Diversity Equity Inclusion India

Diversity Equity Inclusion India

There have always been diversity and inclusion in India, even though it is often viewed as a western concept. India has 22 official languages, 28 states with their own traditions, and a diverse population ranging in religion, customs, and costumes, making it one of the world’s most diverse countries.

Diversity at an Indian workplaces is a given, and this necessitates practices that encourage inclusion. There are numerous ways in which businesses can benefit from an inclusive work environment.

Distinguish Between Diversity and Inclusion

Diversity is often described as the mixture of attributes in a workgroup resulting in a distinguished expression of thoughts, feelings and behaviours at workplace. This may be stemming from the fact that people form different identity groups come together to work together in a group. The presence of such diversity among the members of the work group may present an opportunity to enhance productivity, creativity and performance and challenges in terms of enhancing interpersonal effectiveness and motivation.

Diversity, at one level is easily observable and identifiable – especially the one related to race, gender, race and age. At another level, diversity may be difficult to identify especially the one related to sexual orientation, thinking styles, behavioural priorities, political inclinations, religious views etc. Because diversity and inclusion programs tend to focus on the conspicuous part of “diversity” such as race and gender, it is commonly believed that such a focus may be counter productive because it overemphasizes the differences between people rather than building on what’s common among people working in an organization.

There are many direct advantages of diversity:

  1. Organizations with more women in the senior leadership / board have proven to be more profitable. Many studies have pointed towards this fact. Many investors now look for boards that have a good mix of gender in the target companies.
  2. By having people from different identity groups, organizations can reach markets that consists of consumers from diverse groups. Their understanding of consumer behaviour and market needs are greatly enhanced by having people from similar ethnic backgrounds within the organization.

People may relate to multiple identity groups. For example, a person may draw her sense of identity from being a gay, north Indian and belonging to a certain religion. By creating and identifying groups a person may belong to, companies may unintentionally end up force fitting people into groups. They may then overlook their personal priorities and choices.

It is important to distinguish between Diversity and Inclusion. While diversity focusses on the differences (like demographic as above) in the people in a workgroup, inclusion focusses on the softer aspect of integrating, engaging and involving people from diverse groups. Inclusion has emanated from the 1960s where the focus was on creating equal job opportunities for people form diverse groups. While diversity is easy to observe and measure, inclusion has a softer and qualitative aspect. Most of the measures of diversity are in the form of surveys and interviews and are therefore very quantitative.

From an organization perspective, inclusion is the ultimate goal that delivers the benefits of a diverse workgroup. Diversity is therefore not an end in itself. When people feel included, they are more productive, and can take greater business and interpersonal risk. Various studies have concluded that more inclusive teams and workgroups have higher productivity and innovation. Inclusion programs contribute to talent management – they enable organizations to hire people from diverse groups, retain them longer and get the best out of them during their tenure with the organization.

Managers and leaders must be able to distinguish between diversity and inclusion to create a truly diverse and inclusive workplace. By creating a culture of inclusivity, managers can help every individual bring in the whole to workplace and contribute to the best of their ability.

Why Diversity and Inclusion Initiatives fail.

Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) initiatives are practices and policies that could help improve the experiences and functioning of the target audience. Such initiatives are usually provided by an external party as a service or it is taken on within the organisation itself.

D&I programs have been a perennial part of the workplace culture of midsize to large companies since the 1950s, but often we see these D&I programs take a turn for the worse. Why do these programs fail? The answer to this question can possibly be found in the roots of historic and contemporary social culture.

  • Role of Senior Management
    • Starting at the top of the corporate chain, the lack of commitment and motivation from the senior management in D&I programs causes a top-down chain reaction. This leads to most employees, regardless of the position, losing motivation and interest in these programs.
    • Multiple studies also suggest that “force-feeding” the program can cultivate bias instead of decreasing it. Instead, concentrating on the small workforce which actually has an intrinsic motivation or drive may show better results than a disinterested audience.
    • Adding to the pile of workforce issues, threats such as, “The company will have to pay the price for it.” instil a sense of fear instead of understanding the issue at hand and working towards the betterment of workplace culture.
  • Presence of Modern Racism
    • Even in today’s progressive society, conservative members are still omnipresent, modern racism has only amplified bias due to it being present in the evaluation criteria.
    • Many studies and incidents have been witnessed in multiple companies where a white man, who is generally the manager, has failed a black man in a test for the job but passed a white man who did not even attempt the test. This was just one example of the influence of modern racism but the impact and effect on minorities or people of different backgrounds are large.
    • Another important aspect of such programs is the responsibility, placing sole responsibility on the individuals instead of the workplace or environment.
  • Reinforcing Bias
    • One of the most deep-rooted reasons for the failure of these initiatives is the difficulty present in attempting to retrain a brain that has or still continues to be reinforced to support bias.
    • Many surveys conducted in the corporate world have indicated a presence of bias since the budding stages of the world of business. Take, for example, the senior management in a company positively reinforces (Reward for wanted or desired behaviour) the employers for having a bias that causes a domino effect on the presence of bias in the workforce.
  • Controlling Behaviour
    • Along the lines of reinforcement and punishment, it is also known that focusing on controlling behaviour usually leads to a negative effect. Attempting to control behaviour could make the members feel restricted and naturally controlled.
  • Duration of Program
    • Diversity and Inclusion are two principles that have been neglected for decades, such a long duration of neglect can only be erased by making sure the right awareness and opinions are ingrained in the workforce.
    • Such a hefty task should and needs to take a good amount of time to be accomplished. Changes to everyday behaviour can only come with a long process. One “session” or “lecture” won’t bring a huge change to the workforce easily.
  • Recognition Of Repetitions
    • There are not too many arguments against a program that promotes the betterment of the condition of the current state of the corporate world. But there are a few reasons or hindrances that affect the impact of D&I initiatives.
    • The target audience of such programs, the employees, could get tired of the constant reminders or programs which revolve around the same idea or topic.
    • The constant repetition of D&I initiatives could cause a dull or maybe even zero effect on such initiatives. Of course, the cost of these programs could also lead to some resistance to the implementation of these initiatives.
    • D&I programs are an important and essential part of work culture and are naturally placed at a high value. Additionally, these programs come with no guarantee of effective results, the uncertainty and high cost create a strong resistance to these initiatives.
  • Language Barrier
    • These are the two most prevalent or known arguments for D&I initiatives, but let’s not forget the most simple problem; the language barrier. This simple yet most effective barrier has caused a lot of companies to have second thoughts about finding a service that could have an unknown effect on the workforce.

Many believe that spreading awareness is the key to success with D&I programs, but creating awareness may not necessitate a change in the work culture. Awareness may not provide any practical knowledge or application post-D&I programs. D&I Initiatives are the stepping stones to better work culture and environment, one of equal representation and opportunities. The few obstacles in the way could easily be hurdled over with a small amount of special attention and focus from the enterprises providing such services, leading to an atmosphere free from bias and prejudice that could only improve the functioning. Efficiency and productivity of the workplace.

TRAINING FOR EMPLOYEES

Diversity & Inclusion have increasingly become a business imperative in organizations. Most organizations today recognize the benefits of diversity & inclusion in areas of innovation, ideation, problem solving, better customer connect and diverse talent pool. However, what is important to remember that Diversity & Inclusion go hand in hand. To truly benefit from Diversity and organization must be Inclusive. While Diversity is about numbers – how many diverse groups does an organization have and how many diverse people. Inclusion is more about the work environment – are we allowing the diverse groups to bring their whole selves to the workplace and are they being included in the processes, decision-making and the very fabric of the organization?

Diversity numbers tend to be easier to achieve. However, Inclusion must be reflected in every interaction in the organization and therefore needs a change in the mindset of people. Achieving this is not an easy task. This is where Diversity & Inclusion training for employees comes into the picture. Through training, organizations can bring about the much needed and difficult shift in the mindset of people to make them and thus the organization more inclusive.

Here are some areas of focus for Diversity & Inclusion training for employees:

  1. Leaders– It is proven that culture of an organization flows from the top. The masses follow leaders and emulate their behaviors. It is therefore critical to ensure that the leaders of an organization are aligned with the Diversity and Inclusion goals and displaying the behaviors that are in-line with the ethos. Leadership training on Diversity & Inclusion should largely focus on:
    1. Business Case – It is critical for leaders to understand the business case for Diversity & Inclusion, only then you can have their buy-in and they will be willing to spend time and effort in promoting diversity & inclusion.
    2. Culture – Leaders also need training on how to build and drive a culture that promotes diversity & inclusion. Creating organizational rituals, processes and systems that are aligned to the D&I goals is critical for the agenda to succeed.
    3. Biases – All humans are inherently biased. It is important for leaders to not just recognize their personal biases but also biases in the organizational systems. This way they can be equipped to reduce and eliminate these biases.
  2. People Managers – The next group of people that need training on diversity and inclusion are the people managers. This group is one of the most critical and influential in terms of cascading the organizational culture and ensuring its implementation on the ground. Since people managers create the team culture and interact closely with their team members, they should ensure that diversity & inclusion are practiced in everyday interactions. Some of the areas for training them can be:
    1. Recognizing Exclusion – Like we said, people managers have close and numerous interactions with their team members. It is critical for them to recognize behaviors that are excluding in nature so that such behaviors can be eliminated from daily interactions.
    2. Biases – Recognizing and dealing with personal and team biases are critical for managers. This will ensure that the managers are aware of their biases, they recognize biases in people around them and they are able to take concrete steps to eliminate and reduce such biases.
    3. People Management – Most organizations spend significant resources on training managers to enhance their effectiveness. A key element of such training programs should be Diversity & Inclusion. This will ensure that D&I does not remain just a theoretical concept but is practiced in every task undertaken by managers. Training managers to be inclusive in hiring, conducting performance appraisals, creating development plans and delegating tasks can be some areas of training.
  3. Front Line Executives – Of course no initiative on Diversity & Inclusion be a success unless the masses are aligned with it. It is therefore critical for them to go through training on Diversity & Inclusion as well. This training should include:
    1. Biases – Everyone in the organization should be trained on identifying and overcoming their personal biases.
    2. Understanding Diversity – Front line executives, particularly ones who are new to the corporate world, should also be trained on understanding different elements of diversity. What are the different types of diversity, do’s and don’ts of interaction and the benefits of diversity?
    3. Diversity & Inclusion Policies and Norms – It is critical for all organizational norms and procedures related to Diversity & Inclusion to be communicated to the front-line executives. This will ensure that everyone is aware of the policies and norms and practicing the organizational D&I agenda in day to day interactions.

