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How Western Union has made diversity a growth engine

By Janice Williams


For some companies, diversity is probably on the to-do list. Diversity is recognized as important, but it sits on the back burner while other issues are prioritized. At Western Union, diversity isn’t an issue or a topic to consider from the to-do list; diversity is enmeshed within their business practices, employee base, customers and company as a whole.

Western Union (WU) is a global leader in cross-border, cross-currency money movement, enabling people around the world to transfer money to where it’s needed. They have been in business for over 166 years, connecting millions of people across seemingly long distances. As a global company with a footprint in over 200 countries and territories, it would be impossible for WU to succeed without recognizing the importance and power of diversity. In Canada, a country with a rich multicultural makeup and equally diverse customer base, WU makes a concerted and proactive effort to embrace diversity in order to authentically connect with their customers.

“Having a diverse blend of employees at Western Union allows our business to walk in the shoes of our customers,” said Joycelyn David, global head, CEM Go-to-Market Strategy at Western Union. “To best serve our customers, we need to understand who they are, what their drivers are for moving money and then connect with them in meaningful ways.”

Here are a few ways that WU has been able to leverage diversity into corporate success.


Diversity helps improve products and services

With a customer base as broad and wide-reaching as Western Union’s, they need to understand the nuances that make cultures different in order to serve them best. It’s one thing to provide marketing materials in different languages, but WU believes that the value isn’t in simple translation – it’s in making content relevant to the people consuming it. This means that the more they understand the seasons, celebrations and important milestones in their customers’ journeys, the better they can create products and services that will meet customers’ needs. 

For example, celebrating Diwali is important to many of Western Union’s South Asian and Indian customers. Understanding the significance of the celebration enables WU to educate customers living in Canada about ways the company can help them connect with their friends and family abroad to mark the occasion. 

The better WU understands their customers, the more opportunities they have to connect with them. How do they do this? By having a diverse workforce. 

“At one time my team had 14 languages spoken among us,” said David. “And if you look at their technical skills, gender, ages and workstyles, they were just as diverse.”

What better way to understand the importance of Diwali, Eid al-Fitr or Chinese New Year than to have a team that can explain the significance and help direct messaging around it firsthand?

Another example of this is recognizing that women are increasingly the decision makers when it comes to sending money. According to the United Nations Capital Development Fund, remittances are a high-volume driver for financial inclusion, especially when accessed through digital channels. In fact, more than half of those who sent money and more than 65 per cent of those who received funds through Western Union’s transfer service in 2016 were women.

How do they ensure that they are addressing this important demographic? Through a gender-diverse employee base – women represent more than half of Western Union’s 10,000 employees. Indeed, women make different choices and WU acknowledges that they must listen to the way women use their product
and services. 


Diversity drives inspiration internally

From an internal perspective, championing diversity shapes and defines a company’s culture. 

As the world becomes more borderless and global, you don’t need to go too far to experience different cultures. Investing in diversity helps to embrace the differences between cultures, which can make a difference at both an individual level and at an organizational level.

Since WU has such a significant global footprint, diversity is a prime consideration for employees seeking mentorship. In fact, employees often look beyond their office walls to colleagues in other places around the world for mentorship opportunities. Learning how to work with both sexes as well as different cultures is beneficial. According to David, having mentors from around the world has helped her look at diversity in the broad sense and learn from it. 

“It’s been extremely beneficial in helping me progress my mindset and my career,” David said. “I’d encourage anyone to not just look for a mentor in Toronto – find someone in India. Make new connections and learn all you can. That’s where inspiration
comes from.”


Diversity starts at the beginning, not the middle

In order to maintain and strengthen their workforce and provide the best products and services for its global customers, Western Union’s attention to diversity must start at the hiring stage. At Western Union, a conscious effort is made to build diverse teams of employees. In order to mirror their customers through a diversified employee base and lead in product innovation, they know that they can’t limit their selves to bringing on employees of homogenous backgrounds. They also regularly take advantage of the diversity across Western Union’s global regions, importing and exporting talent across borders and sharing best practices and diverse viewpoints along the way.

Paying attention to – and educating hiring managers on – issues like unconscious bias, WU strives to hire the best people across all roles. The more they can celebrate diversity and encourage inclusiveness and collaboration, the better it is for their workforce, customers and overall business.

Building a diverse workforce internally sets Western Union up for success.

Janice Williams is the head of human resources in Canada for Western Union and serves as the HR business partner for all Canadian business units and the North American Payments business within Western Union. 




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