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HR Manager: Diversity is a prerequisite for innovation

Semco Maritime actively recruits employees across nationalities, cultures, genders and age groups. Photo: Morten Fog


Birgit Bech Jensen


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At Semco Maritime, diversity in the workforce is crucial for innovation and product development. Therefore, they work actively to recruit across nationalities, cultures, genders and age groups.

At the Danish headquarters of Semco Maritime, you have a fantastic view of Esbjerg city and Esbjerg Harbour on one side, and the Wadden Sea on the other. But if you turn your back on the view, not many indicators suggest that you are visiting a Danish company. The corporate language is English, the employees originate from different ethnicities and the canteen serves food from all over the world – also for those who eat vegetarian or have other food preferences.

Here, diversity and inclusion are key words for the entire organization – from recruitment and onboarding to the daily processes and social events.

– Diversity is quite important to us as an organization and company. Especially regarding product development. We don’t have a huge innovation department, so idea generation is carried out across the organization.  And this requires that we have a diversity of employees so that we reflect the society which we are a part of. This is crucial for us in order to develop new products and services,” explains Thomas Nagbøl Mejlgård, Senior Vice President of the People, Brand & Sustainability department at Semco Maritime.

Therefore, we are committed to ensuring that our employees represent different educational backgrounds, nationalities, ethnicities, ages and cultures.

Thomas Nagbøl Mejlgård

Senior Vice President, Semco Maritime

A battle against hidden biases

In practice, this means, among other things, that Semco Maritime has tried to minimize hidden biases that might have an impact on the recruitment process.

– We are very aware of the biases which can work against diversity. We must look at the competences and not at finding someone who is similar to us. Therefore, applicants should not sent us a picture or state their age. We do our best to make the CV as neutral as possible, states the HR manager, who has also considered diversity and inclusion regarding the content of the job advertisement.

– After all, some words are more oriented towards a particular gender or profile. Consequently, we consider very much how we describe the job. Do we appeal to all genders and do we appeal to both young and old? This is becoming increasingly important. Job advertisements and other external communication are often how the candidates first “meet” with company. And here are some undisclosed potentials that we haven’t fully investigated yet, he says.

Where do we want to go?

Furthermore, in the recruitment process the company focuses on minimizing hidden biases which might impact the recruitment process.

– It’s hard to compare candidates to each other like that, and neither should we. We need to consider which way we want to go as a company. With regard to this, which candidate fits best? And how do we succeed in this? This might require a different onboarding than we are used to, because the candidate has a different cultural background. We are very aware of the intercultural differences regarding whether a candidate is from, for example, Denmark, Norway or Chile, says Thomas Nagbøl Mejlgård, for whom the diversity focus is not limited to full-time employees only.

Being a diverse organization also presupposes that we employ apprentices, young workers, students, trainees. And we must also have room for those who are less ready for work. We need to create a framework in which they can become successful

Thomas Nagbøl Mejlgård

Senior Vice President, Semco Maritime

Inclusion and flexibility are keywords

It is one thing to talk about recruitment. The everyday life, the working environment and the social environment at work is quite another. And here, inclusion and flexibility are among the most important keywords according to the HR manager.

– Working environment is also important in terms of diversity – and we are still learning how to do it right. For example, when we offer employees the opportunity to work from home, we provide better opportunities to harmonise their career and family life. In this way, we can attract and keep the employees who appreciate it. Furthermore, working from home means that we can recruit from other places in the world. You don’t necessarily have to live within a driving distance of the office. It is very healthy for the organization, both from a competence and a cultural perspective, Thomas Nagbøl Mejlgård points out, who, however, is still aware of the need to meet face-to-face:

– On the other hand, for some employees the social and physical interaction is rather important. Consequently, we try to harmonise the preferences regardingly in order to create a working environment which benefits everyone.

Requires meeting between generations

In this harmonising exercise, age – in addition to personality and personality types – plays a major role. Because young people possess completely different expectations for their workplace than those who have been in the labour market for the last 20-30 years.

– We know that it is crucial for psychological well-being to be part of a community which is not only all about customers and work tasks. And in this respect, we experience differences between generations. The young are generally more used to social interaction through a screen, while the older generations are used to meeting face-to-face. At the same time, the young people have an expectation that they can challenge the company and ask questions about the way we do things. And in order for us to be successful, we need to make ends meet, he emphasizes.