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Sigrid Pedak: ADM’s great principle is ‘people first’

Photo: DSC_1027
Photo: DSC_1027

How have you defined the topic of diversity in your organisation?

ADM Interactive has supported diversity since its founding. That means that for over 20 years now, we have given priority consideration to people and their characteristics in everything we do. We have always supported diversity because we are convinced that it is an important factor in increasing employee satisfaction. And if our employees see that we actually care about them, then they are more motivated in turn.

Of course, in addition to ADM Interactive, we have been following this big principle of ours – people above all else – in ADM Group’s other businesses as well.

But if we look at the whole thing from a wider point of view, then we can see that supporting diversity and caring about people is very important in our society as a whole, not just in a handful of organisations. I believe that together with other diverse companies, ADM is making a significant contribution and exemplifying how a society that values each and every person within it should be created.

How is diversity managed in your company (you could talk more about who does it and how, what kind of processes you have in place)?

We use different tools for managing diversity, but it is important to note that any kind of a tool only becomes truly useful once a company’s culture and values are set in place.

One of our tools is the Gallup Employee Engagement method, which has been used as a base for creating various different tools that we are using on a daily basis. An example of one is the Gallup Q12 Employee Engagement Survey, which we use twice a year to measure the company’s work environment more broadly and which we can also use to figure out which topics are important to our people. And then we can conduct one-on-one conversations to really delve deeper into the individual’s level. We also use the Gallup CliftonStrengths strengths test, which we can use to find out people’s strengths and their potential to then place them in the right team that they can integrate with quicker and where they could play to their strengths in their work.

We use this test in our recruitment process as well as internally for managing and developing our people. We also follow this test up with one-on-one strength talks. Implementing these Gallup tools meant that we had to properly delve into the method’s background, participate in multiple training courses and even make some very specific structure changes. The result is that our employees are much more engaged, more motivated and their work is a lot more fruitful.

In addition to all the different tools, another important aspect to consider is the way the company itself is managed and how we communicate with our employees. Our board members and managers socialise with our employees a lot more and more often than the traditional bare minimum requires. Here at ADM, managers and employees meet face-to-face at least four times a year, both for conversations about their development and results as well as for Employee Engagement related meetings.

Additionally, once every three months, our employees are given a thorough overview of the company’s current situation and any activities that are ongoing as well as any plans and ambitions for the future. ADM’s employees are treated like owners at a general meeting who are given a report of where the board is investing the company’s resources and what they are contributing to. We get our employees involved in various stages by helping us work out new strategies, tactics, and processes. We are also open to receiving input from our teams and specialists regarding their wishes and suggestions. Thanks to our transparent management and involvement methods, our employees are satisfied and motivated even during periods of bigger change.

Please give 3 examples of practises/methods that have worked very well in your organisation and that you truly believe support the creation of a diverse and engaging environment.

  1. Initiative and support from the board, which in turn also means a management and communication style that supports diversity.
  2. Involving employees in how the company is run (by organising team and company-based meetings and development days as well as having everyone participate in working out new strategies and processes).
  3. We have set ourselves a clear goal of truly being an organisation that supports diversity, and we have a strategic plan for achieving that goal.

What do you believe is the key to managing diversity well?

There is no magical key for it because management consists of multiple important aspects. But one thing that is very important is the board’s attitude towards diversity. If the board values an employee as a person, not just their position, then they have already taken one important step. This is directly connected to focusing on the employees’ strengths, which in turn is dependent on the board’s way of thinking and how that affects the rest of the team. Although focusing on strengths “only” requires changing one’s way of thinking, it is nonetheless a long-term process during which you should also account for having to train your management (for example, according to the Gallup ideology, 70% of a team’s satisfaction rate is dependent on its team lead and the other 30% comes from the team’s own contribution) and any possible structure changes.

When implementing diversity, you should not ignore involvement, which is a key factor in designing an organisation’s culture. Managers who wish to see diversity must pay attention to all employees and involve those who would be affected when making any changes. Changes should not be made to fill quotas, because quotas do not actually increase diversity. In fact, they do the opposite! Usually, quotas are implemented when mistakes have been made in management up until that point. But instead of quotas, it is recommended to focus on management and its tools – the recruitment process, human resource management and internal communications.

Additionally, the communication style or how the managers talk to their employees is also very important – do they account for the different backgrounds, cultures, races, gender, and ages of their employees.

When managing changes, it is also important to have a plan ready and to understand that the organisation’s culture is led by all its employees, not just the board alone. That is why I would recommend assigning people bigger roles to play in supporting diversity and involvement when putting together this plan.

Which topics related to diversity and involvement will you be focusing on over the next couple of years?

Diversity and involvement are not just a temporary management style for us. Instead, both are part of our long-term strategy, and an obligation and responsibility the board has taken on for their current and future employees. Based on that, our biggest focus is on valuing our people and focusing on their strengths. To do that as best as we can, we will continue employing tools such as the Gallup Q12 Employee Engagement Survey and the CliftonStrengths strengths test, we will continue to educate new managers, to teach new and current employees about diversity, and we will develop communication plans for covering more diversity-related topics both within ADM and outside of it.

In your public communications, you have very strongly taken the direction of talking about diversity – why is that (publicly talking about these topics) important to you?

That is true – it is important to us and I am very glad to hear that it has been noticed. We are very proud of ADM’s diverse culture and strong values, and we believe that other organisations and society as a whole could all benefit from adopting a similar attitude. If our positive messages can reach a wider audience, then changes will take place a lot faster and, in the end, that will make Estonia a better country where everyone can feel good.

Why did ADM feel it was necessary to apply for the Diverse Workplace label and what did you gain from going through that process?

If all organisations considered having a diverse culture as an obvious thing to strive for and they valued people the way we do in ADM, then we would not even need any labels or awards. This year, the Estonian Human Rights Centre awarded the label to 32 companies. Meanwhile, there are more than 200 000 businesses registered in Estonia…

For us, the application process was quite simple on one hand (when we filled out the application form, we simply adhered to our values and talked about the activities we have done so far), but on the other hand, it was also a great opportunity to really think about everything we have done so far and to realise that even if we get the label, our work of supporting diversity is far from over.

We think of the “We Respect Differences” label as a sort of quality marker, which illustrates that the organisation that has received it is dedicated to supporting diversity and creating a better work environment and society through that. These are very important values that any future-oriented company and establishment should follow. If we are able to set and example to others and encourage them by having the label, then we will have fulfilled our main goal.

Sigrid Pedak
ADM Interactive
Head of Human Resources


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