Estonian entrepreneurs: Diversity is an enormous asset for businesses

The leaders of big Estonian companies see diversity as an enormous asset for businesses, saying that the more diverse the company is, the more likely is it to come up with creative solutions.

On this year’s Diversity Day, the Estonian Human Rights Centre invited representatives from four big Estonia-based companies – Omniva, Rimi, Swedbank and Telia – to participate in a panel discussion on equal treatment. The panellists shared their experiences and thoughts on how to ensure equal opportunities for employees in the small Estonian labour market and what are the benefits for the employers.

Diversity Day panel discussion.

A responsibility to the society

Kaire Tero, the head of human resources at Rimi, said the company employed 2,700 people from different backgrounds and that diversity was one of their core values.

In 2018, Rimi launched the campaign, “Age Doesn’t Matter”, by which the company wanted to raise awareness in the society about older people joining the workforce. According to Tero, the campaign worked. “At a certain age, it becomes more difficult to find work in your field, since there are very many different stereotypes about older employees. We wanted to advertise that everyone was welcome to work at Rimi, regardless of their age,” Tero said. “We feel that in addition to our business objectives, we also have a responsibility to the society.”

Hillar Matto, head of recruitment at Omniva, stressed that diversity was an enormous asset for businesses. “As people, in businesses and in our society in general, it’s becoming increasingly important to notice and to value every person, as we are all important and extraordinary. The values of diversity lie in each one of us – let us be caring, respectful and polite towards one another,” Matto said.

Diversity creates the opportunity

According to Mare Heinluht, the diversity line manager at Swedbank, diversity creates the opportunity to do business wisely in today’s complicated world. “There are many challenges that companies face every day that require different skill sets and knowledge. The more diverse your team is, the more likely you’ll be able to come up with creative solutions.”

The more diverse your team is, the more likely you’ll be able to come up with creative solutions.

Karl Anton, the television and multimedia line manager at Telia Eesti, pointed out that tech companies could and should employ more women than work in the field today. “The IT and communications sector are not an all-boys club,” he said. “For example, our former head of technology, Kirke Saar, did a great job in leading our technology line and was also named one of the three most influential IT managers in 2017. Currently, Kirke is continuing her career in Norway, leading Telia’s network development unit.”

Stereotypes on the decline

Kelly Grossthal, the diversity expert of the Estonian Human Rights Centre and the moderator of the panel, noted an overall positive tendency that stereotypes in the labour market were on the decline, because younger generations were not afraid to try out different occupations and roles.

“In a labour market as small as Estonia’s, every person is worth their weight in gold and a successful employer does all that they can to ensure no-one is pushed aside because of prejudice or stereotypes. Fortunately, more and more businesses consider the area of diversity management to be important,” Grossthal said.

Omniva is an international post and logistics company based in Tallinn, Estonia, but operates also in Latvia and Lithuania. The Riga, Latvia-based Rimi Baltic, a subsidiary of Swedish group ICA, operates 261 retail stores in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania and has distribution centres in each country. Swedbank’s Estonian branch – a subsidiary of the Stockholm, Sweden-based Nordic banking group Swedbank AB – is the largest bank in Estonia, with more than 900,000 private and 132,000 business customers. Telia Eesti AS is one of the largest telecommunication companies in the Baltic states and a member of Stockholm-based Telia Company.

The Estonian Human Rights Centre is an independent non-governmental human rights advocacy organisation, founded in 2009. The organisation is the pre-eminent human rights NGO in Estonia and is organising an annual Diversity Day that in 2019 took place on 17 April.

This is a lightly edited version of the article first published in the Estonian Human Rights Centre blog. The cover image is illustrative, courtesy of Shutterstock.

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