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D&I in times of COVID

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Nakul Bahiya - Group Head- Talent Group Media Pvt. Ltd, Gurugram

22-Jun-2020

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Mere one dimension is, by not embracing diversity; organizations risk losing critical talent, which in the long term may impact their P&L. On the other hand, we are still struggling to understand the real meaning of inclusiveness and how to navigate through its complexities. Many organizations in India have embraced the D&I agenda, only to gain some mileage at forums or to promote their employer branding. One look at their composition or employee demographics and you know, they dont walk the talk.

With each passing day, it feels like the pandemic is here to stay and will leave an eternal mark on our evolutionary story. I believe there is light at the end of the tunnel and the only way to go from here is forward. COVID has altered the human ethos and has triggered numerous feelings of realizations, epiphanys & resilience around us. The current scenario has even forced a lot of organizations to go back to the drawing board and re-evaluate their plans & strategies, the D&I agenda, however, has managed to get a second wind amidst this chaos. It is bound to gain more momentum from here, as we move from shock to adaptation and, eventually, emergence from the effects of this pandemic. Especially in the Indian context, where policies like work from home& flexi working were counted amongst perks instead of normal modus operandi for an organization. But, COVID has finally taught Indian managers to let go and believe, high-performance culture & teams can be built remotely too. We are witnessing a paradigm shift, where new Ideologies like we all are in it together, the new normal & black lives matter,have taken the world by storm and are leaving anunderlying impact ondiversity & Inclusion.

Though corporate India was late to the diversity party, it is striving hard to find its footing with more and more organizations joining the D&I bandwagon. However, we are yet to realize the true potential of diversity and how it can be leveraged for the benefit of the business. Mere one dimension is, by not embracing diversity; organizations risk losing critical talent, which in the long term may impact their P&L. On the other hand, we are still struggling to understand the real meaning of inclusiveness and how to navigate through its complexities. Many organizations in India have embraced the D&I agenda, only to gain some mileage at forums or to promote their employer branding. One look at their composition or employee demographics and you know, they dont walk the talk. The hidden reality on the ground is, there are hardly any team leads or people managers, who have received any sort of formal training to promote & manage diversity. Boardrooms are still a distant dream for diverse candidates and a lot of them struggle to even get their due recognition for performance or voice out their opinions in team meetings.

COVID is seen as a great reset by many and corporate India needs to seize this moment to evolve and understand that, the concept of D&I goes beyond gender, geography, and the LGBTQI community; it is about breaking the stereotype and removing the stigma attached to it. We need more thought leadership which reckons that D&I is merely not an ideology to be preached at seminars but an actionable strategy on the ground. In fact, many Indian organizations neednt require looking outside to improve their D&I score provided, they recognize their existing pool of diverse employees, who are afraid to come out in open due to fear of stigma and discrimination. Creating an open & accepting work environment for them would be a welcome step towards embracing diversity & inclusivity at the workplace. Indias corporate landscape is witnessing some tectonic shifts in terms of mindsets & ideologies with COVID acting as a catalyst for these compelling changes. It is merely not just the ship, but the skills of a captain and his sailors which gets you through a turbulent storm. Similarly, in a post COVID era, the right competencies & skills will matter more than ever, irrespective who brings them to the table and championing D&I would prove to be the differential for an organization.