Moving the Needle on D&I During a Pandemic 0

As the Covid-19 crisis continues to disrupt companies around the world, Diversity and Inclusion may now recede as a strategic priority for organizations. However, it’s important that leaders understand that diversity has never been more important for businesses, especially at this time. In this article, we learn why D&I initiatives are critical for business recovery, resilience, and reimagination.

“Many founders feel that diversity and inclusion initiatives are “nonessential” aspects when starting a business which leads to a culture of lacklustre perspective which in turn leads to lower employee engagement and high attrition.”

The COVID-19 outbreak and its impact on businesses have been massive and to a certain extent, the previously much-prioritized conversations around Diversity and Inclusion have taken a back seat for many. Against the backdrop of this new normal, employees are often seen struggling to juggle work, life, homeschool kids, physical and mental wellness, and a lot more all together! It certainly has a major impact on how working women are trying to maintain that work-life balance. And for this reason, diversity and inclusion should become more important than ever. Flexible environment, empathy, and a decentralized approach will definitely go a long way when it comes to providing an inclusive work environment for all employees during the time of crisis.

While the number of start-ups in India has considerably increased in the last few years in India, the focus on diversity and inclusion, in general, has been missing from the early stages since entrepreneurs are only focused on building the right product/services, achieving desired product-market fit and getting the economics of their business right. However, they often fail to realise that there is another factor that determines the success or failure of a startup — company culture and diversity.

Many founders feel that diversity and inclusion initiatives are “non-essential” aspects when starting a business which leads to a culture of lacklustre perspective which in turn leads to lower employee engagement and high attrition. Most founders wait until their company goes from about 50 to 300 people, but by then, culture has already been established and it becomes very hard to course correct, hence, it becomes critical for startup founders to start thinking about these efforts from the onset.

“Personal connections and transparent communication have helped us navigate through this situation with our very own diverse workforce. Diversity only creates wonders when every part of it feels included!” Click To Tweet

21 Days Ally Challenge

A report by Boston Consulting Group indicates that for every dollar of funding, startups founded and co-founded by females generated 78 cents, while startups with male founders generated less than half that — just 31 cents. The research doesn’t end there. McKinsey, Bank of America/Merrill Lynch and the Peterson Institute for International Economics all found that having a high percentage of women in a company’s senior leadership results in significantly better financial results. This stark contrast suggests that companies with diverse leadership result in better financial performance.

But diversity doesn’t just stop at gender, or at age, ethnicity, culture, language, education, sexual orientation, it also encompasses the diversity of thought, differences in perspective or information processing styles, and cognitive diversity — which is the key to innovation and productivity in the workplace. Workplace diversity and inclusion is not just a well-decorated fad but a serious competitive advantage for organizations, and more so in times of crisis.

Also Read:  Diversity & Inclusion - Hyderabad Edition

Fluid Organizations Fuelling the Rise of Diversity

As more and more organizations embrace remote work as the new normal, the need for physical infrastructures and the so-called barriers would vanish leading to an opportunity for those whose physical movements are restricted. The untapped or under-tapped talent pool of marginalized communities like differently-abled people can be huge leverage that organizations should definitely aim for. Empowering hiring managers to target a healthy diverse ratio in individual teams, building a pipeline of leaders within the organization, and revamping the recruitment process is much needed during this time. In a world full of uncertainty, diversity in the workforce will definitely lead to a more resilient team.

Empathy for Inclusion

Managing and engaging Millennials and Gen Z workforce require some serious understanding and creativity. Engaging a global and diverse workforce is not easy and is only possible when inclusion is of prime importance in the company culture. The initiatives and activities when it comes to employee engagement and learning should be designed to cater to the diverse workforce and should be inclusive of all.

Multicultural workforces contribute to creativity and innovation thanks to diverse perspectives and experiences. We, at MoEngage, ensure to curate initiatives that involve and appeal to all. A very small example of this is, being sensitive to time-zone differences. Since we have our folks working across four geo timelines, we have to make sure our teams come together at a time which is most conducive to all. Also, this pandemic has taught us to be more mindful of what people might go through. Personal connections and transparent communication have helped us navigate through this situation with our very own diverse workforce. Diversity only creates wonders when every part of it feels included!

“Creating the focus on diversity and inclusion at a leadership level and changing behavioural standards are two main pillars in carving out an inclusive culture in any organization.” Click To Tweet

With the household support system of maids and cooks getting disrupted and families also having to homeschool their kids alongside household chores and work has posed a huge challenge in the much-discussed work-life balance of both men and women. We conducted focussed group discussions with Women at MoEngage in Q2, 2020 to discuss and gather insights on the asis situation and the challenges related to gender diversity during the new normal of remote work DIVERSITY due to COVID-19.

The objective was to identify key themes based on the qualitative inputs and design an action plan to bolster up our diversity initiatives and learning and reach out with help wherever required. The next few quarters have been ear-marked to have a series of initiatives/ programs dedicated to addressing the challenges that most working women face especially in making work-life balanced during the COVID pandemic. This would include making the organization more fluid and flexible, more sensitization workshops on biases and effective communication, POSH action strategies, mental wellness sessions for working women and mothers, etc. Mentorship by role models internally will be another way to address critical operational challenges.

Also Read:  How Employees Can Help Create a Diverse Workplace?

Building an Inclusive Culture

Creating the focus on diversity and inclusion at a leadership level and changing behavioural standards are two main pillars in carving out an inclusive culture in any organization. Training people at all levels on unconscious biases and holistically educating folks on communities and their challenges will take any organization a long way in its diversity strategy. D&I shouldn’t only stay as a policy in the policy handbook but you need to walk the talk too. Inclusive leadership can successfully navigate through these unprecedented times with the help of diverse thoughts and value ads.

As a global organization spanning across multiple geographies and “Creating the focus on diversity and inclusion at a leadership level and changing behavioural standards are two main pillars in carving out an inclusive culture in any organization.” JULY 2020 iimjobs.com | hirist.com 49 serving the best to our diverse customer base, diversity & inclusion is rightfully one of our key focus areas in 2020 at MoEngage. Also, diversity for us is a lot of things beyond gender and ethnicity as well.

As the world geared up to observe Pride Month in the month of June to recognize the influence LGBT+ people have had around the world and raise awareness of current issues being faced by the community, we being a socially responsible organization had partnered with Pride Circle to participate in their #21daysAllyChallenge along with 108 other organizations. The objective was to take conscious steps to recognize & neutralize biases and stereotypes about the LGBT+ community. MoEngage is one of the very few start-ups to participate in this challenge along with biggies like Infosys, Capgemini, GE, IBM, Unilever, PnG, Dell, Cognizant, etc and together we have reached the 67th rank in the total tally.

Although, in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic diversity and inclusion might not be a business priority, remember it still matters! This pandemic is a perfect opportunity to rethink and redesign our diversity policies and inclusion strategies. The new model of remote work will give an advantage to recruiters to look at diversity hiring in a revamped way. Fluid organizations even mean better prospects in differently-abled hiring. As we navigate through the pandemic, we realise there is no perfect solution, but genuinely showing effort and commitment to diversity and inclusion will go a long way.

“It does not matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop.” – Confucius.

“Engaging a global and diverse workforce is not easy and is only possible when inclusion is of prime importance in the company culture. The initiatives and activities when it comes to employee engagement and learning should be designed to cater to the diverse workforce and should be inclusive of all.”


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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 specialties 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 the HR Association of India.

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