“We are aware that by being concerned about successful diversity management of our employees, we ensure that employees can fully exploit their potentials, and that they are not subjected to various prejudice and diversity-related factors /…/
Despite our specific employment structure we do not focus on disabilities or disadvantages but rather on the employment and work.”
Igor Pavel is a renowned expert in social entrepreneurship in Slovenia. He gained rich experience in the field of social work and social care during his student years as a volunteer in various non-governmental organizations in Italy, Denmark, Hawaii and the United States.
As a coordinator of international programs, where he works voluntarily, he has led and worked on various international projects. In 2000, he received a prize for innovation in the training, life and work of people with disabilities.
Since 1996 when he became a director of a successful business firm Dobrovita, which employs a high share of people with mental health problems, he been concentrating on the specifics of social business management and in the area of social entrepreneurship.
1. Why and since when does your company believe and invest in diversity management?
The social firm Dobrovita was established in 1996 with the aim of providing assistance in work rehabilitation and employment of people with various disabilities and disadvantages. We employ a high share of people with mental health problems, deaf people, people with physical disabilities and other illnesses.
Dobrovita believes and invests in diversity management from the very beginning. Like every organization which employs people from vulnerable groups we too are an example of having constantly managed diversity in employment.
2. What aspects of diversity management have the highest priority in your company?
The diversity of vulnerable groups we employ is the main factor that constantly forces us to deal with diversity management. We are aware that by being concerned about successful diversity management of our employees, we ensure that employees can fully exploit their potentials, and that they are not subjected to various prejudice and diversity-related factors.
We therefore try to create a work environment in which all employees can realize their highest potentials – no matter what kind of limitations they face. Despite our specific employment structure we do not focus on disabilities or disadvantages but rather on the employment and work.
3. Which D&I activities have been implemented in your organisation so far?
Our mission is to open new job opportunities and to develop work rehabilitation programs for people who are hard to employ. We employ a high percentage of people with different disabilities and disadvantages. We treat them the same as others in relation to all working and employment conditions. Within the various jobs we offer, we make sure that work is adapted to each individual. The workplace and work environment are adapted depending on the type of person’s disability.
Dobrovita offers a supportive network for employees in order for people from various vulnerable groups to be successfully integrated into the work environment. Employees can attend mentorship programs for people with disabilities to better deal with their disability and special educational programs for mentors focused on enhancing mentors’ awareness, knowledge and skills for addressing inclusion. Educational programs highly increase mentor’s competencies of how to manage diverse vulnerable groups.
We recognize diversity management as a means to address and support multiple lifestyles and personal characteristics within the company. Management activities in Dobrovita include education of all employees and the public, and also provide support for various differences to be accepted and respected, such as coming from a different racial, cultural, social, geographic, economic and political backgrounds.
4. Many companies aren’t prioritising inclusion and diversity initiatives right now. Why should they reconsider?
Efficiency and success of organizations are largely dependent on the ability to manage differences between people. Human diversity can be a source of unlimited creativity in the work process. If the structure of the company’s employees is varied it makes sense to address diversity management. The diversity of employees contributes to the realization of the business strategy and the achievement of business goals. In a diverse collective the company tends to be more open to novelties, more ideas and different approaches, originating from a greater creativity on the part of the company’s employees.
5. In your opinion, what tangible benefits does diversity bring to your company?
Diversity of services that we offer itself represents our competitive advantage (cleaning, landscaping, assembly of products and land surveying services). Our clients are thrilled when they realize how professionally the work has been carried out on our part, for they do not expect this at first when they start cooperating with the social firm. Therefore our company enjoys a high reputation.We provide most of the services at the locations of our clients. The integration of disabled and disadvantaged employees into the work processes of our clients has a destigmatizing effect in clients’ work environment.
Clients often inform us that the arrival of people with disabilities to their work environment has contributed to a friendlier work climate.
Age diversity in our workplace is also an advantage since it promotes intergenerational cooperation – the younger ones learn from the elderly and vice versa.
Having taken diversity into consideration an organizational culture based on values has been established, ensuring good relations between employees, boosting creativity and innovation. All this leads to a safer work environment.
6. Can you name three diversity challenges that companies have to pay attention to?
Firstly, it is necessary to comply with the minimum legal requirements regarding the implementation of the principle of equal opportunities and the prevention of discrimination. Only then can we address the challenges of effective diversity management of employees. When it comes to preventing discrimination, employers are obliged to prevent it actively, not only in the process of employing a person, but also at the workplace, in HRM, promotion, education, work conditions and work environment.
7. What do you do to convince your colleagues to see the value in diversity management, or even more to truly get them on board?
Each new colleague is informed about the company’s commitments when joining the organization. We constantly discuss the values in diversity management and we organize trainings of how to work with vulnerable groups (especially for managers).
We promote our commitment to the principles of diversity, equality and inclusion among our business partners. We inform them about the results that relate to our commitment to diversity. We promote our commitment to the principles of diversity, equality and inclusion among our business partners. We inform them about the results that relate to our commitment to diversity. We provide support to encourage acceptance of diversity, so everyone can understand the meaning of the diversity concept.
The fact that we employ a high share of people with disabilities and disadvantages makes it clear that diversity in this aspect is not an obstacle to quality work performance and the achievement of good business results of the organization. On the contrary, the diversity of employees is enriching and increases understanding among employees. We hope that in the future the management of companies will be more aware of the importance of managing the diversity of their employees, because it will definitely contribute to their development.