Differences in ethnicity and religion do not matter for good business

Raya Lepoeva is a long-term specialist in the field of human resources. He is currently responsible for team and process management at United Dairy Company.

Why is it important for every company to seek diversity in its team and strive to be free of ethnic or other prejudices?

Over the years, “United Dairy Company” (OMK) has been a workplace for a large number of workers and employees – different in age, gender, ethnicity, religious affiliation, etc. Team communication is extremely important for forming the value system and worldview of people. Different points of view, even arguments between individuals, build character. And for a large company like ours, diversity in character can only lead to positives and bringing out the best in everyone.

On the other hand, OMK has always strived for an equal start for everyone in the company. We believe that the qualities, responsibility, tenacity and ambition we look for in our future employees do not depend on the color of their skin or their nationality.

What do employers most often fear that stops them from being more “open” to differences between cultures and people?

Fears are usually related to continuity. We know that the efforts of the heads of the various departments in OMK in this direction are unceasing, but risk always exists. In this regard, even in the introductory training for newly hired employees, we touch on the topic of our company’s mission and values regarding equality.

Should the search for diversity in the team become a leading business priority of more Bulgarian companies and what are the advantages?

If it is not yet a priority, the labor market will soon impose it as such. Studies show that the share of the population of working age in Bulgaria is getting smaller and smaller, and if the imposition of diversity in the team is not supported, then the business risks losing people with development potential before it has gained them.

We find the advantage of a diverse team in gathering people of different ethnicities, religions and cultures in one place. By working with such people, we have the opportunity to extract the best from their lifestyle and culture and bring it to the company. In this way, we strengthen the loyalty to the workplace and the responsibility of everyone to the work and the company.

How does your company approach diversity in teams – what challenges do you face and how much of your team is ethnically diverse, for example?

OMK has proven itself as a tolerant company. In this regard, we neither divide nor count people by ethnicity. We don’t focus on the differences, but rather on the common idea, purpose and direction. It is important for us that our team is responsible and above all committed to the company.

At United Milk Company, we have more than once recruited colleagues from different ethnicities, discovering the charge and potential they carry within themselves.

Are you having trouble recruiting people?

There are no shortage of challenges. On the one hand, candidates lack the confidence and ability to assert themselves as the most suitable for the given position. A large number of candidates of different ethnicity experience anxiety during interviews. They do not know how to clearly and categorically state their desire to work and develop in a given direction.

On the other hand, we notice that for people of different ethnicities, a longer adaptive process is needed, in which, of course, we as a team are actively involved by helping to integrate them into the company more quickly.

Does your management team undergo training to reduce prejudice?

OMK’s policy is to develop the human capital and potential of employees who have proven themselves in the structure of the organization, regardless of their ethnicity or religion.

We cannot talk about managerial level if there are prejudices! Every team leader at OMK is aware that the ability to work, diligence and responsibility of an employee are not tied to his gender, age, race, ethnicity, religion, etc.

Valuable lessons and advice from your activity in this direction?

We try to give a chance to everyone who shows that they want it. We admit to an interview candidates who, according to data in their CVs, for example, have no particular practical experience, but have made efforts in education or specialized courses to develop competencies. This is indicative of their ambition and desire to succeed.

Do you think you and other companies should advocate for more diversity in companies?

We fully support staff diversity in companies. We think that different people bring different emotionality and charge, as we already mentioned. Therefore, we call on colleagues to be open to diverse teams, so that communication, sharing of experience and the different views of individual individuals contribute to higher productivity and the building of a full-fledged team!