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BLOG by Natalie Hofman, Chair of EuroFM: We need time and courage to grow to inclusive and diverse working environments

May 10, 2023

Today, 10 May 2023, we together with our members, celebrate World FM Day. A inspiring moment to memorize on our profession and the impact we make in the daily workspace environment. It is my pleasure as Chair of EuroFM to start the Ambassador blog in which the EuroFM Ambassador’s give their view about subjects like workplace, sustainability, technology of other interesting topics.

We have been talking about diversity and inclusive work environments for some time now, but what do we actually mean and what are the differences between these commonly used terms? I recently spoke to someone who thought this had to do with sexual harassment and its prevention. Of course everyone knows the “Me too” speak-up and in the Netherlands the tv Voice of Holland has shown that a diseased culture and wrong abuse of power have major consequences for a working environment. Situations that have been recognizable for many people for a very long time and are mainly aimed at the fear of speaking out. Diversity and inclusiveness are concepts that indicate very different aspects, but if they are used incorrectly or underestimated, “Me Too” or decreasing of performance can play into the hands. Facility Management can play an important role in the complex relationship between inclusiveness and diversity.

During World Workplace Europe 2023 in Rotterdam, Pa Sinyan of Galup simply explained the differences between inclusiveness and diversity and he also made a clear link to the profession of facility management. What should we as Facility Manager do to achieve a safe, innovative and productive culture? “Diversity is more than just addressing gender or race. It involves embracing a full spectrum of differences among people that affect their interactions and relationships,” says Sinyan. The identity of an organization is determined by the right mix of primary, secondary, organizational and cultural aspects. When you have no knowledge of the background of your employees, no clear rules on how you interact with each other and management is in an ivory tower and is only busy getting rid of targets, then there is simply not enough time for optimizing the cooperation and connecting the different backgrounds. If you also have a working environment where everyone is in a cubicle or works at home and there is no room to relax during an intensive working day, then the foundation has been laid not to get the most out of the organization and the employees. Inclusion refers to the extent to which diverse employees are valued, respected, accepted and encouraged to fully participate in the organization. So if you do not pay attention to the differences in your organization, do not invest enough in them and do not make sufficient agreements about the way of working together, then you will not create a safe and healthy working environment. Diversity is a fact, it’s just there. You create inclusiveness through creating opportunities, take care and attention.

Employees spend most of their 24 hours at work, many relationships arise at work, so in order to accelerate in the work environment, we must at least dive into the differences and similarities. In the private environment it is quite normal to ask for help if things are no longer running smoothly in your relationship or if you have financial problems, but in the workplace little attention is paid to the fact that conflicts in an environment where various races, religions, age, gender, generation, (dis)ability, ethnicity, sexual orientation,  languages, education, family status, personal style interact work and where there are cultural differences, an individual approach is also required. HR departments are more and more focused on filling systems and arranging terms of employment and packages and are given less time to invest in the most important working capital, the employee. If there is insufficient respect for the employee, then a manager will not sufficiently use the strength of the employee and as a result, the leader of an organization will have to deal with an imbalance in the culture of his organization.

The Facility Manager needs knowledge about the aspects that influence diversity and inclusiveness. By diving into this and determining together with HR and management what is needed to facilitate this, the Facility Manager can professionalise his work even more and contribute to higher performance. A nice aspect to start with on World FM day, the day on which the most beautiful field in the world is brought to the attention. On May 10, 2023, you are invited to participate the EuroFM World FM day event to connect and to speak up.

I give the pencil to Susanna Caravatti, ambassador of Switserland to write the next EuroFM blog.

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