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Openness for a happier workplace

Meet Ida Algotsson, our talented Digital Marketing Specialist who basically runs a one-person Swedish marketing department at Plandisc. In between copywriting and campaign planning, she’s passionate about diversity and inclusion, raising awareness, and creating a safe space for everyone to be open about their true identities.

Ida Algotsson

Ida single-handedly manages all things Swedish-marketing at Plandisc. With a rich background that spans from teaching in China to working on farms in Australia, Ida brings a wealth of experience, creativity, and openness to our work environment. As a self-proclaimed nerd and a proud member of the LGBTQIA+ community, she thrives on books, board games, plants, globetrotting, and connecting with anyone she meets along the way. In between copywriting and campaign planning, she’s passionate about working with diversity and inclusion (D&I) and raising awareness.

What inspired you to pursue a career in marketing?

Honestly? Opportunity. I moved to Denmark after years of travelling, never having had a proper home base before. My options were either moving back home to my mum and look for a job, or accept a poorly paid customer service job in Aarhus. I chose the latter. A few months later I saw an ad for a translator job at a sex toy shop, and although I was a little hesitant about it, I applied and got the job. That was my first experience with marketing.

Three years later, I felt ready for a bigger challenge, which landed me the job I have today. Plandisc was looking for a Swedish-speaking marketeer. I’m Swedish and could produce the content they needed, but they would have had to teach me everything else the role entailed. Colour me surprised when they offered me the job, which is an important reminder to go for it even though you don’t tick every box! That was two and a half years ago, and I haven’t looked back since. I’ve found that writing is what I’m most passionate about, so I consider myself lucky to have stumbled into the world of marketing.

What do you think is important to ensure inclusive content for all of our users and audiences?

That we reflect on who we want our content to resonate with, and how we can reach all of them. In marketing, one of the most useful tools we have is dialogue with our customers. We can ask them what they like and dislike about our product, what type of content makes them stop and react, and what makes them buy something and test it out. If we want to make inclusive content, we need to have an inclusive creation process. 

Diversifying your team is a great place to start. A diverse group of content creators will, especially when encouraged to, produce more inclusive content. And, if we want to target a specific group of people, we can involve colleagues that are in that segment themselves. If that isn’t someone who’s already part of our team, we can bring in consultants with diverse skill sets and backgrounds. 

Personally, I think it’s important to remember that not every type of content can be inclusive of all audiences at all times. Sometimes we create something for a broader audience, such as all our customers or every Visma employee. Whether you need to reach a broad or narrow audience, both are okay. The most important thing is to be aware of who you need to reach and why – and then ensure that you don’t restrict yourself to that one segment every time by default. 

What drives your commitment to promoting D&I?

Feeling included is so important! And diversity is proven to improve decision-making processes, results, and much more. To me, D&I is about respect and acceptance. If everyone could accept others for who they are and respect the differences that diversify us, then a lot of the issues we have today would be resolved. But that would be an ideal world, and it’s not the world we currently live in. 

The truth is that most of us find comfort in what’s familiar – we like the things we already know. Changing our behaviour and patterns can be uncomfortable, time-consuming, and annoying, so oftentimes we avoid it. It’s not always easy to see the reason for why we should change. “Why do I have to walk the long way around a ramp when I could walk up a short flight of stairs?” “These contrasting colours are ugly. Can’t we go back to the old conforming colour palette?” “It’s so annoying when subtitles state that music is playing or that the leaves are rustling. We can obviously hear it!” Except that not all of us can hear it. 

Consider that colour blind people, people with learning disabilities, and people with brain injuries all can benefit tremendously from contrasting colours. Ramps are essential not only to wheelchair users but to the elderly with or without walkers, parents with baby strollers, and so on.

“The more I learn about human beings, the more I learn about challenges I hadn’t even thought of before. Little things like opening jars, carrying things, watching a movie, accessibility in the grocery store, or library, or city hall… the list is endless. That’s ultimately what drives my commitment to D&I; I want things to be as easy and accessible for everyone as they are to me.”

The fact that diverse teams often generate better results makes working with D&I a no-brainer. Diverse workforces create better products, diverse boards of directors make better decisions, and diverse friend groups open up for experiences you probably wouldn’t have had otherwise. As Director Bong Joon Ho said: “Once you overcome the 1-inch tall barrier of subtitles, you will be introduced to so many more amazing movies.” We need new perspectives to keep evolving and progressing – both as people and as businesses. 

What do you think is important to ensure an inclusive work environment?

Respect, trust, and openness to new people – especially in recruiting. Workplaces that look outside of the box for recruitment candidates are more sure to evolve, whether that means hiring people that don’t conform to stereotypical gender norms, people of different nationalities or ethnicities, people outside of the average age group, and so on. 

You also need to accommodate different needs such as neurodiversity or variations in physical abilities. People who are audibly or visually impaired require specific tools to do their job, while wheelchair users need other aids. If the motivation to be inclusive isn’t genuinely there, the efforts will die out before you get to experience the value of being a diverse workplace. 

If someone doesn’t speak the local language, make sure to communicate in English or another common language as much as possible. Respect other people’s boundaries, like bowing instead of shaking hands, or avoiding physical contact like hugs. Be considerate of dietary choices or needs, be it not eating pork, a vegetarian diet, or food allergies. Respect is harder than you might think and we’ll undoubtedly fail at times, but those are opportunities to learn and improve in the future.

