Importance of Diversity & Inclusion Training For HR Professionals

Importance of Diversity & Inclusion Training For HR Professionals

For over 30 years, researchers have argued that diverse and inclusive workforces are good for business. Organizations that embrace diversity and inclusion (D&I) are more innovative and agile, outperform their competitors and attract a wider variety of stakeholders, ultimately benefiting the bottom line.  

However, D&I initiatives, which also contribute to sustaining competitive advantage and positive corporate image, some organizations struggle to implement (or even acknowledge). The following article considers the role of the HR function in driving D&I, and the importance of compliance management in overseeing changes in organizational behavior and practices. 

D&I and human resource management

D&I is more than just employing different types of people. D&I is a moral and corporate responsibility, creating a sense of belonging and organizational justice, and provides an employee with the assurance of fair treatment and opportunity in every aspect of employment. Today’s workplaces are complex, and inclusivity is vital for team cohesion and imagination, and for empowering employees to readily contribute to business initiatives and outcomes.  

When an employee can comfortably portray their authentic-self it benefits well-being, builds confidence and strengthens commitment to the organization. Conversely, a failure to adopt effective D&I initiatives can impact an employee’s idea of psychological safety in the workplace. Under-represented groups are emboldened when their voices are heard, and their contributions are supported and formulated. It improves organizational efficiency as well as employee morale.  

D&I should also be considered in the context of geographical location. For example, Asian organizations may be more focused on issues relating to national culture and employee value proposition when developing D&I programmes, in comparison to Western organizations.  

Understanding the organization’s social climate is important when designing interventions, as one size does not fit all. Engaging employees on all organizational levels and adopting a psychological approach may also be useful for identifying knowledge gaps, and gaining a better understanding of intrinsic and extrinsic motivations, and views on D&I, belonging and equity.  

HR as partners of diversity and inclusion    

The HR function has a unique aerial view of the D&I impact on the organization and should ensure effective strategies permeate into every component of people management. It should be evident in hiring practices: developing neuro-inclusive recruiters for example, who understand the importance and advantages of hiring neuro-divergent individuals to bolster the talent pool beyond neuro-typical candidates.   

Neurodiversity is considered a form of competitive advantage in the war on talent, and increasingly companies are enhancing recruitment practices to ensure equal opportunity to job applicants. Employee onboarding, as well as reward and recognition programmes, are other ways of gaining insight into an employee’s unique needs, and can benefit their performance and productivity.  

From a risk management perspective, building D&I knowledge is vital for assisting in preventing reputational and financial damage caused by equality legislation breaches.  Sometimes unconscious bias (UB) training is viewed with trepidation and there is the risk of unwanted effects if interventions are poorly managed. However, the aim of UB awareness is to educate employees on the consequences of prejudicial and discriminatory behavior, and the impact on individuals and the organization.   

When employees recognise the efforts being made to include diverse voices in developing business strategies, there is a greater likelihood of gaining support and agreement during implementation. Silo mentality barriers are diminished and knowledge management is strengthened when individuals of different backgrounds and cognitive thinking are represented in strategic, advisory and oversight roles; it improves problem-solving and helps to reduce the potential for business failure due to lack of innovation.  

Succession planning and leadership development programmes are also key areas in which HR leaders must consider the diverse attributes of the workforce, and how initiatives can support development and progression.  

D&I as a channel for compliance success  

Effective D&I strategies contribute to sound corporate governance. They demonstrate to employees a commitment to fair treatment and equity, no matter which group(s) they represent. Again, it strengthens risk management strategies by encouraging and promoting different types of employees into key decision-making positions, shaping a culture of transparency.  

The compliance function should play an active part (in collaboration with the HR function) in understanding how the organizational climate may be positively or negatively affecting the progress in D&I, and the impact on employee conduct.  

Challenging biases which hamper an organization’s ability to effectively fulfill its legal and internal obligations is another important aspect of compliance in D&I. The compliance function must be fearless in questioning the homogeneous composition of the boardroom, the c-suite and other business divisions, by promoting the benefits of having different types of voices as champions in promoting good corporate governance. If boards and c-suite leaders genuinely value business sustainability, they cannot ignore the uniqueness of their employees: visible and non-visible characteristics, skills, experience and cognition. 

The task of HR leaders is to improve objective decision-making processes, by devising inventive ways of addressing workplace bias, and promoting inclusive environments which provide opportunities for all employees. Workplace D&I is complex and simply creating a diverse workforce is not the destination. It requires continuous effort, commitment and monitoring.  

Effort means celebrating rather than marginalizing employees because of their individuality. Commitment means implementing business strategies which actively identify and support the unique needs of employees throughout each stage of their employment journey. And monitoring means challenging business practices which undermine organizational values and fail to treat employees equitably.   

There has 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. 

The Structure of an 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: –

Visible Factors – Traits that are often emphasized like race, gender, physical abilities, age, and body type. 

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 the 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- 

Make HR Policies flexible for expectant mothers by way of having creche facility in the workplace, maternity leaves 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 

By protecting the rights of LGBTQ community and ensuring the members of it are not discriminated against. In most companies which are high on mobility, they have considered hiring people with disabilities.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 a 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! 

Why is it so important?

Josh Bersin stated that companies that fully embrace diversity and inclusion across all aspects of their business tend to outperform their peers. As the importance of diversity and inclusion continues to rise, HR professionals must receive training to lead strategic diversity and inclusion initiatives within their organizations. A Deloitte survey found that two-thirds of leaders believe diversity and inclusion to be crucial to business success. Research has proven the benefits of a diverse and inclusive workplace. 

While everyone in an organization plays a role in creating a diverse and inclusive workplace, HR professionals are particularly critical to this effort. Forbes found that 65% of senior executives believed HR to be responsible for implementing diversity and inclusion programs. HR professionals are closest to employees across functions and understand their aspirations and challenges. They drive company policies and recruitment and lead learning and development initiatives, all of which impact diversity and inclusion. 

However, many HR professionals are not trained in pushing strategic people agendas like diversity and inclusion. They are often trained in compliance policies, compensation and benefits, and learning and development. To create a truly diverse and inclusive workplace, HR professionals need training in areas such as compliance, policy drafting, creating a business case for diversity and inclusion, culture building, recognizing and dealing with unconscious biases, and D&I champion training. By providing HR professionals with such training, organizations can leverage the competitive advantage that diversity and inclusion has to offer. 

Concluding Note

In conclusion, diversity and inclusion training is essential for HR professionals to effectively manage and support a diverse workforce. The benefits of a diverse and inclusive workplace are numerous, including increased creativity, productivity, and employee satisfaction.  

HR professionals who are trained in diversity and inclusion can help create a workplace culture that embraces differences and promotes equity and fairness for all employees. By prioritizing diversity and inclusion training, HR professionals can play a critical role in fostering a more equitable and just workplace for everyone.