Embracing a diverse workforce: Peter Leys

Diversity according to Peter Leys

This is the first of several interviews on the subject of diversity.  As a true believer of the value of diversity in the workplace, Undutchables would like to introduce you to some personal points of view concerning this subject and the role it plays in doing international business now and in the future.

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Name:  Peter Leys age  56

Current position : CEO of Intercare Ltd based in Dubai UAE

Family status : Married to Anne-Lie from Sweden , one daughter named Tess born in Switzerland, now living in Sweden.

Has lived and worked in: The Netherlands, The United Kingdom, Sweden, Switzerland and Dubai

What is Diversity in your opinion?

Diversity is all about being open to new ideas instead of being afraid of them. It is about embracing creativity instead of pushing it away or ignoring it. Many times it is beneficial to look at issues from different angles.  Almost all markets in which we do business today are diverse and multicultural. I believe that every business should be a reflection of their markets.

In my Unilever time I was very impressed by their slogan “The multi-local multinational”. It was actually one of the reasons for me wanting to work there. The history of Unilever made them realise the importance of diversity in their international markets.

Foto Peter Leys Small

What is your personal experience on the subject of Diversity?

I have actively recruited for diversity. When I worked in an international head office, I felt that it was important and beneficial to reduce the bias that we all have from our own culture. How can you decide for international markets when other international perspectives aren’t voiced in your company. At an executive level it is already quite common to consider international talents, but I seldom see businesses taking the step down towards middle management for example.

The Netherlands is a good example where you can find more enthusiasm for diversity, as the country has a relatively small domestic market, a large market outside their own and a long international trading heritage. But now almost all markets have international dimension and that is equally true for many companies in Sweden.

In order for diversity to work properly within organizations, international candidates must learn the local language. It is important that you show at least interest in the host country and its culture. You have to get rid of the “visitor” status, and that is something not all people do. It will also enrich your social life.

On the subject of external recruiting and diversity, my personal experience is very positive. Undutchables, in my opinion, understands and anticipates the international perspective of businesses both on a higher level and a middle management level. They find unexpected sources for talent but it requires an openness of the organization to invite candidates and to see the added value of these internationals. In my case it’s been a positive experience from beginning to end. 

How can you decide for international markets when other international perspectives aren’t voiced in your company.

Peter Leys

Why should Swedish companies embrace diversity and how can they see the added value of this?

Sweden and the Netherlands are alike in many ways. It is a constant tossing of a coin who comes up first in international rankings of what country has the highest standard of English as the second language.

Sweden has a very big and growing service industry and in my opinion, in a changing world economy the traditional manufacturing industries in Sweden will shrink. By its nature the service industry is more international and requires more interaction. Just being able to speak English is not enough. So this increases the need of diversity in organisations now and even more in the future. Just translating into English does not make you understand and interpret the small or big cultural differences in the world. The best companies that operate internationally have sensitivity for this in their genes, the genes of an organisation is their staff.

Sweden is currently going through a generation switch. We have an older generation that is perhaps more hesitant to take on the new challenges and give the youth of today the chance to take on a new role. There is a fear of it which I think isn’t necessary. The Swedish culture is great in many ways and I think the companies should cherish this, but you know what? They mix also very well.

Is there a necessity for Swedish businesses to use English as a company language?

I believe it depends on the area and level in which you work. If, for example, you work on a technical operating work floor, it’s understandable that you speak Swedish, as most of the people working there probably do. Then again, the Swedish “Fika” and “Friday Mingle” also work perfectly in the English

You have hired candidates from Undutchables in the past. Why, in your opinion, would you use Undutchables as a partner?

As said before, Undutchables delivers diversity in many ways. They work in another way by using a personal approach. This may take a little extra time from both candidates and companies but pays off very well in the end.

Undutchables can read CV’s in a different way.  The unique blend of qualities of a person is seldom directly visible in a CV. This is where the expertise of Undutchables comes in. They may propose a candidate who on paper did not match the written jobspec completely but offers qualities that are just right for the client. I’m very happy with the people we recruited with their help. Once Undutchables has surprised you with perhaps a less obvious candidate that proved to be a real gem, they will have gained your  trust for the next time you need staff. I do believe that this is the most important thing.

Thank you Peter for your willingness to share this information with us. To finish off,  is there anything else you would like to share with us?

I want to say to all the people who read this interview that Sweden is a great country to live in. The quality of life is wonderful. The balance of working and living is just right. There is respect and space for your personal choices and family life. Childcare for example is fully integrated within the working life. There is hardly any hierarchy, this makes working in Sweden very pleasant. If offered a position in this country or if you are seriously considering relocating, don’t hesitate!

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