Not long ago, diversity and inclusion were acknowledged but gracefully ignored by the organizational culture of Romanian companies. Today, these topics are being increasingly discussed taking into account the legal provisions which have inserted the obligation for Romanian companies to have specific internal policies and procedures to address these aspects.
By Andreea Suciu (Managing Partner) & Andreea Serban (Associate), Suciu I The Employment Law Firm
However, there is still confusion regarding the definition of these concepts. To come one step further in clarifying this confusion, it must be emphasized that according to the definition given by the Business Dictionary diversity refers to understanding, assessing and accepting the differences between people related to age, gender identity, sexual orientation, physical and mental abilities, race, ethnicity, religion and other attributes.
«Diversity is a fact. Inclusion is a choice» – Fiona Bartels Ellis, British Council
We can consider diversity to be a very important value within a company. However, without inclusion, diversity would be only a value devoid of its practical meaning. Inclusion is the active and continuing involvement of the ideas, knowledge, perspectives, approaches and style of each employee. To be even more specific, diversity is the goal and inclusion is the path to the true essence of diversity.
What are the advantages?
In an age of globalization where mobility is increasingly encouraged, diversity and inclusion at the workplace are extremely important if you want to achieve good productivity and long-term profit. As large multinational companies have already noticed, encouraging diversity and inclusion at the workplace is also the first step towards an even more efficient, internationally competitive business.
The following aspects should be also emphasized as the main advantages of diversity and inclusion:
- The recruitment process will have no borders – by giving the employers the possibility to recruit qualified personnel from different backgrounds.
- Keep up with the permanent dynamics of the business line – each foreign employee will have a sustained contribution deriving from his/her own cultural and educational background in the development of the products and services.
- Expand the line of business in other cultural environments – any product or service that enters a new market must comply with the local law and to adapt to an unknown economic environment. Understanding the local culture, language and connections can turn developing a new business line into the simplest task ever undertaken.
- Improving internal communication and managerial practices – each different perspective of employees becomes a new opportunity to improve the strategy, processes, but also the procedures of the organization.
- Fiscal benefits deriving from the state budget for companies who employ certain groups of people.
- Encourage creativity and innovation – employees from different countries, who speak different languages, are more creative, they innovate, learn from each other and manage to collaborate more easily to achieve a common goal.
- Helps company be listed as the most desirable employer – in a world where media channels are the main source of promotion among young people, employers need to maintain a very good rating to capture the attention of the new generations.
Firstly, creating an inclusive and supportive workplace involves leading by example with a clear commitment from the top management that diversity is essential for the business performance.
Second in line, internal policies and procedures should be implemented in order to support diversity, anti-discrimination and antiharassment by promoting the organization’s commitment to diversity.
In Romania, the most common practices aiming at sustaining the diversity and inclusion in the working place are:
- Non-discriminatory recruitment, selection and promotion policies – in order to really have an impact, the policies should be clearly adapted to the specific business needs of each company and also to accommodate the dynamic of the legislative amendments in this field.
- Training and development programs – to develop and invest in training programs adapted for the managerial and non-managerial position which address diversity topics by entering into partnerships with experts who have proven knowledge and experience in the areas of diversity and inclusion at the workplace.
- Flexible and adapted working schedule – for the personal and cultural needs of each employee (e.g. the differences in what regards the public holidays).
- Identifying concrete solutions to support employees – to permanently ensure the methods in which the management demonstrates that it fully understands the concepts of diversity and inclusion and to offer sincere support for all employees both in the workplace and in the community.
However, within each company there are difficulties and limitations which prevent the implementation of diversity as a principal value, such as people’s mindsets, culture and prejudices – both at employees` and managers` level. On top of it, the lack of clear personnel policies and concrete strategies, along with the limited human resources allocated for the implementation of the diversity and inclusion in the workplace may create serious breaches into the well-functioning of an organization.
For example, an American manager working within a Japanese company expected that each of his/her employees to react and inform him/her whenever they had a problem. But they did not show up until the situation had become critical. Investigating the causes, the manager understood that it can only be a cultural misunderstanding, namely the definition of the term `problem`. While Americans see work-life as a series of problems to be solved, Asians view it as a series of situations to be taken as they are. The definition that the American manager gave to the term `problem` was therefore much broader than the one given by his/her employees. Therefore, if this situation had been cleared from the beginning by adopting certain clear policies aiming to settle the cultural differences, the critical situation would have been avoided.
Just a reminder
In essence, just by discussing about diversity and inclusion does not imply supporting these principles in our daily employment relations. The real support is the implementation of the rules and their constant supervision in order to ensure that they are properly addressed and understood by all the categories of personnel starting with top management and finishing with the non-executive positions.
Taking by example the words of Mahatma Gandhi: «Our ability to reach unity in diversity will be the beauty and the test of our civilization», we should make diversity and inclusion our priority and work together in order to pass this test with straight A`s.