Written by Anju Rakesh & Lalita Tata
“A diverse mix of voices leads to better discussions, decisions, and outcomes for everyone.” — Sundar Pichai
Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) is no longer a buzzword in this VUCA world. In this fast-paced world, it is a priority for futuristic organizations. Business leaders, the world over, are realizing that when DEI is a priority, it makes difference in every facet of the organization.
A study by McKinsey & Company and the Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM) evaluated the performance of organizations at different levels of workplace diversity. The study found that organizations that exhibit gender and ethnic diversity are 15% and 35% more likely to outperform respectively than the less diverse organizations. Similarly, organizations with more gender diversity bring in more revenue, more customers and higher profit.
Companies with more than 30% women executives were more likely to outperform companies where this percentage ranged from 10% to 30%. While overall progress on gender and cultural representation has been slow, this is not consistent across all organizations. Research shows that there is a widening gap between DEI champions and companies that are yet to embrace diversity. A third of the companies have achieved real gains in top-team diversity over the five years.
While having a diverse workforce should be the aim of growth-oriented organizations, one must remember that all efforts towards this also contribute towards improving the GDP of the country, help empower under-represented talent groups including women, members of the LGBTQ+ Community and People with Disabilities. When such initiatives are in tandem with the guidelines by the government, they contribute positively to improving workforce participation rates of underrepresented groups.
To leverage the full potential of DEI, it is important that leaders and policy makers follow the tenets of DEI during the process of policy design. This helps not only in effective talent management but also helps in the optimal execution of workplace policies – a WIN-WIN for both employees and organizations. Listed are a few policy areas that when operated with good DEI alignment, can help achieve business efficiency.
- Hiring policies: The hiring process should also be in line with DEI which will ensure the implementation of the thoughts that the organization believes in. To begin with, this can include policies supportive of hiring diverse talent. While interviewing the candidates during the hiring process, it is good to have guidelines towards understanding their perceptions towards diversity, equity and inclusion. This will also ensure that expectations of functioning inclusively are set, right at the beginning.
- Flexible working: This is another non-negotiable workplace policy today! As an organization, it is of utmost importance to retain good and hard-working employees. Also, it is important to retain the newcomers as they have been hired by the organization based on the caliber which was seen by the interview panel while hiring them. Flexible working hours will help in retaining employees and make them more efficient, responsible and honest towards their duties and deliverables. Micromanaging and not being flexible with the working hours dim the morale of the employees as they cannot attend to their personal needs when they are required the most. Ensuring policies towards this are supportive of diversity talent groups (E.g. caregivers or people with disabilities who may need further technological support) is crucial.
- Inclusive parental enablement: As per the Maternity Benefit Act (Amendment) 2017, a woman employee is entitled to a 26-week leave, which gives her the time to adjust to motherhood and meanwhile the newborn is also accustomed to the mother and the family. Even today, child care (as an infant and further on as they progress in the journey of motherhood) is still a primary responsibility of a woman, hence there are occasions where her physical presence becomes very important to her child. E.g., when the child is sick or when the child is appearing for his/her board exams etc. If the organization starts providing such facilities for childcare or an exam preparation leave, etc., then the engagement with the employee gets better. When such policies are offered gender agnostically, the organization can reinforce its conviction on inclusion and help aspirant employees (along the gender spectrum) fulfill their aspirations.
- Career advancement policies: As an individual, each one of us is interested in self-growth. That is the reason, we do what we all do! When the organization takes steps for the growth of its employees, it reiterates the fact that the organization is interested in an individual’s growth. By doing so, an organization can retain the employee and gain his/her trust and loyalty to work towards the organization’s vision. Few steps which an organization can take are:
- Take a personal interest in employee career goals
- Encourage mentoring
- Rotate employee roles
- Support work-life integration
- Create a succession planning program
- Learning and development: An investment in employee’s learning and development can deliver a strong ROI for the organization’s business. Job training and continuous learning help to fuel employee career growth. Hence, encouraging the employees to pursue relevant business courses and workshops that will further their career advancement goals will go a long way for the organization. Apart from internal learning programs, helping your employees keep up with what’s happening in the market by encouraging them to participate in different events and seminars. Having clear policy level guidelines on what opportunities employees can avail of, helps not only build greater commitment in employees but also help them up-skill themselves for the market.
The fundamental building block of every organization is its people. And workplace policies are designed to enhance the quality of work and life for these people. Incorporating principles of DEI in policies thus goes a long way towards building strong foundations of trust, cohesion and belongingness.