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Diversity is not enough: how to create an inclusive work culture

August 2021

Now more than ever businesses are turning their attention to diversity and inclusion to drive their culture transformation. While this is a fantastic start, there is a tendency for the terms ‘diversity’ and ‘inclusion’ to float about in meetings or conferences without turning into tangible business practices. Harnessing diversity in the workplace is only the first stage to change a company´s corporate culture - inclusion is the final objective.

So what is the difference between diversity and inclusion? Diversity integrates new perspectives into the company framework and reflects the different needs of its customers. Inclusion ensures each individual – within the organization - is given an avenue to professionally grow and succeed, where differences are respected and accommodated.

Making individuals, regardless of their background or identity, feel valued and capable of achieving their full potential rather than having to conform to an organizational status quo is the true sign of an inclusive work culture. The benefits of inclusion do not end there - it rather acts as a cycle that reaps wider business benefits:

  • Employee engagement: Brings value and purpose to the company’s individuals, seeing their unique perspectives as an asset to the organization.
  • Talent retention: Retains talent in the long-term and better meets the needs of its diverse customers.
  • Sustainability: Leads to sustainable business practices that support all sectors of society.

Enabling individuals to express themselves at work regardless of their circumstances or background goes hand in hand with sustainable company success. When it comes to diversity and inclusion, no ‘one-size-fits-all’. Businesses need to ensure that strategies in place support individuals on a one-to-one basis. Taking the extra leap to really engage and develop each employee on an equal and fair footing is essential in the modern workplace.

So, what steps is Santander CIB taking to create an inclusive corporate culture?

A key first step for Santander CIB is raising the number of women in the Group’s senior leadership positions to 30% by 2025 - but the initiative does not end there. To transform diversity into inclusion, Santander CIB is supporting various initiatives to lift equality between men and women, developing specific programs to boost diversity at a local level, aligned with Santander’s corporate culture.

While this is a fantastic start for Santander, the road to an inclusive workforce is a long and complex process. Initiatives need to be implemented on a regular basis and constantly reviewed as the employee framework expands to include a more diverse workforce.

Inclusion is all about giving employees a voice to share their thoughts and the flexibility to work in comfort, being able to manage their personal and professional lives.

At Santander CIB, the introduction of sustainable, company-wide diversity and inclusion policies is essential. In 2019, we defined diversity and inclusion principles that set minimum standards across Santander’s global markets, aiming at unbiased policies, tools and systems to improve talent management and pay equality.

Santander also runs various programs aimed at supporting SMEs led by women and entrepreneurs, providing them with networking opportunities, education and marketing campaigns.

The road ahead

There is always room for improvement but the fact that Santander achieved the highest scores of Bloomberg´s Gender-Equality Index 2020 and that it was recognized as the most sustainable bank in the world by the Dow Jones Sustainability Index is encouraging. In addition to that, Santander was recently recognized as the best bank in the world for diversity & inclusion by Euromoney.

It is high time for companies to collectively create an inclusive and supportive work culture for their employees. As said, the process won’t be easy, but it is vital to bring about change in the workplace - and society at large - giving people the opportunity to feel valued, professionally thrive and ultimately, make their own contribution to society.