Training is critical to promoting a culture of diversity and inclusion. This training must be carried for all employees in the organization and should cover all aspects of diversity and inclusion. Building a culture of inclusion is not an easy task and training and development can play a key role in promoting it.

 

4 KEY OUTCOMES EVERY DIVERSITY & INCLUSION TRAINING MUST HAVE

Diversity & Inclusion, or as many organizations today label it Inclusion & Diversity, has become a business imperative for growth and success. Much has been written about the benefits of Diversity & Inclusion, in terms of driving innovation, customer empathy, attracting and retaining talent and bringing varied perspectives. However, we also know that while Diversity is a simple matter of hiring diverse talent, Inclusion is a difficult thing to achieve. Inclusion is not a natural human instinct and it takes a change in mindset to bring about true inclusion. This change in mindset can be achieved through training, building an inclusive culture and ensuring that inclusion is practiced in everyday interactions. Training, however, is the key to initiating the mindset of inclusion.

Let us look at the 4 key outcomes every Diversity & Inclusion training must have.

  1. Understanding Diversity & Inclusion – The basic understanding that any training on Diversity & Inclusion must bring out is the meaning of Diversity & Inclusion. Most people use the two terms interchangeably however they are quite different. While Diversity is about having a varied workforce that is diverse in terms of gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, education, physical abilities, personality and though-process. However, the definition of Diversity can vary depending on the cultural context as well. For example, in India the various regions and language are important aspects of Diversity, while in the US race is critical. It is important for any training on D&I to bring out this understanding of Diversity. At the same time the training must bring out the fact that Diversity does not automatically lead to Inclusion. Inclusion happens when the diverse groups can bring their true selves to work and their differences are valued and leveraged to gain competitive advantage.
  2. Workplace Exclusion – Another key aspect that any training on Diversity & Inclusion must bring out is – what workplace exclusion looks like. A lot of times exclusion does not happen in big ways but in small and subtle ways that people may not even recognize as exclusion. For example, the kind of language used in the workplace can result in unconscious exclusion of certain groups like call team members “guys” or talking about leaders as “he/ him” only. D&I training should not only highlight such instances of workplace exclusion but also provide strategies for avoiding it.
  3. Benefits of Diversity & Inclusion – For organizations that are just starting out in the journey of becoming diverse and inclusive, the people should be able to see the benefits of diversity & inclusion so that they feel the need to promote it. In many cases, people are just about the “what” and “how” of diversity and inclusion without really talking about the “why”. In such cases we see that like many corporate initiatives, D&I fails to penetrate at the grassroot levels. Any training on Diversity & Inclusion must bring about its benefits in terms of innovation, business growth etc. to get a buy-in from people to actively work on promoting diversity and inclusion.
  4. Unconscious Biases – The biggest barrier to practicing inclusion are Unconscious Biases. The problem with overcoming them is the fact that mostly people are not aware of their unconscious biases. Training on Diversity & Inclusion must therefore not just talk about the types of biases but also help people in recognizing their own biases and creating strategies for overcoming them.

However, it is important to remember that a one-off training event is not enough to bring about a change in mindset and make people promote diversity and become inclusive. Changing mindsets is a slow and long-drawn process. Therefore, Diversity & Inclusion training must be conducted regularly to act as a reminder and also create awareness about new perspectives and thoughts in the area. Using innovative methods of training like theater is always a good idea.

Diversity & Inclusion – Crafting a charter

Journey from D&I Charter to Effectiveness

The first step, often the greatest in any journey, of a Diversity and Inclusion initiative is to define the D&I charter for the organization. When implemented in a project mode, D& I initiatives require an objective outcome to justify the investment that goes into it.

A charter is like a guiding star. It provides direction, a sense of purpose and a quick reference for making everyday decisions. It is therefore important to build a charter that everyone agrees to and is willing to commit to.

Here we discuss the steps and considerations in defining the charter.

Context Definition

Every organization exists with a unique context – its customers, products and services, markets, employees, statutory requirements and cultural nuances – all of them contribute towards create this unique context.  Because Diversity and Inclusion has a strong cultural tone, it is important to start the D&I journey by first defining the unique context in which diversity and inclusion initiatives must find their place. The context could define the current state of the organization from a diversity standpoint and how the ecosystem defines that diversity.

One of the organizations, a machine manufacturing company, finds that their products are shipped across the world and must therefore cater to multiple cultural contexts. With over 80% of the white-collar employees being mechanical engineers, the gender ratio in the organization is heavily skewed towards men. This is not just a result of a strong bias that may be existing internally but also of talent availability. Very few women sign up to become mechanical engineers in their part of the world and as a result, almost all applicants for the jobs at this company are men.  By defining the organization’s current context, it is easier to build consensus among the stakeholders.

A good question to ask at this stage is “How inclusive is the existing culture in the organization”?

Find Your Reason

Next, it is important to articulate a good reason why the organization must inculcate a culture of Inclusion. Why should the leaders and employees burn midnight oil to change habits, refine policies and undergo a rebranding exercise? A strong reason that is widely accepted, is inspiring and has a high return on investment will have a booster effect on D&I initiatives. Diversity and Inclusion initiatives have far reaching effect on the internal climate of an organization. This means that it requires broad level engagement of the employees to drive change. When you communicate with people, backed by a strong WHY, you have a good possibility of getting a buy-in. It is easier for people to connect to and buy into a well-articulated WHY as opposed to a list of WHAT you do.

The organization mentioned above found that their growth is dependent on three reasons 1) Post sale customer service 2) Bringing out innovative products 3) Attracting the best talent. With a bit of research and digging into the organizational behavior, this organization found that having a better gender mix and a diverse set of employees could positively influence the way they ideate new products and services.

A good question to ask at this stage is “How inclusive is the existing culture in the organization”?

Define Objective Goals

Once everyone is on board with the definition of WHY, it is time to set some SMART objectives for the D&I initiatives. It is important to define these objectively, even though there are several softer aspects of inclusion as ultimately, in the organisational context, most projects need to justify their investment with a favourable business case. It is good to breakdown the goals as short-term, mid-term and long-term. Goals may vary related to different areas of the business 1) Diversity – Team / Function context and Recruitment targets. This could further be broken down based on the kind of diversity the organization wishes to measure and build. 2) Inclusion – This is related to the internal climate, engaging stakeholders like vendors, partners and customers outside the organization etc.

A good question to ask at this stage is “What is the target audience for the D&I initiative”?

Project Plan and Governance

When creating the diversity and inclusion charter, it is important to define the governance model. This will enable faster decision making. Because Diversity and Inclusion projects are long term, it is important to include both top down and bottom up method of decision making. At this stage, a high-level definition of roles, responsibilities and accountability related to each of the project objectives must be defined.

A good question to ask at this stage is “What will be implementation and communication strategy? What are the milestones and how often will the project be reviewed”?

All these considerations and steps will result in a robust and practical diversity and inclusion charter for an organization, which will finally yield concrete results. The more time spent at this stage will result in greater benefits from the diversity and inclusion initiatives.

Consultant Training in Gurgaon

Diversity and Inclusion Champion Certification by Strengthscape

Diversity and Inclusion has become a global phenomenon with organizations working at various levels to ensure they not only comply but set new standards in becoming more diverse and inclusive. For this it is important to have the right consultants working with organizations to help them achieve their Diversity & Inclusion goals. Gurgaon being a major corporate hub is seeing an increase in the demand for Diversity & Inclusion Consultants. To cater to this increasing demand, many people in Gurgaon wish to become Diversity & Inclusion Consultants.

These Diversity & Inclusion Consultants with the right skills and knowledge could provide great value to their clients not just in Gurgaon but countrywide. Strengthscape’s Diversity & Inclusion Consultant Certification in Gurgaon can help consultants do just that.

The essential service provided by a Diversity & Inclusion consultant is to enhance the working environment and brand of the organization. By enhancing the Diversity of workforce, who come from various parts of the world to Gurgaon, and helping teams become more inclusive through various initiatives, Diversity and Inclusion consultants could assist companies become more innovative and productive. This could be developed as a competitive advantage if organizations create the right structure and culture to become inclusive.

A Diversity & Inclusion consultant follows the following broad steps in order to help organizations achieve greater level of inclusivity and reap the benefits of a diverse and an engaged workforce.

  1. Conduct Need Analysis – By understanding the level of diversity in the organizations workforce and assessing the inclusivity index of various teams, Diversity and Inclusion Consultants could determine the core issues and challenges facing the organization. Conducting a structured need analysis requires the Consultant to craft the right questions, used tools to measure the inclusion index and conduct structured interviews across stake holders. The consultant would also have to conduct research on the Diversity & Inclusion global best practices and measure the current diversity and inclusion index against these global best practices. From this the consultant will be able to identify the gaps.
  2. Define Diversity & Inclusion Goals – By assessing the data available, Diversity & Inclusion Consultant would be able to help the organization define both Diversity and Inclusion goals. These goals may not be restricted to the workforce in Gurgaon but could span the entire workforce in India or even abroad. In all probability, your Diversity and Inclusion expert will not just define a diversity goal. This is because Diversity is not the end but a means to the end which is Inclusion. Organizations derive benefit by creating inclusive teams. A well-trained Diversity & Inclusion Consultant should be able to define the structure of the journey an organization needs to undertake to achieve to separate goals that run in parallel – Diversity and Inclusion. A good consultant focusses on the key problems and solutions required in the context of the business of the organization like what are the key markets an organization is targeting, what is keeping the leaders awake at night and what are the drivers of growth. A good D&I consultant should be able to connect your organizational goals with the D&I goals and promise high return on investment.
  3. The solution – Gurgaon, being the melting pot of various cultures poses specific challenges related to Diversity and Inclusion. These challenges stem from various cultures that amalgamate into the work culture of an organisation. While training on Diversity and Inclusion is a good thing to start with, enhancing the skills and knowledge of the employees cannot be the only way. D&I consultants work with the leadership teams and people managers to improve policies, procedures, work processes and job descriptions. By enhancing structural support to such initiatives, D&I consultants can promise greater and long-lasting benefits.
  4. Measuring Impact – Once the initiatives are in place and employee training has been rolled out, a Diversity and Inclusion expert should be able to assess the impact on culture, business goals and employee engagement. Again, to measure the impact of various initiatives, it is not necessary to restrict data collection to just Gurgaon or any one part of the organization. Such initiatives usually have a wide impact and the consultant must be able to measure it in totality. As a Diversity & Inclusion consultant, you should be able to provide a written report card with recommendations for improvement that includes both quantitative and qualitative metrics from the project.

