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Case Study: ING Acts to Promote Diversity


For some organisations diversity is simply a means of complying with employment law and anti-discriminatory practices. However, ING Group - one of the world’s largest financial services organisations - believes that diversity management and an inclusive culture can contribute to long-term profitability as well.

Founded in 1991, ING Group manages banking, insurance and asset management activities across Europe, the Americas and Asia/Pacific. In the UK, its Wholesale Banking operation provides corporate and institutional banking and employs around 1,000 people.

Business rationale
ING is committed to equal opportunities and the avoidance of harassment and discrimination. It wants to ensure that its managers and staff follow the letter of the law and, as importantly, the spirit as well. However it also believes that a company whose management and employees reflect the customer base, and the societies in which it operates, is better positioned to understand and anticipate different customer needs.

“Social responsibility and diversity are now taken more seriously as issues for customers,” said Lideweij Bakker, HR manager at ING UK. “More and more, corporate and institutional clients want to do business with organisations which are good corporate citizens and which have high diversity standards.”

ING also believes that a range of experiences, opinions and perspectives helps to challenge preconceptions and creates a wider array of ideas and solutions that may not emerge from a more homogeneous staff group. In addition, it feels an inclusive culture - where employees feel valued and respected as individuals - increases overall employee satisfaction which in turn leads to greater motivation and productivity.

“Diversity is often portrayed negatively in the media but we wanted to raise awareness of the business benefits it can bring as well,” said Lideweij Bakker. “However we felt it would be very dull to just stand up and present this information. We thought drama-based training would provide a more entertaining way of getting our message across and making it memorable.”

ING contacted Steps Drama to discuss the idea of running a workshop.

“Steps worked closely with us and they tailor-made an awareness training workshop to meet our needs,” said Lideweij Bakker. “From the outset, they were very responsive and very professional.”

Steps developed a range of role plays which its professional actors could deliver, to highlight inappropriate and unwanted behaviour such as sexism, racism and bullying. The company also brought in a firm of employment law specialists to provide details of the relevant legislation on diversity.

Workshop format
The resultant workshop was initially piloted for 50 of ING’s top managers, at its London office. It was then delivered 23 times, with a maximum of 50 staff - from throughout the UK Wholesale Banking operation - attending each session.

Called The Diverse City, the three-hour workshop examines the moral, business and legal case for diversity. Combining input from the employment law specialists with high impact, humorous and interactive drama-based learning scenarios, it also includes a presentation on ING’s vision, initiatives and leadership involvement as well as the actual business reasons for diversity.

ING’s UK CEO usually opens the session and stresses the importance of the training. Professional actor-facilitators from Steps deliver the drama scenarios, in which they stop the action and ask the audience for suggestions of how to approach certain situations.

“The workshop provides a dynamic environment for raising issues,” said Lideweij Bakker. “The drama-based approach allows the delegates to engage in lively debate and to share best practice. The role-plays which the Steps actors undertake get the audience involved. Each session has a mix of staff with a range of job roles and this always results in a very good discussion not only about what went wrong in the role plays but what people should do in those situations.”

The workshop emphasises the scope of diversity and how it covers issues such as gender, age, nationality, religion, ethnicity, cultural background, physical abilities, education and sexual orientation. It summarises ING’s diversity objectives and initiatives and it highlights which senior managers are involved with the issue worldwide.

“The workshops received very positive feedback,” said Lideweij Bakker. “This is the first time we have used drama-based training and it has proved a very entertaining way to bring issues to life and get people involved. The combination of role plays and legal input worked very well.”

All staff in UK Wholesale Banking have now been through the training. However the workshop continues to run every three months as part of ING’s induction process for new employees.

Looking to the future
“Diversity is not just a one-off whim that you cover in a session and then forget about,” said Lideweij Bakker. “You have to embrace it as a business issue if you want to maintain and further develop your competitive advantage. The workshop has certainly achieved its objective of raising awareness of the benefits of diversity and the risks of non-diverse behaviour. It has given us an excellent platform on which to build.”


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