Jitender Panihar is the Chief People Officer at MoEngage Inc., Bengaluru. He comes with a rich experience of more than 12 years of delivering change and transformations across Indian & APAC geographies. His specialities include- HR Strategy, Organisation Design and Restructuring, Leadership Development and Alignment, and Talent Management. Prior to MoEngage, Jitender has worked with major companies like- Healthkart.com, PwC, and Deloitte. A recognized professional, he has been named among Top 100 HR Minds in India 2018 by World HRD Congress and Top 100 Training & Development Minds in India 2018 by World HRD Congress. Jitender has also been recognized as an HR Rising Star of the Year 2018 by HR Association of India.
Diversity and inclusion should be the fulcrum of the organisation’s core values since the success of an organisation largely depends upon its values and how those values are institutionalized within the employees. This requires commitment from every individual in the organisation to make the diverse workplace a success.
Diversity and inclusiveness were once the least priority for startups. Way back in 2015, Crunchbase reported that only 18% of startups in the US had at least one female founder, while the diversity data of startups such as Slack, Dropbox, and Pinterest showed that racial minorities were underrepresented.
Startups have typically always focused on strengthening their business and increase their revenue in the beginning. However, as Teresa Nemessanyi, the startup lead of Microsoft said, “Workplaces don’t become inclusive unless companies invest in diversity — and that starts at the top, from the start.”
Diversity and inclusion should be the fulcrum of the organisation’s core culture. This study by the Boston Consulting Group reveals how diversity in leadership led to better innovation, and higher EBIT margins.
The beauty of diversity is that every individual has unique solutions to solve a challenge based on their experience and background. By bringing these ideas together, the company can take the best inputs from each of them and build upon innovative solutions to solve the problem.
As Sundar Pichai put it, “A diverse mix of voices leads to better discussions, decisions, and outcomes for everyone.”
At MoEngage, we made diversity and inclusiveness the foundation of our company right from the day of inception. For us, inclusiveness, accountability, integrity, and innovation among our team members are the key drivers of our organisation. Our vision is to build the world’s most trusted marketing platform, and we believe that every person irrespective of their nationality, race, sex, or sexual orientation has an equal role to play in fulfilling it. That’s why when we hire someone in our team, we mainly look for these three qualities within the person:
- Ability to Think Big: The person must think big and be capable enough to build products that touch millions of users.
- Ability to Take Ownership: Ownership is a necessity, not a buzzword for us. We look forward to working with people who like to brainstorm, build and learn continuously.
- Ability to Iterate Fast: We have scaled up to this level in four years with just 40+ engineers, so we look for people who can iterate and improve rapidly.
As we step into our fifth year, we are proud that we have built a robust team of 80+ experts from India, Jakarta, Berlin, London, and San Francisco who work together with the shared passion and purpose of developing marketing products that can drive business for companies across the world. The current male-female ratio is at 2:1, but we are working hard to make it equal soon!
How to Create a Diverse Workplace
Creating a diverse workplace is no rocket science. However, it requires commitment from every individual in the organisation to make it a success. At MoEngage, we follow these five rules to build a diverse workplace.
1. Create an Inclusive Workplace:
It starts from the top and percolates right down to the lowest rung of the workplace. Ensure that everyone right from the top-level executive to the managers and employees are aware of the importance of creating an inclusive workplace. Form a body of leaders and involve them in hiring and retaining an equal number of men and women in the team. Set goals, so they remain committed to your vision of creating an inclusive workplace. Ensure there is zero tolerance towards bias and set an example by taking punitive action against the guilty.
2. Celebrate Diversity:
It’s essential to create an environment of belongingness in the workplace. Celebrate different festivals, customs, and culture of your employees. Select a core group of leaders and mentors who have regular contact with your employees and identify the important and niche events to be celebrated. It will encourage employees to be more participative beyond their usual work.
3. Give Credit Where it’s Due:
The biggest motivation for an employee is when leaders recognize their contribution (be it an idea, strategy, or execution) and credit them for adding value to the organisation. Identify the milestones achieved by the employees and celebrate it by being vocal about their contribution. A small act of recognizing the employee’s efforts will go a long way in motivating them to excel in whatever they do.
4. Hold Regular Debates and Discussions:
An organisation that brainstorms together, grows together. Adopt an open-door policy in your organisation, where employees irrespective of their designation can have an open discussion about things that matter to them and the organisation. Encourage employees to participate in regular debates and discussions so they can voice their opinion freely.
However, it’s also vital to maintain the decorum during the discussion, so identify a senior employee who can moderate and mediate the discussion wherever necessary.
5. Develop the Capabilities of Your Managers and Leaders:
The managers in your organisation are at the helm of daily developments within the workplace. It is, therefore, extremely crucial to sensitize them and develop their capabilities to handle diversity among their team members. A manager who lacks the ability to manage a diverse team would create distrust and disharmony in the organisation. So, communicate your expectations clearly to your managers and leaders, and ensure that they adhere to it.
6. Diversity Training:
It is important to determine whether mandatory diversity training is necessary for your company or not. One should weigh the pros and cons of the mandatory diversity training program before putting it into effect. Even though such initiatives are undertaken by most companies to create awareness of diversity issues and bring about cohesiveness in teams yet they may discover that the workforce doesn’t need to be forced to accept and embrace diversity. Compulsory diversity training can actually do more harm than good- It can make employees see diversity as more of a job rather than a personal responsibility task. For diversity training to succeed in the workplace, organisations have to integrate the training into daily tasks. Lecturing employees and conducting workshops is not enough.
7. Creating Mentorship Programs:
Hiring a diverse workforce is important, but by having a mentoring program in place, an organisation can ensure that everyone has the opportunity to advance. Providing mentors can guide personnel through the politics of a new environment and help them become productive and efficient. Furthermore, mentoring can improve employee engagement and create an organisation where equal opportunities become part of the accepted culture of the organisation.
We believe that the success of an organisation largely depends upon its values and how those values are institutionalized within the employees. It’s time that startups pay as much attention towards creating a culture of self- directed individuals, who not only understand the values laid down by the founders but also internalize it within themselves to create a diverse and inclusive culture that upholds itself even as the company scales up to a great height in future.
It’s a great myth in organisations that diversity is just about Gender, and the majority of organisations are either not prepared for holistic diversity, or turning a blind eye. For us, Diversity is about differences, and appreciating those fundamentally – it could be a difference of opinion, different working styles, and different cultural and socio background.
We are creating a workplace which appreciates differences fundamentally and provides/ prepares talent that can thrive.