Strengthscape offers Diversity & Inclusion expert training in Gurgaon. This training is delivered online and in Person and is also available as an enterprise version. Companies in Gurgaon could reap the benefits of an inclusive culture by training internal champions and allies by registering for this training.

Indian organizations’ need for embracing Diversity and Inclusion

For governments and organizations to stay competitive and relevant in the present marketplace, it is important to change to global attitude. There have been various conversations, considerations and discussions that outlines the significance of making a more multi-cultural, diverse and inclusive work force. A large portion of these conversations have prompted the conclusion that diversity and inclusion at workplace receive great rewards including better market position, increased consumer satisfaction, an improved capacity to reach at strategic objectives and a stronger bottom line.

India landscape

India being a nation of numerous languages, dialects, castes and ethnicities makes for a complex yet an extremely convincing scene for understanding the job of diversity and inclusion.

Over the most recent couple of years, there has been a conscious effort from the Indian companies as well as Government to encourage diversity at workplace. There have been some wonderful developments, for example, India’s market regulator ordering listed companies to have at any rate one woman director on their boards, government stretching out the maternity leave to six months, entry of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Bill and leading companies promoting LGBT rights at workplace. Although, we still have a long way to go.

As a flourishing economy with the world’s second largest population and a rising worldwide leader, India must embrace the benefits of diversity and inclusion at workplace to understand its full potential.

What can companies do

While the government and the regulators do their bit, the duty of driving diversity and inclusion on the ground to a great extent lies with the companies. Companies should proactively have round tables and internal events to talk about different issues and eliminate unconscious bias. Conducting customized workshop/training to sensitize managers and recruiters towards individuals with disability and LGBT can go long way in guaranteeing that such individuals are flawlessly incorporated in our work life.

It should also be vital for all workplaces to be 100% disability friendly. In addition to these, offering adaptable working hours for new mothers and directing recruitment drives with a special focus on selecting women can enormously contribute towards encouraging gender diversity in the workplace.

Numerous times, we also generally use diversity and inclusion as interchangeable terms. There is however as obvious distinction between the two. As popular diversity advocate Vern Myers defines it, “Diversity is being welcome to the party. Inclusion is being approached to dance.” Therefore, while companies must be proactive in making a culture which is helpful for a gender diverse and multi-cultural work force, they should also ensure that these individuals are hired as well as counted and recognized for their endeavors in developing the organization

The best leaders show compassion for their employees and for their clients. They listen and hear what individuals have to say and work with their teams to develop them and build up the kinds of hard and soft skills important to develop. In any case, these leaders identify the value of a diverse workforce and try to assemble and develop those sorts of teams. To build effective organizations, we should let diversity and inclusion develop from a significant discussion to a lifestyle and business in India.

D&I in Corporate India

India is a diverse country and therefore, workplaces in India are without a second thought, naturally diverse in terms of gender, caste, religion, regional and other dimensions. Additionally, workplaces are becoming global with team located globally interacting with each other and depending on each other for work performance.

Talking about Diversity and Inclusion in Corporate India specifically. The focus of this article is not to highlight how diverse workplaces have become in India. Rather, what more needs to be done and the consequences of not being inclusive of the diversity is something one must focus on. For instance, gender disparity, representation of individuals with disability and caste discrimination (in terms of reservation) remains a major concern in Indian corporates today. As per the last reports in 2019, 70% and more organizations have less than 1% of employees with disabilities. Most of the organizations do not have disability-friendly infrastructure. Similar reports have been found for other dimensions of diversity.

The crux, therefore, is that diversity is not directly proportional to inclusion. We cannot say that more the diversity in the workplace, greater is its inclusivity index. A diverse workplace may also be least inclusive and therefore, inclusion must be treated as a vision for an organizational culture wherein, conscious efforts are put in by every employee to make the workplace inclusive for all.

Despite the dearth of accurate data, we still have some fair insights about how inclusion has become important in corporate India today. According to a 2017 report by Deloitte Insights, 69% of executives have rated diversity and inclusion as an imperative workplace issue. The numbers have gone up from 59% in 2014. The increase in awareness and planning around this has primarily been due to the senior leadership’s acceptance of creating an inclusive culture.

Diversity and Inclusion in corporate India has a long journey to traverse. But some basic and simple shifts must begin to happen, like:

  1. Start looking at gender as non-binary. That is, gender is not about male and female only. Include the third gender in all policies and conversations. How many forms and official documents have the third gender as an option? Do we have the right infrastructure for the third gender (eg: a separate washroom that they are comfortable to enter)?
  2. Step back from stereotypes such as North India vs South India. These stereotypes have results in forming cliques and groups in the organizations and have often resulted in arguments and conflicts. India is a diverse country and we must begin to embrace that and learn about each other’s cultures.
  3. Stop treating initiatives for Women as a checklist item or a celebratory kitty party. This is a common complaint or discussion that any separate initiative done for women is treated as some kitty party rather than women empowerment. The mindset of stereotyping a woman’s role must change.
  4. Promote equity rather than equality. When we start talking about equality, a lot of debate around feminism, inequality, biases and problems arise. The focus should be on equity – look at the needs and wants of individuals and not make decisions and generalize it basis gender, caste, region etc. Merit should be based on hard work and talent, salary should be based on role and performance (and not the gender of the person), etc.
  5. Hire people from the diverse groups. When we say diverse groups, it is not about upgrading your policies to increase women representation in the workforce. Diverse groups also include the individuals from the LGBTQ community, people with disabilities (basis their fitment to the role), people with different religious beliefs and ethnic backgrounds. Tata Steel, in the year 2017, announced that they were planning a roadmap that would have 25% of representation from the diverse groups by 2020. Diversity and inclusion with the underlying principle of “playing on individual talents and strengths” have proved to improve innovation and business performance.

A lot of organizations in India have already started making paradigm shifts in their culture, policies and processes and some are still taking baby steps. However, this initiative and conversations around Diversity and Inclusion in corporate India must keep going till reports can accurately show that people from all diverse groups and represented and treated fairly and a culture of inclusion prevails. For this, time to time assessment of where organizations are in their charter for diversity and inclusion and how far more they must go must be conducted periodically. Specific goals must be set to make the process more objective. The journey must start now if it already hasn’t and it shall all begin with the vision and goal statement to be diverse and inclusive as an organization.

Affirmative Action as a Pre-requisite to Diversity and Inclusion

To begin with, one needs to understand how these two concepts “Diversity and Inclusion” and “Affirmative Action” are different from each other. If we were to put these two words in a process, affirmative action will come as a step prior to Diversity and Inclusion.

In order to understand Affirmative Action better, there is a need to throw some light on the history of how it evolved. Affirmative Action is a result of the 1960s Civil Rights Movement in the United States. It was introduced to revert the wrong doings and discriminatory practices that the minority of the American population was exposed to. Affirmative Action focuses on increasing the representation of the minority in the workforce. In the Indian context, the reservation system is a good example of Affirmative Action. The thought behind the reservation system practice is to simply give the minority and diverse members an equal footing with their other capable counterparts. Without that, practicing diversity and inclusion is futile.

Organizations that follow affirmative action are legally bound and they are not necessarily “inclusive organizations” in the true sense of the term. A set of separate strategies and rituals are required for that inclusion to take place.

After one has been able to take affirmative action, the next step is to make the employees within the organization value diversity. Valuing diversity, according to R. Roosevelt Thomas Jr., includes creating awareness about the aspects of diversity and its benefits, helping employees to accommodate that new knowledge with what they already know and recognize the value it brings for the individual, team and the organization. This step is beyond just affirmative action and is based on the initiatives for inclusion and equity that the organization builds.

After affirmative action and valuing diversity, the next step is to determine how an inclusive culture can be created. This is because, affirmative action can only give the diverse members an entry through the door and valuing diversity will only make people aware. There is a need to bind this two together and create a more sustainable culture of repetitive behaviors that will ensure that the organization is inclusive. This step is referred to as Diversity Management and it provides the business case for diversity and inclusion. In the diversity management step, the focus should be on taking a strategic approach to leverage the benefits of a diverse and inclusive culture so that organizational goals can be met. It helps in increasing organizational productivity, innovation, employee engagement and customer retention.

Affirmative action has a negative connotation to it and is often misunderstood or incorrectly implemented. Just like the current reservation and quota system which is often seen in negative light. Also, any preferential treatment towards a certain diverse group is looked at as a contradiction to the inclusion practices. However, if we plan and implement affirmative action as a pre-requisite step to diversity and inclusion, we will realize that the slight perceived inequality introduced is, in reality, a best practice for enhancing the impact and effectiveness of diversity and inclusion initiatives within the organization.

Diversity in the Indian Workplace

Indian society is culturally vast, and when it comes to Indian workplace, employees are a mix of different race, age, background, culture. It might be a challenge for organizations in making such diverse workforce feel inclusive. But if right measures are taken and there are policies in place, such diverse workforce can be transformed into a cohesive team working together to achieve the goals of the organization. Diversity and Inclusion is a gradual process, but there are a few companies that have started to recognize the need for Diversity and initiating inclusive policies.

Here is a list of Indian organizations, ranging from conglomerates to cafes, that are driving the path in making professional space both safe and welcoming for a diverse set of employees.

Radio Active CR 90.4 MHz, Bangalore (Radio Station)

Inclusive approaches help innovation and creativity, give chances to learn and become both at the individual and organizational level. They took baby steps, the first was clearly to unlearn and relearn numerous ideas like participation, community, access etc. They had an orientation on understanding sexual orientation, gender diversity, gender identity, the use of right pronouns and so on.

