Inside Aperian Global: Birgit Hüglin-Wood

Posted on May 25, 2016

Inside Aperian Global: Birgit Hüglin-Wood

Inside Aperian Global: Birgit Hüglin-Wood

In our monthly interview series, Inside Aperian Global, you will get to know the passionate people that drive Aperian Global’s mission, values, and day-to-day operations. Aperian Global’s employees will provide you with a sneak peek into their work lives and share stories about themselves. This month, we asked Birgit Hüglin-Wood, one of our alumni and former Managing Director of Global Talent Management , a few questions.

Birgit, you joined Aperian Global in 2013, with significant HR experience in healthcare. What made you interested in working with the cross-cultural consulting industry and why did you join Aperian Global?

Not being American born myself, I’ve lived cross culturally for the majority of my life, not only in the United States but also in France and East Africa. So, naturally, I am attracted to the topic and I have an understanding of what it means to live and work abroad. In addition, I have always had the good fortune to be able to choose industries with which I can identify. Healthcare certainly was one of them, as I was trained as a vocational nurse in Germany. When I heard about Aperian Global and the products and services the company provides, I was quite intrigued, wondering how my life would have been different had I had some of the training we provide.

Within the cross-cultural field, and certainly at Aperian Global, employees join from all walks of life. What brings them together is a shared passion and mission to help individuals and organizations navigate across cultures successfully. Working across distance and time zones often makes it challenging to make every employee feel equally included. What has been your experience at Aperian Global when it comes to building an inclusive workplace?

It is a real challenge to be inclusive across time zones and geographic distances, but both of these issues can be overcome through technology. The greater challenges are around cultural differences in addition to the individual differences among people who work together. GlobeSmart® is tremendously helpful because it provides a large body of facts about various cultural backgrounds. On a more individual level, everyone is wired differently. What connects people at Aperian Global is a common interest in all things cross-cultural and a shared framework of values and passion. So no matter how far away people are located from each other and how vastly different their cultural backgrounds are, our common mission and values are paving the road to success.

In a blog posted earlier this month, we talked about the benefits of thought diversity. Often, the hidden dimensions of diversity such as social status, background, religion, sexual orientation, are difficult or impossible to detect during an interview. What advice would you give candidates to highlight their diversity in an application?

I would recommend that people be entirely themselves during the application process. In Global Talent Management at Aperian Global we are fully aware what a gift diversity is to an organization and we think the more diversity the better. The question is not so much if an organization will respect an applicant’s diversity, it is more if an organization deserves to hire an applicant of diverse background.

Most companies still hire for “cultural fit” instead of searching for candidates that can bring a new perspective to their industry. How can companies improve their recruitment processes to promote diversity of thought within their organizations?

When we talk about “cultural fit” in recruitment, we typically refer to a communality of values as it pertains to a given workplace. A workplace culture is a prescribed way people need to behave in order to be successful in their jobs. However, it’s important not to confuse the concept of workplace culture with individual cultural or personal backgrounds. And that’s where things get tricky. Many studies show that hiring managers have a tendency to recruit people who think and look like themselves, which results in a homogenous workplace with little space for diverse throught. My recommendation to all hiring managers is to first assess if the applicant has the right skills for the job, then if he or she has the ability to adapt to the company’s culture, and lastly to contemplate if the applicant might be a replica of ourselves. If the latter is the case, we are depriving the organization and ourselves of the diversity of thought that propels organizations.

Tell us something we don’t know about you yet.

I am currently completing an executive coaching program, hoping to graduate at the end of 2016. I had almost completed the program when I joined Aperian Global, but then life happened and there was not enough time to complete my course. In my daily job, I keep telling people to follow their hearts and spend time learning and doing the things they love. It was time for me to follow my own advice and follow my heart, which makes me very happy.

Aperian Global supports our clients in developing a strategy for & implementing of a variety of Diversity & Inclusion initiatives. Whether your organization is working towards overcoming unconscious bias during recruitment, leveraging diversity in the workplace or reevaluating your overall D&I organizational strategy, we can help. Learn more about our Diversity & Inclusion practice here or contact us.

Suggested Reading

Leveraging Hidden Diversity to Alleviate Groupthink

Three Steps to Address Unconscious Bias

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