Let Covid be a pause button

COVID 19 and work

The need of the hour is to re-christen COVID to Creating Opportunities, to Validate Introspection and Development, feel senior Industry leaders attending Avtar organized virtual D&I Reboot 1.0.

Conversations around Diversity & Inclusion (D&I) have become more relevant today in times of crisis when diversity of thoughts catalyses each and every business problem to arrive at practical and implementable solutions. “The way I see Covid is as just a pause button in our lives. Similar to how we stop in the middle of watching a movie for something else that we want to do, and go back to start watching from where left. So, to me Covid is a pause button”, asserted Ashok Ramachandran, CEO & President, Schindler India speaking at the virtual panel discussion as part of the three-hour virtual session titled D&I Reboot 1.O organized by Chennai-based Avtar Group recently. 

The industry leader in the space of D&I, Avtar conducted its first public program during the Pandemic for senior leadership teams in organizations, who are involved in leading the D&I agenda. D&I Reboot 1.O took a deep dive in to the inclusion best practices that organizations have used successfully during times of volatility and uncertainty, in order to ensure that their overall Inclusion goals are not compromised. Using a unique style of learning – a facilitated conversation (panel discussion), a workshop and a table-level brainstorming — D&I Reboot brought in speakers and participants from across industry verticals.

Living in historic times like today, many of us, as individuals and as organizations are either experiencing a shrinkage in time or an expansion in the number of hours that we have at our disposals. Some of us are spending time in developing capabilities in order to up our games, while some are focussed on building both mental and physical resilience. It is evident that almost 90 per cent of the world’s population are assisting the massive change ushered in by the Covid-19 crisis by adapting to the new world of work. The remaining 10 percent of the population that is still resisting the change will soon join the other side in order to stay relevant in the post Pandemic world.

Sharing their thoughts and best practices were industry stalwarts such as Ashok of Schindler, Gopal Srinivasan, Chairman & Managing Director at TVS Capital Funds Ltd, Ramesh Ramadurai, Managing Director at 3M and Shalini Pillay, Office Managing Partner at KPMG India. The first public session during the Covid times, facilitated by Dr Saundarya Rajesh Founder – President of Avtar Group, sought answers to some of the pertinent questions on D&I.

“Equanimity that women professionals bring towards decision-making leads to objectivity and that gets embedded in the organizational culture. It is highly critical for leaders and decision makers today to ensure that they don’t lose diversity as a capability in their organizations during tough times”, said Gopal of TVS Capital Funds Ltd explaining the importance of diversity continuum at organizations.

“It is more during a crisis time you feel the benefits of having inclusion in your organization”, further elaborated Ashok of Schiendler.

While work around D&I has been in different stages at discerning organizations, many are racing ahead with their deep knowledge, purpose and even research insights to back their work in this domain.

“The ability with which we women in particular have been able to juggle between work and life has been at an another level. Covid has not just enabled or reiterated the remote working model, but a deeper realization to a wider workforce including our customers, vendors and others that seamless work is possible even everyone is working from remote. So, Covid has not only increased opportunities for women who depended on a “flexibility work scenario”, but it has also opened a series of opportunities for a diversity of talent agnostic of location, gender and so on”, pointed out Shalini Pandey, Office Managing Partner, KPMG India.

 “A long and strong cultural tradition built on fundamental values such as trust on employees, respect for individuals have enabled some of the organizations to seamlessly transition to the work from home model,” opined Ramesh Ramadurai, Managing Director, 3M India.

Facilitating the D&I Reboot 1.O, Dr Saundarya Rajesh, Founder- President of Avtar Group added that for diversity to work in organizations, people managers and talent acquisition leaders must aim at having a gender ratio of 20-25%, which is the national average. “Upon achieving this, organizations must aim to have about 40-45% reaching to a solid, strong and a realistic gender diversity ratio. Diversity must be built on meritocracy”, said Dr Saundarya establishing the case for gender balanced workforce.

Interestingly, the Top 100 organizations in the Best Companies for Women in India (BCWI) study, India’s largest gender analytical study have demonstrated their Inclusion intentionality through rigor and data. So, when analytics and data get deployed in diversity, there is transformation in the decision support systems, revealed Dr Saundarya during the session that emphasized the usage of A-H-E-A-D framework — Assess, Humanize, Empathize, Affirm & Dialogue.

The framework that was dealt at length during the three-hour webinar session would enable leaders and decision makers to build conversations among employees and other stakeholders to stay AHEAD post the Pandemic.

The virtual session attended by 100 participants from different locations provided six key elements for leaders and organizations that would enable them to widen the D&I curve in a VUCA world.

  • Creating a workplace design that is even more inclusive than before.
  • Widen the talent search for your organization.
  • Invest in skilling initiatives.
  • Create conversations and opportunities to talk about D&I.
  • Use hard numbers when communicating decisions.
  • Roll out industry specific bias breaking sessions.

While leaders will have to constantly engage with employees enabling them to accelerate their performances in order to sustain in the Post Pandemic world, they will also have to ensure that D&I agenda remains a core part of the business continuity plan. “The RIR model — Renovate, Innovate and Reset’, should be the mantra for every professional today as we all continue to fight the virus in our own way”, summarised Ramachandran of Schindler. 

The Covid has presented scenarios that can only be anticipated. But clearly it has given a new acronym – to Create Opportunities so that we Validate our Introspection and Development for a sustainable tomorrow!


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