Alina Sebe, UNIQA Asigurări: Diversity and inclusion cannot be maintained if efforts are not shared across the organization

In today's post, Alina Sebe, HR Director at UNIQA Asigurări, discusses the actions the company has been taking in diversity management.

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

In 2021, at the UNIQA group level, the Diversity and Inclusion Committee was established. Consequently, we initiated a program focused on promoting diversity from a structured perspective. Subsequently, we outlined our first D&I strategy, within which we set concrete objectives for the first time to support and enhance diversity at the UNIQA group level.

At the local level, the management team made a clear commitment to prioritize and promote diversity and inclusion. In addition to the Diversity and Inclusion Committee, we also appointed a D&I officer to ensure that our initiatives and actions align with the company's strategy and that we firmly assume the role of promoting a diverse and inclusive work environment for a better life together. We reviewed our internal policies and procedures regarding diversity and inclusion to clearly articulate UNIQA's position, objectives, and commitment in this direction. Additionally, we implemented training programs focused on diversity and inclusion for all employees to increase awareness and promote understanding of these important aspects. Performance indicators were also a priority for us.

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

We aspire for UNIQA to be a place that offers team members opportunities for personal growth, development, and meaningful involvement in local communities. Therefore, we focus on concrete measures to support diversity and inclusion, with the UNIQA team at the heart of all our efforts. We concentrate on addressing gender pay gaps (equal pay) and achieving greater gender diversity at all levels of leadership. Additionally, our recruitment process is fair and impartial, providing equal opportunities to all candidates, and combating age discrimination is a constant priority. Promoting an inclusive leadership style is also on UNIQA's agenda, creating a culture of respect where people feel valued, included, and supported. Lastly, we value the feedback of our UNIQA team members. That's why we measure the success of these initiatives through the D&I index, reflecting our employees' perception within the Employee Voice program.

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

One of the challenges in the insurance industry is attracting new talent. It's a field that still maintains a traditional and conservative image in the labor market, perhaps due to its regulated framework. Therefore, at times, it's necessary to exert additional efforts in the recruitment and selection process to change this perception. Furthermore, UNIQA operates in 18 European markets, and managing diversity and inclusion across different regions with unique cultural nuances and regulations poses additional challenges.

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

Diversity and inclusion mean more to us at UNIQA than just a catchy phrase: it's essential that diversity isn't reduced to a mere fashionable cliché or just a buzzword. From my perspective, one of the main advantages is creating an inclusive environment where employees feel valued and respected, leading to higher motivation, dedication, and productivity when they feel that their contributions are recognized and appreciated. I believe that through concrete D&I actions, you can foster a sense of belonging and loyalty among employees. And with such an approach, you have a better chance of retaining top talent, thus reducing turnover and associated costs.

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

Gender and age equality remain pressing topics in the corporate world in our country, as well as globally. Companies are challenged to adapt to market changes, and the presence of different generations generates varying demands and expectations regarding opportunities, career development, life goals, and visions for the future. I see a clearer stance on independence, as well as a balance between professional and personal life among young adults.

Stereotypes directed against certain groups of individuals are inevitable, and employees may use them as an excuse to avoid collaborating with their colleagues. This leads to isolation and fragmented teams. In these situations, I believe it's important to have direct communication and clear actions through which organizations demonstrate their position against discrimination, racism, gender biases, and inequality. Simultaneously, by training and educating employees about internal policies and procedures, companies show their support for and belief in celebrating people's abilities and firmly oppose judgments based on gender, religion, ethnicity, or anything similar.

The idea of inclusion varies for each person, and this aspect can be challenging in certain situations. For some, it may mean respecting religion, acceptance despite accents. For others, it may mean recognizing competencies regardless of disabilities or ensuring equal opportunities or equal pay. Our responsibility is to ensure that all employees feel included, have positive experiences within the company, feel respected, valued, and heard.

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

To create a long-term diverse and inclusive corporate culture within the vast UNIQA group community, everyone needs to be involved. From the very beginning, we've had a clear commitment, especially from the members of the board and management, to implement concrete initiatives at the local level. We invested in their training and education, consistently integrating diversity and inclusion aspects into our processes and development programs, especially as leaders shape other leaders. They set the tone, influencing both through proactive actions and the decision to remain passive in certain situations.

Promoting diversity and inclusion is an ongoing process. There are periods when we feel that our actions are effective, but there are also times when we face challenges. Moreover, diversity and inclusion cannot be maintained if efforts are not shared across the organization.

We at UNIQA have chosen to engage and take on these efforts continuously for a better life together.

Alina Sebe este Director de Resurse Umane la UNIQA Asigurări. Interview by Dana Oancea, Carta Diversitatii.