Yolanda Conyers, VP, Global HR Operations of Lenovo, shares how cultivating cultural diversity and developing progressive strategies can foster global corporate success.
Yolanda Conyers was recruited by the Lenovo in 2007 to manage cultural integration when the China-based personal technology company acquired a Western company, the former IBM Personal Computing Division. Conyers holds two positions at Lenovo. As Chief Diversity Officer (CDO), her primary duty is to oversee cultural inclusion; to ensure that all of the Lenovo’s global members are able to fully participate in the company’s activities. Secondly, as Vice President, Global HR Operations, Conyers is responsible for ensuring that all of Lenovo’s 54,000 employees receive a regular paycheck.
When Lenovo purchased the IBM division to gain global presence and increase market share, they sought Conyers’ expertise in cultural integration to help them leverage the strengths of our employees worldwide. With Conyers’ help, Lenovo has become a highly competitive leader in the worldwide personal technology marketplace.
“But it doesn’t happen overnight,” she explained. The first task of their global initiative was to define what diversity meant for their company. Lenovo, she said, has a “beyond diversity” philosophy: “It’s more than just about race and gender. It’s about ‘How do we acquire and weave in all the great skills and experiences, all the cultures, and all the elements that make one unique into the company?’”
Conyers explained that their emphasis on diversity isn’t merely lip service; it’s integrated into the all aspects of their functionality. Six of the ten most senior leaders at Lenovo represent different national cultures, and their top 100 executives represent 20 different nationalities. Furthermore, 40 percent of their global workforce comprises women, a significant figure in a high-tech arena. They have cultivated cross-cultural diversity within every rank of the company, which has helped distinguished Lenovo as a global business phenomenon.
The Lenovo Way
In 2009, the company launched The Lenovo Way initiative, the philosophies and principles that guide their strategy development and daily interactions. “It’s about making a commitment to Lenovo. It’s about taking ownership of everything you do.” With Conyers’ assistance, Lenovo crystallized its guiding values into five principles, terming them The Lenovo Way 5 P’s.
“You can talk to someone at the factory level or at a higher level, and everyone knows what The Lenovo Way 5 P’s are,” she said. To ensure that the principles are thoroughly ingrained and utilized on a day to day basis in the workplace environment, the company has changed their HR processes and business practices to increase accountability, improve assessment practices, and foster feedback. For instance, on performance assessments, employees are graded on not just their knowledge of company principles, but also the methods in which they utilize them.
The takeaway for the Lenovo Way isn’t necessarily to mimic or implement their specific company principles, but rather that each company must very clearly define its own core values and principles, and then create an action plan to manifest their vision. Conyers urged leaders: “Do the work, take the time, and figure out what [your] company principles should be.” Then, to help the business philosophy take root in employees’ psyche, “you have to reward and recognize and make it part of the fabric of the company,” Conyers said.
Protect & Attack Strategy
With the development of The Lenovo Way, the company also developed their unique “protect and attack strategy.” The protect aspect of their strategy involves safeguarding the core business modules, the bread and butter of the company. For Lenovo, this means making sure they remain leaders in the PC industry, particularly in their home base, China.
The second tier of the strategy, attack, refers to seeking out new markets, being innovative, and expanding the business portfolio. “It’s about seizing opportunities in new emerging areas,” Conyers explained. As part of their attack strategy, Lenovo is expanding into what they refer to as PC+, i.e., tablets, smartphones, cloud technologies, etc.
“The protect and attack strategy is a perfect example of what you can do when you bring diversity together. A strategy and a solid culture – together – are what have helped us become the number one PC maker in the world,” she said.
Meeting Challenges Head-On
Conyers’s formula for professional success includes passion, leveraging of resources, and risk-taking. She believes that while taking the plunge in personal or professional situations can be unnerving, it will yield positive results 99 percent of the time.
She explained that her move to Beijing, an unfamiliar land with a foreign language and customs, was a scary decision, but the results were very fruitful. Cultivating curiosity, being flexible and adaptable, and staying open to learning are keys to navigating through challenges, she said. “It’s about taking the risk. It’s about pushing forward. Everyone wants to be successful. Nobody wants to fail. You’ve got to give it your all. And if it doesn’t turn out the way it should be, then it probably wasn’t meant to be. And that’s okay… You’ve just got to get up and keep on going.” ♦
The Lenovo Way 5 P’s
Conyers co-authored the book The Lenovo Way: Managing a Diverse Global Company for Optimal Performance with Senior VP Gina Qiao as a way to share the company’s inspiring story of global expansion and its unique principles with the world. Developing and honing The Lenovo Way 5 P’s and instilling them in the workplace mindset – tasks Conyers spearheads as CDO – has been a challenging, seven-year process, she said. The initiative has been well worth the effort because it has helped Lenovo take globalization to a whole new level.
Lenovo’s five principles are their company’s DNA:
Plan – plan and think through the situation before you make a commitment.
Perform – follow through with your commitments. Execute your plan.
Prioritize – put the company first in your decision making.
Practice – practice improving. Reflect, adjust, and improve.
Pioneer – value innovation and pioneer new ideas.
Professional profiles, photojournalism, and legal writing are Sunny's specialties; her personal, creative, edgy approach makes her stand apart in the industry. Her clientele has included over three dozen law firms around the country; international businesses such as LiveStrong and Howcast; American favorites like Family Fun and Natural News; and regional publications such as Rutherford Woman and Conch Color.
As a mom of six, fitness enthusiast, and self-employed business woman, she stays busy in her island home with her middle school sweetheart and husband Michael, and makes time to travel regularly. If she's not jogging on down the islands, shooting an event, or writing up a storm, you can find her at Sunfire Creatives or on Facebook.
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