Solidarity, DI & COVID

Diversity and Inclusion at Workplace

Chitra Sharan, Senior Director – Organization Development |Omega Healthcare Management Services Pvt. Ltd. with inputs from Lalitha Shetty, Senior Director – Human Resources| Omega Healthcare Management Services Pvt. Ltd.

Solidarity, Empathy, Kindness – we have heard these words before and more so in this COVID crisis. These words connect to Diversity and Inclusion (DI) directly. Each word denotes Us and the Other. Others are different from us and when we understand the difference, we can demonstrate these in action.

The more we interact and socialize with diverse people, the more rooted and strong our empathy would be which translates to the primary goal of DI – treat everyone with empathy and make them feel included.  

At a societal level, the efforts by one State stands out as a tall example of respecting diversity while dealing with COVID. This State, decided to give a choice of cooked food OR groceries, to the migrant groups. The State felt that the migrants would find it difficult to partake food that they are not used to, hence the choice. This is truly a hallmark of respecting diversity, reflecting in the decisions taken and devising suitable actions.  

At work place, diversity comes in many forms. A common misunderstanding is grouping people and calling those groups as diverse, forgetting the individual differences that exist even within that group. While ‘segmenting and stratifying’ are important processes in DI while designing policies and framework, true respect for DI happens when individuals are respected, valued and their needs are addressed.

A quote which says “We don’t need manuals and policies for Human Resources, we could just substitute all of that with one phrase – Be Kind” is the essence of DI at Omega. DI cannot take place in an organization without kindness as its foundation. Kindness is not charity that one bestows on the other. It is about being gentle coupled with a mantra of ‘do not harm’, across decisions and actions.

At Omega, diversity is embedded in its DNA. Segmenting and stratification is done for designing policies. The nuances to cater to individual needs are addressed by the stakeholders and HR together. Thereby, each organization-wide decision is inclusive and accommodates diversity in its approach.

A social media post which says – “You are not working from home; you are at home during a crisis, trying to work”, formed the base of decisions at Omega. While being empathetic, this also acknowledges that each individual’s emotional (fear, anxiety) and mental state (cognitive functioning, attention span etc.) would be different while coping with this crisis. 

Questions such as ‘Do women need to be treated differently since they would have the dual burden of home care (without domestic help) and work?’ were asked. Decisions were made after careful consideration. The majority response during the brain storming was, this was a stereotypical approach and therefore, at a policy level, all employees need equal treatment. However, as cited earlier, individual cases and their needs were addressed. 

Even before the lockdown was announced, Omega took all necessary steps to ensure that the needs of diverse group are catered to in the pandemic. We relaxed the rules for availing leaves for pregnant women and vulnerable employees. We took stock of how many employees had PCs, WiFi etc. and then decisions were made to provide these. 

One may wonder what is new about this? The segmentation based on economic, social and emotional needs was the differentiator for Omega. Grouping was done keeping in mind the economically weaker ones, the ones who lived in PGs and the ones who wanted to go back home. Processes ensured that those in PGs were given laptops so that their limited living space will not be taken over by big PCs. This is an example of making policy decisions based on individual needs which were derived out of segmentation. Another segment which was taken care of, was the group that couldn’t stay in their PGs for various reasons. Free accommodation was provided to them by Omega.

Corporate communication played a key role in maintaining inclusivity. One such major initiative was our CEO Mr. Gopi Natarajan, addressing the entire organization online. He shared news of how the unique nature of our business still is a positive one in this time of crisis. His reassuring messages on job security helped alleviate anxiety and tension, likely to arise due to job insecurities. This initiative helped in making all employees feel included in the larger business.  

A competition was held to make a team collage with an aim to bring cheer and include all employees during this phase of work from home. Diversity was built in, by making this competition for different functions, gender and levels. The camaraderie expressed during the making of this collage, aided in bonding, which is another expected benefit from inclusion.

At Omega, DI is not an isolated function, it is part of everything we do for almost TWO DECADES.

As our Head – HR, Dr. (HC) Guruvayurappan would say, “We do the right things, that’s all”.

Do Right and Be Kind – DI will take care of itself.

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