In the last couple of decades, we’ve seen the forces of digital transformation touching many aspects of our lives in Latin America. Technology changes how we live, play and work based on unprecedented innovation. This in turn has leveled the playing field for businesses of all sizes in the region, as they seek to disrupt their industries in the digital economy. From startup companies that were born digital, to longstanding enterprises that have re-imagined their business models to better compete, this pressing business reality calls for clear strategies plus a strong focus on maintaining a supportive, authentic environment that will increase employee engagement to drive success.

It’s no secret that a highly committed, engaged, diverse workforce is a strategic component to organizations’ ability to innovate, understand their customers, outperform the competition and maximize employee productivity. In fact, 85 percent of enterprises in a study by Forbes, agreed that workforce diversity results in the most innovative ideas.

Time and time again, it has been demonstrated that a CEO’s commitment to diversity and inclusion is much more than a cultural “nice to have” or a performance indicator for human resources departments. There is tangible business value to an inclusive workplace: Gallup has revealed that inclusion in the workplace can drive nearly 40 percent higher customer satisfaction, while a study from McKinsey & Company has demonstrated that gender diverse management teams can generate 48 percent higher operating margins.

A new study from workplace consulting firm Mercer stated that gender parity in Latin America at the professional level and above, may lead the world by 2025. It is expected that by then, women professionals in the region will occupy nearly half of all professional and managerial roles. At SAP Latin America & Caribbean (LAC,) we are focused on steadily growing our percentage of women in management positions. In the last two years our region has been ahead the curve, surpassing a 25 percent global objective for women in management positions at SAP by the year 2017.

Serving customers best as a diverse organization requires commitment from every level of the organization –not only senior executives, or the HR organization. SAP relies on Employee Network Groups as the backbone of our diversity and inclusion programs. These groups, formed entirely by employees, create a supportive environment where everyone can be themselves, and are at the heart of how we run as a company.

The level of engagement of these groups in SAP Latin America is quickly growing: The Business Women’s Network groups launched four years ago and have already garnered more than 600 members across the region, with a focus on advancing gender intelligence. The Pride@SAP, focused on LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender) Equality Employee Network Group, counts on 20% of our employee base in the region, one of the highest participation rates at our company.

SAP diversity focus includes hiring differently-abled people affected by disorders belonging to the autism spectrum. Four employees in Brazil hired through the company’s Autism at Work program, work as software developers, helping to create new solutions and advance innovation for our customers. We are extending this important program to other LAC countries, with new employees joining early next year.

Whenever I share SAP’s experiences embracing diversity and inclusion with business and community leaders, there is consensus on the need to advance this topic in the region, with an overwhelming response that it makes perfect business sense. Only with the energy and passion of a diverse workforce can we strive for a more human, responsive enterprise that is uniquely qualified to deliver value to employees, customers, partners and society at large.

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