Diversity and inclusion are an asset in innovation work – and a prerequisite for a thriving workplace community

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Diversity of the workplace is an important part of VTT’s sustainability priorities. We also want to be the world’s most meaningful place to work. This has led us to take an even closer look at diversity, equity and inclusion in our organisation.

DEI refers to diversity, equity and inclusion in the workplace and the work done to make improvements in these areas. Diversity encompasses a wide range of different personal characteristics, backgrounds, and circumstances. In addition to age, gender and gender identity, mother tongue, ethnicity, and nationality, diversity work takes into account factors such as physical and mental health conditions and special needs, illnesses and impairments, as well as different occupational roles, educational backgrounds, and types of employment relationships. The aim is to ensure that all employees are treated in a non-discriminatory manner and that everyone feels valued in the workplace as an individual.

Much of DEI work is part of the everyday life of the workplace: good leadership, respectful teamwork, and support for the physical and mental wellbeing of employees by taking into account their individual needs. Most employees feel that there matters are in order at VTT.

“We explored the experience of inclusion through the employee survey, where we asked questions such as: Is there mutual trust and respect within the team? Do VTT employees feel they can be themselves at work and feel valued? Overall, the results have been positive, but it remains important to discuss the results together and use them as a basis for further developing inclusiveness,” says Peppi Härme, Manager of VTT's wellbeing and DEI team.

Peppi Härme katsoo hymyillen kameraan ja nojaa kirjahyllyyn.

A strong basis from corporate culture and sustainability work

Although in its early stages, VTT’s proper DEI work is building on a solid foundation. 

“DEI work is not a project that starts and ends. It must be part of everyday life and be reflected in decisions large and small. We have long paid attention to issues such as wellbeing at work and psychological safety, which play an important role in building the basis for a diverse and inclusive work community,” Härme notes.

Fostering a diverse work community is one of the objectives highlighted in VTT’s sustainability work, and the foundation for DEI work has also been laid in the development of corporate culture and through an emotional intelligence skills training, “Tunto2”, offered to all VTT employees. DEI activities will continue to form an important part of VTT’s sustainability work.

Being seen, heard, and valued as individuals

At VTT, our work is driven by the diversity of our community. VTT’s 2,000 or so employees represent a diverse range of age groups and more than 50 nationalities. Women make up 40% of our workforce. During the autumn 2021, we made a comprehensive gender equality plan and a strong commitment to promoting gender equality in our workplace and across the research community. VTT has also a long history of attracting top experts from around the world.

“At VTT, our mission is to create entirely new ways of responding to global challenges. Diversity – including different backgrounds and personalities – enables us to look at phenomena and problems from different perspectives and generate new and innovative solutions,” says Peppi Härme.

But not all diversity is visible on the surface or reflected in statistics. The experience of inclusion is a personal one and sometimes it can feel difficult to highlight the challenges. That's why it's important that inclusion, equality, and non-discrimination are actively embraced by the whole work community. Experiences within teams can vary, and taking the initiative can help support a colleague.

“A small everyday example is the language we use in the workplace. At VTT, our working language is English, and we make sure that all information provided to employees is available in both Finnish and English. We want to make sure that the whole workplace community is taken into account when choosing a language, and that no one feels excluded because of the language,” Härme continues.

Towards a genuinely diverse and inclusive DEI work

Genuinely meaningful DEI work requires the involvement of the whole workplace community. At VTT, a strong foundation for DEI work has been laid, and all VTTers now have the opportunity to get involved in its further planning and implementation.

“Our strategy includes a commitment to build the world’s most meaningful place to work. We know that the same workplace, with its strengths and challenges, looks different when we change our perspective, and that’s why it’s important to us that VTT is a thriving, diverse, and fair workplace, no matter from whose perspective we look at VTT,” Härme says.

Ulla-Stina Henttonen

Peppi Härme profile picture
Peppi Härme
Manager of VTT's wellbeing and DEI team