In today’s post, Andrei Bădilă, Head of Talent Management, Societe Generale Global Solution Centre Romania, talks about what actions the company has been taking in diversity management.
What is your personal definition for diversity and inclusion?
Diversity and inclusion are interconnected concepts, but never interchangeable. While diversity is about representation, inclusion is about being curious, trying to understand and empathize rather than passing judgement. Inclusion, ultimately, is openness to constantly learning new things – once you are willing to go beyond the surface and realize that behaviors, appearances, actions are argued differently for different people, you will accept those differences and internalize them.
To give an example, in May, in addition to the celebration of the European Diversity Month, there is also a day dedicated to the LGBTQ+ community that aims to educate and fight LGBTQ+ rights violations: May 17, The International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia. On this occasion, Societe Generale Global Solution Centre Romania tried to raise awareness on the topic by lighting up our office building in rainbow colors. A gesture that clearly attracted some attention. Yet inclusion doesn't need to remind people about such topics because people would simply know about it (or better yet, the issues no longer exist). Once we get to a stage where such actions become obsolete, we could say that we are truly inclusive – we are definitely not there yet, but every small step takes us in the right direction.
What are the main pillars of the D&I strategy at Societe Generale Global Solution Centre and how hard has it been to get here?
The key pillar for our entire D&I strategy is represented by our leadership team. Leaders play a key role in the organization, they model inclusive behavior, cascading the right messages throughout the organization but also ensuring inclusive practices are adopted in an employee’s everyday life.
Our approach has been to transform our leaders into advocates and promoters of D&I programs so that they can evangelize the same within the organization. We have always tried to expose them to different realities as an opportunity for them to experience first-hand how others feel and think, to draw their own conclusions, and to incentivize them in this way to take the business forward. The leadership team is also 100% responsible for ensuring that standards are implemented in their perimeters and conscious and continuous efforts are made to have a more inclusive environment at every team level.
One of the changes in our company in terms of accountability, for example, has been the transfer of the D&I indicators monitoring from the Human Resources (HR) department to the business. Even though diversity and inclusion are not managed through performance indicators alone, it is important as a reflection that the subject is taken seriously, like any other aspect of the business. The transfer of responsibility from HR to business aims to ‘empower’ the real decision makers and has been positively embraced by the senior executive team.
How might leadership think more creatively about recruitment in organizations? Could you share with us a personal story?
Realistically speaking, diversity in organizations comes from the recruitment stages. Acknowledging the long-term benefits of creating a diverse team (sustainability, challenging the status quo, flexibility) is 50% of the story, the other 50% is the admission that any change requires effort, things done differently and a change in mindset.
We are no longer in the old paradigm where candidates sell themselves; nowadays it is the employer who has to sell to candidates and who should create a premium candidate / employee experience. It is increasingly difficult to find the perfect fit for open roles, so companies should be willing to invest and help employees develop to reach their full potential. The good news is that investment always pays off and translates into greater engagement, a sense of belonging that drives loyalty, and better operational results.
One of Societe Generale Global Solution Centre Romania’s approaches to recruiting people with disabilities, for example, is to dedicate the first 6 months in the company only to upskilling activities: each new colleague has a solid individual development plan that allows up to 70% of the working time for training and learning activities. This is an investment that we consider necessary not only for the development of our company, but also to support those who may not have had the same educational opportunities as most of us.
Why it is important to have clear metrics for D&I?
I have already mentioned a few points when discussing the responsibility that the management team has in our company to monitor and take action to improve D&I indicators. As business professionals, we have typically developed a greater sense of accountability when measuring performance, setting targets, tracking progress. It’s the business language we all speak. Introducing the same approach to diversity and inclusion elements sends a strong message to all stakeholders that the topic is relevant and has the same strategic focus as any other business factor in the organization. Defining a measurement and control system is also key to making the topic a priority – in the end, you cannot change what you cannot measure.
In which way has the diversity and inclusion sector changed in the last years?
I think a lot of progress has been made recently in terms of the way we look at certain aspects related to work and business: it’s no longer “the corporation wants” but rather “I want”, nor “I expect someone to do it” but “I'll take the lead and I'll do it myself”. This shift has enabled allies to become so powerful in driving inclusion in the business environment, with people coming together and feeling empowered to act autonomously, asking for support when needed but not being dependent on the organization structure.
Another important aspect is that we have become more open – I can give the example of LGBTQ+ no longer being a taboo topic in the workplace (this is a representative example, but certainly not the only one).
Interview by Dana Oancea. Copyright Carta Diversitatii, toate drepturile rezervate.