Together to include, together to grow
Language crystallises reality, shapes thought and, consequently, culture. The words we use are often not neutral and we risk falling into the trap of prejudices and stereotypes. This is a very topical issue in the context we are experiencing, considering the stigma of physical and psychological illness.
One of the lessons of this crisis is the importance of starting with language to rebuild a more supportive, inclusive and sustainable reality, in which companies (also) have an important role to play, as social realities made up of people.
‘It is a key issue for AXA Italy,’ said Simone Innocenti, Director of Human Resources, Organisation and Change management of AXA Italy – who has long been committed to creating an environment where all employees are treated with dignity and respect and where individual differences are valued.
‘We offer equal opportunities in every aspect of life in the company and we work every day to create an environment where you can serenely express your individuality, be at ease and to give your best to colleagues, colleagues and customers.’
‘One AXA,’ continues Innocenti, ‘is exactly one of the Group’s founding values, which means being inclusive, capable of listening to and rewarding all types of diversity as differentiating elements’.
The Group is committed to numerous projects and initiatives, including digital webinars on the importance of inclusive language for all our approximately 1,800 employees, carried out in collaboration with Parks, an association that deals with diversity within the company. Among the new features, there is also a complete revision of all HR policies and documents, all incorporating the theme of inclusion.
‘We are active on all fronts of inclusiveness: enhancement of female leadership, inclusiveness for the disabled, LGBT+ employees, multi-generational inclusivity, projects on different abilities, on ways of expressing oneself and also on being able to limit unconscious bias – which affect all of us because they are an integral part of the learning process – to learn to recognise and manage them, to look at the other as a person who can enrich us by bringing what we do not have.’
The importance of language underlies, at AXA, a more general attention to welcoming people and promoting a work environment that favours a balance between physical health and psychological and social well-being.
The moment we are living through makes it even more important to demonstrate closeness, attention, listening and inclusion, if we think about how remote work loosens personal relationships and often erases the informal communication that naturally develops in offices between colleagues, while the sense of anxiety and fears generated by isolation are another factor.
‘We are experiencing a delicate phase, with levels of complexity that must also be managed at the family and personal level, which is why we have never lost sight of the human dimension, the importance of socialising and sharing, favouring moments of conviviality between teams, such as virtual coffee breaks or interactive webinars on the topic of resilience. On this path, together with our colleagues, we have always emphasised the importance of reciprocal listening, also through periodic surveys.’
AXA Italy’s is a path that is always marked by concrete action, therefore. On the psychological well-being front, for example, in addition to a very rich collective health policy – which also provides for the reimbursement of psychological therapy sessions – colleagues have a free 24-hour psychological assistance number they can access and a virtual counselling desk to manage stress, anxiety or any other difficult situations.
In addition, with a view to guardianship and protection, we added the opportunity to carry out free and voluntary serological tests using some of the most reliable tests on the market, as well as an influenza vaccine.
‘With a view to creating awareness of psychological well-being, providing information on managing emotions (fear, anger, boredom, sadness) and webinars on well-being were successfully proposed, animated by colleagues who put their personal talents at the service of others (as part-time physiotherapists or yoga instructors, for example).’
To keep human contact alive and demonstrate closeness, the training we offered was then redesigned in the space of 4 weeks from the first day of the lockdown and can be accessed 100% online. Collaborators can also access a learning platform with 16,550 pieces of content, for free. The digital dimension has played a key role since the beginning of the emergency, with the company’s commitment to helping employees to manage the changes, thanks to over 100 online sessions on the use of collaborative tools.
These are issues that will see AXA Italy increasingly engaged in the coming years.
‘We will continue to move forward on this path of ‘People Care’ in the future, because it is part of AXA Italy’s responsibility, as the company wants to act to protect what matters, including the psycho-physical well-being of its community of people, which we will continue to preserve and nourish, so that it remains energising for everyone at all times.’
In addition to internal proposals, AXA Italy wants to make a contribution to society as a whole, with unique initiatives on inclusion and the empowerment of women, such as Angels 4 Women, the first Italian association of business angels to support entrepreneurship and innovation for women, or Punto Donna, in Milan, in the Giambellino district, to support women who are victims of violence or social exclusion.
Together with the AXA Research Fund and thanks to a collaboration with Bocconi University, in order to make a concrete contribution at the country level, hoping for a more sustainable and inclusive future, AXA Italy is about to launch a three-year research project on Gender Equality, to promote studies capable of affecting the policies that are indispensable if we are to eliminate the gender gap and, thus, to achieve the goal set in the United Nations Sustainable Development Agenda.