As Senior Sourcing Manager at Alexander Mann Solutions in Poland, Pawel Hajduk works in an office where over 80 per cent of his colleagues are female. He discusses gender diversity and difference - and what he has learned from this experience.
Working with women and being managed by women is not unusual for me. Previously I worked with ManpowerGroup, which had a strong gender diversity profile at country leadership level. However, when it comes to diversity nothing compares to my experience at Alexander Mann Solutions (AMS).
Here, over 80 per cent of my 1200 colleagues in Poland are women. I used to work in small offices of 10-12 employees, but now I share an office with around 600 women, at all levels.
Working in a predominantly female environment has been an inspiring and sometimes eye-opening experience. Firstly, I’ve found there’s to be a more nurturing environment, which is not to say women aren’t as competitive as men - but the support of female co-workers feels more outward.
However, this very much depends on the company culture in general. I have worked in offices full of women that have been driven by constant anxiety - but here in AMS, the office is driven by the collaborative spirit. The key word here is emotions though - the entire office wellbeing depends on the right – and consistent - emotional message from the leadership.
I have also found that women inspire and motivate employees in the workplace in a very different way to men. As men, our way, typically, is much more short-term. It is oriented toward completing a task and moving on, with much more emphasis on the bottom line.
I find that women understand and read others’ emotions and can appeal to their unique needs more effectively, enabling them to perform better. Understanding that requires time and I am very impatient – but this has in fact been the biggest influence on my own style of leadership since I have been here.
AMS is a learning organisation and change management is part of my job description. My role as a leader has evolved over time from being operationally responsible from a people and performance standpoint into a more consultative and insight-led one, with more pastoral responsibilities within it.
As a leader, I think it’s difficult to learn how challenge bias in your management style and a skill you constantly have to work at: to identify and reconcile all of the requirements and strengths coming from your team, whether male or female.
My team is incredibly diverse, both in gender and skillset, with members that range from ex-military personnel to psychotherapists. I am always aware that there is nothing more sustainable for the business than learning how to properly manage that rich mix of talent and experience.
The values of AMS – being authentic, distinctive, passionate and brave – are what we call our “DNA”, and these have been strongly and coherently embedded in our local environment by Jola Gantkowska [Director of Operations in Poland] over last 13 years as we have built our presence here in Poland.
This has resulted in a unique working culture where values are lived in the workplace and this authenticity and integrity of business culture is something I haven’t really experienced before in my professional life.
At the beginning of my journey with AMS, I was interviewing candidates for my team and I remember being irritated by the answers that assumed that one of the biggest drivers to join was that we are well-known for fostering life-work balance, flexibility and a family-friendly environment.
I have learned over time though that this approach can not only be easily absorbed by a high-performance organisation like Alexander Mann, but it also actively contributes to our success. At a time when organisations are focused on modern working environments and how they can address generational and market change, enhancing this flexibility has resulted in increased retention of female employees within the company.
I have also benefited from that flexibility too - since I joined AMS I have become a father twice with all the work-life challenges that this brings. Creating flexible working environments to attract and retain employees benefits everyone - not just women – and for Alexander Mann, it just upgrades what has always been part of our culture