Oana Savin, Raiffeisen Bank: We need to understand better what really means an inclusive environment and what is the contribution of each of us in achieving inclusion

In today’s post, Oana Savin, Diversity & Inclusion Officer at Raiffeisen Bank, talks about what actions the company has been taking in diversity management.

Could you share with us some key milestones in the D&I journey of Raiffeisen Bank?

Diversity is an important part of Raiffeisen Bank Romania's organizational culture and we constantly try to build an inclusive and friendly work environment, in which every colleague can contribute. Starting 2019, we included the D&I Officer position in our company's organizational chart. Soon after, in 2020, we introduced an updated diversity policy and the policy against discrimination & harassment in the workplace.

Following this, we ran an internal dedicated monthly communication campaign called "Part of Diversity". The campaign included articles and interviews with colleagues and public figures addressing various topics, such as collaboration between generations and benefit of lifelong learning, gender equality, causes of discrimination and challenges faced by people with disabilities. Main goal of our communication campaign was to raise awareness and bring information on D&I issues. We prioritized interesting diversity trainings in our digital training platform, addressing topics like understanding and identifying unconscious prejudices, maintaining cohesive multigenerational teams, cultivating the passion for learning.

What aspects of diversity management have the highest priority in your company?

We established as main priorities discrimination based on age, disability discrimination and gender discrimination. All these strategic directions are supported by our dedicated internal communication, including articles and webinars, trainings but also specific initiatives.

Age discrimination is one of the most common situations in the local workplace environment, even if it is more like a “silent discrimination”. We have colleagues of different ages and we aim to continue to support an approach based on multigenerational teams and flexible skills, which focuses on lifelong learning and digitalization. Thus, we continued to offer resources for our employees, providing articles, interviews and trainings on intergenerational collaboration and on benefits of long-term learning. We want our team to include people willing to learn and develop continuously, regardless of their age, as stated in all our recruitment opening forms.

Regarding disability, this year we started to work more focused to make our bank's services and products accessible to customers with different disabilities. We are now in process of mapping procedures & processes and we are looking to find ways to simplify and ensure that everyone has easy, friendly and unrestricted access to our products and services.

Which D&I activities have been implemented in your organization so far?

Last year, we succeeded to implement a dedicated regular D&I communication, to introduce policies on diversity and prevention of discrimination & harassment in the workplace.

We brought in the chapter of mandatory trainings the topic of "code of conduct between colleagues" and we launched a specific training addressed mainly to colleagues with recruitment responsibilities/managers, with a focus on biases, personal contribution to an inclusive work environment, behaviors of leaders who support diversity and recommendations for inclusive recruitment practices.

For clients, we aim to continue the efforts to identify solutions, implement changes in mentalities, infrastructure and procedures, to become a more friendly and accessible environment for different vulnerable categories. In this respect, we distributed a guide for appropriate interaction with people with disabilities, to raise awareness and promote best practices in communication and collaboration with people having different deficiencies.

In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges faced by the banking sector in creating a diverse and inclusive workforce?

Probably, in addition to the internal challenges faced by any organization, we can also refer to the regulation / legislation framework and infrastructure that exists in society and which are not sufficiently developed and adapted to the specific needs of vulnerable categories. We are also aware that the banking sector environment is associated with a certain rigidity - we would like to change this perception and prove that we are friendly. 

What business benefits do you see as a result of increasing D&I?

The first benefit I think of is that innovation comes from diversity. The more different we are, the result of our work together can produce increased positive changes. Communication and awareness on D&I subject contribute to a more friendly and collaborative work environment, more efficiency and confidence that everyone's full potential can be exploited. In the pandemic context, creating a more flexible and friendly work environment was an important benefit, given the challenges of adapting to work from home system.

Can you name three diversity challenges that companies have to pay attention to?

I am considering as main diversity challenges mindset / mentality, resistance to change and difficulty in seeing specific financial results, following the implementation of diversity initiatives. All of these are obstacles in implementing inclusion, probably valid in any organization. If I were to mention the biggest challenge, it would be to overcome the mentality of certain stereotypes, often unconscious. Obviously, through education and awareness, this barrier can be removed with the help of emotional intelligence and especially empathy.

What do you do to convince your colleagues to see the value in diversity management, or even more to truly get them on board?

I believe that communication, awareness and education are the most important things to start with. Although diversity management is a trendy topic, tackled in different contexts, I think we need to understand better what really means an inclusive environment, how can it be promoted and what is the contribution of each of us in achieving inclusion in the work environment, covering also vulnerable categories perspective and needs.

Fortunately, I know that our team consists of open, empathetic people, who appreciate and support diversity at workplace.

Any plans for the upcoming #EUDiversityMonth this May?

In addition to our monthly D&I communication, we aim to bring relevant articles and information promoted within #EUDiversityMonth in May. Moreover, in June we intend to launch a dedicated diversity campaign in our organization, inviting people from different vulnerable categories to discussions (webinars, articles and activations). This communication campaign format was already tested in March, when we organized the month of feminine leadership and gender equality, having as guest colleagues from management/top management, who brought their perspective and personal experience related to these topics.

Interview by Dana Oancea

This interview was produced with the financial support of the European Union (project Workplace Inclusion Champion WIC). Its contents are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the European Union.