The compulsory team lunches, Monday morning meetings are significant ground to collectively debate, discuss and arrive up at an understanding. Directions are a significant part for all assistants, volunteers and visitors as well. They also direct exit surveys to check how ex-employees feel about the practices. Regular trainings are a steady feature.

Godrej Group

Godrej firmly accepts that energetic, adjusted people with differing interests make better employees. At the point when you can carry your entire self to work, you can really prove your potential. All the HR strategies are structured remembering this way of thinking. Their medical coverage advantage permits their employees to include a ‘partner’ as a beneficiary and not just a ‘spouse’, they offer unlimited sick leave, and adaptable timings and work from home approaches are for all workers and they are continually keeping tabs the development with respect to Diversity and Inclusion, recognizing potential regions to dive deep and find relevant solutions.

Culture Machine, Mumbai (Media Company)

Right from their Talent Management Strategy which is firmly based on the competency of a candidate, the business and job role-based competencies, alongside their worker’s performance assessment have been built remembering sensitivities to issues of diversity. Their diverse workforce encourages them comprehend and work with different viewpoints which help at last strengthen their establishment of the company’s work culture.

They have organized workshops that have thrown light on aspects of diversity and inclusiveness. One latest instance of that would be a ‘Self Defense’ workshop that was organized on Independence Day with the idea of #FreedomFromFear. All workers irrespective of their sexual orientation and gender were invited to participate.

Nukkad, The Teafe, Raipur (Café)

They began Nukkad in 2013, with the sole motivation behind building up an inspiring place that offers equivalent chances to each person. We are right now working with the transgendered people, as well as hearing impaired. 80% of workforce is comprised of trans members and hearing-impaired employees, who work at different levels from housekeeping to the board, depending upon their range of skills.

Prior to joining, all the staff individuals (specially the Kitchen Operation group) are educated regarding the work culture and the group that they would be working with. They have confidence in experiential learning, so they work with their team on personal, behavioral and professional grooming. We have strict approach for our customers, who must approach and treat our staff with respect.

These are some of the initiatives taken by the companies, which might also provide ideas and insight to other companies and inspire other to also work towards Diversity and Inclusion in their organization. This data is gathered using online resources available in public domain.

Different Programs for Diversity and Inclusion

Diversity is the differences that people bring to the workplace in terms of gender, race, culture, identity, abilities etc. However, just having diverse people in the organization is not enough, these differences should be understood, recognized and valued – that is inclusion. And it is inclusion that makes diversity work. While, this common definition of diversity is widely understood and accepted, Deloitte in its research found that diversity itself is viewed differently by different generations. Millennials believe that diversity is about people of different backgrounds, experiences and perspectives coming together; and when these different people work together innovation happens. Generation X, on the other hand, looks at diversity as a fair representation of different groups in the organization without connecting it to business results. With such complex perception of the definition itself, diversity and inclusion programs are tough to conceptualize as well.

One way to design diversity and inclusion programs is to look at different initiatives in the stages of the employee life cycle. Here are different programs for diversity and inclusion that organizations can run:

  1. Attracting Candidates – Diversity and inclusion programs at this stage should focus on attracting candidates from diverse sources rather than just the go-to college campuses. This brings in a pool of diverse candidates right at the start. Some avenues for diversity hiring can be job fairs held specially for diverse groups like the Pride job fairs in India or tying up with NGOs that work with veterans or differently abled.
  2. Recruitment – Once a diverse pool of candidates has been identified, the next stage is to initiate the recruitment process. At this stage the D&I programs should ensure that recruiters have been trained on unconscious biases, the process itself should be bias-free and inclusive. Processes like use of blind resumes, neutral job descriptions that don’t give undue advantage to certain sections, use of Artificial Intelligence in initial screening process and a diverse interview panel should be instituted. At the same time, setting clear expectations with the recruiters is critical.
  3. Onboarding – The next stage in the employee life cycle is onboarding. At this stage, the diversity and inclusion programs should ensure that all employees feel welcome, they are able to express themselves without fear and the company guidelines with reference to diversity and inclusion are clearly communicated to them. Induction programs should be inclusive and should delve into topics like unconscious biases and expected workplace behaviors.
  4. Learning and Development – L&D provides immense opportunity for diversity and inclusion programs. All learning and development programs should be inclusive and open to all based on roles and needs. Learning interventions should focus on topics like identifying and overcoming unconscious biases, identifying micro inequalities, building a psychologically safe work environment etc.
  5. Rewards & Recognition and Benefits – All rewards, recognition and benefit programs should be designed to promote equality. Rewards and recognition programs should be designed in a way that they include people from various diverse groups and promote equality. Benefits, on the other hand, should be designed in a way that they are equitable. For example, providing flexible work options to young parents so that they can perform at par with others is an example of equality through equity.
  6. Retention/Exit – The last stage of the employee life cycle is retention or exit. At this stage diversity and inclusion programs should ensure that people from all diverse groups are retained in the organization. Exit interviews should provide key insights on whether other diversity and inclusion initiatives are successful in the organization or not – exit due to lack of inclusion should be considered seriously.

At the center of these different programs for diversity and inclusion is the D&I strategy. All programs should align with the overall diversity and inclusion strategy of the organization.

Diversity & Inclusion Champions & Allies

The importance of Allyship in sustaining D&I initiatives

Diversity and Inclusion champions lead, manage, plan and deliver on the charter for diversity in the organization. It is difficult to image one single person driving the D&I charter of the organization. It is important for the Diversity and Inclusion champion to build allies who support the cause and provide ground level support to minority groups within an organization.

An ally is a person or group who is associated with the diversity champion in building an inclusive culture in the organization. Allies may not have the end responsibility for meeting the charter for Diversity and Inclusion however they play more of a supportive and local role within their teams. They certainly have a greater sense of acceptance and motivation to build inclusivity. They are typically like super users – who, while remaining tied to their day job, further the cause by enhancing the impact of the D&I initiatives within their local circle of influence. One of the most important tasks for an Ally is to build strong, long term, high trust relationships with the minority groups.

As a D&I practitioner, Diversity and Inclusion champions must recognize that they are not alone and that it is only natural for them to build a support system within the organization to ensure that there is progress in the initiatives. It is important to build Allies because:

  1. It could be emotionally draining to support minority groups and progress the D&I agenda over a long period of time. Champions are constantly exposed to emotionally surcharged situations that they hear, see, reflect on and internalize and this may be harmful for their own emotional health. By continuously supporting people who require emotional support, D&I experts can experience stress and diversity fatigue.
  2. Diversity is a new area of work for Organization Behavioural experts. Further, the landscape of issues that they may need to address are very broad and culture specific. The point is that as Diversity and Inclusion Champion, you may not have all the answers. Also, one’s own biases and cultural upbringing may influence your perspectives. By teaming up with other people champions can play on the collective wisdom of the group to drive forward the organization’s D&I charter.
  3. Diversity and Inclusion initiatives may face a plethora of challenges – each one unique to every team or subgroup with the organization. By cultivating allies, champions can have their eyes and ears in every part of the organization. This helps them understand problems, spot resistance and deliver customized solutions to every nook and corner of the organizational network. They can manage the expectations of the stakeholders as they find strength in numbers. When a group of people work together towards a certain goal, change is easily accepted as it is not seen as a personal choice or intent of the D&I champion.

Allyship involves the following:

  • Advocating: Allies frequently and openly talk about the rights and needs of the minority groups.
  • They proactively share growth opportunities with those who may have a disadvantage or lack of access to information related to the opportunities.
  • Identify and mitigate the risk of micro inequalities that may exist in the system
  • Listen to and support minority groups when needed
  • Build a culture of mutual respect and tolerance by demonstrating the same on everyday basis.
  • They sponsor underrepresented groups at forums that provide them development opportunities.
  • They call out and protect minority groups from unacceptable behaviours at workplace.
  • They support minority groups to raise issue that they may not be comfortable in raising to the management.
  • They challenge those who may be biased in their decision making and mitigate the risk of unconscious biases seeping into team situations.

Allies play a vital role in furthering the Diversity and Inclusion charter of the organization. Those leading such initiatives must invest time, money and critical training effort in cultivating a battery of Allies to support cultural change in an organization.

Diversity & Inclusion Certification in Singapore

Lead Diversity & Inclusion Projects in Singapore with Confidence

One of the most engaging aspects of any workplace is its diversity. It is also one of the most enjoyable aspects of work when perceived and accepted in totality. It is always energizing and refreshing to speak with people who come from diverse groups and are different form your own self. These differences can be not just in terms of age and gender but also culture, behavioural and personality traits, generation, regional and religious beliefs. It is now a well-known fact that when diverse set of people come together as a team, they have the right ingredients to be more productive, creative and fun!

While diversity has been proven to be an advantage by increasing number of research studies, heterogenous groups of people can also pose several significant challenges especially because of the stereotyping and unconscious bias that may infiltrate into the work environment.  There are many types of biases that influence interpersonal communication, and these are chronic in nature. By clustering into groups with common traits, it becomes easier for us to navigate the interpersonal landscape at workplace. The flipside of this clustering is that it can create stereotypes and lead to prejudice in our daily decision making. This unconscious bias seeps into every decision such as who we choose to speak with at workplace, what we buy, and who we hire.

It is difficult to generalize the extent to which unconscious biases are internalised and acted on at the individual level. Working with a diverse group requires high level of sensitivity, different approach for different people and an open mind. It is therefore important to provide sensitization training to the employees and build broad level acceptance and appreciation of the differences that define diversity in a group.

While training can help in building cultural awareness and sensitivity training, there is a need to support minority groups and build an inclusive culture on a day to day basis. This can be done by building a pool of diversity and inclusion (D&I) champions and allies within the organization. Diversity champions personify an immense level of acceptance, appreciation and support for diverse groups and further illustrate how teams can be inclusive and engaging. They believe in the power of diversity and work in a systematic way to build both diversity and an inclusive culture in the organization by engaging stakeholders across the organization.

Strengthscape’s Live Virtual Diversity & Inclusion Champion Certification, that can be attended from Singapore using zoom, enables employees to take the role of a champion with confidence. Certified champions have the tools, techniques and capability to lead Diversity and Inclusion initiatives in an organization. They bring about a great understanding of the challenges faced by various groups and further understand scientific methods that can be applied to build an inclusive culture.

