Description of the Problem:
Infineum is a global powerhouse in the fuel additives industry. It was started in 1999 by a joint venture between Exon Mobil and Royal Dutch Shell. The company sells additive products for automotive oil, heavy-duty oil, diesel oil, marine engine oil, diesel fuel, and specialty applications such as transmission fluid and gas engine oil. It is in seventy countries, including the US, China, Singapore, and the United Kingdom. In 2012 the company expanded into the Asia-Pacific (AP) region targeting key economic places with large populations, namely China, Japan, India, and Singapore. It enabled the company to be a world-class leading one with a global supply chain, multicultural business teams, and the ability to conduct business in one language. The AP region now serves as a strong priority for the company. However, after entry into the region, the company encountered difficulties. To sustain its relevance in the region amidst competitors, the company had to change its working culture into a more diverse one. In 2009 the company made diversity a core strategic developmental goal enacted through the inclusion and diversity program. This program aimed to foster a work culture where the company would include more work and management team diversity and encourage cooperation (Wu et al., 2021).
The program saw little success due to management inconsistencies, as some leaders embraced the move while others did not. In 2012, the company wanted to change the status quo and raise the bar for I&D initiatives. They started offering workshops, town hall meetings, and setting up a company intranet. The first step of the inclusion criteria was to include more diverse women in the company workforce and management to spread feminine ideas into the workspace. They set a goal to make women account for 25 percent of the senior management in 2020.
The company stakeholders include:
- Trevor Russell: who has been CEO since 2016
- Andrea Isaiah: who is the global talent and learning manager and executive I&D sponsor
- Nicola Pickup: who is the business transformation direction and also an executive I&D sponsor
- John Hong: who is the sales director for the AP region and another executive I&D sponsor employees
- Two executive sponsors
- Local I&D champions
An I&D champion is an employee that voluntarily advocates for the I&D program; the executive I&D sponsors are a group of senior management who value and promote the I&D initiative (Wu et al., 2021).
- HR Options
Even though the company seems set on track to reaching its I & D goals, it faces some challenges. First, they still needed to reach 75 percent inclusion measures despite aiming for 100 percent. Secondly, they decided not to enforce the I&D program as a quota for fear of forcing it on the employees and, as such, could not measure its effectiveness. Thirdly the company has set a new goal of achieving 33 percent 2025 female senior management with the flawed idea of adding another percentage annually. It is an incorrect assumption since they will only have reached 30 percent by the projected time, indicating a flaw in their planning. Fourth, in Asia, the company struggled to network employees in Infineum’s Singapore plant and offices and failed dismally in reaching their I&D goals which are yet to be resolved. Lastly, they need to ensure employees work together and embrace I&D to keep the momentum going so the project pays off, as it is a long-term endeavor that costs resource investment in the short term (Wu et al., 2021).
- Changing the recruitment culture.
This solution is meant to help keep the momentum of the program going. The executive I&D sponsors could advocate recruiting more I&D champions into the program. As more people join, the I&D goal gets closer and increases the program’s longevity. They could also recruit and add more members to the executive I&D sponsors or even rotate the ones there to strive for inclusivity and diversity. Money is an important motivator as it is the main reason for work. The newly trained volunteers could get paid money for their services or receive a recognition award to encourage I&D adoption.
- Hold People Accountable
Employees in the firm should always be accountable. For instance, the company had decided to focus on an inclusivity and diversity program but still needed to encounter bottlenecks. Leaders opposed to the move had brushed it off and created a culture where employees would imitate their bosses. Enforcing accountability measures to the top brass might help channel the company into its intended working culture. Leaders could, for instance, be demoted or financially fined for not promoting the working culture. The move will force them to employ diversity measures in the company by focusing efforts on the few who lead the majority of the workforce. Employees also need to be held accountable for not embracing such changes. They should be fired if they fail to conform to the new working culture. For instance, employees who regularly oppose the move to include diverse people or often harbor racial sentiments should be fired from the company. Employees who also fail to attend workshops should face stern action for failing to align with the company goal of diversity and inclusion.
