At ISS Estonia, every employee is valued

We asked Anneli Chabbra, who is a recruiter and HR specialist at ISS Estonia, to explain the company’s decision to join the Estonian Diversity Charter and apply for the Diversity Label launched just earlier this year. According to Anneli, communication and experience-sharing within the network has been extremely useful for the company. Hopefully her answers will be useful for others interested in diversity management as well.

How would you explain ISS’s decision to join the Diversity Charter to a stranger?

For the company, the decision was a natural part of our work and actions. If we are diverse, then why not show it to others together with similar companies and at the same time learn from each other’s experience.

But then you felt that just being a part of the charter wasn’t enough and went on to develop a two-year action plan in order to apply for the Diversity Label?

Life around us is in constant change. New developments come by all the time and we cannot stand still in these shifts. Two years is not a very long time, but I believe that even during this period we will see great changes on the labour market and we want to be ready for them. That is why we developed the plan and also applied for the Diversity Label.

ISS can offer very flexible working conditions, because the properties you handle are many and different. If all workers would stay at the same place all day, would you consider diversity less important?

It’s true that the main part of our workers have the opportunity to work at different times and also part-time. On the other hand, we also have a very diverse collective of employees in the support structures, who do the regular eight to five office work. So I cannot say that valuing diversity would somehow be connected with the nature of our work.

We hear all the time that diversity brings along benefits, but how to prove it? Do you use some kind of indicators?

How to measure the benefit from values? Some things can be measured quite well. For example we have a clear overview of people with reduced working ability and from tracking their labour turnover we can see that it’s lower the the average. Without concrete calues we probably wouldn’t have there workers.

How much have you gained from the experience of others in the Diversity Charter network?

Of course communicating with other members and sharing experiences has been very useful. This has given us new ideas on finding employees, planning and structuring, but also great personal contacts with people who share similar values.

The different people of ISS Estonia – who are they and how does their diversity enrich the working environment?

Diversity definitely enriches. We have the possibility to find a right person to every job. Our employees know, that they are valued exactly the way they are, no matter if they are young or old, if they have special needs or if they don’t speak the local language. Our employees are diverse in Estonia as well as elsewhere in the world.

To the older generation we can proudly state that our oldest employee is our janitor Anna, who is almost 90 years old! During summer breaks we offer jobs to school children. We also provide jobs for people with special needs, who sometimes are accompanied by a support person in the beginning. Our flexible schedules are especially suitable for people with small kids.

What is the best recipe for creating unity in a diverse collective? Is there a universal recipe at all?

Creating the feeling of unity among different groups is now more important than ever, because the polarization between “us” and “them” is increasing in Estonia as well as all over the world. Our goal is to show that this “us” can be much bigger and comprise of people that may seem totally different from each other at first sight. Most of all we try to focus on the similarities, not to emphasize the differences. We want all ISS employees to feel that they belong to the “us”-group!