20. 03. 2023 Corporate responsibility

The annual meeting of the signatories of the Diversity Charter offered inspiration from abroad as well as discussion tables on I&D topics

The Diversity Charter entered the new year with 129 signatories from various fields and business sectors. The annual meeting was hosted on the premises by one of the ambassadors of the Charter – Slovenská sporiteľňa.

At the beginning of the meeting, the executive director of the Business Leaders Forum, Ivana Vagaská, summarised the Charter activities in the past year and presented plans for the future. The year 2022 and the activities of the Charter were significantly marked by two tragic events – the Russian invasion of Ukraine and a terrorist attack on Zámocká Street in Bratislava. Many signatories of the Charter had been involved in helping and supporting people from Ukraine and LGBTI+ people. “Even though the Diversity Charter is a platform to support inclusion and diversity in the workplace, it is crucial that we express support for vulnerable groups in our society not only internally but also externally,” said I. Vagaská. This year, the Charter added a novelty to the planned events and activities in the form of free training for its signatories to help them navigate the complex topic of I&D at the workplace.

The program also included the election of the new Advisory Committee. Its members for the next two years will be Marcela Krajčová (Philip Morris Slovakia), Miroslava Rychtárechová (Tesco Stores SR) and Radoslav Remák (Henkel Slovakia), who was also part of the previous Advisory Committee.

The Estonian bank’s internal communication campaign focused on a positive workplace culture

The meeting also offered inspiration from abroad in the field of I&D. It was an internal communication campaign of an Estonian bank aimed at promoting care and mindfulness in the workplace. “We have absolutely zero tolerance for discrimination, harassment and bullying. A respectful culture and a safe working environment are vital to us,” said Iti-Christella Mägi, Diversity Manager at Swedbank Estonia, the largest bank in the country. They prepared a Dare to Care campaign to raise awareness among male and female employees about positive workplace culture. The campaign included a website that contained information about mobbing, the purpose of this campaign, and also offered the opportunity to send a positive message to colleagues. The critical element of the campaign was four videos featuring well-known Estonian actors and actresses. Interestingly, the script for the individual videos was written directly by people from the bank.

The second part of the campaign focused on the hybrid model of work that had become standard in many companies after the pandemic. “The campaign’s main message was that a pleasant, positive working environment is still important, no matter where people work,” added I. Mägi. They visualised the various situations that can arise during hybrid operation through four videos featuring the bank’s male and female employees as actors and actresses. Both campaigns got a very positive reaction; male and female employees sent almost 700 messages through the website. “We raised awareness of the importance of a respectful corporate culture in a light-hearted way and drew attention to small, inconspicuous forms of harassment.” Swedbank Estonia plans to follow up on the campaign in its other activities.

Psychological safety increases the productivity and engagement of employees

Another topic of the annual meeting of the signatories was a psychologically safe working environment. “It’s the kind of environment in which people know that they can speak up and express their opinions without fearing the risk of being punished or humiliated,” explained Martina Gallovičová, cooperating coach of inly.sk. A two-year study by Google as part of the Aristotle project demonstrated that psychological safety should be the essential building block of effective teams, crucial for their functioning. In companies with a high level of trust, people feel less stress, have more energy at work, are more productive and engaged and experience less burnout.

Among aspects that contribute to the creation of a psychologically safe environment are clearly defined company values that are part of the entire life cycle of people at work, open communication, effective work with feedback, support for independence, room for mistakes, inclusion and well-being, the education system and leadership. “Many companies do not focus on a psychologically safe environment separately but have defined its principles through their values and company culture,” said M. Gallovičová.

The extent to which we can create psychological safety in the workplace depends mainly on how leaders approach people. This is also what companies should keep in mind when selecting the leaders. They must be focused not only on performance but also on developing relationships. According to M. Gallovičová, it has proven effective if such a person has a “twin” (for example, a people partner or operation manager) dedicated to building culture, inclusion, preparing team-building activities, and other people-oriented activities. “On the other hand, if we want the leaders to create a safe environment, we also need to create a space for them where they have the opportunity to share and open up about the difficult topics they are dealing with.” Some companies use the so-called peer sharing, a method where leaders share their know-how and constructively discuss problems with the help of a facilitator. It is also helpful if a company has its own internal coach or mentors for leaders who listen to and guide them in their development.

A company can also support a psychologically safe environment by setting up its education system. The employee should start the evaluation process independently (even before the manager does). Managers should remember that they are not evaluating a person but their skills, work, and results. Also important are development interviews, where a person has space to speak, and a transparent growth system (promotion).

The meeting offered discussion tables on the topics of diversity inclusion in the workplace

The programme included discussion tables where the signatories discussed different diversity and inclusion topics. The meeting participants had the opportunity to share their experiences and good practice on the issues of parent support, employment of people with disabilities, age diversity, LGBTI+ people and strengthening mental health and well-being in the workplace.

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