The European Diversity Month (#EUDiversityMonth) is an effort to raise awareness of Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) at European level, to which member countries contribute through various actions aimed at both the business and social environment.

In Romania, the national representatives of the Diversity Charter coordinated a series of events to promote this initiative, together with the representatives of some of the largest organizations operating in the country.

Among the first signatories of the Romanian Diversity Charter and its research partner, MKOR Consulting conducted the first study on D&I Management in Romanian Organizations in 2020. This approach was resumed in 2021, from a new perspective: that of the employees.

In the two separate studies, we aimed to compare the perspective of companies and employees in order to have a clear picture of what a diverse and inclusive environment really means in the case of the Romanian organizations.

Based on the insights thus obtained, Human Resources managers or D&I managers in organizations can lay the foundations for the development of D&I Management policies that are anchored to the social and organizational context in our country.

The most relevant research results were presented for the first time by Corina Cimpoca, Founder of MKOR, within the Forum “Diversity Management in Romania – realities, practices and goals”. The event organized by the Romanian Diversity Charter marked the European Diversity Month (#EuDiversityMonth) and took place online on May 20, 2021.

“I was glad to see that the employees of the signatories of the Romanian Diversity Charter confirm that they respect their commitments regarding the adoption and promotion of D&I values and principles.

I believe that the results of the study are an important step in the effort to understand and strategize local D&I practices. Basically, the study shows that the signatory organizations tend to apply significantly more D&I practices compared to other Romanian organizations, standing out through their strategic approach to diversity and inclusion.” said Dana Oancea, Co-founder and Project Manager of the Diversity Charter in Romania.

Diversity and Inclusion in Romanian organizations: the same desideratum, distinct perspectives

In recent years, an increasing number of Romanian organizations have adhered to the diversity principles and have developed strategies to actually implement them. More and more companies have shown interest in the inclusive policies, which has accelerated the need to know the realities of diversity and inclusion within the local organizational environment.

As a result, in 2019 we gladly responded to the invitation of the Romanian Diversity Charter to explore together the assimilation of the Diversity and Inclusion principles within the Romanian organizations. In 2020, we published the first study on D&I Management in Romanian organizations through which we aimed to:

  • Discover to what extent Romanian organizations identify with the principles of Diversity and Inclusion.
  • Learn how the D&I principles are approached in Romanian companies.
  • Uncover what performance indicators are used by organizations to measure the progress of D&I policies.

The results of the study addressed to companies showed that there is a visible concern for diversity and inclusion at a managerial level. But while companies recognize the benefits of D&I policies and focus their efforts on its pillars, such as promoting gender equality, effective implementation is still at an early stage.

Furthermore, we wanted to have a full picture of how organizations support the development of a diverse and inclusive work environment through specific practices and actions.

So, in 2021 we resumed the research, this time from the perspective of employees. Specifically, we considered the following objectives:

  • Discover how employees perceive the efforts for Diversity and Inclusion undergone by the companies they are part of.
  • Learn the differences between the organizational perspective and that of the employees on D&I initiatives.
  • Uncover what are the benefits of implementing D&I policies in organizations, from the perspective of employees.

Discover the main insights that compare the way in which employees, respectively organizations, relate to the most important aspects regarding diversity: the strategic approach, the perceived benefits as well as the main barriers.

What does Diversity and Inclusion mean in the local organizational context?

Diversity is a reality of Romanian organizations. Thus, 3 out of 4 employees have at least one colleague who belongs to vulnerable or minority groups. In general, these are people of Roma or Hungarian ethnicity, people with minority religious beliefs or those who have a precarious social situation.

In this context, employees associate diversity with acceptance and respect for the uniqueness of each individual. At the same time, inclusion is primarily seen as equal opportunities.

Opportunities and equal chances are the defining aspects of D&I from the  managerial perspective, a view shared by 44% of the responding companies.

Strategic directions regarding D&I in Romanian organizations

Diversity and Inclusion are addressed strategically in 36% of the participating companies in the 2020 study. This tendency to include the principles of Diversity and Inclusion into organizational strategies and values is mainly specific to large companies. In the case of SMEs, D&I policies are addressed ad hoc (45% of companies participating in the study published in 2020).

The efforts undertaken by companies to ensure a diverse and inclusive work environment are also confirmed by those directly targeted. A surprising percentage  of employees –  36% believe that their organizations have a strategic approach to D&I, actively implementing at least seven D&I support policies and initiatives.

(*percentage calculated based on the D&I Policy Index)

The study data show that the Diversity Charter signatories tend to implement more D&I practices in their organizations compared to other employers (analysis based on the D&I Policy Index)).

