5 minute read 24 May 2018
businesswoman meeting colleagues

Why new challenges need new minds


Nancy Altobello

Former EY Global Vice Chair – Talent

Created exceptional experiences for 250k+ people in 150+ countries. Passionate about building a better working world for the future of work.

5 minute read 24 May 2018

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As business rapidly transforms, so too should our approach to talent.

Contrary to conventional wisdom, great minds don’t always think alike.

In fact, great minds come in lots of different shapes and sizes. Now more than ever is the time to leverage these differences to drive innovation in tomorrow’s businesses.

New markets, new minds: the case for diversity

The value of new approaches is particularly evident when the world around us is transforming at an incredible pace.

New competitors emerge daily; new technologies continually redefine what we sell and how we interact with clients; and the emergence of new markets means those very customers have become an increasingly changing demographic. For businesses, finding new paths to innovation has become increasingly critical for long-term growth.

So, what better way to go about doing things differently than by applying different minds to new challenges?

New recruitment and development methods

Finding, retaining and developing culturally diverse talent can be challenging — especially within systems that have historically exhibited biases against various groups. If we don’t understand the challenges people from different backgrounds may face, how can we meet their needs and help them succeed?

However, new processes and technologies are allowing us to overcome these difficulties, and they are inspiring new approaches to recruitment.

For instance, we now have access to software platforms that can use games and machine learning to blind-test candidates, helping to remove unconscious biases from the recruitment and application process, and creating a more level playing field for people of all backgrounds.

Colleagues collaborating

We’re also leveraging new technology when it comes to performance reviews — to make the process more transparent and to provide an intuitive way for EY people to view their feedback and track their progress in real time by using mobile-enabled dashboards.

Broader perspectives

At EY, we’re also focusing on developing an open-innovation ecosystem by empowering a globally connected network of teams to develop ideas with a broader group of colleagues with different perspectives. We’re taking a direct, hands-on approach to accommodating diverse talent, and EY people are doing the same.

For example, the German Diversity Charter refugee support team — which in conjunction with Germany’s Charta der Vielfalt (Diversity Charter) — is helping refugees from around the world integrate into the workforce and build new lives in Germany.

Why? It’s the right thing to do — of course, but it also makes business sense. Forty-percent of the largest US companies were founded by immigrants or their children. In Canada, Australia and Germany, immigrants and refugees have had a higher rate of successful entrepreneurial endeavors than the native populations.

Another example where broader perspectives are driving business growth and innovation is our neurodiversity program.

People on the autism spectrum have an extraordinary capacity for pattern recognition and attention to detail, as well as strong mathematical and technical abilities that EY teams and clients need. That’s why EY and other leading organizations have created programs to hire individuals on the spectrum. Within the first month of EY’s neurodiversity pilot program in the US, technical training times were halved through process improvements identified by neurodiverse talent.

Not only do the refugee and neurodiversity programs meet critical business needs by adding new perspectives to EY teams, they also benefit society by addressing the broader employment challenges and pervasive inequality these groups often face.

More organizational diversity

Organizations themselves are changing, too. The organization of the past was a Darwinian creature — a self-contained entity engaged in a fight to the death with its commercial rivals, governed internally by a rigid managerial hierarchy.

But in a world of ever more extensive connectivity, and nearly continuous disruption, is this rigidity still the best option for survival?

What if growth in the future involved not just competition, but an increasing amount of cooperation? A future defined not by winning alone, but by ecosystems of stakeholders working together to build dynamic and exciting new futures, rather than isolated competitors engaged in a winner-takes-all struggle?

This approach asks for a diversified set of stakeholders and an operational openness toward working with former competitors. But it also asks for a greater flexibility in allowing a diverse range of voices to spread through an organization and putting in place the talent management structures that promote these voices — young and old, male and female, and culturally plural.

Boards and leadership teams can contain some of the best corporate minds on the planet. But any organization that wants to best serve the widest range of markets would do well to solicit the most culturally diverse set of voices to help guide and shape innovation.

Diversity pays: the evidence

These are all noble sentiments. But do they really pay off?

The evidence says yes. Again and again, studies are finding correlations between greater levels of diversity and higher levels of performance across multiple metrics.

Companies with women at the top were worth around $40 million more than their all male-led peers, according to an analysis of the S&P Composite 1500. Boards with a female composition of 30% or more could add up to 6% to their profit margins, according to the Peterson Institute for International Economics.

The same goes for internal measures of success. Teams that rated highly for diversity and inclusivity reported 57% better team collaboration, 19% better retention rates, were 45% more likely to improve market share and were 70% more likely to find success in new markets.

The picture is clear — businesses that place a higher value on diversity are more profitable, more dynamic and more cohesive. This is why leading organizations are already starting to act, with a growing number of firms seeking to collaborate to drive new thinking.

Leading by example

At EY, we’re proud to put ourselves consistently at the forefront of diversity and inclusivity drives. And we’ve been recognized for this as well. In 2017 we ranked first place in DiversityInc’s top 50 companies for diversity list, and have also been inducted into their Hall of Fame.

But laurels aren’t for resting on — they’re for spurring us on to better things. There’s still much work to be done. At current rates, it will still take business more than 200 years to achieve full gender parity in the workplace.

“Together we can do it” isn’t just a platitude — only by harnessing everybody’s diverse backgrounds, experiences and differences will we be able to confront the challenges of the coming years. Let’s get to it.


To face future challenges, businesses need to harness everybody’s diverse backgrounds, experiences and differences.

About this article


Nancy Altobello

Former EY Global Vice Chair – Talent

Created exceptional experiences for 250k+ people in 150+ countries. Passionate about building a better working world for the future of work.