Andrei Bădilă, Societe Generale Global Solution Centre: Through exposure to different situations or people we can overcome biases and embrace the differences between us

In today’s post, Andrei Bădilă, Head of Talent Management with Societe Generale Global Solution Centre, talks about the actions the company has been taking in diversity management.

Could you share with us some key milestones in the D&I journey of Societe Generale Global Solution Centre?

Any D&I program should be based on the company’s reality and strategy, as well as on the context of the community to which it belongs – nothing is to be launched as a fad but rather viewed as an opportunity to address real needs and challenges, as well as to contribute to the overall objectives of the business. A first important milestone for Societe Generale Global Solution Centre was to acknowledge that a well-defined D&I strategy was needed to continue the company's growth in a sustainable manner. That moment took place in 2019, when our company has grown significantly, and so has the number of our colleagues (3 times over the prior 4 years) – it became clear for us that we need to diversify our talent pool in order to remain competitive on a workforce market that is extremely dynamic. And this is currently reflected not only in the way we recruit our new colleagues, but also in the way we retain and develop them, in an environment where everybody feels safe, included, respected, and treated equally.

The second important milestone was the implementation of diversity performance indicators, meaning the D&I topics are relevant and important, just like any other aspect of the business. Defining a measurement and control system is the key for transforming a certain subject into a priority. Traditionally, these indicators are followed and reported by HR departments, however only through transferring the accountability from HR to the business departments we can observe a real change, especially in the decisional process.

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

The moment we began to look consciously at D&I, we decided to focus our efforts in several areas at the same time:

Gender Diversity – Currently our company has a 26% representativity of male colleagues. We want to continue to balance the organization from gender standpoint, ensuring diversity of opinions, different leadership and operating styles.
Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities – We embrace the United Nations concept that states the issue is not the limitation of atypical persons, it’s the society that creates barriers for a person to perform certain activities. Societe Generale Global Solution Centre’s intention is to be that part of a society that removes the barriers, opening that path for atypical persons to reach their full potential.
Multigenerational & Nationality Diversity – All individuals live differently (depending on the time or place they were born, to name just a couple of factors), their lives are enriched year by year from multiple perspectives. As an organization, we want to create an environment in which people are encouraged to share their experiences, learn from each other and build together a better future.
Work-Life Balance – Maybe this is not a commonly integrated topic within a D&I strategy, however, personal and professional life are not separate and have an impact on each other. Being a parent is a full-time job, for example, so you will also be a parent at work, not just at home. Taking care of personal hobbies is also something that we encourage our colleagues to do, because they need to take their minds off work and relax by doing what they love the most. We cannot be divergent, not in the times we are living. At Societe Generale Global Solution Centre we understand this, and we help our colleagues have a fulfilled career, without neglecting personal aspects.

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

One important aspect we have worked until date is launching several educational programs in the organization: inclusion does not come naturally as we all have biases – and most of them are outside our own conscious awareness. Through exposure to different situations or people we can overcome those biases, become more empathic, accept and embrace the differences between us.

We try to stress as much as possible experiential learning, even though we do encourage formal online learning programs or workshops. As an example, we have organized a series of activities (such as cooking or watching movies) with visually impaired persons. In addition, more than 80% of our managers have been trained in 2020 on how to recognize and address inappropriate behaviors, as our company has zero tolerance to discrimination, bullying or alike. The initiative will be a continuous one, covering not only management staff but extending it to all our colleagues by the end of 2021.

It’s important to recognize as well that inclusion does not mean addressing the same need to everybody but understanding the uniqueness of each individual. We constantly try to review and enhance our Benefits Policy – only this year we have introduced 5 sick-days* a year for atypical persons and colleagues older than 45 years (*sick-days are days that employees can access when they need to, without providing any medical documents).

Looking at 2020, it was a difficult and challenging year for us all – given the pandemic context. Societe Generale Global Solution Centre wanted to ensure the health of its employees, not only physically, but also mentally. We tried to offer as much support as possible by organizing monthly wellbeing conferences (on topics such as parenting, anxiety, depression), introducing virtual fitness classes, or providing a 24/7 psychological support line together with our medical partners.

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

People. There is this famous quote by Verna Myers, a well-known D&I expert: “Diversity is being invited to the party, inclusion is being asked to dance.” – unfortunately no procedure, instrument, nor software application can ‘ask someone to dance’. Processes, rules, frameworks can facilitate building an inclusive environment, however inclusion is driven by people. Our overarching ambition at Societe Generale Global Solution Centre is to have around us people who are open to all facets of diversity, careful about others’ needs, people that will go back in the society and ‘pay it forward’.

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

As a result of increasing D&I, I would mention just two key benefits:
• Innovation. We live in a world where incremental changes no longer suffice (particularly now, during a sanitary crisis with a major economic impact). The transformation needs to be major, disruptive, offering both customers and employees completely different experiences. Diversity helps in terms of bringing new perspective to the table, tackling problems more creatively.
• Enabling employees to reach their full potential. A safe, open and flexible environment where individual characteristics are celebrated, builds up the desire to thrive and grow on a personal level.

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

I would only name one that seems most relevant to me: sacrificing meritocracy or ethics to reach statistics. Inclusiveness refers to growing into better and more responsible individuals.

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

Our approach is to turn our leaders into supporters and promoters of D&I programs, so that they can evangelize the same principles within the organization. Especially when onboarding new managers in the organization, we try to expose them to different realities and perspectives. It is an opportunity for them to directly experience how others feel and think, to draw their own conclusions and to stimulate them in this way to take the business forward.

As an example, we have organized reverse-mentoring sessions where our company leaders became mentees, having high-school and university students as mentors. The purpose was for them to better understand certain needs and learn from the young generation how to adapt their management style. After all, today's students will be the majority of tomorrow's workforce. Why not adapt as soon as possible to their expectations and needs?

Any plans for the #EUDiversityMonth this May?

Coincidentally or not, May is also the month of increasing awareness on mental health. Given the prolonged work from home period, we observe more and more symptoms of digital fatigue. Our “It’s OK not to feel OK” campaign will complement #EUDiversityMonth throughout the month, consisting in various resources put at the disposal of our staff: online wellbeing conference, demonstrative fitness class, e-learning recommendations on reducing stress, activities on vocational wellbeing.

In addition, May will also be the month of launching an internal training on Human Rights, Equality and Persons with Disabilities Inclusion. The program is developed entirely with internal resources and will target all our management teams.

Interview by Dana Oancea, Romanian Diversity Charter

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.