“Diversity is being asked to the party, Inclusion is being asked to dance.” – Vernā Myers, cultural change thought leader and DEI educator
In India, a country of many languages and ethnicities, the role and understanding of Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) at the workplace has been ever evolving. What started as a recent concept across the globe, has gradually penetrated the Indian work culture. As a result, an encouraging number of organisations are taking conscious steps to inculcate Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DE&I) as an essential component of the company’s vision. DEI is more than just headcounts, policies, programmes, and corporate social responsibility. It is about actively contributing to a vision of ‘Making India a Great Place to Work for All.’ DE&I time and again supports organisations to outpace their competitors by maximising human potential. By respecting the unique needs and perspectives of each employee, organisations can create an environment where all employees are able to bring out their best and drive the company’s growth.
Over the years, there has been a tectonic transformation in the Indian business environment. With more companies spreading their base out of the metros, particularly in the Tier-3 and Tier-4 cities, it has opened new avenues for skilled individuals based in, and even underserved geographical locations. It has further allowed hiring drives at the ground level, with companies hiring talent from different sections of society. In contrast to the decades of stringent workplace culture, more organisations have been progressing towards an inclusive work environment with individuals belonging to diverse backgrounds, creeds, religions, and cultures.
As per Forbes, organisations that embrace diversity are more likely to improve their productivity and profits. The Boston Consulting Group (BCG) conducted a study suggesting that companies having diverse management teams recorded 19 per cent higher revenue.
As companies in India begin to make efforts by taking active steps, the government, too, supports the action by introducing policies to make D&I a reality.
Financial markets regulator, SEBI, has mandated that all listed companies should have at least one-woman director on their board. This helped the number of women on company boards increase from 5 per cent in 2012 to 13 per cent in 2018. Other initiatives like extending maternity leave to six months, passing the Right of Persons with Disabilities Bill in Parliament, and promoting LGBT rights at offices are making D&I an infallible concept.
Since the concept is at its nascent stage, there are certain issues that need to be addressed by India Inc. It is interesting to note that companies are promoting diversity but find it difficult to fully employ inclusiveness. While they hire employees from diverse backgrounds, the organisational structure is such that the workforce cannot express themselves as their true selves and therefore doesn’t find any motivation to stay in the organisations longer. However, gradually, this is beginning to change.
There has been a significant progress towards introducing an equal employment opportunity policy to create gender and cultural diversity. In this regard, a set of policies for a better gender ratio also plays a key role. In line with this, equitable pay, rewards, promotions, rewards, insurance policies, etc., can significantly help in ensuring talent retention.
Interestingly, data plays a crucial role in creating a progressive work culture. Feedback, surveys, and one-on-one interactions are effective ways to include employees in the decision-making process, ensuring inclusiveness. Nowadays, skilling and upskilling are core to the success of any business. It is the means for each individual’s professional development, thereby the growth of an organisation. Most companies also use data-driven insights to design training and development sessions for their employees. A set of soft skills, motivational and product-related process training ensures the skill enhancement of the workforce. It plays a vital role in enhancing the quality of work and professional satisfaction, thereby improving the employee retention rate.
In the last decade, more businesses have transitioned towards a well-oriented inclusive work culture. For most organizations, it is the key to enhanced business growth and talent retention. Therefore, there is a greater emphasis to nurture a diverse workforce with the right policies and work environment. Ensuring inclusiveness is the first step towards fostering progress, growth and development for the organisation, as well as for the society as a whole.
This article was contributed by Ms Zia N Sawhney, Chairperson, CII IWN, Northern Region and was first published in the May 2023 edition on CII Northern Insights.