“You take a whole pallet-load of measures. For example, we have a leadership programme, a mentoring programme, a middle-management programme, a mobility centre, and the Amsterdam School with learning interventions. An important tool in achieving a more balanced male-female ratio within the city’s administration is [the use of] HR analytics. With these, we don’t have to rely on gut feelings.”

About the organisation

The City of Amsterdam represents and governs the 850,000 residents of Amsterdam regarding metropolitan policy, for example citizens’ affairs, work & income, education & youth, and care & support. Over recent years there has been substantial reorganisation and the organisation has shrunk from 30,000 to 15,000 employees. The strategic principle of this process is to arrive at one single organisation serving Amsterdam: an effective, flexible and inclusive organisation in which various organisational divisions, tasks and responsibilities have been centralised under the heading ‘1Amsterdam’.

  • Sector: government
  • Number of employees: 15,000 (19,000 including external staff)
  • Total share of women in organisation: 49%
  • Share of women in top management: Municipal Management Team: 5 people, 2 women (40%)
  • Share of women in middle management: 57 people, 26 women (46%)

Approach

“We have an exceptionally clear standard. We want a 50/50 ratio of men and women, and that is not open to discussion.” (Arjan van Gils – City Clerk)

The City of Amsterdam applies the basic principle that the civil service system must reflect the city’s working population. The Municipal Management Team is convinced that the local authority can only serve a diverse city well if it is also a diverse and inclusive organisation: talent as the basis, diversity as strength. That is the basic principle of the inclusive work culture within the City of Amsterdam. The right ‘mindset’ is important here, with managers being more conscious of their role during an application process or of encouraging an open atmosphere in the workplace, in which every individual can be himself or herself.

This principle applies throughout and for the whole organisation: it is not only referred to and communicated as a commitment to be worked towards, but also translated into policy which breaks away from traditional patterns of behaviour. The top level in the local authority is also really committed to this.

In order to carry out an effective policy, valid and reliable figures for the share of women at the various levels of the organisation are essential. For this reason, the City of Amsterdam is working hard on further developing the technical application Amsterdam Management Information, which, among other things, gives insight into the inflow, advancement and outflow of staff. The information from the system is available to the whole organisation and shows the state of affairs in black and white. This allows data-driven HR policy to be carried out, on the basis of which one can see whether interventions are leading to the desired result or whether adjustment is needed.

HR analytics provides a firm base for zooming in on the parts of the organisation where there are blockages and finding out why this is happening, which mechanisms underlie the problem and what can be done about it. Heads of department are called to account and are shown which measures they can take in order to achieve the target figures for each department. This instrument is therefore used to steer a course towards achieving a mix of men and women in all sections of the organisation.

“Using the knowledge gained from the application, we can focus on the internal pool of talent from which we can draw individuals in order to keep the ratio balanced. Here there is also a clear task for employees. They cannot just sit back and relax, but are encouraged to be proactive.” (Yardena Shitrit – Director of Personnel and Organisation)

“If you really want to make a difference, you have to delve more deeply into the organisation and the work culture. HR analytics helps in this because it indicates where in the organisation there needs to be more active direction towards a balanced male/female.” (Arjan van Gils – City Clerk)

Of course, one cannot get there just with figures. An organisation subsequently has to act on those figures. Amsterdam does this by focusing on diversity and inclusion on many different fronts. For example, all managers undergoing training are made aware of the importance of inclusion and diversity, and they are also given help in implementing this in their team. In addition, care is taken to have the right basic conditions. At the City of Amsterdam, for example, it is normal to plan your own timetable, work from home now and then, and even in senior positions it is possible to work four days a week. Moreover, talented employees can register for one of the city’s various mentoring programmes. Finally, at many different times the organisation focuses on diversity and inclusion, from retreats to specific events such as the day of the informal carer.

What are the benefits?

A diverse organisation, in which everyone is free to develop his or her talents, is better able to respond to society’s problems. Research shows again and again that organisations with a diverse composition are more successful than homogeneous organisations. This applies not only to the male/female ratio, but also to migration background, the balance between young and old, sexual orientation, and able-bodied or disabled. With the Amsterdam Management Information application, all managers have a constant overview of their staff structure. This offers possibilities for reaching targeted performance agreements and defining and monitoring target figures. The approach is effective: the ambition of a 50/50 ratio in senior and middle management has been virtually achieved.

Tips

  1. Management awareness: ensure that management, both at the top and at team level, is aware of the advantages of a team with a diverse composition, finds this completely normal and makes efforts to create an inclusive climate. Amsterdam does this by focusing on inclusion and diversity in the leadership process that every manager goes through.
  2. Good basic conditions: ensure that it is acceptable for both women and men to work four days a week, determine their own timetables, and occasionally work from home, even in senior positions.
  3. Ensure that it is completely normal for women to be at the top and work actively towards this when selecting candidates. This means, for example, that it is not possible to have a situation in which there are no women in the city’s Municipal Management Team.
  4. Use HR analytics to clarify the parts of the organisation where improvement is still possible (inflow, advancement and outflow).

Contact

Sabine Wanmaker, organisational adviser on inclusion and diversity, department of Personnel and Organisational Development: s.wanmaker@amsterdam.nl

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