For an organization to enhance its ratings on the diversity maturity scale, it is necessary that they train and build support for the minority groups, identify and decimate any form of discrimination that may be meted out to people form diverse groups and make policies and performance management systems that are fair, inclusive and free from biases. A diverse workforce and inclusive work environment set the stage for greater creativity, productivity and enhances employee retention.

 

Diversity and Inclusion – Key Messages

Diversity and Inclusion initiatives, often driven by the senior management or CEO themselves aim to create a work environment where everyone can bring their whole self to work and be motivated to put in their best in a psychologically safe environment. Diversity and Inclusion programs must deliver some key messages in order to promote inclusion and have predictable and favourable outcomes.

Diversity refers to the differences among people that comprise a group or a team. These differences could stem from multiple factors such as race, gender, physical abilities, sexual orientation, age, education, skill, talent, knowledge and psychological attributes. Inclusion on the other hand, refers to a work environment that enables people to bring the whole self to work that enables them to collaborate, take interpersonal risks, innovate and generally feel respected and motivated.

Diversity and Inclusion programs could end up becoming too broad and diffused and therefore it is necessary to define certain key messages that must be delivered in every program. Here are some of those key messages:

  1. Psychological diversity is paramount: While many organizations focus on creating diverse teams and even have recruitment targets related to onboarding people from diverse groups, it is important to consider the diversity in psychological attributes of people. Many companies have diversity charters that have goals like – achieving 50% women workforce or having 10% of the workforce from the LGBTQ community. While these are good goals to have, they may not necessarily contribute towards creating an inclusive environment. Also, for the sake of diversity, performance and safety of employees cannot be compromised.
  2. Unconscious biases are omnipresent: Everyone experiences and demonstrates some form of biases in varied situations. Biases are learned stereotypes that a person might hold and are often subtle in nature. Moreover, while people are good at identifying other’s biases, they may fail to realize or admit their own biases. Because biases are deeply engrained, they affect our behaviour and personality in many ways. Ever needed assistance in changing a tyre? Who would you approach – a man or a woman? If you would typically approach a man, then that demonstrates a certain bias you may have. When unconscious biases exist unchecked in a workplace, diversity suffers, and inclusion is the casualty. Unconscious biases can seep into many processes and functions of an organization.
  3. Diversity is a number, inclusion is a decision: Organizations that like to have easy and measurable objectives, focus on diversity. Diversity in a group is relatively easy to measure. Even psychological or personality differences in a group are easy to measure. With a plethora of psychometric assessment available, that are both reliable and valid, it is possible to measure if the behavioural priorities in a work group are skewed towards a few behavioral tendencies. However, measuring diversity is not the end goal. Diversity only indirectly promotes higher productivity and creativity. The real driver is inclusion. Inclusion makes everyone on a team feel respected. By accepting, engaging and enabling people as they are, organizations can become more competitive and innovative.

Diversity and Inclusion must therefore deliver these three key messages – 1) Recognizing psychological diversity is important 2) Biases are everywhere and no one can claim to be fully unbiased and 3) Inclusion is the goal of diversity and inclusion initiatives.

Champion Certification – Bangalore

Would you like to gain a Diversity and Inclusion Champion Certification program in BANGALORE?

Many HR and L&OD professionals in BANGALORE are now seeking a credible professional certification program on Diversity and Inclusion. It is easy to attend a D&I champion certification program from the comfort of your home and office by signing up for Strengthscape’s Live Virtual D&I Champion certification program.

Diversity and Inclusion is a relatively new branch of Organization Development that requires the leader to build capability in a diverse set of competencies. The D&I champion certification program, that you can attend from BANGALORE as well as any other part of the world, addresses the following competencies apart from the core competencies of understanding Diversity and mastering Inclusion building techniques:

Inter-Culture Praxis: Cultural context of the work environment existing in various locations of an organization. In organizations that have operations in multiple countries, an understanding of how local culture drives decision making, selection and employee communication in a multicultural environment presents immense complexity. Cross-cultural understanding reinforced with knowledge of the local market leads to better understanding of consumer behaviour and therefore better marketing strategies.

Communication: Because most culture change initiatives require mastery of communication in different situations and mediums, D&I initiatives’ success depends on effective communication – in both one to one and one to many formats. Diversity and Inclusion projects must be viewed as projects requiring significant change management. Communication, during organizational change projects is so vital that you can seldom over-communicate. Many leaders who have led successful change management projects express the need for “over-communicating” during change initiatives. Lack of or inappropriate communication is a frequent complaint by employees during organizational change projects.

Project Management: Cultural change projects are usually long term. To maintain the interest of the stakeholders, it must also delivery some early benefits to the organization. It is necessary that anyone training to lead D&I initiatives must have good project management skills. Even though the D&I initiative is well conceived, adequately funded, appropriately resourced with talented and specialist resources, if the efforts of all the stakeholders and the project team are not skilfully coordinated and managed, the project may overrun the budget, fail to meet the timelines, or fall short on quality.

Stakeholder Management: Engaging stakeholders and managing their expectations is an important ingredient for successful project delivery. And yet, it is often regarded as a fringe activity or one that can be delegated to inexperienced team members. Stakeholders must be able to define what’s in it for them in and thus respond positively to the D&I initiatives. Because project managers may not have enough influence or formal power of authority, they often rely on various stakeholders to achieve the D&I initiatives.

Here are some of the roles and responsibilities of a D&I Champion

  • Identify pre-dominant identity groups among employees
  • Identify and apply industry best practices through a systems-thinking approach
  • Illustrate the value of diversity and inclusion initiatives to various stakeholders
  • Manage cultural change projects in line with the Diversity & Inclusion charter
  • Assess, review and modify organizational policies in order to achieve D&I objectives as per the agreed charter.

Head – Diversity, Equity & Inclusion

Job Description for a leadership position in Diversity & Inclusion

Many organizations are now looking for qualified and experienced Diversity and Inclusion experts to head their D&I initiatives. The most important “outcome” for this job role is to lead, inspire, develop, and execute a diversity strategy that fosters a culture of Inclusion across the organization. The head of Diversity & Inclusion Consulting Services help build a diverse and an inclusive organization. D&I experts research the organization and the industry, identify high priority issues, and create an actionable plan for change. Diversity & Inclusion heads identify and remove unconscious bias during the recruiting and selection process in order to build an equal opportunity organization.

The typical job description for Head – D&I Consulting Services includes the following:

Primary Responsibilities:

  • Conduct due diligence of the existing Human Resource policies, business processes and work environment to objectively report the current status of Diversity an Inclusion parameters in the organization.
  • Prepare a project plan that aims to achieve a globally harmonized diversity and inclusion policies and processes across the organization.
  • Build consensus among the key stakeholders across various countries / business units on the organizational charter for diversity and inclusion policies.
  • Lead the implementation of Diversity & Inclusion policies, processes and practices across the organization.
  • Ensure the proper allocation of budgets across various business units.
  • Handle external and internal communication around the D&I practices in order to build organizational brand. This includes engaging teams internally and creating visibility for the organization by speaking at various international forums.
  • Manage risk and ensure complete statutory compliances.
  • Be a confidant and advisor to the leadership team for matters related to the diversity and inclusion initiatives.

Secondary Responsibilities

  • Mentor and coach internal managers and leaders on the needs for creating an inclusive environment.
  • Speak at various educational forums as a part of the CSR initiatives of the organization
  • Build a succession plan for the role of the Head – Diversity and Inclusion (Internal) Consulting Services
  • Build a community of Diversity and Inclusion allies within the organization
  • Regularly deliver programs for sensitizing employee on local norms, culture and inclusion practices
  • Improve employee engagement levels
  • Build a winning culture
  • Recognize and minimize unconscious bias
  • Understand the dimensions of diversity relevant to the organization, it’s employees, customers and industry.
  • Promote psychological safety of all employees across teams
  • Examine and develop strategies for implementing ethical standards

Competencies

  • Excellent project management skills
  • Expert level proficiency English with excellent written, oral and interpersonal communication skills
  • Expert level problem solving skills
  • Robust understanding of HR policies and statutory requirements related to workforce management
  • Proven ability to influence and build trusting relationships

Qualification

  • Professional certification like Diversity and Inclusion Champion Certification

(Any established training designed to develop the competencies needed to for consulting, managing, leading and training on cultural diversity and inclusion)

  • Postgraduate degree or diploma in Management, Psychology or Mass Communication

DIVERSITY & INCLUSION PROBLEMS

More and more companies are trying to promote Diversity & Inclusion globally because they have realized the business benefits of D&I and because it’s just the right thing to do!

However, the road to becoming a diverse and inclusive organization is not an easy one. Most of them find D&I an uphill task that loses steam after initial enthusiasm. Most problems in diversity and inclusion come from incorrect approach that organizations take towards it. Here are some problems with the D&I initiatives that make them unsuccessful:

  1. Tick in the Box – Many organizations take up D&I initiatives with the right and actual intent of change. However, many them just want to join the bandwagon for publicity and good PR. This results in half-hearted interventions that provide the organizations a lot of visibility, but the organizational culture does not become inclusive. Joining pride marches or having Women’s Day program once a year are typical tick in the box activities that don’t really make an organization inclusive.
  2. Quick Fix Initiatives – Another problem with D&I initiatives in organizations is that most of them are looking for a quick fix. Boosting diversity numbers with mandated diverse hiring or setting up employee resource groups are some initiatives that organizations take but without a supportive culture and training people on D&I, these initiatives don’t yield any results.
  3. Lack of Leadership Buy-In – This is one of the most crucial factors in failure of D&I initiatives. D&I teams or in many cases the HR function promotes the D&I agenda in the organizations. A lot of times however, the initiatives focus on the junior employees of the organization, without the buy-in of the leadership. This means no leadership support for these initiatives which die down quickly. Also, since building a diverse and inclusive organization is about having the right culture, this needs to be initiated from the top, culture is promoted top-down, not bottom-up. D&I initiatives should be done at all levels with a clear leadership buy-in.
  4. Training Events not Learning Journeys – Becoming diverse and inclusive is not about having only policies and processes in place. These initiatives cannot succeed unless there is a change in the mindset of the employees, and inclusivity is not part of the DNA. This takes time and effort and focused learning. Conducting a 1-day training on D&I or biases is not enough. Mindset change and overcoming biases is a slow process and requires continuous learning that is available in various modes is what works.
  5. Not Measuring Outcomes – Experience tells us – what gets measures, gets done! Many organizations do not have a clear D&I mandate or commitment from leadership; therefore, they don’t measure specific outcomes of the D&I initiatives. Without measurement of effectiveness of these outcomes they cannot be accomplished. Organizations that do not measure D&I outcomes end up with tick in the box D&I initiatives.

