Written by Swayam Sen, Chief People Officer at Avanse Financial Services, this article delves into the importance of DE&I, highlights the challenges HR departments face, and offers practical strategies to foster an inclusive work culture and empower employees to drive organisational growth and performance.
Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DE&I) are interconnected values, crucial for cultivating a robust and inclusive workplace. Diversity encompasses a broad range of aspects including caste, race, culture, religion, gender, disability, values, ideas, and perspectives. Equality and equity are distinct concepts – while equality involves providing equal opportunities to all, equity recognises the need for personalised support to address the unique needs of individuals, such as providing enhanced facilities for differently-abled employees and those with special needs. Inclusion, on the other hand, refers to fostering a work environment where all the employees feel valued, heard and included.
The emergence of multi-generational teams, the advent of Industry 4.0, the unprecedented global health crisis, and the presence of diverse cultural groups have accentuated the importance of embracing DE&I. Research and surveys reveal that organisations that invest in DE&I maximise performance and achieve higher growth, with around 33% demonstrating improved profitability and 19% fostering greater innovation. Thus, diverse teams strengthen an organisation’s sense of belongingness, leading to better productivity. It is essential for organisations to prioritise the development of an inclusive work culture and establish policies that support such values.
Here are some impactful strategies that organisations can employ to drive the successful implementation of DE&I:
- Nurture a positive and empathic culture: It is imperative for companies to foster an inclusive and equitable culture that celebrates diversity to enhance team cohesion and leadership effectiveness. By cultivating a diverse workforce and leveraging the power of varied perspectives and experiences, organisations can foster a positive environment that fuels greater productivity and facilitates informed decision-making. Moreover, prioritising inclusivity also ensures employees feel valued, comfortable, and empowered, resulting in a motivated and engaged workforce.
- Inclusive leadership and well-planned training sessions: Firms should invest in educating employees about the company’s DE&I policies. Setting up training sessions at the workplace enhances awareness, understanding, and skills in areas such as unconscious bias, cultural competence, and inclusive communication. Such approaches extend support to leaders to create a more inclusive and collaborative workplace.
- Address biases at the workplace: It is recommended that employers should implement comprehensive guidelines and principles that specifically address the safety requirements of employees with special needs and the differently-abled. These policies should factor in inclusivity and gender equity as well.
- Plan an inclusive infrastructure: Companies should incorporate an inclusive and easily accessible infrastructure through assistive technology. By implementing workplace arrangements that prioritise employee safety, comfort and inclusion, firms can foster a supportive work environment where all employees thrive and contribute their best efforts.
- Promote diversity in hiring: Promoting diversity in hiring nurtures innovation, enhances creativity, and improves problem-solving. It cultivates a rich talent pool, drives inclusivity, and creates a vibrant, dynamic workplace culture. To incorporate diversity in hiring practices, companies should consider adopting inclusive job postings that attract an expansive pool of candidates. They should also aspire to put transparent hiring processes in place so as to minimise personal and demographic information and allow employers to evaluate candidates based solely on their abilities, effectively promoting workplace diversity.
- Build a supportive employee community: Firms should nurture a mutually supportive community that gives employees a platform to express their challenges and experiences. Such groups provide a space for individuals to connect, share knowledge, and seek guidance. Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) contribute to higher levels of employee engagement by creating a sense of community and shared purpose. When employees feel valued and supported, they are more likely to stay with the organisation, leading to increased retention rates.
- Create avenues for up-skilling and re-skilling: Companies must facilitate employee development programmes to sharpen employees’ skills and knowledge. By creating such opportunities, organisations demonstrate their commitment to investing in employee growth and advancing their career trajectory. These programmes enable employees to acquire the skills necessary for long-term success, reaffirming that the company values their professional development and is dedicated to strengthening their skill set.
- Flexible benefits for greater work-life balance: To create an inclusive work environment, organisations should consider implementing specialised facilities catering to employees’ diverse needs. This may include providing ergonomic seating arrangements to promote comfort and productivity for all employees, irrespective of their abilities. Additionally, offering pick-up and drop-off services can greatly assist employees with special needs, those who are differently-abled, expectant mothers and others, in commuting to and from work, ensuring convenience and accessibility. Moreover, providing flexibility in working hours enables employees to achieve a better work-life balance, resulting in increased job satisfaction, reduced stress, and improved well-being. By implementing such specialised facilities, organisations demonstrate their commitment towards the well-being of their people.
Organisations are actively exploring creative approaches to foster a culture of diversity, equity, and inclusion across their operations, aiming to unlock the true potential of their employees and adopt an open and inclusive environment. Establishing a culture that celebrates and enhances people’s unique talents and capabilities is essential, and this involves embracing diversity in all its forms and ensuring equal opportunities for everyone.
To incorporate diversity in hiring practices, companies should consider adopting inclusive job postings that attract an expansive pool of candidates. They should also aspire to put transparent hiring processes in place so as to minimise personal and demographic information and allow employers to evaluate candidates based solely on their abilities, effectively promoting workplace diversity. – Swayam Sen, Chief People Officer, Avanse Financial Services
To harness the untapped capabilities of employees, it is essential to provide them with platforms and opportunities to express their views, perspectives and ideas. By creating a collaborative and supportive work environment, organisations can tap into the collective intelligence and creativity of their workforce, leading to continuous improvement and creating a better workplace for all.
About the author: Swayam Sen, the Chief People Officer at Avanse Financial Services, has over two decades of experience leading various HR roles in multinational and Indian conglomerates.
Year of Incorporation: Established in 2013
Number of Employees: 560+
1. Amit Gainda, Managing Director & CEO
2. Samir Mohanty, Chief Transformation Officer
3. Amit Yadav, Chief Strategy Officer & Chief Business Officer – Digital Business
4. Swayam Sen, Chief People Officer
5. Vineet Mahajan, Chief Financial Officer
6. Rajesh Kachave, Chief Business Officer – Student Lending & Insurance Business
7. Vivek Baranwal, Chief Business Officer – Institution Business & Cross-sell
8. Ganesh Iyer, Chief Audit Officer
9. Sorabh Malhotra, Chief Risk Officer
10. Yogesh Rawat, Chief Operating Officer
11. Rajiv Kumar, Chief Compliance Officer
12. Saikat Sengupta, Chief Marketing OfficerBusiness Line: Avanse Financial Services, established in 2013, a new-age, education-focused, technologically advanced NBFC that provides hyper-personalised education financing solutions to every deserving Indian student.
Key HR Factors:
1. Learning & Development Programs:
• Avanse Shiksha Program: The program enables employees to enroll for Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC).
• Avanse Scholarship Program: Skill upgrade programs that the company sponsors through this programme.
• PACE framework (Passionate, Accountable, Capable, Empathetic): A framework to instil customer service excellence through learning programs and modules. We take an E4 (Engage, Enable, Encourage & Ensure) approach status to instil PACE qualities amongst employees. This also enables Avanse employees to align with the organisational culture and ethos.
2. Gig Next program: An initiative to provide a flexible working opportunity for deserving candidates who cannot work full-time in a traditional format, on fixed-term contracts in specific roles.
3. Inclusivity at the Workplace:
• Team People Practices has designed workshops to highlight the various benefits of DE&I and why is it important from an organisational standpoint.
• Women-centric policies: Multiple initiatives such as ‘Period Leave’ policy (as per this policy, female employees can opt for a one-day leave every month during their menstrual cycle), ‘Safe Commute’ policy, Women Leader Mentoring Program and Series of Wellness Webinars (specially focusing on women health issues).