GOOD COLLEAGUES: Most are still at home office, but a group of Smart Innovation Norway employees happily gathered outside the office for a picture when the news about the nomination came.

Smart Innovation Norway nominated for the Diversity Award 2021:

“Our diversity is what leads to our success”

Last week, it was announced that Smart Innovation Norway is one of the companies nominated for the Norwegian Diversity Award 2021’s regional awards.

By Mari Kristine Buckholm, 17 June 2021

“It is absolutely fantastic that we have been nominated for this award, and I also think it is correct because we are very aware and do great work in this area,” comments CEO of Smart Innovation Norway, Kjell-Reidar Mydske. Today, the company has 48 employees from 14 different nations.

Out of 470 participating companies, there are now 49 nominated companies left in the competition nationwide. Smart Innovation Norway is one of four companies still in the run from Viken county.

“Strong candidates”

In the end of June, two winners from each of the eleven counties will be chosen; one from the category ‘small businesses’ (up to 19 employees) and one from the category ‘medium-sized and large businesses’ (20 or more employees). Smart Innovation Norway belongs in the latter.

“This year’s nominees are strong candidates for the Diversity Award while at the same time reflecting the span of our business community. They are proud companies that deliberately recruit people from different ethnic backgrounds by valuing and utilising their expertise,” says Lise Eikeland Fossli, jury leader for region North.

There are a total of six regional juries (West, East, Mid-Norway, North, South and Oslo). The regional awards will be handed out in August, and then the 22 winners will proceed in the competition for the national awards.

Motivating nomination

Dr. Alemu Moges Belay (photo), Senior Researcher Sustainable Energy at Smart Innovation Norway, is happy that his company’s diversity endeavors are recognized.

“I think it is good because it motivates a lot of people. From a strategic point of view, it is relevant to have different perspectives from different ethnic backgrounds. We are on the right track,” notes Dr. Belay.

He believes that part of the key to why Smart Innovation Norway succeeds with a diverse and inclusive workplace, is openness to recruit new employees from different countries and with different values.

“Just look at the Research & Innovation department. I have colleagues from Pakistan, India, China, Venezuela, Germany, Spain, Canada, and Finland. We are really diverse, which is very good, and that is what leads to our success,” says Dr. Belay, who is from Ethiopia himself. He elaborates:

“Take our most recent EU project, SESA (Smart Energy Solutions for Africa), for example. When we wrote the proposal, we discussed what is needed in Africa and what is expected from the project. We really understood the call because of our different perspectives.”

SESA aims to enable access to energy and business opportunities focusing on the African countries involved in the project. This includes both technology solutions and business models, as well as the needed training and mentoring to anchor the solutions and businesses locally both in rural and urban locations in the target countries.

Culture is competence

CEO Mydske explains that the management team at Smart Innovation Norway first and foremost focuses on finding the right professional competence for a vacant job position, but that they also consider the cultural competence of potential employees.

“Being from a certain place is a special competence in itself, because you know that area and you also know the business in that region. It is a positive asset to have a diverse pool of employees, and it is important to be actively seeking diversity in the recruitment process,” he says.

“It is of great value to bring different perceptions and minds together, for example in proposal writing, because it provides important insight and more creativity,” adds Dr. Belay.

About the Diversity Award

  • The Diversity Award is the government’s award for outstanding use of immigrants’ competence in working life.
  • The purpose of the award is to promote ethnic diversity, improve the use of immigrants’ competence and increase recruitment of immigrants in the labor market. This is done by highlighting the good examples of ethnic diversity in working life that can inspire others.
  • The award initiative is organized by the Norwegian Ministry of Education and Research.