emily Hilton, Strategic Development Manager in Air Liquide Canada, explaining her motivation for joining. Florian Lampson, Group Internal Control Director, agrees: “It was an opportunity to learn a lot,” adding that he particularly valued “the culture of design thinking, of innovation that does not need to be fully perfect before it is tried out.”
Road-testing new ways of working
Using this communicative, collaborative approach, the Inclusion Movement set about looking for ways it could make everyday processes more inclusive and thus more effective. This search focused on five core areas: project & committee staffing, decision-making, meetings, communication channels, and informal touchpoints. In each area, groups ran sequential experiments and then shared what they learned. “We all have the power to promote inclusion and we shouldn’t underestimate the impact of even the smallest actions towards an environment promoting inclusion, diversity, and psychological safety,” explains participant Loredana Vid, Group Compensation & Benefits Manager. In meetings, for instance, this could be something as simple as allowing everyone to start by sharing their high and low points over the last week. This and other concepts developed by the Movement were then road-tested, experimented, and offered on an ideas marketplace made accessible to the whole Group.
33 experiments designed and run in several iterations testing different hypotheses and variables
Creating a culture of inclusion
“We understand how broad the theme of diversity is and how it can have different nuances in each country,” says Paula Ribeiro, Marketing and Development Manager at Air Liquide Brazil, explaining the rationale behind making a full range of ideas available, adding that “teamwork generates the energy needed to implement real and sustainable change.” For Group Continuous Improvement Leader Julien Sauveplane, this potential for Group-wide impact is a key factor. “I joined the Inclusion Movement because I am convinced that Inclusion is key to creating a welcoming work environment for all our employees, which helps us both in retaining our talents and boosting our performance,” he says, adding: “I want to promote it actively and also learn about (and fight!) my unconscious biases.”
This is where the Inclusion Movement has really taken off: by tying together the personal passion of its participants, as well as their professional development, with a design-thinking, cross-disciplinary approach, the project has generated genuinely innovative, tried-and-tested concepts - and the multipliers to propagate them across the Group. “It’s pleasing to see that the Inclusion Movement has developed lasting momentum,” summarizes Edith Lemieux. After all, one sign that Air Liquide has had success in promoting a culture of inclusion is when this culture takes on a life of its own.