The Fondazione Symbola’s 17th Summer Seminar: “We can’t do it alone. Building the future with empathy and technology".
Diversity and inclusion, an unwavering commitment
Diversity is a fact, inclusion is a value. And it's a value that should be promoted and propagated not just to ensure respect for others, but also because it creates an atmosphere conducive to improved human and professional relationships and enables everyone to realise their full potential. In other words, it's a development factor and is a key element for the success of a company.
Many major companies have adopted inclusion policies based around some of the more common diversity criteria:
- nationality or ethnicity
- sexual orientation.
This includes our Group that, in 2015, adopted its Diversity and Inclusion Policy, a general guidance document that reflects our philosophy on inclusion and valuing diversity.
We apply this policy rigorously through numerous projects at all our premises and facilities throughout Italy. From an equal opportunities perspective we are focussed on ensuring equal gender representation through our internal and external recruitment and selection processes, we develop agreements with universities to promote technical and scientific careers for women and we seek to strike a balance between the needs of new parents and their professional development. To this end, for example, we have launched the Parental Program and training activities for new parents so as to utilise their experience within the organisation and facilitate the transfer of their newly acquired skills into the working environment via the Life Based Learning methodology.
With respect to age and nationality differences we have launched a tutoring programme for new recruits and employees transferring from other countries, there are also knowledge sharing initiatives to enable colleagues from different generations to benefit from sharing their digital skills and organisational knowledge.
Our disability-focussed initiatives include projects that are breaking new ground in Italy, such as the Independent Living programme which is aimed at improving the internal and external mobility of disabled employees who need to travel for business purposes, refreshment areas redesigned to improve their usability, IT accessibility courses and training for designated internal officers to facilitate the professional development of disabled employees.
In addition, we were the first energy company to adopt Pedius, a system that enables deaf people to communicate with us using speech recognition and synthesised voice technologies. Finally, during our internal events we provide audio descriptions for the blind or visually impaired as well as subtitles and sign language translations.
Emotions, not judgements
Inclusion cannot exist wherever there's prejudice and often involuntary mental mechanisms can lead a person to judge another simply because they are different. Inclusion therefore requires people to suspend judgement and to listen in order to understand the true value of each person. But not just ordinary listening, empathetic listening: inclusion derives from emotions, which stimulate empathy, enabling us to put ourselves in the other person's shoes and to see the world through their eyes.
An inclusive dialogue requires inclusive language: it's important to be mindful of the words we use since ill-chosen words can sometimes expose unintentional thinking patterns or prejudice. An open mind is fundamental for discovering new realities, imagining new scenarios and finding innovative solutions.
The challenge of the last mile
In light of all this, the most responsible companies (particularly the larger ones) don't just limit themselves to valuing diversity and promoting inclusion, they actively encourage awareness of these values among their employees.
Our Group takes diversity into consideration during the performance evaluation process and organises training courses to ensure staff are fully aware of the values and conduct outlined in the diversity and inclusion guidelines. Furthermore, it celebrates these themes every year via a special event, the Diversity & Inclusion Days, which in 2019 took place in Rome on the occasion of the UN’s International Day of Persons with Disabilities (3 December) and had the title “Inclusion Ongoing”, to underline everyone's involvement in a process that is perpetually in progress.
Naturally, inclusion is not something that should be confined to single days: it has to be a normal aspect of everyday life. Events like this therefore should be seen as a gentle nudge for everyone attending, to encourage them to take the message back into their workplace. This is the so-called “challenge of the last mile”, the final step which is often also the most difficult. Our commitment, which was reiterated by the Enel Chairman Patrizia Grieco, is to spread the culture of diversity and inclusion as widely as possible.
Inclusion creates value
Having a strong focus on diversity and inclusion can also pay dividends from a business perspective as both create value in a variety of ways:
- they are capable of bringing out the best in people, enabling them to have a positive impact in terms of productivity and innovation;
- they encourage behaviours that transcend prejudice and discrimination and they create a more peaceful and productive working environment;
- they attract and foster talented individuals with subsequent advantages for the company in terms of leadership;
- they enable customer requirements to be understood and satisfied.
A study by McKinsey showed that the probability of success for a company increases by 15% if its business strategy includes initiatives aimed at promoting gender diversity, and by 35% if the workforce is composed of a mix of ethnicities. According to another report published by Accenture in 2018 called “The Disability Inclusion Advantage”, companies that excel in terms of disability employment and inclusion achieve, on average, revenues 28% higher than those that don't.
The diversity manager
The focus that many companies now have on issues related to diversity and inclusion has led to the emergence of new professional roles, such as the diversity manager. In some cases, these roles cover the entire range of issues connected with diversity and inclusion; sometimes, however, their remit is much more specific. Take Microsoft for example, to manage issues related to disability, they created the position of Chief Accessibility Officer, a top executive position with a level of responsibility aligned with those of the Chief Executive Officer and the Chief Financial Officer: strongly underlining the importance that the company associates with disability-related issues.
Our Group is also at the forefront in this context, the People and Organisation division has set up a global People Care and Diversity Management unit, which directs and oversees the adoption of the Diversity and Inclusion Policy, as well as promoting initiatives and managing projects such as the above-mentioned Diversity & Inclusion Days. This unit is a sign of our commitment in this regard, a commitment that will never falter.
“Diversity isn’t managed, it’s encouraged”. Iliana Totaro describes the path she took towards developing the Diversity & Inclusion Policy.
Sustainability, technological innovation and the energy transition: the cornerstones that we base our business model on.