All the above problems with D&I initiatives make them ineffective. If organizations are to overcome these problems, they need to start specific people in the organization who strategically work on the D&I agenda, these people are the D&I Champions. D&I Champions should be trained formally to work on the D&I charter and agenda. Organizations should have the right intent of wanting to build the right culture for becoming diverse and inclusive.

Road to Inclusion

“Companies that embrace diversity and inclusion in all aspects of their business statistically outperform their peers.” Josh Bersin

The above quote clearly explains the essence of diversity and inclusion. Inclusion takes conscious effort. At workplace, there are different people coming in together to achieve a common organizational goal. To make this diverse set of people achieve common goals and work cohesively, diversity and inclusion are critical. Workplace diversity is realizing, accepting, and valuing differences between people be it race, language, caste, creed, religion etc. The benefits of diversity and inclusion are numerous and fostering results through diversity is the way forward for organizational success.

Often there are challenges in bringing out a culture of diversity and inclusion to leverage the benefits of diversity:

  • Resistance to Change: Resistance to change is a crucial barrier to assimilating more diversity in work groups, it pertains more to the momentum of company culture. Diversity and Inclusion is a tricky one and it bring out flexibility in the organizational norms, often there is a lower acceptance to differences that diversity brings in thought, style of working etc. Resistance forces minorities to bear the burden of changing to fit the existing culture, thereby limiting the initial value of having new perspectives in the first place.
  • Unconscious bias is often problematic to remove however by realizing your tendencies and natural reactions to people different from you in some way can help in promoting inclusion. However, Unconscious Biases are not easy to get rid of. Worse still, it is difficult to even recognize unconscious biases and therefore overcoming them is a challenge. There is much more about our unconscious biases, which translate into behaviors, opinions and actions.
  • Lack of an inclusive culture: Then, there is the “inclusion” piece – this is about how people feel in the workplace. Are they respected, can they be themselves, do they have opportunity to contribute at their full potential, to be heard as an equal? This is much tougher to address, because it’s so insidious. It is critical for organizations to create opportunities for employees to voice any of their concerns regarding the organizational culture. Just diversity with no inclusion is of no value. An organization can only reap the benefits of diversity if it is inclusive.
  • Not hiring a pool of diverse employees- Because of our biases and stereotypes we hire people who are like us. And end up having similar people in the talent pool. Looking for candidates the “fit” the organization is quite contradictory to the efforts of diversity and inclusion.
  • Respecting and Accepting the Differences of Others: A issue that arises in workplaces is dealing with social or cultural differences. Part of this is caused due to lack of understanding. Examples of this can include refusal by an employer or manager to allow an employee to observe their faith by taking time off for any faith-related holidays, or discrimination against the LGTBQ community because the manager or another employee disagrees with their lifestyle.
  • Communication Barriers: Barriers to communication are bound to happen as there is high variance in employee background, as differing predispositions and cultures often result in different forms of expression.

Here a list of potential advantages of diversity and inclusion and how organizations can foster results through diversity

  1. Diverse set of internal customers can reach out to diverse set of external customers groups and markets. This will help the organization tap untouched markets. It also promotes innovativeness and superior work outcomes and performance.
  2. Having a diverse workforce is increasingly being recognized as instrumental in improving the firm’s performance, and an imperative that organizations can no longer choose to ignore. In one study of Fortune 500 companies, it was found that the top 25% of the firms in terms of women in senior management, yielded returns to their stockholders that were more than 30% higher than those of their peers.
  3. In a report by Deloitte it is mentioned that investing in diversity and inclusion does lead to improved business outcomes. This is a step towards Diversity management alone is insufficient to improve performance. Inclusive workplaces characterized by supportive leadership and empowered employees is required to translate the gains.

Here is how organization can embrace and celebrate the differences amongst its employees-

Leveraging differences, achieving superior results, and, ultimately, creating an inclusive culture is not something that happens by chance. As mentioned earlier, it takes conscious effort, that kind of cultural transformation requires that we deliberately engage our thoughts, mold our beliefs, and modify our behaviors. When we strategically execute a practical approach to driving the result by leveraging differences, we are practicing Conscious Inclusion.

Organizations must ensure that even the minutest of decisions involves everyone’s say. If we don’t pay heed to them, else it will make them feel like a minority.

Driving Diversity

Driving diversity in the city of Mumbai, India

In India, the diversity of culture is phenomenal. Language and culture change every 100 kilometres. Mumbai, the commercial capital of India is host to many industries especially banking and insurance. The city brings people from diverse background to come together and work!

Diversity of thoughts, ethnic backgrounds, identities, and approaches make Mumbai’s workforce interesting. It is proven than when people of different thinking styles, behavioural priorities, background and cultural upbringing work together, they are more creative and effective. That is why, Mumbai, that is an epitome of Diversity in India is best placed to take advantage of building an inclusive culture.

Diversity and Inclusion is not an option but a business imperative that leads to sustainable growth, higher productivity and business success. People have different priorities and give a different meaning to work. The psychological contract with the employer is different in different cultures. That is why, organizations cannot assume that one formula, one policy, one process and one approach to people management will work for all.

They need to personalize their approach to attracting, retaining and motivating their workforce. An inclusive culture means that organizations personalize the way employees are managed and inclusivity means everyone get an equal and fair opportunity to play on their talents and preferences. Over 1.5 + million plus women working in the Indian IT/ITES sector and an increasing number of persons with disabilities are now a part of the workforce. This makes Diversity and Inclusion a real business case for enhancing profitability.  Companies recognize the need to promote and implement policies, procedures and processes that make inclusion a priority.

D&I programmes are seeing a focussed approach to roll outs. Many organizations have D&I programs led or sponsored by the CEO. They are also applying technology, analytics and best in class project management techniques to measure the effectiveness of these programs.  These initiatives are scientific in nature finding their inspiration in the concepts of psychology, analytics and management theories. Potentials areas of work include gender diversity, sexual orientation, persons with disabilities and ethnic diversity.  Each of these tenets are seeing targeted programs aimed at getting the best out of the workforce in these segments. For example, women specific programs include training on career management, work life balance, managing multiplicity of roles that women play etc. By ascertaining the needs of women, based on the stage of the career and age-group they belong to, organizations can target employee engagement programs specific to the personal preferences and characteristics of the group. This has an exponential effect on their productivity at workplace. By customizing policies, such as leave policies and work timings, based on the stage of career, companies can improve the motivation level of the employees.

Similarly, for those employees who were born between 1980 and 1995, commonly called millennials, the needs are somewhat different.  They are seemingly more career confident and ambitious than their predecessors. They also have high expectations of their employers and workplace and prefer a diverse set of tasks to perform. They tend to seek new challenges at work. In order to capitalise on these traits of millennials, employers must foster an inclusive culture that serves the ambitions and career aspirations of the millennials.

Overall, with focus on both diversity and inclusion, talent attraction, development, retention and management strategies need to be tailored by organizations in Mumbai, India to meet the groups sense of identity and aspirations.

Why Diversity and Inclusion Programs Fail?

Diversity and Inclusion most organizations realize is a business imperative. They spend significant resources every year to attain their diversity and inclusion agenda, yet many organizations experience that these programs fail. Here are some key reasons for why diversity and inclusion programs fail.

  1. Lack of C-Suite Commitment – It is one thing to have a diversity and inclusion related vision to join the bandwagon and not be left behind; it is quite other to truly be committed to it. Many organizations create D&I programs in terms of policies, processes, and training programs for the sake of it, but there is no buy-in of the C-suite leadership whose agenda is clearly only profits. While obviously organizations should not trade-in profits for diversity and inclusion, but what is needed is recognition of the economic benefits of D&I by the senior leadership. Only when the senior leadership gets the answer to “What’s In It For Me”, will they truly buy-in to promoting D&I. Without true support and commitment of the C-suite leadership, D&I initiatives are bound to fail.
  2. Missing D&I Goals – The second critical factor that contributes to why Diversity and Inclusion programs fail is that many organizations do not create goals. Without measurable goals D&I initiatives are just a tick in the box and PR activity. We know ‘what gets measured gets done’, this is true for diversity and inclusion programs and initiatives as well. Without well-defined goals, the programs lack a cohesive path and are random initiatives, however it is equally important to measure progress against D&I goals for true change.
  3. Learning Events – Another mistake many organizations make is conducting learning events. Learning events are one-time training programs. While these are quite engaging, they are unable to bring about long-term change. Building a diverse organization with an inclusive culture requires a change in mindset and overcoming biases, these are slow processes that need long-term learning engagements rather than learning events.
  4. Unsupportive Culture – No diversity and inclusion programs can succeed in a culture that in essence does not support it. Without a culture of trust and psychological safety diversity and inclusion programs are bound to fail. Inclusion is about a culture where everyone is valued, and they can be their true selves without worry or fear. Building an inclusive organization therefore requires a supportive culture.
  5. Policies and Procedures – Another important element of ensuring success of diversity and inclusion programs is supportive policies and procedures. Often, D&I initiatives are created in silos, while policies and procedures are designed to support business. Policies and procedures like leave policy, health insurance etc., should all promote and support diversity and inclusion. If they don’t then D&I initiatives cannot be sustained and be successful in the long run.

Diversity and Inclusion is becoming a competitive advantage for organizations that have been able to do it right – attracting and retaining top talent, greater innovation and a healthy workplace are some of the benefits that have finally resulted in economic gains. If others don’t want to miss out on this key competitive advantage, they must figure out soon how to ensure the success of D&I programs within the context of their organizations.

Consultant in Bangalore

Are you looking for a Diversity & Inclusion consultant in Bangalore? Would you like to enhance the multicultural and diversity awareness in your workforce that may be coming from various parts of the world to work in Bangalore? Bangalore is host to many multi-national companies that have a diverse workforce. Organizations need a well-qualified Diversity & Inclusion consultant who can help them articulate a good Diversity & Inclusion strategy and connect it to their business goals.

