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Diversity and inclusion as a game changer in the labor market

DEI report on the desk and colorful paper cut men as a symbol of diversity

Walk the Talk: How professional inclusion can be successful

innovia –  the name of the non-profit GmbH based in Innsbruck says it all, because it stands for new and innovative paths that the company is constantly taking to give people with disabilities or migrant backgrounds fair opportunities in the labor market . Innovia has been working for years with pioneering projects to create an inclusive working world in which diversity is perceived as a strength and enrichment.

We had the opportunity to speak with Gerda Reiter. Gerda was one of the first employees and is responsible, among other things, for the people & culture department at innovia . She is convinced that modern human resources management must actively work to break down barriers and create an inclusive working environment. This includes adapting workplaces, training for employees and managers and the targeted use of support offers. From her we learned how diversity and inclusion can be practiced in companies.

Image: Gerda Reiter | innovia
Gerda Reiter | innovia

IN-MANAS:  Gerda, nice that you found time for our conversation. We have been following innovia 's initiatives and projects for some time . And what stands out is the fact that the company doesn't just work FOR the target group, but rather together WITH it. You also employ people with disabilities and migration backgrounds in a wide variety of projects and act there as experts on their own behalf.

GERDA: Yes, that's right. We employ a lot of people who belong to the target group we address, including myself and our managing director. We also have a disability level of over 50 percent, which is often surprising for many. But the fact is: disability has many “faces” and has nothing to do with individual performance. On the contrary! At innovia , we are convinced that diversity and different perspectives absolutely enrich an organization. Each individual brings unique skills and talents that help us work together successfully as a team and find innovative solutions.

We believe that personal experiences are a powerful resource. That's why we use peers wherever possible. We even go so far as to involve our customers not only in the further development of our offerings, but also in the selection of personnel. This may sound a bit unusual at first, but we have had very good experiences with this approach. In this way, we can ensure that someone who wants to work with young people, for example, is well received by young people.

IN-MANAS: Your goal is to break down prejudices and create awareness that inclusion is not only morally right, but also makes economic sense.

GERDA: Yes, when people talk about disability, the first thing that comes to mind is people in wheelchairs. However, as already mentioned, disabilities can be diverse and often not visible. And it is also a fact: many disabilities are only acquired over the course of life. The high proportion of people with disabilities in the population – around 18% – offers companies the opportunity to utilize diverse talent. In times of labor and skilled labor shortages, it is crucial for companies to utilize all available resources in order to remain competitive. Digitalization reinforces this dynamic, as people with disabilities often have special skills in using digital technologies, which are of great advantage to modern companies.

We would like to consciously show that an inclusive corporate culture brings many advantages - both for positioning yourself as an attractive employer and for addressing new target groups. An inclusive corporate culture includes everyone, regardless of whether they are people with disabilities or a migrant background, and regardless of sexual orientation or religious affiliation. It is the diversity of talent that helps to find innovative solutions and promote company success.

IN-MANAS: What specific offers do you have, both for the target group itself and for companies?

GERDA:  At innovia we currently have offers for young people at risk of exclusion, for the working poor and for people with migration or refugee experience. We offer support for people with disabilities to enter the world of work. We also offer career guidance and qualification measures specifically for girls and young women. And with the two offers Job-Fit AS and Mittendrin AS, we have a focus on people on the autism spectrum who have a particularly high need for support. We not only support you in finding a job, but also in keeping it sustainable. Our employees take over the organization of the entire employment relationship and take care of financing the workplace through grants for the company.


In recent years, my own work focus has shifted more and more towards advising companies. I really enjoy working at the interface between the social sector and business.

IN-MANAS: Does that mean companies could contact you directly?

GERDA: Exactly, our operations service is the first point of contact for companies . Companies that would like to get involved in employing people with disabilities and limitations can contact us, regardless of whether it is about new hires, existing employment relationships or the topic of training and qualifications. Regardless of industry and size, we advise companies on all important aspects of professional participation and inclusion in the labor market. Our goal is to support companies in the long term and show them the benefits of an inclusive work environment. We offer various services for this purpose, among others

  • an inclusion check as an analysis tool,

  • Workshops to prepare managers and employees on the topic of inclusion,

  • Support with questions about funding, structural accessibility and workplace design,

  • Help in developing a cost-benefit analysis for a possible CSR strategy,

  • Support in the matching process in order to successfully integrate job-seeking people with disabilities or limitations into the company

  • Advice on maintaining and restoring employees’ ability to work.

Perhaps important for companies to know: Our services are free of charge for you. As a central contact, we also connect companies with our state or national network if necessary.

IN-MANAS : Final question: How would you describe innovia ’s vision?

GERDA: innovia 's vision is clear: We strive for a fairer world in which all people have equal opportunities. We want to eliminate barriers and discrimination to enable everyone to develop their full potential and take an active part in social life.

IN-MANAS : Thank you for these diverse insights into your work at innovia . We would be happy if we could discuss your new role as a board member at ihr Austria (the umbrella organization for professional integration Austria) and the associated topics next time.

GERDA:  Very happy.

PS:  If you are interested in more topics related to personnel and organizational development: In the Inno Hub for People & Culture  there is an “endless amount” of discussion and innovation space for important ones Topics like these, including thousands of innovation examples, numerous interviews, tools and special content as a source of inspiration to work on solutions based on.


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