Daniela Vallo, CEO of Beenear, shares with us the challenges of a diverse workplace context in the Romanian IT

The story of Beenear started in 2004, in Iasi, Romania, with a team of over 140 professionals, all successfully contributing to the delivery of software development projects within the retail, and logistics areas mostly, working alongside partners throughout Europe and US. 

 Beenear started under the guidance of DITECH, a company with over 30 years of experience in the development of software products dedicated to the retail and logistics business fields.Then, in 2020, entered SESA Group, by becoming part of VAR GROUP, one of the most renowned players in the software industry in Italy, with over 4200 employees (group level), also listed at the Milan Stock Exchange.

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

Beenear was born in 2004 and, being an Italian-owned company, we can say that the issues of diversity and inclusion were immediately addressed, having two cultures that met in a historical moment up until these two points were not yet a subject.

Since then, our journey has been long and progressive, and we worked on creating a workplace that is equal for everyone. Of course, as we all know it, this is an ongoing journey, and our commitment, as we pledged also for the Diversity Charter of Romania, is to constantly invest in this area to maintain the correct balance.

In our journey towards finding a good diversity balance, we focused on some main pillars, and we always kept it as a focus for maintaining diversity within our team: cultural, age, racial, gender, and religious diversity.

All these pillars represented the guideline in our internal processes, from recruitment activities, where the purpose is to attract a diverse pool of candidates and to implement fair and inclusive hiring practices, up to employee experience, improving it by offering mentoring programs to our team.

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

In such a diverse context as the one we live in today, one of our main priorities is to develop the Beenear context around the concept of equality vs. equity. We are strong believers in the potential of our teammates, and we consider that every one of us can reach high results, as long as the possibilities and the context are constructed in a way of allowing them to highlight their skills and talents. That is why we train ourselves in the tendency to recognize and appreciate the positive human qualities that exist in every person.

The goal then is to provide all employees with the tools to achieve their career goals, in terms of job opportunities, professional growth, and training, regardless of any element of diversity.

For this reason, we have recently redesigned and structured our Career Plan, in a way that allows all Beenearers to showcase their skills and potential, no matter the path they choose to pursue.

Beyond this, the idea is to structure more and more communication on the D&I policies of Beenear, both internally and externally, addressing both current employees and candidates, as well as customers.

The aspects of diversity management on which we are constantly focused are:

  • Gender Diversity: Women are usually underrepresented in the technology industry, so we strongly promote gender diversity to create a more inclusive workplace. Beenear strives to attract and retain more women in all areas of the organization, including leadership positions and currently almost half of the company structure (47%) is made up of women, including in management roles.
  • Age Diversity: Age diversity is essential, particularly in an industry that often values youth. Beenear promotes policies and practices that value the contributions of experienced employees and promote intergenerational collaboration.
  • Cultural Diversity: Cultural diversity is critical in a globalized context where companies work with clients and partners from different cultures. We support employees on how to work best with people from different cultural backgrounds.

Overall, we need to prioritize diversity management across all aspects of the organization, as a diverse and inclusive workforce leads to better business outcomes and helps the company stay competitive in a rapidly changing industry.

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

A work of deconstruction that we must do to appropriate a new gaze, a new collective vision that is also necessary for the post-pandemic historical period that has widened the boundaries of communication.

This work is especially challenging now that many people still prefer to work from home and in-person interactions have declined significantly but we have already started and will continue to work to make people feel that they are part of an inclusive company.

Being part of such an extended network, as we are alongside such an experienced group, we have identified a few points that according to us are and remain some of the biggest challenges in the journey of diversity and inclusion:

  • Unconscious Bias

This is one of the biggest challenges, which can prevent companies from hiring, promoting, and retaining employees from diverse backgrounds. Unconscious bias can be difficult to identify and overcome, which is why the key elements we consider in evaluating a professional are talent, potential, and of course, results.

  • Retention

Even when companies are successful in attracting diverse talent, retention can be a challenge. Employees from underrepresented groups may feel isolated or experience microaggressions or prejudice in the workplace, which can lead to lower job satisfaction and higher turnover rates. Beenear has always been open to an inclusive culture, providing mentoring and sponsorship opportunities and promoting employee resource groups.

  • Resistance to Change

Resistance to change is another challenge that companies may face when trying to create a more diverse and inclusive workforce. Some employees may feel threatened by diversity initiatives and resist change, which can create tension and conflict in the workplace. We are addressing this challenge by communicating the benefits of diversity and inclusion and supporting employees to understand the importance of creating an inclusive workplace.

