Diversity is not measured or reflected in numbers and KPIs, but in the culture of each organization.
The value of diversity and inclusion in business is multidimensional, as we can see by the proven benefits it offers. The reasons are many, however, if we wanted to emphasize the three most basic ones, we would limit ourselves to the following:
Active employee involvement: Working for a company that offers equal opportunities allows employees to feel a greater connection to the company and optimism about the prospects that offers.
Corporate Trust: The importance of having a culture that ’embraces’ diversity and inclusion plays a vital role as it creates a tangible sense of trust. This contributes to the creation of conditions that favor innovation, creativity and diversity in an environment that allows employees to feel safe, be themselves and perform to their full potential.
Attracting talents: Adopting a culture of acceptance of diversity contributes to maintaining and developing the quality of human capital and at the same time makes the company attractive to future employees. Employees with recognized value, always want to join companies that cultivate an environment of equal treatment, in which, regardless of nationality and gender, all employees have equal opportunities for professional development.
Improving numbers and indicators is not enough
Simply increasing the number of employees with different backgrounds, genders or ethnicities in an organization does not necessarily translate into a diversity of opinions and ideas, as this primarily requires the establishment of a culture of acceptance, integration and appreciation of diversity. Otherwise, employees may become discouraged and lose their motivation, which leads to a decrease in their productivity, as well as inevitable conflicts.
Culture with a purpose
Diversity is about more than just gender. It’s about abilities, preferences, beliefs, culture, status, etc. Building a culture of acceptance means intentionally combating conscious and unconscious bias that stems from social and corporate codes, and the resulting behaviors and actions. The effort must be continuous and requires businesses to evaluate initiatives, increasing their impact. This goal cannot be achieved without the non-negotiable commitment and contribution of management at all stages.
The first steps for business
Payment equality is extremely important – especially if we take into account the pay gap between men and women in Greece, which, according to recent studies, reaches 15%. Apart from the salaries, however, there are other issues, which are equally important. A typical example is the very low participation of women and minorities in senior and top managerial positions of responsibility and administrative boards.
Businesses looking to address these issues can ensure that:
- When recruiting employees, HR managers and/or their external consultants, value diversity and present shortlists based on unbiased selection procedures.
- The acceptance of diversity and inclusion must be part of the integration programs of new employees, but also of the training of all employees.
- Policies and procedures have been put in place as the organization develops, helping to integrate them into the business operation and at the same time, avoiding last minute “corrections”.
- The integration and acceptance of diversity should not be the goal and area of responsibility only of the human resources department, but should be the responsibility of everyone and constitute a key part of the corporate strategy.
The role of leadership in establishing “Diversity and Inclusion”
Business leaders must create a culture that allows all employees to feel comfortable to be themselves and not feel that their gender, personal preferences or circumstances will affect their development within the company. In addition, they must set an example for employees and ensure that acceptance of diversity is reflected in the senior leadership team of the business. And, thirdly, they should not hesitate to seek support from specialist advisers. Sometimes, when we are too close to the problem or inside a business, it is difficult to either see the root of the problem or to be able to make the necessary changes. The leader must be open to asking for help to manage the situation in the best possible way and make the necessary corrections.
Written by Elena Stylianou, PARTNER RSM GREECE