Diversity and Inclusion in Practice

Diversity is also observed in the actual implementation of specific D&I practices. In this case, we notice different perspectives between the vision of the organizations and that of the employees.

Thus, while most organizations state that their main direction of action on D&I is gender equality (86%), only 31% of employees perceive this as true. 

Thus, we notice a more optimistic attitude in the case of the companies regarding gender equality policies.

Another priority practice for 63% of the responding companies is the recruitment and integration of people with disabilities. However, these efforts are recognized by only 29% of employees.

Differences in perception are also recorded in terms of support and assistance provided to employees by organizations. While 9 out of 10 organizations say they provide useful information and training programs or workshops on D&I, only half of the employees (5 out of 10) confirm that they benefit from such facilities.

The benefits of D&I policies in Romanian organizations

Regardless of their stage of implementation, the benefits of D&I policies and practices are unanimously recognized from both perspectives. For companies, a diverse work environment is mainly associated with employee well-being and business development.

Specifically, 35% of decision makers and HR specialists believe that Diversity and Inclusion Management contributes significantly to employee well-being by creating a collaborative work environment.

Team diversity means diversity of thought. Thus, for 23% of the participating organizations, encouraging and valuing the uniqueness of each employee is an asset for business development. The main benefit for the organization? Developing a work environment that encourages creativity and variety of ideas.

From the employees’ perspective, respecting and accepting the characteristics that make them unique and different positively influences working relationships, helping to reduce internal conflicts and ensuring better communication with colleagues.

Barriers for D&I in Romanian organizations

Although the benefits of promoting Diversity and Inclusion in an organizational context are well known, the efforts to integrate D&I policies and practices are often hindered by a number of obstacles.

These barriers are organizational, such as the lack of financial resources (especially for small and medium-sized companies) and / or human resources (only 8% of organizations have a dedicated D&I manager).

Poor communication of D&I initiatives internally or insufficient knowledge of the benefits of these practices are other obstacles to the development of a diverse and inclusive work environment.

Individually, the main barriers perceived by both managers and employees are mentalities, biases and stereotypes. Thus, 25% of organizations consider that people’s mentalities, culture and biases represent the main obstacle to the success of D&I initiatives.

On the other hand, 3 out of 7 employees experience an average intensity of barriers to D&I due to biases, stereotypes, lack of an inclusive mentality and ignorance.

Moreover, 4 out of 10 employees personally experienced or witnessed discriminatory situations at work.

Methodological specifications

The study on D&I Management in Romanian Organizations aimed to discover the extent to which Romanian organizations assume the principles of Diversity and Inclusion, as well as how they are approached.

The study took place between August and December 2019, on a sample of 77 private organizations and NGOs in Romania. The respondents were entrepreneurs, managers, HR specialists responsible for the principles of Diversity and Inclusion in Romanian companies.

The study Diversity and Inclusion in Romanian Organizations. An Employee Perspective aimed to uncover how Romanian employees perceive the efforts of the organizations they are part of in terms of Diversity and Inclusion.

The study took place between April and May 2021, on a simple random sample, consisting of 525 employees from public, private companies and NGOs in Romania.

Special thanks to the partners of the initiative

We would like to thank the partners from the Romanian Diversity Charter, HR Club, Exec-Edu and PWN Romania for their support in carrying out the study on Diversity and Inclusion Management in Romanian Organizations (2020).

We would also like to thank the partners of the Romanian Diversity Charter and all the Charter signatories for their support in carrying out the study on the employees’ perspective on the D&I policies and practices of the organizations in which they work.

For the invitation to present this study, we thank the Diversity Charter, Renault Romania and TVR 1.

The Diversity Charter in Romania

The Romanian Diversity Charter appeared in response to the need for an initiative that holistically addresses the issue of diversity management in our country. This paved the way for stakeholders from various industries to sit at the same table and discuss best practices for diversity management, and promote the principles of equality and non-discrimination, while taking action to implement them.

By launching the Diversity Charter in Romania, on April 18 2018, our country became the 21st country in the European Union with a Diversity Charter and a member of the European Diversity Platform.

The results did not cease to come, as nowadays an increased number of organizations have joined this initiative and addressed well-defined strategies for managing diversity in domestic policies. Currently, the Diversity Charter brings together 127 signatories, who have publicly assumed the principles of the Charter and the promotion of diversity, equal opportunities and social inclusion in Romania.

However, the development and implementation of these policies, adapted to organizational realities is an effort that requires time and dedicated resources.

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