- Have Different Division Leaders
Leadership ethnicity should also be taken into consideration. At Infineum, leadership is majorly foreign nationals. They have an interest in maintaining the status quo since it benefits them. However, it must align with the company’s goal of forming an inclusive and diverse working space. Leaders from the region should be added to the team to ensure that the company meets its targets. Ethnically diverse leaders might be inclined to employ more of their own because they understand the working culture of the area. These leaders also help transition the company to a co-existing working culture with foreign and local values. It would help generate a healthy, diverse, and inclusive working culture.
- Do Nothing.
The company can also opt to do nothing. However, this road is detrimental to the future success of the region. Cost is the largest factor, as the company would be forced to employ foreign nationals to keep up with production. Foreign nationals are more expensive than Asian-Pacific locals due to differing GDPs. Secondly is an international outcry and public pressure. The company will likely attract the public’s attention for refusing to be more inclusive and diverse. It might affect the company’s sales as people might boycott their products in defiance of the culture. Thirdly is government regulation. Governments in the region might force the company to employ its people or face fines. Governments are entitled to think about the prosperity of their people, and if Infineum is making a profit in the region, it could benefit their people with jobs. Fourth, the company is likely to experience fighting. Should both sides of leadership refuse to embrace I&D, they will likely cause an internal collapse in the company. It is due to conflicting management and leadership systems, which causes inefficiency and reduces productivity. Refusing to change the company culture might result in the company’s eventual collapse.
- Centralizing leadership.
The company should employ the use of a central system. At the center of the hierarchy is the Head Inclusion and Diversity leader, who leads all the other divisions. A central leader is crucial in decision-making. As the overall head, it is their duty and responsibility to steer the company towards its goals. A central leader might help make the tough decisions that need to be made to ensure everything goals according to plan. They can also employ creative measures to help solve problems, such as using Zoom meetings to end the difficult commute between the Singapore plant and office teams. It is especially crucial when problems and solutions are difficult to find. A leader ensures they try their all to meet their goals and targets. They will ensure all the problems and decisions for the company are made accordingly.
- Leaders as Coaches
Leaders can coach the team. The leader can be chosen on a merit system with them attributing the best skillset in inclusion and diversity. They can be experts or professionals with specific skills in managing inclusion and diversity programs. They can be hired to coach the team on how to enact the program. Their knowledge and experience will help guide the team as they transition to the new working culture. For instance, the leader can help embrace female leadership by promoting and coaching them on their duties. They may help navigate problems and challenges that a new team might need help to achieve and fast-track the process of inclusion and diversity.
- Agents of Motivation
Leaders are also important in motivating employees. The leader can help find ways to motivate their employees to achieve the company goal. It can include providing financial incentives to the team that achieves their goals and punishing those who do not. Money can help nurture a culture of striving to achieve I&D. Team members who also go to workshops can continue earning money in absentia encouraging more people to take up the program. Workers who complete the program can be given rewards such as certificates to help raise their value in the company and the market. The leaders can also find interesting ways of motivating employees, such as offering international paid workshops. The advantages of traveling to different countries will motivate team members to embrace the program.
- Champions of Communication.
At Infineum, communicating the company’s goals could have been improved as different factions opposed it. Lack of communication creates stress, reduces morale, and delays projects. A centralized leader can act as the neutral party in re-establishing communication. They could chair meetings with the rival teams and understand the problem. They can also bring up group discussions to air out the issues so that everyone understands the challenges. Providing information will help cooperate among the team members since everyone is in the know. The leader can promote communication by linking division heads to build friendly working relations.
Infineum’s inclusion and diversity goal is in danger of failing. It failed to meet the seventy-five percent inclusion threshold despite targeting 100 percent. However, several options can reduce or even reverse the effects of the failure. These include holding people accountable, creating a division head, changing the recruitment culture, or doing nothing. Appointing a new division head is the solution that will have the most impact. The leader can help establish communication, find ways of motivating employees, coach and guide the team, and is crucial in setting the plan and decision-making. If Infineum implements the idea, it will likely meet its goal of full inclusion and diversity (I&D).
Wu, P. C., Thoo, J. & Koh, H. T. (2021). Infineum: Creating an Inclusive Working Environment. Singapore: Ivey Publishing. (Teaching Note: 9B21C037).