Embracing Diversity and Inclusion is the Need of Hour 0

The world has become highly diverse, but many companies have not—especially when it comes to a culturally diverse, gender-balanced work environment, which is needed to truly drive value. As the world of business prepares for the unknowable post-coronavirus world, organisations need to move from compliance to diversity as a business strategy and redefine the whole concept of diversity and inclusion—for business recovery, resilience, and imagination.

D&I (diversity & inclusion) is becoming indispensable as organisations look to create a working environment more reflective of current demographic progression.

Earlier, D&I was considered as government compliance or a just “program” to be managed to run the business operations. But in the current scenario, it is considered good for business operations and to foster an amicable environment in an organisation, so it is widely welcomed. Diversity gives wings to individuals to achieve their goals, dreams, and passions irrespective of an individual’s sexual orientation, social background, traditional values, age, gender, ethnicity, education, religion, faith, economic conditions, and disability.

Valuing, supporting, nourishment, encouragement, and empowering each employee at the workplace is an essential part of Inclusion. (D&I) the process can be successful only when the Inclusion strategy gets proper attention and organisation is not focusing only on diversity. Proper nurturing and support for a diverse workforce is required to yield expected result as an organisation.

The Covid-19 pandemic and its repercussions on business have ushered in a deep sense of anxiety and uncertainty for all— reshaping the business will be a big challenge while controlling the finances as well. For this reason, the role of D&I has become more important than ever. In order to thrive in this new reality, it has become important to redefine the concept of diversity and inclusion and promote formal training to HR leaders and people managers to manage diversity.

HR leaders need to ensure that everyone gets an equal opportunity to grow within the organisation irrespective of their diverse factors and inclusion policy should nurture and empower employees so that they feel included irrespective of who they are or as what they identify themselves as. HR leaders need to prepare proper diversity strategies as it differs from industry to industry. For instance, hospitality diversity factors will be different from the real estate or IT sector. Without proper policy and strategy, the execution of the D&I policy will be inconceivable.

D&I policy is directly connected to your manpower planning, talent management, retention, work environment, office set up and infrastructure, compensation, employee engagement, and employee grievance, etc. The well-prepared policy for talent acquisition is the first step from where diversity strategy comes into action. Your industry needs will help you to understand what kind of diversity factors can be incorporated in manpower planning, for example, in the IT industry the talent team can hire any good talent—be it female candidates starting their second career innings post maternity or marriage, people with physical disabilities or people of LGBTQI community based on their skill set as in current scenario most of the IT employees are working from home. This approach makes your employee transition smoother and frequent because you are not now restricting yourself to any state, gender, religion, race, and physical disability, etc.

The Covid-19 pandemic and its repercussions on business have ushered in a deep sense of anxiety and uncertainty for all— reshaping the business will be a big challenge while controlling the finances as well. For this reason, the role of D&I has become more important than ever.

Post hiring, it is important for an organisation to make a career progression path for everyone. Here comes the role of Talent Management and Retention policy. For better results, the inclusion process should be well-defined and unbiased. Employees should be given equal opportunities to grow professionally and a platform to achieve their personal goals as well. For instance, proper compensation policy without any discrimination of gender, equal participation in training and learning, unbiased performance assessment, etc. Training support to special background employees & employee-friendly policies which helps in balancing professional and personal life, like paid leaves on birthdays or marriage anniversaries, family get-togethers, a celebration of mother’s day, father’s day, and many more can help to create a connection between employer and employee’s family. Such activities will keep your employee “emotionally invested” which strengthens your retention policy.

Organisations must ensure that their employees should not feel that they have to conceal their cornerstone of themselves at the workplace. If it does not happen then this will bring insecurity and affect the productivity of employees. Their participation in day to day activity will reduce which is not a beneficial indication for organisations at all. Above all, it is a major threat to employee retention, motivation, and engagement policy.

When we talk about diversity, as an organisation we must ensure that we are welcoming their beliefs and faith too. Generally, most of the organisations do not pay much attention to inclusion factors and as a result, they face the failure of process and which affects expected outcome. For instance, if people of many backgrounds, perspectives, and abilities do not have equal access to opportunity and feel not confident to participate in organisational processes. If they do not find space to express their religious belief, political belief, and other diverse factors. Festival celebrations for every group of employees should be in a platter of the festive calendar. These small acts make a difference and keep people retained as they feel connected with the organisation and they feel valued and recognized in among. During this pandemic situation, inclusion strategy matters a lot since employees are disconnected and distanced with each other physically, their virtual meeting and interactions are limited to professional reasons and it becomes tougher for a new employee, who joined during this pandemic situation and never met their peer physically to gel up with team due to diversity factor. Proper inclusion strategy can make ease for them.

A better (D&I) policy reduces employee grievance and assists the organisation to retain the employee. Top management must ensure that leads are well trained and educated they can elaborate on equity matters or provide practical solutions to day to day issues such as bias, exclusion, etc. They must identify the relationship between feelings and performance as well as construe when to make exclusions.

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Office set up and communication system should be gender-neutral and importantly physically disabled people should be taken care utmost. Culture should be developed that allows a diverse set of people to voice their views. Creche, prayer rooms and smoking zone to make everyone comfortable.

Recently, Indian food delivery company Zomato declared that it would give female, including transgender, employees up to 10 days of “period leave” per year. This is good initiation of Indian food delivery company which is a genuine problem of millions of women and girls in India who still face discrimination and health issues due to a lack of awareness surrounding menstruation issue which is seen as taboo to some. This approach will give confidence in the workplace to the female employees in talking about their issues related to mensuration days and will come out from stigma attached to applying for period leave. It is not necessary every organisation will provide period leave like Zomato, but now female employee can apply for leave with confidence without making a lame excuse of having fever, cough and cold. There is nothing to shy and hide anything now, it is a natural thing that happens to every female, and we all must accept as an organisation or individual. Hence steps taken by Zomato are the best latest example of (D&I) strategy.

Also Read:  Gender Diversity: Beyond Keeping Scores

We need to be more precise in drafting and implementation of(D&I) strategy especially in India, which is the most diverse country in the world. Here, you will find different religion, caste, languages and dialects, religious belief, traditional practices, and socio-economic culture which varies every hundred miles. Apart from this, we have a caste system, the difference in communities, patriarchy, legal and social discrimination against LGBTQ community. Still, in the last decades, Indian industries are driving this change and developing amicable workplace scenario. Wherein MNC’s are driving their global diversity policy in India so our Indian industries keen to compete on a global platform by fostering global practices.

Diversity in the workforce helps the business unit to understand their stakeholder and customer insight for doing well and provides data to meet the needs of stakeholder or customer as well. A well-executed Inclusion strategy makes a happy workforce, attract qualified employees, brings job satisfaction and ROH of employees.

Generally, it is the perception that (D&I) is not a cup of tea for every organisation. Implementation and commitment are seen in well -established corporates only and still hesitant in start-ups. We need to understand the need of (D&I) in the organisation, which is not limited to gender, religion, traditional value or nationality, it is about creating the platform for the right talent with adequate work environment for their personal and professional growth.

Ankur Gautam is the Senior Manager – HRBP at Unicode Systems Private Limited. He is a seasoned human resource professional with over 15 years of work experience in various facets of HR. He is a post-graduate in International Business from Pondicherry University. Previously, he has worked with organisations like Sahara India, Sigma Trade Wings and Energy, and Fire Tech India Private Limited. As per him, employee happiness can make any milestone achievable.

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