Much is said about diversity in the workplace. However, realising diversity still requires hard work and repeated, conscious choices on a daily basis.

Teksti Katja Keitaanniemi, toimitusjohtaja, OP Yrityspankki @KKeitaanniemi
Julkaistu 3.3.2023

Despite the amount of discussion of diversity, it cannot be taken for granted at work. Although things are moving in the right direction, each one of us must still take time to think about daily decisions. It’s important that a company’s employees reflect the diversity of the customer base. Diversity must be implemented at all organisational levels and in all kinds of roles, not just on the Management Team and Board of Directors.

Concrete ways of promoting diversity include paying attention to recruitment and individual backgrounds, and seeking to increase diversity awareness in various training courses at team level. Progress in realising diversity, equality and inclusion must also be monitored in different employee surveys. The old idea that ‘what you measure is what you get’ holds true in this context.

OP annually monitors the gender distribution of its employees in terms of pay and age, and how many nationalities and mother tongues are represented among personnel. We also have the separate goal of ensuring that gender representation in executive positions is as equal as possible.

Inclusion requires new management practices

Inclusion, which almost goes hand in hand with diversity, is also frequently mentioned. Inclusion means a way of working based on equality, non-discrimination, and engaging and involving everyone. In inclusive work communities, employees with a wide range of backgrounds feel that they fit in and belong. For Pekka Mattila, Professor of Practice at Aalto University, there is a sense in which inclusion is about the implementation of diversity.

Diversity and inclusion must be built simultaneously. Both require concrete actions and a new approach to leadership. The realisation of diversity and inclusion requires fair leadership that values diversity, equality of opportunity for all, open dialogue, and everyone having access to executives.

Many would call these basic issues. Unfortunately, they are not yet realised in every organisation.

Psychological safety is the basis of inclusion, through which everyone can be themselves and feel positive and accepted. Ultimately, this is about people’s basic need to be listened to and visible as they are. Managers have great responsibility for ensuring that psychological safety is realised in daily work.

Leaders must set an example and show the way in terms of what is acceptable or not. For them as much as for other workers, this means learning new things and identifying their own, unconscious prejudices. For example, to ensure that a message gets across, communications must take more account of the diverse backgrounds of its audience. This concerns how something is said, rather than what is said.

Research suggests that diversity and inclusion have positive impacts on a company’s profitability and customer satisfaction. They also enhance innovativeness and creativity, and employer reputation and attractiveness. These factors are enough to convince any executive that it’s worth investing in diversity in the future. Most importantly of all: employees are happy in their work and thrive.

Kirjoittaja on OP Yrityspankin toimitusjohtaja ja Harvardin alumni.