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Cultural diversity as a key to success for creative, new and innovative ideas

Since 2001, UNESCO has been celebrating the World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development on 21 May. At Beiersdorf, the Global Procurement Marketing department lives it 365 days a year. People with 17 different nationalities are part of the team. What does that mean and how does international cooperation work? We talked about this with Director Global Procurement Marketing & Media Nelli Louloudi, as well as with Federico Caro Valero, Procurement Creative Manager, and Procurement Media Manager Victor John Mendoza – known as VJ. 

Has lived and worked in Hungary, the USA and Germany: Nelli Louloudi, Director Global Procurement Marketing & Media.

Nelli, could you describe to our readers what your responsibilities are?

Nelli: As internal partners, we are involved in all strategic marketing decisions worldwide and are responsible for around 70 per cent of Beiersdorf’s global marketing spend. We have a wide range of tasks starting with the development of transformation strategies and extends to agency selection. We review the entire value chain and take on various roles, including project manager, strategist, innovation driver and risk manager. We have in-depth market knowledge, are well connected worldwide and bring all stakeholders to the table. Our goal is long-term cooperation with innovative agencies and partners who are able to implement our strategic goals on the global scale. This requires an international mindset and a corresponding background.

To what extent does cultural diversity help a company?

Nelli: Overall, I am convinced that a diverse and inclusive team is the key to success for visionary and innovative ideas. Our culture, our personal and professional experiences influence the way we see the world. When different points of view meet, it is not only inspiring, but also leading to higher engagement and better quality. Procurement is a good example because we operate globally. Of course, it is advantageous when different market knowledge comes together in a team and you can better understand the reaction of a counterpart in negotiations, for example, because you understand the other person’s culture.

Victor John Mendoza – known as VJ – appreciates the very different personalities in the team and the multitude of cultural insights.

What advantages does cultural diversity bring to everyday teamwork?

VJ: It definitely promotes a special team culture, because you learn to adapt well and quickly to other perspectives and ways of working. We are very different personalities and bring a variety of cultural insights with us. That invites us to think openly. With us, team discussions are always interesting and lively. 

Federico: I can only confirm that. Our discussions often lead to more creativity, which ultimately leads to better output. 

Nelli: You might think that a diverse team needs more time to come to a solution. The opposite is right. The truth is that multiple options give us the opportunity to quickly find the best way to decide and act.

What does it take to successfully lead an intercultural team?

Nelli: I have been leading Procurement Marketing for ten years and from the beginning I had the vision to setup a diverse team with a broad range of expertise. Achieving this makes me proud. But it has been a longer journey. It takes time, openness and tolerance, new ways of thinking and flexibility. My leadership team and I have to act as a role model and create togetherness so that everyone feels accepted and valued. Listening to the team is an important basis. We also try to lead with our heart. Certainly not always perfect, but authentic and with common values. For us, these are passion, care and trust. The fact that we work well as a team is visible in the current pandemic. It’s great to see how team members support each other - both professionally and emotionally.

In order to avoid misunderstandings, Federico Caro Valero always deals with the cultural background of his counterpart in advance.

What are the challenges associated with cultural diversity?

Federico: Of course, there are aspects to be aware of when working with colleagues from other cultures. Sometimes facial expressions or small gestures can lead to uncertainty. In order to avoid misunderstandings, I deal with the cultural background of my counterpart in advance. Being respectful and curious has always helped me to learn new things about other cultures and also to build friendships.

VJ: I myself am a native of the Philippines and found it challenging at first to adjust to different ways of working and perceptions of professional etiquette. This includes communication styles that I had to get used to. For example, people from Asia tend to be conservative and reserved in the way they express their opinions, whereas Europeans are straightforward and direct.

Federico (laughs): That’s true. As a Spaniard, I am very passionate and emotional. Working with colleagues from other cultures has taught me to adapt my way of communicating without losing my authenticity.

Can intercultural cooperation be learned?

Nelli: As Federico and VJ said, openness and mutual respect are important prerequisites for overcoming the challenges that come with cultural diversity. It is important to communicate transparently and a lot. To make sure you understood what was meant, it’s better to ask once more. We support intercultural understanding through empathy and appreciation.

From Argentina to Australia: 17 different nationalities pulled together in Global Procurement Marketing & Media.

Federico and VJ, what things have you adopted from others that are rather unusual in your culture?

Federico: Here in Spain, it’s very unusual to eat lunch before 2 pm. Since I started working at Beiersdorf, I’ve been going to the canteen with my German colleagues as early as 12 o’clock. It might sound a bit strange, but I like it!

VJ: In the Philippines, we work a lot of overtime - even when it’s not necessary. Especially when working with colleagues from Europe, I have learned a lot about the importance of a good work-life balance. In Germany, people work very focused and hard, which leads to higher productivity. Most people value their time, and so calendars are well maintained and schedules are adhered to. For me, it has definitely been a welcome way to benefit and embrace myself.

How has intercultural collaboration enriched you personally?

VJ: I think it has made me a more well-rounded and positive person. My experiences have ensured that I am more open-minded today. My cultural awareness has grown and I have more understanding of other perspectives.

Federico: It’s similar for me. Having the opportunity to learn fascinating things from different parts of the world and make close friends has made me much more open-minded than before.

Nelli, what tip would you give to others?

Nelli: You have to get away from stereotypes and also celebrate diversity. In our team, there are not only people from different cultures, but also with different age groups, lifestyles or working models such as job sharing. There is never just one right way; everyone contributes as individuals. The differences make us valuable and special. When you realize this, cultural diversity is a huge gift.

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Diana Lühmann

About the editor: Diana Lühmann

Since autumn 2019, Diana has been responsible for corporate communication related to HR and inspiring people at Beiersdorf. These include the areas of Diversity, Learning & Development, Career, Leadership, and Health. Previously, she was in charge of R&D Communications and explored the exciting world of our research and development.