"Diversity and inclusion are not HR topics. Together we are responsible for this"

"Diversity and inclusion are not HR topics. Together we are responsible for this"
Almost one-third of all SMEs in the Netherlands have diversity and inclusion (D&I) objectives, according to the Exact SME Barometer Survey. This means it is not yet a top priority for the majority of companies. A missed opportunity? Florien de Nijs, Chief Human Resource Officer (CHRO) at Exact, thinks so. Not only are diversity and inclusion very important to her, but, as it turns out, they are a topic embraced by many colleagues at Exact. Getting right to the point: Florien does not believe topics associated with D&I are 'the realm of HR only'. Florien: "If it's restricted to our department, that's not a good sign. I'm convinced D&I needs room to breathe throughout the organisation." In this article, which is focused on being yourself, Florien discusses the different aspects of diversity and inclusion and the added value it brings. She also highlights the role played by managers and shares tips on how to embed D&I within the organisation.
First of all, Florien: What exactly do you mean by diversity and inclusion?
"It all starts with being welcome, feeling welcome, and making sure others feel the same way. This is why 'Welcome everyone' is one of the six core values of our organisation. Of course, this involves much more than simply welcoming someone. In essence, it's about colleagues feeling supported in the workplace by gaining trust from colleagues and their manager. This is what I dedicate myself to every single day, because it means everyone can truly be themselves. That's very important, and I think it's also the most important aspect of D&I: it means being able to be yourself somewhere, so that you can make a genuine difference."
You need to be able to be completely yourself in order to make a difference
Why is it important that you can be yourself at work? 
"I believe being yourself at work is necessary to be able to let individual talents flourish. It's definitely worth mentioning that at Exact, we don't want everyone to be the best version of themselves 24/7. That isn't how things happen in the real world; it's a 'perfect picture' we need to maintain of others. We all have off days – and that's okay. I also sometimes suffer from this after a poor night's sleep or a busy morning where I've thrown on the wrong clothes in the dark. Why not just share how you feel with your team? It's these imperfections that make us human and unique, right?"
What added value does a diverse and inclusive workplace offer?
"I think a company is a representation of society. If you only bring together like-minded people, you won't go far as an organisation. You need to want to be challenged, experience friction and be able to have discussions... After all, diversity leads to creativity and differences make us stronger. Research has also shown that diverse companies perform better and are more likely to attract new colleagues. But a diverse team also needs to be inclusive. This ties in with the aspect of being yourself and feeling welcome. Only when creating that safe, welcoming, inclusive environment, you will see how diverse your team is and how valuable this is. In other words, diversity is about much more than gender, age, educational level and cultural background. It's also about personal interests and the experiences that people take with them. It's the overall mix."
How is Exact currently performing in terms of diversity?
"At Exact you will meet colleagues of all ages, with fifty different nationalities, coming from even more cultures and backgrounds. We are also all different in terms of knowledge and experience: from tech to sales, marketing to customer success, finance to HR, and so on. There are many areas of expertise within our organisation. If we look at the male/female ratio – currently 65% compared to 35% – that's not bad for a tech company like Exact. Still, there's room for improvement, which is why we have set targets for women in management positions. This is very important to us. Right now, we still need to help women or give them an extra boost to grow and advance to senior positions in our organisation more frequently. But I also strongly believe that such a target or quota should not exist forever. We should be able to let go of it within a few years, because it has become something unique in itself within the organisation. Different groups need a boost at different times."
What else could Exact do?
"There are always areas within D&I that can receive more attention. For example, having more consideration for professionals with disabilities. Many jobseekers with disabilities still face barriers despite their abilities. This is why we recently partnered with several agencies that will help us to reach out to and hire these jobseekers. As with the topic of inclusiveness, the desire is often 'just to be ordinary'. I want to help someone to be 'ordinary’. Another thing I'd like to mention, and which all Exact colleagues can do: make diversity and inclusion a topic of discussion, talk about it with each other, and speak to each other if someone has a slip-up. Commenting on someone's appearance or clothing, for example, often isn't meant in a bad way, but it can come across as mean and unintentionally throw a person off their stride. Starting a meeting in Dutch with a colleague who doesn't speak our language also isn't nice. Feel free to speak to each other about this and be open to feedback. Together, we can create a diverse, inclusive environment."
How can you approach this, for example as a manager?
"I think having respect for each other is essential, as is being curious about each other's motivation. When I get to know someone, for example, I often ask them what makes them happy and gives them energy. It's only when you really get to know people and they can be who they are that they get the most out of themselves and others. At Exact, servant leadership, which means management based on trust, is of central importance. As a manager, I don't want to assess people; I want to help them grow – however it happens."
Finally, what tips do you have for companies that wish to increase diversity and inclusion?
"First of all: make sure they are not topics for HR. Diversity and inclusion must be intertwined throughout the organisation. How do we do this? Involve colleagues and offer them support. Within Exact, for example, we have a range of communities set up both by and for colleagues. Examples include Young Exact for new hires, a cross-cultural network, a mentoring programme for women, and an LGBTQIA+ group.

Another tip: go through all your HR processes and check whether they are inclusive. Looking at working conditions, for example, it's important to be aware of the different generations you need in your organisation. Today's drivers are in their forties and fifties, and they want very different things in life than the generations below them. In other words, don't just try to determine things based on your own assumptions. Young people today want to be able to work on a part-time basis, because they prefer to combine a paid job with their own company. Is this possible? Looking at job postings: if you want to focus on attracting colleagues who have young children, highlight the fact that hybrid working is an option, for example. In short, don't come up with the solution yourself; involve others with different insights, because being inclusive starts with looking beyond your own habits and preferences."

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Want more information about this article, have an interview request, or other media-related questions? Contact Annemarije Dérogée, head of Corporate Communications at Exact, at
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