Five lessons employers can learn from Eurovision

This year's Eurovision Song Contest Winner was Netta Barzilai from Israel
Rolf Klatt/REX/Shutterstock

After the pomp and glitter of last weekend’s Eurovision, there is much to learn from this celebration of diversity, argues Nicola Britovsek, HR director at Sodexo Engage.

Once again, we’ve just experienced a weekend of Eurovision fever. It’s a time where countries come together to battle one another, displaying elaborate costumes, ballads and glitter – a breath of fresh air from the hostile politics reported in our papers today.

But beyond the glamour – and despite a hairy moment when a man stormed on stage during the UK entry – there are some key lessons businesses and leaders can learn from this cross-border affair.

Inclusivity and acceptance

The contest has always been an event that celebrates diversity with a strong theme of acceptance and unity.

Back in 1999, the competition removed all language restrictions allowing countries to perform in their native language.

Eurovision has a huge LGBTQ fan base and it’s undoubtedly been a positive platform for artists to shine regardless of their backgrounds, race, religion, gender or sexuality.

Finland, for example, was represented this year by Saara Aaalto, an openly lesbian singer who grew to fame on the UK’s X Factor programme.

Promoting diversity is good for business too. Much like Eurovision’s broad range of contestants, research shows that a workforce made up of different backgrounds gives companies better connections to a range of audiences to unlock new ways of thinking.

Role model leaders

When it comes to our workplace, having role models that others can relate to and identify with is the only way businesses are going to shift the tides and bring about a positive sea change to the diversity problem.

What’s great about Eurovision is that it doesn’t only celebrate tolerance and acceptance within the continent, it gives us people to look up to and identify with on a global stage.

Transgender woman Dana International won back in 1998 for Israel, and drag queen Conchita Wurst won for Austria in 2014. These contestants have helped pave the way for acceptance and have become icons for the LGBT community.

In business, having visible role models means employees feel comfortable bringing their full selves to work. Cultivating inclusive workplaces should perhaps be the very top priority for business leaders.

Teamwork

What’s spectacular about the contest is that even with the differences in culture and language, contestants come together for a wider purpose: to entertain.

Collaboration in the workplace has long been seen as a sign of an effective and high-functioning team.

When businesses are collaborative in nature, they see huge benefits to their bottom line. Employees become more engaged, there is better staff retention and attraction of talent, and productivity and profitability improves. It’s a winning formula.

Level playing field

Another feature of Eurovision that sets it apart is the fact that it’s broadcast across the world in multiple languages.

The shows are presented on stage in English and French but participating broadcasters deliver commentary in native languages to their audience, so everyone can get involved.

It’s this ability to level the playing field that businesses can learn from. The culture and systems within a workplace can often privilege some and disadvantage others. To build a truly fair workplace, everyone needs to have equal access to support and development opportunities.

A spark of fun

The Eurovision contest just oozes fun. No amount of razzle-dazzle, lights, camera or action will make people watch the show unless the contestants are having fun too.

It’s no different in a business setting. Workplaces need a sprinkle of fun amongst all the hard work. Culture needs to be as important as your overall business strategy to ensure a high-performing workforce.

In an era of inclusivity and diversity, Eurovision is a welcome celebration of our differences and it’s important that businesses follow suit to create a workforce that spans races, sexual orientations, religions and lifestyles if they want to get the best from their team.

Nicola Britovsek

About Nicola Britovsek

Nicola Britovsek is director of human resources at Sodexo Engage
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