Dutcham Embracing the Business Benefits of Cultural Diversity

Conferences

Anikó Kis (right), diversity and inclusion officer at Abacus Medicine, and Zsuzsanna Tóth, HR director, ING Hungary & CEE.

A recent Netherlands-Hungarian Chamber of Commerce (Dutcham) event on the business benefits of cultural diversity, hosted by ING Bank and supported by the Dutch Embassy, covered a broad range of corporate challenges and best practices. The chamber says this topic is especially relevant for Dutcham, a vibrant business community that “melts” cultures.

“We were interested to learn how a company can benefit from encouraging an open, inclusive culture where differences are appreciated,” Dutcham said in a press release.

In her welcome, Katinka Zinnemers, managing director of Abacus Medicine and chair of Dutcham, highlighted that embracing diversity can be both rewarding and challenging and that differences can bind us.

She says she is a good example: a Dutch citizen working for a Danish company in Hungary as the sole foreigner on the team.

Andrea Bujdoso, executive coach and member of the Dutcham board.

Dutch Ambassador Désirée Bonis said that diversity is a goal that can bring justice to the people. A diverse mindset supports profit growth and raises productivity while establishing a good working atmosphere at the same time.

The Netherlands promotes this idea in various ways, such as engaging women in male-dominated areas like industrial design, just to name an example, the ambassador said.

Another big area is healthcare, where a workforce of diverse cultural backgrounds can help in communication with international patients.

Katinka Zinnemers, managing director of Abacus Medicine and chair of Dutcham.

Diversity Impact

Why does cultural diversity matter, and how does it impact innovation and performance in the workplace? This was the main topic of the keynote presentation delivered by Andrea Bujdoso, an executive coach and member of the Dutcham board.

She presented statistical data and case studies on the advantages of diverse thinking. Research shows that diverse thinking supports innovation and directly impacts company advantage and economic growth.

A panel discussion moderated by Robert Wagner, managing director of Philips Hungary and another Dutcham board member, led a lively conversation with representatives from across chamber member companies.

“In the current age of globalization and social mobility, individuals from different cities, countries, regions, ages, genders and socio-economic backgrounds converge across many social settings,” Wagner said, kicking off the discussion.

Robert Wagner, managing director of Philips Hungary and Dutcham board member.

“The workplace is one such social setting, and diversity, in all its shapes and forms, becomes a characteristic part of the workforce. We aim to understand the impact of cultural diversity on our daily work-life and would also like to share good practices,” he explained.

Krisztina Horváth, head of HR at FrieslandCampina EMEA SSC, having worked for international shared services centers over the past 20 years, has gained vast experience in this topic. She says what drives her is the vibe and the constant learning about different cultures. She argued this is something with which people in an organization can connect. It can be embedded into daily operations via community hubs and language fairs, just to name two examples.

Dutch Ambassador Désirée Bonis.

Self-awareness Essential

Sona Lasikova, head of culture and development at NN Hungary, confirmed that career development and mobility opportunities support creating a diverse pool. Their company cooperation with Refugee Talent HUB in the Netherlands was one best practice she shared. Self-awareness is essential to cope with biases, so constant communication is crucial. Hopefully, geographical borders will disappear for the new generation, and they will refer to each other simply as “my colleague,” Lasikova said.

Nikos Zois, the managing director of Heineken Hungary, said that since creativity and diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) are connected, it drives problem-solving and collaboration. Society is diverse and the company culture should reflect that. Cultural training is essential before starting a career abroad, but only a “cultural landing” will give the true impression.

To underline his point, he told personal experiences gained in several countries. “The enjoyment of life is a natural bond among people, so a food fair displaying national dishes can bring colleagues closer together,” he added.

Anikó Kis, diversity and inclusion officer at Abacus Medicine, said it takes a leader to foster establishing DEI within the organization, who in their case was Katinka Zinnemers, but it is now implemented in the global organization.

Dutch and Danish best practices are slowly being implemented in the Hungarian operation with great success since they are successfully overcoming the frustration colleagues often have at the start.

Zsuzsanna Tóth, HR director, ING Hungary & CEE, proudly highlighted that four generations are working together at the bank. In the local management team, men and women are equally represented. The lender is working on making the CEE region more attractive to colleagues from Western countries via the STA talent exchange program.

The panelists agreed that the stronger the corporate culture is within an organization, the less diversity tension is found. Integration across multicultural teams can be complex in the face of prejudice, negative cultural stereotypes or different understandings of professional etiquette. But steps can be taken to address these challenges and turn them into drivers.

Dutcham is grateful to the Netherlands Embassy for supporting the event.

This article was first published in the Budapest Business Journal print issue of June 16, 2023.

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