All Things Talent reached Chennai for the first time for a discussion on ‘Diversity and Inclusion at the workplace’. The forum for HR professionals landed in the city after 15 sessions in cities across the country. The session started with a brief introduction of All Things Talent as a forum powered by iimjobs.com and hirist.com, for HR professionals to network and learn from experts in the field.
Prashant Sharma, Manager – Marketing at iimjobs.com introducing the topic of discussion.
The event focused on the different facets of diversity, how HR professionals and corporations could foster Diversity and Inclusion, best practices and how Diversity and Inclusion is a business strategy that improves outcomes.
Speakers at the event:
- Sriram V – Chief HR Officer at BankBazaar.com
- Krishna Chander – Head of Recruitment at Shell Business Operations, Chennai.
- Jayanthi Vaidyanathan – Director HR at Paypal India
- Uma Rao – Vice President – Human Resources, Ashok Leyland Ltd.
- Narasimhan K.L. – HR – Talent Acquisition at CloudCherry
Speakers (From left to right) – Sriram V, Krishna Chander, Uma Rao, Narasimhan K.L and Jayanthi Vaidyanathan.
We invited Sriram to kick off the session. The HR veteran with about 25 years of experience in the field recalled how Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) did not get its due share of attention until after the 1990’s, when MNCs started coming to India.
Diversity and Inclusion is not a charitable cause, stated Sriram, it is sound business strategy. With an effective D&I strategy, corporations can get the best employees. D&I increases productivity and improves the bottomline. Sriram’s speech revolved around these concepts and how D&I has multiple dimensions – social class, religion, economic background etc and not just gender.
Corporations need to ‘embrace’ diversity, not just ‘accommodate’ it, he concluded.
Following Sriram, Krishna Chander shared Shell’s initiatives in promoting Diversity and Inclusion (D&I).
Shell featured a woman driving a car in an ad dating back 110 years when it was almost unheard of for a woman to drive, leave alone vote! We were pleasantly surprised to learn this from Krishna.
Shell company ad on a road map from the 20th century.
For Diversity and Inclusion to be really effective, strong leadership and a conducive workplace culture are needed. Krishna dwelt on this, illustrating and backing his claims with research and statistics.
Shell has mentor networks across the world to promote and foster D&I, Krishna revealed, as he concluded his speech.
Jayanthi Vaidyanathan, another HR veteran with over 20 years of experience, spoke next.
Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) is essential because it’s needed to understand the diverse aspirations and needs of clients. It has got nothing to do with charity. These were Jayanthi’s opening remarks. She seconded Krishna’s emphasis on leadership and corporate culture. Paypal’s projects such as ‘Change Agent Network’ and ‘Be a Guru to a Guru’ designed to bridge the generation gap at work were explained in detail.
Jayanthi also revealed that Paypal supports and encourages its employees to form clubs based on their interests, including fun groups like trekking clubs!
‘Recharge’, a ‘back to work’ programme at Paypal has changed the lives of numerous women longing to enter the workforce again, Jayanthi said, while talking about PayPal’s initiatives.
The first ever female Vice President of the HR division at Ashok Leyland in seventy years of the company’s existence, Uma Rao was the next speaker. An example of what D&I looks like, the HR leader with nearly three decades of experience underscored how women like herself face challenges in traditionally male dominated industries.
Diversity can be geographical too. Uma started her speech by pointing to how people from different regions can be very different from each other and how this needs to be taken into account too, in promoting Diversity and Inclusion (D&I).
Only about 5% of the employees at Ashok Leyland are female, Uma revealed, while she talked about her initiatives at Ashok Leyland to remedy this. She told the audience how an initial ‘push’ was needed from her to hire women before management became aware of the benefits and started demanding (‘pull’) more women recruits.
She also shared how Ashok Leyland has a similar forum like All Things Talent to impart leadership education, facilitate networking and influence policy decisions, thus creating an inclusive culture.
A panel discussion with the four speakers and Narasimhan followed. Questions asked by the audience ranged from D&I initiatives for the differently abled to support for employees with mental illness. Shell’s support for the differently abled in employing them at fuel stations was greeted with applause from the audience. Following the panel discussion, mementos were presented to the panelists.
The audience listened with rapt attention and were enthusiastic in clearing their queries on a number of issues on D&I. Their participation enriched the conversation and made the forum more valuable to one and all present.
The session closed with a luncheon. We’d like to thank our speakers and the audience for a wonderful session!