Diversity and
Empowerment in Action

INTERVIEW WITH LINDA WOLFF

"WE’VE HAD A NUMBER OF INSPIRATIONAL BREAKFASTS ABOUT DIVERSITY DURING THE LAST YEAR. ONE WAS ABOUT DIVERSITY AND LEADERSHIP, TO EMPHASIZE THE IMPORTANCE OF DIVERSITY AWARENESS, AND ANOTHER ABOUT THE POWER OF LANGUAGE, TO INCREASE AWARENESS OF DIFFERENT COMMUNICATION STYLES IN RELATION TO GENDER AND CULTURE."

We focus a lot on diversity, on building balanced teams. Our brands and our consumers are all over the world so we need to have people who can understand all their needs and drive business in all our markets. We prioritize diversity within our employee empowerment programs.” 

Linda Wolff is Human Resources Business Partner at The Absolut Company, responsible for work to engage employees, to enable them to thrive and grow in the workplace, and to contribute to the company’s sustainability work. Diversity – in terms of gender, age, nationality, background, leadership style, personality type and other attributes – is key to building creative teams. The structure of the work force is regularly measured and analysed. At the Absolut Company Headquarters there are around 230 employees, of which 58 percent are women. Even though the majority of employees are women, the distribution by gender at management level follows more conventional patterns, with 44 percent female leaders and 56 percent male leaders. 

“To get a balanced workforce it’s essential to focus on increasing the number of female managers. We’ve set an ambitious goal of having a 50/50 gender split among all managers by 2018, and we are very proud to report that by August 2016 we will have a 50/50 gender split in our Executive Committee. We also aim to be more diverse in other aspects, such as age, different backgrounds and nationality for example.” 

Recruitment processes have been developed to promote diversity. The company search for and try to attract candidates who will increase diversity within the organization. Furthermore, all employees are educated about diversity. “We’ve had a number of inspirational breakfasts about diversity during the last year. One was about diversity and leadership, to emphasize the importance of diversity awareness, and another about the power of language, to increase awareness of different communication styles in relation to gender and culture. This is certainly something that we need to learn more about.” 

Besides working for greater diversity, The Absolut Company also puts a lot of effort into improving the health and well-being of its employees. “We work together with a consultancy group that specializes in stress management. We contracted them for some specific cases, in which a few of our employees needed help with managing stress. 

We’ve now taken this a step further, and extended our cooperation with the consultancy, so that their services can be used more widely within the company.” 

A pilot project has been developed, in which a few selected co-workers will attend a course on responding to stressful situations. “Our ambition is of course to have a safe and healthy working environment, and we take a lot of measurements to check how we’re doing.” Every other year, all employees respond to a survey on how they experience the working environment and their work situations. The latest survey, in June 2015, showed progress in 9 out of 14 areas. 

“We are very happy to see that we have higher scores on empowerment and innovation compared to two years ago, as well as in comparison to other fast-moving consumer goods companies. Our employees clearly feel that they can grow and develop at work. This is one of our main focus areas, and it means a lot to us that we’ve managed to improve.” 

According to the survey, line managers’ availability, communication and ability to help their staff develop have also improved. Linda Wolff reports that the company has put a lot of effort into developing managers’ abilities in these areas, and she is very happy with the results. 
“Compared to other companies in the business, we have higher scores in the survey. We are proud of our work and what we have achieved so far. Even so, we can still do better.”

QUICK FACTS

  • The Absolut Company focus a lot on diversity, on balanced teams. Diversity – in terms of gender,
    age, nationality, background, leadership style, personality type and other attributes – is key to building creative teams.

  • The company has set a goal of having a 50/50 gender split among all managers by 2018.
    The company search for and try to attract candidates who will increase diversity within the organization.

  • Every other year, all employees respond to a survey on how they experience the working environment and their work situations. The latest survey, in June 2015, showed progress in 9 out of 14 areas.