May 19, 2024

How Diverse Leadership Teams Boost Innovation

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…by Enitan Oyenuga, HR Director, Jumia Nigeria

As the business landscape continues to evolve, it’s becoming increasingly clear that diversity and inclusion are not just buzzwords but essential elements for success. Every company needs a leadership team that understands and connects with customers from different backgrounds to deliver the best possible service. Today, companies are scrutinising their leadership teams on various criteria beyond education and experience, and having a diverse leadership team has become a necessity to build a successful business that resonates with customers worldwide.


Importance of Leadership Diversity
In the workplace, diversity encourages inclusiveness, which fosters innovation. It welcomes and respects the diverse background of each employee. It also creates a positive, supportive, and respectful working environment that encourages all employees to engage and participate freely. The importance of diversity is perhaps well displayed by a quote from Justin Trudeau, the Prime Minister of Canada, “Diversity is the engine of invention; it generates creativity that enriches the world.”


A recent study conducted by McKinsey & Company found that companies with diverse leadership teams are 33% more likely to outperform their competitors in terms of financial performance. Moreover, they are also more likely to be innovative and adapt to changes in the market.


In addition, diversity is not simply a matter of creating a heterogeneous workforce but using it to create innovative products, services, and business practices that can set a company apart and give it a competitive advantage in the marketplace. By fostering diversity in the workplace, we are bringing together various perspectives, experiences, and ideas. When people from different backgrounds and cultures work together, they are more likely to approach problems and opportunities from different angles, which can lead to creative and innovative solutions.


A business culture that welcomes and supports employees with various perspectives is bound to boost problem solving and increase productivity. Consequently, to benefit from workplace diversity, inclusion must be integrated deeply into its culture. This holds for leadership positions just as much as for entry and mid-level ones.


How Jumia Nigeria is Enabling Diversity
At Jumia Nigeria, we prioritise diversity and inclusion in all aspects of our business. Over the years, we have implemented policies and practices to ensure everyone in our organisation is treated fairly, feels valued and supported. This is evident across our employee lifecycle from hiring through to exit.


At Jumia, one of our core values is letting the best people and ideas grow. As such, our hiring process is open and transparent ensuring all employees are aware of and have access to all available opportunities. As an example, we have recently introduced 1-minute videos where hiring managers talk about their vacancies and invite applications from employees.


Similarly, our training and development opportunities are open to all employees, regardless of their background or experience.


At Jumia Nigeria, we want to be a place where people can bring their best selves without fear of discrimination, where they feel like they belong and are an important part of the team. Providing safe spaces for employees to connect with each other and share feedback are some ways we achieve this; leveraging platforms like our Jumia Women’s Network, informal team events, town halls and HR roadshows.


Our diversity and inclusion focus also requires that we reflect the incredibly diverse markets we serve. Our diversified clientele includes a substantial percentage of women as buyers and sellers. According to the IFC 2021 report on Women and E-Commerce in Africa, over 50% of our vendors are women entrepreneurs. Giving women visible platforms and opportunities is, therefore, a no-brainer. Building a company that sets the bar for advancing female visibility is essential for us. We are implementing these measures because Nigeria offers great opportunities to reduce this gap.


We are actively tracking gender diversity at Jumia, but we also understand that diversity is much more than this. Our ambition is to promote an inclusive culture that fosters a sense of belonging while boosting productivity.


Conclusion
Despite the many benefits of diverse leadership teams, many organisations still struggle to achieve diversity in their leadership ranks. This may be due to unconscious biases or a need for more diversity in the talent pipeline. To change this trajectory, organisations must be intentional in seeking out diverse candidates and creating an inclusive culture that values differences and provides equal opportunities for all.

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