Many people who are responsible for leading Diversity & Inclusion initiatives in an organization may not have a HR background. So, they typically require someone who understands Human Resource practices, are aware of the statutory requirements and have the experience of working on cultural change programs. Advancing Diversity levels and Inclusion index is complex and requires many people with diverse expertise to contribute to the project.

Bangalore is one the most promising markets for Diversity & Inclusion consultants. As Diversity experts could consult in both large and small organization, and in almost all industries, there is growing market for them in Bangalore.

Many organizations prefer internal employees to lead D&I initiatives. They populate their Diversity & Inclusion projects through cross functional in-house teams. By appointing and training team leaders and managers as Diversity and Inclusion champions, organizations could take an inside out approach to enhancing the diversity and inclusion quotient. The advantage of having internal consultants is that they understand the business, they know the preferences of various stakeholders and can predict roadblocks. On the other hand, in-house teams get distracted by changing priorities and vagaries of workload. They may treat D&I initiatives as an add on task and not their day job, they may deprioritize the project leading to poor quality output and delays.

Many organizations prefer to appoint coaches and trainers as their diversity and inclusion consultants. As trainers and coaches understand how to impart training and facilitate behavioural change, they are best placed to lead cultural change programs. Diversity and Inclusion programs involve multiple steps – setting up the organizational charter or goals, setting up affinity groups, assessing the current status of diversity and inclusivity in teams, imparting training, conducting leadership interventions, creating focus group conversations and making changes to policies and business procedures. Since this field is so vast, and its impact so wide, no one person could be an expert in everything.  Trainers and Coaches could undertake a large part of these tasks however that may not be able to have all the expertise required for successful completion of the project.

For selecting a Diversity & Inclusion consultant, you must put down the selection criteria clearly. Make sure that your D&I consultant has a valid certification, understands project management, has the experience of working on complex cultural change programs and brings in the right client references.

  • Demonstrate an understanding of the business and the ecosystem in which it operates.
  • Should be able to make a connection between diversity and business outcomes.
  • Understand the local culture, personal beliefs, biases and diversity in the workforce.
  • Understand diversity in larger social and organizational context.
  • Understand issues related to discrimination of minority groups.
  • Be able to work with dilemmas associated with “equal opportunity employment vs diversity and inclusion”.
  • Should be apt at managing projects, timelines and cost.
  • Demonstrate an understanding of rolling out change projects.

Indian Workplace

Several social media initiatives, global events, policy initiatives, advocacy and consulting efforts, and progressive judicial decisions have given Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) in the Indian workplace a big boost. In celebration of Pride Month, India Inc. members discussed the importance of creating a more supportive and collaborative workplace.

There shouldn’t be any difficulty in fostering diversity and inclusion in a country which is plagued by prejudice and division. It’s encouraging to see stakeholders, especially marginalized communities, speak out about their experiences and challenge the status quo.

There are two ways of viewing diversity in the Indian workplace: –

  1. Visible Factors – Traits that are often emphasized like race, gender, physical abilities, age, and body type.
  2. Invisible Factors – Traits like socio-economic status, sexual orientation, education and parental status.

A lot of companies have been talking about diversity and inclusion and are now doing everything possible to foster an inclusive climate at workplace. Leading diversity practitioners in the industry are beginning to adopt very focused approaches to D&I programs. Companies hire women in large numbers to maintain their gender ratio balance. It is essential to know that real diversity goes beyond genders. It is not about having a diverse workforce but creating a haven for folks where they can embrace their uniqueness enabling him or her to contribute to the fullest. As mentioned earlier that inclusion is a conscious effort, it takes time to settle in.

India is arguably the most diverse country with a plethora of cultures, languages, and emerging dialects, however, seeing Diversity and Inclusion through the lens of India, the country still has a long way to go, we are still at a very nascent stage when it comes to recognizing differences amongst people. Here are a few ways to deploy at workplace to promote diversity-

  1. Make HR Policies flexible for expectant mothers by way of having creche facility in the workplace, maternity leaves
  2. Creating a zero-tolerance environment for sexual harassment and setting up a redressal council that shall hear their concerns in case an incident has occurred
  3. By protecting the rights of LGBTQ community and ensuring the members of it are not discriminated
  4. In most companies which are high on mobility, they have considered to hire people with disabilities
  5. Timely training of laws and regulations pertaining to diversity – This will help induce reduction in workplace complexities

Hiring and developing people from the same background will reduce the company’s scope to expand, as a result they will miss out on diverse talent pool and their capabilities. A diverse and inclusive workspace is a boon for any business that wants to be an agent of change. Even if 90% of companies become inclusive, society will become resilient. Additionally, this will foster increased business results!

 

ONLINE TRAINING

Online training has in recent times become the preferred method of delivering training programs across the globe. Diversity & Inclusion training is one such area where online training programs are very popular. Some of the reasons for organizations to opt for online training are:

  1. Cost Effective – Online training programs are generally low cost since the cost of travel for either the participant or facilitator does not come into play. This is one of the major reason organizations prefer online training programs.
  2. Time Effective – Online training programs are also time effective. Since the modules are generally of a shorter duration and can be attended from anywhere, the time it takes to get back to business needs is shorter. Organizations today find it challenging to have people away from work for long durations, so online training is a good alternative.
  3. Global Perspectives – Online training programs offer the flexibility of having a global audience. This is a significant advantage for Diversity & Inclusion training, since varied perspectives and ideas on Diversity and Inclusion can become a part of the training program.
  4. Location Flexibility – Online learning also offers the flexibility to an individual to log-in to the session from anywhere. Due to this we generally see higher response rate to online sessions since people even working from home can log in.

TRAINING TOPICS

Now that we know the benefits of online training in diversity and inclusion, let’s talk about the various topics that an online training on diversity and inclusion should cover.

  1. Biases – Any training on diversity and inclusion cannot be complete without a thorough discussion on unconscious biases. Unconscious biases are the biggest roadblock in creating a diverse and inclusive workplace. It is critical for people to learn about the types of biases, impact of biases on diversity and inclusion and strategies on overcoming and limiting biases. These aspects must be covered in a training on biases.
  2. Benefits of Diversity & Inclusion – Becoming diverse and inclusive is about building the right culture which happens with a change in mindset. Since changing your mindset is a difficult thing, people need to understand the benefits of diversity and inclusion – how do I stand to gain by promoting diversity and inclusion. While there is a lot of research in this area, the benefits need to be understood not only at the leadership level but also at the grassroots. Training on diversity and inclusion should therefore help people identify how “they” stand to gain from diversity and inclusion.
  3. Emotional Intelligence – Since diversity and inclusion are very closely related to emotional intelligence, this should be an aspect of diversity and inclusion training. Research has shown that teams and people who display greater emotional intelligence also tend to be more inclusive and open to diversity. So, training people on emotional intelligence with specific focus on empathy is important.
  4. Micro inequalities – Online training on diversity and inclusion should also include sessions on micro inequalities. Micro inequalities are day to day behaviors that may unintentionally or intentionally result in excluding certain people or groups. People should be able to identify micro inequalities and work towards avoiding such behaviors. Training on micro inequities can help people do just that and therefore become more inclusive and open to diversity.

Online training programs on diversity and inclusion are gaining momentum globally. Strengthcscape’s Diversity & Inclusion Champion certification is a step in the same direction. This 1-month online program is targeted at a global audience in training people to become D&I Champions and strategically work on the D&I agenda.

Top 4 Interview Questions for a Diversity & Inclusion Manager

Diversity and Inclusion manager is a key job role in modern organizations as they are responsible for driving the D&I agenda of the organization and aligning these to the business needs. Recruiting for this role is not easy since there are no specific technical qualifications or courses one needs to look out for. D&I managers however need to display some critical behavioral competencies and have relevant experience to perform their role effectively. Here are 4 key areas of experience to look out for in a Diversity and Inclusion Manager along with key interview questions to ask during the interview to gauge the competency.

  1. Experience with Diversity & Inclusion Policies – A Diversity & Inclusion Manager’s key responsibility is to drive the D&I agenda of the organization. They should therefore have experience related to best practices and policies that organizations need to effectively drive the D&I policy.A key interview question to ask here is – “Tell me about your experience with driving D&I policies. What were some of the D&I policies you introduced and how did they align with the business?”
  1. Understanding Business Imperatives – A D&I Manager needs to drive the D&I agenda within the business context of the organization. They must therefore be aware of the business needs and future business vision. After all, policies and initiatives can run only if they support the business needs. Also, making the business case for diversity and inclusion needs a good understanding of the business itself.A key interview question to ask here is – “What do you understand about our business? How do you see diversity and inclusion supporting our business needs?”
  1. Influencing and Negotiating Skills – One of the key competencies of a D&I Manager is Influencing and Negotiating Skills. A D&I Manager needs to influence policies and decisions at the highest levels. They must be able to negotiate the best deal for the diversity and inclusion initiatives and get the buy-in of the C-suite leadership to drive the D&I initiatives. The D&I manager must be able to communicate effectively and think strategically and influence business leaders.A key interview question to ask here is – “How did you drive a buy-in from senior leadership in your previous organization? Give an example of a situation when getting a buy-in for a D&I initiative was particularly difficult. How did you go about achieving it?”
  1. Emotional Intelligence – The role of a Diversity and Inclusion manager is a people centric role. D&I managers drive key people-related agendas, especially of under-represented groups. They also deal with leaders across levels to gain a buy-in and change people mindsets. This makes Emotional Intelligence a critical competency for a Diversity and Inclusion manager. Being empathetic to the needs of various diverse groups is very important to the success of the role. At the same time the resilience and perseverance to deal with setbacks is critical. The job of a D&I Manager is a tough one and often they don’t get their way. Such situations require them to display resilience to deal with setbacks and perseverance to get back up and not give up.A key interview question to ask here is – “Tell me about a time when you had a major setback in driving your D&I agenda. How did you deal with it? What was your way forward?”

Along with this good communication skills and a passion for the job are crucial to the success of a Diversity and Inclusion Manager. These should be assessed with every question you ask. Getting the right candidate for the role is job half done. Spend some time in analyzing what the organization wants from the role and assess candidates accordingly.