  • Lack of Metrics

Finally, companies may struggle with measuring their progress in creating a diverse and inclusive workforce. Without metrics, it can be difficult to identify areas for improvement and track progress over time. In Beenear we already addressed this challenge by establishing diversity and inclusion metrics, like workforce composition and regularly monitoring and reporting on progress towards goals. We use instruments like Employee engagement surveys that measure employee perceptions of the company's culture, leadership, and inclusivity or the Feedback mechanisms that permit employees to provide feedback on their experiences within the company.

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

First and foremost, the well-being of the employees. We are a company that consolidated its experience under the guidance of four core values, the team, innovation, leadership, and the client. That is why, to us, the well-being of all beanearers is the most appreciated business benefit our journey of D&I can bring us.

Better Innovation is the second benefit we identified. A diverse workforce brings a variety of perspectives, experiences, and backgrounds that can lead to better innovation and problem-solving. Different ideas and approaches can help us develop new and innovative solutions for clients.

Addressing our third core value, leadership, we discovered that our journey of D&I can bring us towards overall better decision-making. A diverse workforce can bring a range of perspectives and insights to the decision-making process, which can lead to better-informed decisions that consider a variety of viewpoints and potential outcomes.

And last, but not least, considering the client, we expect that our D&I journey will lead us toward an expanded market reach. A diverse workforce can help us better understand and connect with a broader range of partners and clients.

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

Respect commitments with customers and company goals

The biggest challenge is being able to be efficient in respecting diversity: problems deriving from diversity of any kind require time to be discussed, addressed, and resolved. In all of this, the project and business objectives must not be lost sight of, so the effort is to remain efficient and respectful of deadlines while facing critical issues.

Cultural misunderstandings

As in any community, there can be cultural problems between members based on each one's attitudes.

Furthermore, when working with foreign countries, cultural differences must always be kept in mind to avoid misunderstandings as much as possible.

We may have different communication styles and different priorities. In the company, we are always ready to listen to any type of problem of this type whether it arises within a team or between teams and our customers and we intervene promptly to resolve them in the best possible way and in the shortest possible time.

Communications issues

I am responsible for what I say, not for what you understand: how many times do we hear this sentence from someone who wants to solve a communication problem quickly?

We all say in words that we respect others, this is probably our intention, but more often than not, our nature, or our culture, leads us to criticize other people, first of all, to recognize their defects, mistakenly believing that feeling better makes us feel better.

In Beenear we believe that the Buddhist principle of "different bodies, same mind" can be implemented so we are ready to intervene in case of communication problems and we do it through constant alignments with our PMs and creating direct communication channels with all employees, in such a way that each member of our team has the tools that allow them to be listened to, express their thoughts and seek solutions together.

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

There is nothing better than a practical test. Having different people work in the same team and support their operations in an inclusive environment is the best proof that can be offered, together with giving to all guys the total willingness to listen and all the support needed to solve any kind of issues coming from diversity.

Convincing employees to see the value in diversity management and getting them on board can be challenging, but here are some strategies that have helped us:

Transparent communication of the D&I benefits

Communicating the benefits of diversity and inclusion in a way that resonates with employees, and explaining how D&I initiatives can lead to better innovation, is an essential step towards an engaged structure in this journey.

Leading by example

Senior leaders and managers should lead by example by actively promoting diversity and inclusion and modeling inclusive behavior, and this is the case in our team, as we offer equitable opportunities to all beanearers to showcase their talent and potential.

Encourage employee engagement

Encouraged employees tend to get more involved in our D&I initiatives and this means providing opportunities for them to contribute their ideas and suggestions. That is why we are constantly organizing events and activities that promote the unity of our group.

Measure progress and celebrate success

We understand that this is a continuous journey and applying the correct metrics to understand our progress is essential, but not only that but also celebrating successes along the way.

We are confident that celebrating our differences is what will lead us forward in our diversity and inclusion journey. Small steps towards a better future are the motto we are applying and we will keep you posted on our progress.

If you enjoyed reading about the diversity & inclusion journey of Beenear, don't hesitate to contact us, or even visit our office in Iași, Moara de Foc Street, 35th. We look forward to receiving your visit.

To find out more about the Beenear culture, you can check ther career page to see how you can join the team.   

Interview by Dana Oancea. Copyright Carta Diversitatii din Romania.