SAS

Diversity as an Asset

Joint Warfare Centre (JWC) in Stavanger employs 230 military and civilian personnel from 15 nations. This diversity represents many opportunities for our region. 

Text and photo: Trude Refvem Hembre  

JWC was established at Jåttå in 2003 and is NATO´s premier collective training facility at the operational level. Countries represented at the JWC are Canada, Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Spain, Romania, Turkey, UK and US.  

Advantages of multicultural environment  
Rosenkilden had the pleasure of meeting Paul Sewell, responsible for Organizational Development and Culture and his colleague from Public Affairs, Stephen Olsen. Both representatives have an international background. Mr Sewell who has been with NATO for 12 years is Australian and married to a Norwegian and has a background in international education and marketing. Olsen is a Norwegian Army officer and has been serving at Jåttå for almost three years. 

 

 - The Stavanger-region has people from 182 different countries and the JWC has its own fair share of diversity in its organization. What do you consider are the advantages of having a multicultural environment, and what does this multicultural diversity contribute to the Stavanger region? 

- Despite possible stereotypes people have of the military, there is a great deal of diversity in our staff. Everyone brings their own national culture and ways of working but also literally thousands of years of collective experience from all over the world. About 4/5 is military, and 1/5 civilian staff. So obviously we as an organization benefit from this; however you will find most of our staff also out in the community. They are involved in community events, sporting activities and even the Norwegian “dugnad”. But the 230 strong staff and their families also take full advantage of what this region has to offer and its great outdoors, replied Sewell.   


Culture important in integration
 
Sewell finds the INN-network real useful for integrating their staff into the unique international ex-pat culture in Stavanger.  And this focus continues in their workplace where culture is seen as an important factor to productivity and success. The JWC has so far trained more than 50.000 personnel from NATO member countries in complex level exercises. Therefore the need to be flexible and adaptive to not only challenges and issues but also the broad diversity in those they train.  

 

What are your main focuses? 

- My job is organisational development and culture, and so focusing on improving how to get the most out of our staff and their backgrounds and give them meaningful work is paramount to our success. Therefore we have a conscious focus on our organizational culture through what we call our One Team ethos. This is designed to integrate our new staff (who are typically only here for three years) into our teams as quickly as possible so that they are effective and doing great work.  

Key factors for successful integration? 
Focus on culture: All of our staff are exposed to the values and impact of organizational culture. This involves putting everyone through our interactive One Team programme when they arrive. This gives them a solid grounding, a set of principles which help us do great work both individually and as teams, because nothing gets done without the team. This programme also has the advantage of giving a common language for operating together which helps overcome the language and national culture barriers allowing people to get to know each other and work together better.  

 

Welcoming staff: We also focus on how we welcome our staff. By capturing corporate knowledge from the exit interviews and Handover/Takeover processes from those leaving we can then give it to our newcomers when they arrive. We also have a small welcome handbook which gives a short background on what our mission is, why we are important in NATO and what they should expect. So already when they arrive they are given this information so that they start integrating early on. Additionally, our staff pride ourselves on being helpful whenever possible and so any newcomer knows they can ask anyone in the organization if they have questions, after all we’re all one team moving in the same direction. 

Solving the problems as a team: True to the One Team ethos, we rely on our newcomers as much as our existing staff. We recognize that our newcomers bring fresh eyes to a problem which our older staff may no longer see. In fact, Sewell quotes one of the Senior leaders who has worked in many HQs in NATO, saying that” The JWC has the shortest distance between problem and solution” and this is because the team draws upon everyone’s skills and experiences. 


Involvement in the society

- How do you measure satisfaction in your staff? 

- We have a number of ways to measure this. First of all we conduct annual climate surveys which measure the “temperature” of the organization. This continues to reveal a positive outlook from the staff but also captures how we can continue to improve. However you also see the satisfaction in many other ways. For example, for many years it was difficult to get people to come to Stavanger, partially because it’s remote from everywhere else but also that people didn’t know where it was! However now in the last few years we have seen our staff actually actively seeking out the positions, because of the reputation of the JWC but also because of everything this fantastic region has to offer including the safe community, the amazing nature and also the other important elements like international schools and international flight routes. 

- Possible challenges within such an international workplace? 

- With any diverse organization, you will inevitably find friction occurs. But we have discovered that it all depends on the individual's state of mind at the time. Your mindset in any situation will shape how you react. This why we have focussed on our culture so that people understand those useful mindsets that allow us to work together in this international environment. A lot of our work too is focussed on building the teams at all levels of the organization where the staff can get to know each other better.  

Ultimately we're looking to improve the quality of the interactions we have with each other, remarks Paul Sewell. This is important in any industry and walk of life. 



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