Giovana Cervi is a Managing Partner at Signium Brazil, responsible for Financial Services, Professional Services, Technology & Digital, and Leadership Consulting. She was named Global Financial Services Practice Group Leader in December 2021. Gio...
20 April 2023
How do we create awareness at all levels of management?
With their supportive agenda and programs that encourage comprehensive participation, Giovana Cervi says companies of all sizes are embracing Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DE&I), with the larger ones making a vast impact.
As Managing Partner & Global Financial Services Practice Lead at Signium in São Paulo, Brazil, Cervi says employer branding is vital to attract the right talent. “The new generation is looking to see what type of business culture they want to be part of; how the company aligns with their own values – so it’s clear that there must be a shift in all companies in order to get the talent they want.”
“Executives also want to work in environments that reflect their values. This is especially prevalent in women, who feel it’s important to care about their work and workplace. Mind-sets are changing and workplaces are evolving. It’s not about judgement, but about people setting their own boundaries and their work creating a better society.”
She notes that DE&I is part of environmental, social, governance (ESG), described as “a framework designed to be embedded into an organisation’s strategy that considers needs and ways in which to generate value for all organisational stakeholders.”
Are companies listening? “Yes – they’re listening and learning from the process,” Cervi notes, adding that it’s not easy to make the shift suddenly. “It is a journey of perspective and cultural change; and many things that we may not even be conscious of so companies are working on DE&I at all levels.”
“The big question is, ‘How do we create awareness at all levels of management?’. In Brazil, the process is being driven by those in specialist DE&I positions to improve gender and racial diversity for example. However, it is not a matter of just placing people in these positions. Employees must feel comfortable and interested in building a long-term career with the company.”
As head-hunters, Signium can influence change and offer appropriate alternatives. “We understand that companies are investing in qualifications – it’s not just about diversity, it’s about preparing all people across all levels, giving them the chance to develop their leadership qualities in a workplace people feel is healthy and safe. The candidates we put forward are aligned with this ethos.”
In introducing two clients – Cristiane Yamamoto, Director Human Resources, Coca-Cola FEMSA; and Fernando Luciano, HR Director at Vivo – Cervi highlights two Brazilian operations that have implemented DE&I in ways that truly impact their own company’s and beyond.
“While change usually presents struggles, leaders are starting to realise the benefits of having teams that reflect the diversity of our consumers.” says Yamamoto. “Brazil has a hugely vibrant and diverse population that isn’t just about nationalities, race and gender, but about different ideas and mind sets.”
“Coca Cola FEMSA is in the process of a huge transformation to anticipate what the market demands. As our business transforms, our culture must do the same. DE&I is an integral part of this change, and has to be authentic.”
She says leaders are in a position to help break down barriers inside organisations, and must be open to learning. Actions speak louder than words, she notes: “When we built a new distribution centre, we wanted a diverse workforce from the start.”
“Several barriers were overcome and today 40% of employees are women in positions that historically employed men, such as truck drivers and forklift operators.”
Advertisements for these jobs showed pictures of women and men. This change was key to effecting transformation, as was making women feel as included and valued.
“It was not just hiring women, but retaining them and ensuring they felt valued by the company was important,” Yamamoto says. “Daily actions must reflect leadership’s support of equality; providing spaces where employees can discuss various topics; and zero tolerance for discrimination.
“To attract and retain a diverse workforce, leaders must understand its benefits. While there is growing representation across DE&I, we must continue to create a pathway to key positions for all.”
Signium client, Fernando Luciano, HR Director of Vivo, concurs, noting that DE&I must be genuine to be effective. “We believe a company’s culture is what attracts and retains talent and provides greater competitive advantage.”
“Since 2018 when we created our DE&I program, we have evolved, starting with our leaders. Now, we feel the diversity within our company, just as you do if you walk around São Paulo. People are very different from each other and our staff reflect that.”
“We’re currently running our 2023 Diversity Roadshow, where we engage with every Director and their immediate teams to align our strategy,” says Fernando. “We help our leaders to learn. In 2022 we held ‘Race in Focus’, a program for more than 70 directors to learn about racial issues in Brazil. This year, we’re expanding it to all Managers.”
Fernando submits that there are no silver bullets in DE&I. “The secret is in doing small things but with huge consistency.”
But Vivo has a golden wand – a list of key performance indicators (KPIs) from 2017 to date; a Diversity Journey, where each month relevant topics are discussed with the company’s Employees; and leaders that understand they learn DE&I by living it.