How Diversity and Inclusion Drive Business Value

Diversity is no more something to aspire and plan for, diversity in workplaces is today a reality. With global workforces that are multi-generational and have increasing representation from other diverse groups like women and differently abled, it has become imperative to understand how to make this diversity work. In 1990, a Harvard Business Review publication – “From Affirmative Action to Affirmative Diversity”, stated that diversity is not just something an organization should have, but all organizations already have it and therefore learning to manage diversity effectively would make them more competitive.

Building an inclusive work culture is not an easy task. It takes effort and resources. So, for every organization to consciously put effort towards inclusion, they need to know “why” diversity and inclusion are critical. The business case for diversity and inclusion has been known for a while now and every new research and organizational experience only strengthens this. Here are some ways in which diversity and inclusion drive business value.

  1. Innovation – BCG and the Technical University of Munich conducted a research to understand the relationship between diversity in management and innovation. The research found that companies with more diversity got more revenue from innovative products and services. Innovation is said to be the biggest business driver for organizations today. Innovation is what sets you apart in a world with numerous products and services catering to the same need; businesses need to continuously innovate to survive. However, innovation is not easy. While workshops and training programs can help us think outside the box, true innovation comes from different perspectives. Different perspectives are inherent in diversity. However, only in an inclusive culture are these different perspectives valued. A culture of innovation is driven by a diverse and inclusive workplace that encourages and values different thoughts and perspectives.
  2. Financial Gains – Diversity and inclusion have shown to have significant positive impact on financial gains of organizations. While this correlation does not necessarily mean causation, however, diversity and inclusion has shown to improve financial gains in organizations. Mc Kinsey’s 2015 study titled “Diversity Matters” found that “companies that are in the top quartile for racial and ethnic diversity are 35 percent more likely to have financial returns above their respective national industry medians”. The same was confirmed in the 2017/18 study by McKinsey.
  3. Decision Making – Another key benefit of Diversity and Inclusion is better decision-making among teams. People who are similar tend to also have similar thinking and perspectives and are more likely to display “groupthink”. Diverse teams, on the other hand, have diverse perspectives that lead to better problem solving and decision-making since they can weigh issues from different viewpoints thus leading to better decisions. A study of 385 Norwegian companies by Mariateresa Torchia, Andrea Calabrò and Michèle Morner showed that the greater the diversity in the board members, the higher the intensity of board creativity and cognitive conflict during the decision-making process. This means that the decision-making process becomes more robust with diversity. However, research also shows that for better decision-making and problem solving, cognitive diversity is what matters more than just diversity of age, gender and cultures.
  4. Teamwork – Another business benefit of diversity and inclusion is cohesive teams. Diversity and inclusion are said to result in better teamwork by creating an environment of trust and psychological safety. A 2015 study by Catalyst, Inclusion Matters showed that more employees felt included, the more likely were they to engage in team citizenship behaviors and go beyond the “call of duty”. Team members who feel a sense of belonging through inclusion are more likely to display loyalty and engage in productive behaviors like innovation. Organizations that are vocally diverse and inclusive also attract better talent that in turn feeds into high-performing teams.

Apart from these benefits, another aspect of business value driven by diversity and inclusion is the brand value. Today, customers and employees alike want to be associated with brands that are socially responsible and promote a culture of diversity and inclusion.

With such overwhelming results on the positive impact that diversity and inclusion can have on business value, it is necessary for organizations to engage in the right practices that promote a culture of diversity and inclusion.

DIVERSITY & INCLUSION TRAINING FOR HR PROFESSIONALS

“Companies that embrace diversity and inclusion in all aspects of their business statistically outperform their peers.”– Josh Bersin

Diversity & Inclusion is going to result in creating a competitive advantage for organizations in the coming years. For this it is imperative for HR professionals to gain training in diversity & inclusion so that they can strategically drive diversity & inclusion initiatives within the organization.

Diversity & Inclusion has in the past few years become the buzzword for the corporate world. In fact, Deloitte’s 2017 Global Human Capital Trends found that out of the 10,000 leaders who participated in the survey, two-thirds cited Diversity & Inclusion to be either “important” or “very important” to business. With increasing social awareness, the criticality of D&I will only increase in the coming years.  Numerous research across the globe have proven the business value of having a diverse and inclusive workplace.

While everyone in the organization needs to contribute towards making the workplace diverse and inclusive, HR plays a particularly key role in this aspect. A survey by Forbes indicated that 65% of senior executives believe the responsibility for implementing diversity and inclusion programs falls on HR. Here are some of the reasons that make the role of HR critical in promoting Diversity & Inclusion within the organization are:

  • HR is closest to the people in the organization, across functions, and therefore understands the pulse of the people. They are in a unique position to understand the aspirations and challenges of their people and therefore influence the thought-process of the people.
  • HR largely drives the people policy of the company and therefore they need to be at the forefront of D&I to ensure that the policies are driving the Diversity & Inclusion agenda.
  • Recruitment is a function of HR and diversity numbers depend on where the recruitment sources talent from. Recruitment needs to ensure sourcing from diverse avenues to ensure a diverse talent pool is available for the business.
  • Learning and development is key to overcoming barriers to diversity and inclusion. Since L&D also forms a part of the HR function, these initiatives need to be driven by HR to promote Diversity & Inclusion.

With such a key role to play in promoting Diversity & Inclusion, the HR team should be able to think strategically about D&I and overcome business challenges that come along the way. But is HR trained to deal with the challenges of promoting D&I? Surprisingly the answer to that question is a “NO”.

Most HR professionals are trained in compliance policies, compensation and benefits, learning and development but not in pushing strategic people agendas like diversity & inclusion within the organization. This results in a many organizations failing to recognize and leverage the competitive advantage that diversity & inclusion has to offer.

Some key areas of diversity & inclusion that HR professionals can get trained on are:

  1. Compliance – Before an organization can become a leader in diversity and inclusion, they must ensure that they comply with local laws related to diversity and inclusion like minimum wages, minorities etc.
  2. Drafting Policies – The next step is for HR professionals to get trained on drafting policies related to diversity & inclusion so that D&I is driven at the policy level in every initiative of the organization. Remember, the system should change first if you want to see a change in the attitude of people.
  3. Business Case – HR professionals should be trained on creating a business case for diversity & inclusion based on success stories and understanding the business environment of the organization. This aspect is critical if HR is to get a buy-in of the business in working towards diversity & inclusion. Creating a business case becomes particularly important in organizations that are just starting their D&I journey.
  4. Culture Building – Diversity & Inclusion be truly successful needs to be part of the DNA of the organization. This can happen only when there is a cultural change in the organization. However, culture change and culture building are not an easy initiative and HR professionals need training on how to strategically bring about culture change in the organization.
  5. Unconscious Bias Training – HR professional like everyone else should be trained on recognizing and dealing with unconscious biases. Unconscious bias training for HR can have a dual impact of recognizing these biases in people policies to eliminate them at the policy level. This is important to ensure that the workplace is inclusive.
  6. D&I Champion Training – While D&I Champions come from not just HR, it is critical to have champions from HR function as well. Training these champions on promoting D&I within the organization and dealing with exclusion and bullying in the workplace will go a long way in building an inclusive workplace.

Optimal Distinctiveness

Social identity describes who you are based on what groups you belong to. It’s common for social identification groups to be defined by people’s physical, social, and mental qualities. Individuals have long craved or needed to be recognized as unique and different. It could be because of evolutionary factors or social factors. There’s a theory called Optimal Distinctiveness Theory that explains the convergence of the need to be distinct and associated.

As Professor Emeritus of Psychology at Ohio State University, Marilyn Brewer, postulated during the blossom of social psychology, “Social identities derive from competing social needs: inclusion and distinction.” It explains why you want to belong to an in-group, which means a group you feel like you belong to. At the same time, be different from everyone else in the group. The basketball fans (in-group: basketball) support different teams (different).

Every person’s inclusion and differentiation works differently. They’re based on satisfaction and deprivation, so they’re different at different times. In several social settings, people use self-stereotyping as a mechanism or schema (things they think or do). It’s all about wanting to fit in. If you’re a new team member in a small company, you’ll probably show the same traits as your colleagues. They’ll try to stand out within the group because they’ve understood the in-group’s behavior and boundaries. Additionally, surveys showed that working in a small ingroup with optimally distinct characteristics was more efficient. In comparison to a franchise, a small cafe provides better service and food.

An inclusive and diverse team at work is another example of an optimally distinctive group. It’s more fun to work on a team with people from different cultures. You might not know what independent work culture is. Basically, culture comes in two categories: rigid culture and independent culture. Cultures that are rigid usually have conservative views on societal norms, whereas cultures that are independent are more open.

Having an independent culture opens up equal representations for a bunch of groups, one of those groups being women. As we know, there are a lot of women running Fortune 500 companies, like Karen Lynch as CVS health CEO in 2021, and Rosalind Brewer as Wallgreens CEO, one of only 41 women to run a Fortune 500.

The following factors have a huge impact on optimal distinctiveness: Organizational hybridity, Societal nature, temporal contingencies, and benchmarking. In order to find out what affects optimal distinctiveness, we’d need to dive a little deeper into the world of social psychology, which is beyond the scope of this piece.

Research and implications of optimal distinctiveness at work have been greatly aided by combining organizational principles and strategies. Organizational Theory (OT) and Organizational Strategy (OS) are two theories that have greatly contributed to the study of this theory. Company or enterprise recognition as a market is the idea of OT, while distinctiveness is the idea of OS. In addition to improving efficiency at work, these vast areas of research also add to it.

In order to achieve optimal distinctiveness, a company must also be similar and yet different from others in the same category. Those long-standing and omnipresent barriers to a more diverse workforce because of culture or societal factors are slowly disappearing from workplace culture, management, and behavior. An employee needs to feel like they’re part of the in-group while being acknowledged for their work and input. Employees feel valued and individuated when they’re treated like that. Optimal distinctiveness has a lot of benefits.

By focusing on individual distinctiveness, you might be able to create a culture that is more diverse, inclusive, and efficient, as well as help curb the negative effects of a tight and conservative work culture. Diversification and inclusion need to be highlighted in this vast field, with its multiple influential factors, implications, and applications.