“Diversity means that you ensure that everyone knows that his or her voice counts”
Why is diversity a strategic theme for bpost group?
Bernard Vanneste (Diversity & Inclusion manager bpost): “People with diverse backgrounds, cultures, experiences and dreams work here. To give you an idea, on some operational sites more than 40 nationalities are working together. That diversity is really unique to our group. Facilitating a culture where everyone respects and trusts each other is good for everyone’s well-being, and ultimately for our company too.”
A few decades ago, bpost group was already a diverse group. Why this renewed attention for this topic, especially in recent years?
Bernard Vanneste: “In line with the rest of our society, bpost is evolving from diverse to super diverse. Experience tells us – and this is also confirmed by various studies – that the different backgrounds bring new expertise. It also improves operational performance. And, moreover, it makes you understand much better what that diverse society requires of you.”
Patty Seltzer (Director of Learning and Development at Radial, bpost’s US e-commerce subsidiary): “In the past, organizations looked at diversity in an almost statistical way. For example, diversity in hiring was more of a ‘check-the box’ exercise – only looking at a candidate’s gender, ethnicity and so on. But diversity is more than statistics. It’s about understanding the whole person and the unique experiences that influence who we are. Our vision tells us that diversity means that you ensure that everyone has their place in the organization and that everyone knows that his or her voice counts. You do this by creating a culture that makes inclusion possible. Not everyone has to be the best at bpost group, but everyone should be able to be their best self.”
“In line with the rest of our society, bpost is evolving from diverse to super diverse.”
What are the biggest challenges in this shift to an inclusive culture?
Bernard Vanneste: “Creating diversity and inclusion is not just HR’s responsibility, but the entire company’s responsibility. The support of managers in the operational field is indispensable. Due to the corona crisis, the focus was and remains very much on the operational side. Keeping diversity and inclusion on the agenda remains a major challenge, but we notice that nobody needs to be convinced of their importance anymore.”
In the US, how did you deal with the Black Lives Matter protests following George Floyd’s death in May 2020?
Patty Seltzer: “This past summer illuminated how racism and social injustice continue to exist in the US. The Radial Executive Leadership team felt it was important to hear the voices of our Black community and to develop a deeper understanding of their personal experience with racism and social injustice. They held safe, respectful, listening sessions to hear employees’ stories and perspectives.”
Is pursuing diversity a top-down matter?
Patty Seltzer: “It moves in both directions. For example, today, in various Radial distribution centers there are diversity boards with calendars and information recognizing the holidays of different nationalities and celebrating the cultures of those who work there. That does not come from ‘above’, but grows organically thanks to the initiative of our employees. I think that it is fantastic how Radial respects our local internal communities.”
“The Radial Executive Leadership team felt it was important to hear the voices of our Black community.”
“Creating a place where everyone can be their best self”
To create a culture in which diversity and inclusion are daily practice, bpost group organizes programs and training courses. “We want to exchange best practices and learn from each other. Each with our local challenges, but with the same goal in mind: creating a place where everyone can be their best self, “says Bernard Vanneste.
In 2020 and in collaboration with the equal opportunities centre Unia, a one-day training for managers in Brussels and Antwerp was organized. “It was a full day of working on super diversity, and how to deal with racism and sexism as a manager. We are now rolling it out to other locations.”
“In addition, we have developed an e-learning, in which our own employees explain how to lead a diverse team, and what inclusivity means in practice. A toolbox with clear rules and processes is important. But it is just as important to absorb and breathe out the inclusive culture. Sometimes the right way is not the easiest. “