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Creating an Inclusive Workplace for All



Prashant Deorah - MD & CEO, Puretech Digital


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Gender, race, caste and religion have become the defining and unfortunately, the divisive factors for diversity. And, these factors unknowingly skew hiring. But once you are aware of it, it’s difficult to not notice the pattern.

According to data gathered by Glassdoor, 67% of job seekers consider workplace diversity an essential factor for considering employment opportunities, and more than 50% of current employees want their workplace to do more to increase diversity. 


Diversity is the reason we can indulge in misal pav for breakfast, biryani for lunch and dal makhani for dinner. But when it comes to running a business, diversity doesn't mean much if inclusivity is not practised. Many a times, the terms' diversity' and 'inclusivity' are used interchangeably. 


The balance of all genders, different religions, various cultures, castes, nationalities even, and many other such separators would give your team the title - diverse. While inclusivity is the behaviour that welcomes and embraces diversity. It is a state that my very young daughter calls' being woke'!


To embrace and stir a sense of inclusiveness in the workspace is challenging. Nothing is as tricky as unlearning. And every step of being inclusive has a whole chapter on unlearning. 


Without further ado, let's break down this mammoth of a task into simple, implementable steps. 


Step 1: Educate the leads

Managers and executives of your company are vital to implementing diversity and inclusivity in the organisation. It is always the leader who is the decision-maker and represents the employees. A leader's efforts will make or break your diversity and inclusivity initiatives.


Step 2: Build an inclusion council 

Pick seniors, someone who is a level or two below the CEO and build a committee of three to seven members. The selection of this committee is critical, as their passion and devotion will affect inclusion and diversity of the organisation. This committee should be involved in matters of hiring and retaining the workforce. They also should be trained to resolve employee engagement issues for the underrepresented. 


Step 3: Celebrate differences  


Highlight different cultures through diversity days or run an internal mailer focusing on the significance of a diverse holiday. Employee diversities in the workspace boosts a feeling of being valued and respected. It assures safety and promotes productivity. It is well-known that diversity leads to innovations. But inclusion is what unites people to the trade and is a major reason for most to stay. 


Step 4: Hold inclusive meetings


Establish certain rules to conduct meetings effectively. These rules will help everyone to participate freely. For example: 

  1. Every person must ask one question
  2. No one will interrupt another's opinion 
  3. All views will be taken into consideration

And, every once in a while, ditch the old rules with a new fresh perspective.


Step 5: Communicate goals and measure progress


Set up measurable targets coupled with a deadline for building diversity and inclusion as you would with any other task. Run an audit - from recruitment and hiring to developing and retaining. Pair the data with engagement to learn of the climate in your office. Identify shortcomings and add it as a goal for future inclusion strategies. Creativity thrives on inclusion, benefit by it. 


Step 6: Create employee resource groups  


When people with similar backgrounds meet, they bond on the similar scenarios they've faced. Take this a notch-up, and help employees find people who match their wavelength. Get people from similar backgrounds to meet once in 6 months and discuss the different challenges they face, encourage human resources representatives to support these groups.


Step 7: Invest in diversity training


Everybody is biased. Or at least subconsciously biased. As mentioned earlier, unlearning is key to inclusivity. Therefore, investing in diversity training will only help address these stereotypes and move past them. 


Step 8: Be open to amalgamate


Imagine a culture you would want your company to be synonymous with. Does it meet the needs of your employees? How authentic is it to you? Find a balance between the three and align it with your plans to be an inclusive workspace. 


Step 9: Be purposeful


Not every company that is diverse is necessarily inclusive. Team leads need to be aware and purposeful about including the ones who feel left out. The takeaway is, leaders should consciously focus on highlighting the difference in a positive light, as a strength. Hence, celebrating people from all backgrounds, identities, faiths and orientations. 


Step 10: Change the environment 

Shuffling seating helps change perspective. Keep an open mind and interact with people you otherwise won't. A small change of space will either make you appreciate the colleagues around you or help you find a great new brainstorming mate. 


To wrap it up, gender, race, caste and religion have become the defining and unfortunately, the divisive factors for diversity. Of course, these factors; gender and race do shape how one thinks, in addition to their experience, background, expertise, education, hobbies and interests, etc. And, these factors unknowingly skew hiring. But once you are aware of it, it’s difficult to not notice the pattern. Here's to building and promoting an inclusive culture.