An inclusive work environment needs to build trust in order for people to feel comfortable being their true selves. I believe that a truly inclusive workplace is when people trust that they can talk about their partner regardless of gender or their family constellation no matter what it looks like, bring lunch boxes with food that differs from local traditional food, excuse themselves to pray, or take mental health breaks to meditate, go for a walk, or go to therapy, and so on. All of this should be possible for anyone without fearing repercussions or judgement.

Openness is key to building this kind of trust. I wish to be open about who I am, but my willingness to be open won’t be there unless that seems safe and acceptable. It’s a complex, ever-changing dynamic that requires continuous attention. 

“When we prioritise working towards an inclusive work environment, I firmly believe that employees will be happier and, in turn, perform better.“

How do you perceive Visma’s commitment to working with D&I?

At a Group level, I think Visma does a very admirable job with D&I. Diversity and inclusion are both relevant topics internally that a lot of people are engaged in, and that’s a good start. I imagine that one of our main challenges is to get all Visma companies, across different countries, to adopt the same level of passion for D&I as we have on a Group level.

When looking at the Visma company I work at, we’re very good at diversity in some aspects. We’ve got a gender balance of about 56% men and 44% women, with a 50/50 division of Danes and other nationalities. But all our Heads of Departments are men, including our Managing Director. I think that having D&I training as a part of the Visma Management Academy is crucial. Managers are key to an inclusive work environment as they have a say in who gets hired, and they play a huge role in encouraging openness and trust within their teams.

It’s important to note that this is just one example out of Visma’s many companies. Factors like gender balance vary from company to company, and each one has to find its own path to D&I. Visma Group spearheads and encourages D&I initiatives. Talking the talk is great, but what’s most important is to walk the talk. The various companies, in different countries, with their individual teams, all need to carry their load. 

As part of the LGBTQIA+ movement, what does Pride mean to you?

Pride is something I live with every day of the year. I don’t care whether people know I’m queer or not, but not having to hide that fact about myself is important to me. That doesn’t mean you’ll catch me introducing myself by my name and sexuality just for the sake of it, but I’ll never actively hide it in a conversation. If asked to present myself, I usually include personal facts like: 1) I’m a book nerd, 2) with too many plants, 3) who cannot sit properly on a chair, and 4) feel free to tag me in any funny bisexual memes!

Pride month is a celebration. It’s a time when the world pays extra attention to the realities so many people face every day. It’s great fun to join the parades, meet other members of the community and its allies, and I appreciate how easy it is to access information during Pride. At the same time, I wish all of the initiatives related to Pride month weren’t mostly restricted to one month of the year. Thankfully, people are generally more aware of the concept of pinkwashing or rainbow washing now. Not too long ago, at worst, people could be downright homophobic but conceal it by saying, “No, I’m not. I went to the local Pride parade!” and then proceed to not offer the Pride movement a single thought or ounce of support the rest of the year. 

I love being queer. Technically, the most accurate label to describe me is probably panromantic demisexual. Demisexual means that I don’t feel sexually attracted to someone unless we’ve connected emotionally first. Panromantic means that emotional bonds can be formed with people of any gender: men, women, non-binary, transgender, genderfluid… Basically, I don’t care what you identify as – I care about who you are as a person. At least that’s how I, personally, define those labels. To me, Pride means that I get to say those things without any sense of fear, shame, or discomfort. And that is not something I want to confine to the month of June.

What steps do you think we can take to encourage more open conversations about LGBTQIA+ issues and inclusion in the workplace?

Sharing information and discussing our unique experiences is a good start. Write about it, talk about it, form communities and groups at work… I try to be open about who I am, but it’s always a balancing act. I don’t want anyone to feel like I’m shoving my experiences or opinions in their face. Instead, I try to navigate the natural flow of open conversations. Something as little as a joke can open up for questions and deeper conversations. If it’s appropriate for the situation, I’ll mention a previous girlfriend or talk about my queer friends. I try to make it a natural part of any conversation without making a big deal out of it. This works for me, because I’m comfortable with sharing that kind of stuff about myself, even at work. But that’s not the case for everyone, and I want to make it very clear that there’s no pressure to disclose these things.

In terms of steps a workplace can take, I suggest:

  • Implementing a zero tolerance policy against homophobic language. People won’t feel comfortable being open about their identity if there are homophobic tendencies at their workplace. You’d be surprised by how much of a difference it makes to ask someone whether they have a partner rather than a boyfriend or girlfriend. 
  • Encourage inclusive language through education, workshops, etc. Raising awareness is a great way to make people stop and think, which is often the first step towards changing behaviour. 
  • Dare to take a stand. As a manager, you need to make a decision about being a truly inclusive workplace for all. If employees know that any form of discrimination won’t get tolerated, that offensive language gets reported, and that there are consequences for that sort of behaviour, then being open about who you truly are is much safer. 

Finally, as part of the LGBTQIA+ community myself, I’d like to remind others in the community that being overly defensive shouldn’t be necessary. Offensive or discriminatory language and behaviour are never acceptable, but I do believe that ignorance and unawareness aren’t always malicious. At times, people say things they shouldn’t because they don’t know any better – not because they want to hurt or offend others. 

If I’m ever faced with an unpleasant situation or conversation, I ask myself: “Why is this person saying this? Is it out of curiosity, ignorance, or maliciousness?” In most instances, it’s not the latter. I think it’s important to acknowledge our differences and handle the situation based on the answer to that question. The best way to resolve it is usually through open conversations and educating each other.

Learn more about diversity, equity, and inclusion at Visma