Article (July-2017)


Workplace diversity & inclusion

Surabhi Mittal

Designation : -   Vice President HR

Organization : -  LANXESS India, Thane (W)


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As the wave of globalization sweeps across organizations, there is convergence of workforce from diverse countries, cultures, values, age and gender compelling organizations to change not only their policies and practices but also their core framework and culture in order to create conducive environment for all. More and more organizations are concentrating their efforts towards diversity, not because it is a "fad" or a "buzzword", but because it is the need of the day. Workplace diversity can foster agility, adaptability, sustainability, creativity and innovation which are a must in today's VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous) world for organizations to succeed and remain viable.

In line with the efforts of organizations to strive for viability and sustainability, it is imperative for organizations to focus not only on diversity but also inclusion. Diversity is incomplete without inclusion. Only having heterogeneous workforce will not benefit the organization. Inclusion supports a diverse workforce by focusing on the needs and having the right conditions for an employee to work in. While diversity is the measure, inclusion is the mechanism. It is only when you foster a culture of inclusion, will the diverse workforce be truly embraced.

Managing diversity in our company having presence in 29 countries with around 17K employees form one of our top priorities. Embracing diversity can only happen when it is embedded in the leadership and is driven from the top. We launched "Diversity and Inclusion" initiative in order to lay a foundation for development by drawing upon wide ranging capabilities of a diverse workforce fostering a working environment of creativity and innovation.

While diversity has many dimensions, there is an increasing focus on gender diversity. The overall outlook of the society towards a role of a woman is gradually changing with much more social support mechanisms at disposal than before, for instance, professional agencies offering full-time help and so on, which can support women in achieving their career aspirations along with fulfilling home responsibilities. In sync with this, lot of organizations too have become more conscious and have started acknowledging the need and implementing women - friendly policies. We offer extended maternity leave, separate leaves for women employees during times when their children fall sick, adoption leave and leave for parental (including in-laws) care. We offer flexible work arrangements as well viz. work from home or part time work for women employees whose nature of job allows this flexibility. A woman employee can also choose to apply for a new role available within the organization which matches the job requirement under our career shift option in order to enable her to strike the right work-life balance based on her priority. Although paid leaves during maternity are often viewed as an issue for working mothers, it is equally important for working fathers as well. Many organizations, including ours offer paternity leave to promote parent - child bonding and increase gender equity not only at workplace but also at home.

Diversity and Inclusion should be reflected in organizations policies and practices as well. Talent acquisition strategies can serve as a crucial factor in promoting organizations as diverse and inclusive. The first step is to attain diverse candidate pools that fit the profile requirement. This can be done by tapping various social media, professional networking forums or through company referral program.

Another slice of diversity that needs to be given due attention is generational diversity. For organizations whose goals are to seek growth and sustainability in the long term, it is imperative to leverage and capitalize on generational diversity which can contribute to increased competitive advantage, enhanced workplace productivity and succession planning. Our organization comprises of three generations, the boomers, Gen X and millennials with the average age around 37 years. It is a known fact that there is distinct difference between the ways different generations approach work, define work-life balance, loyalty and other issues but they should be united by common organizational goals and objectives. While all the generations contribute to the success of organization in their own way, the solution is to challenge the "one-size-fits-all" approach and shift gears to a more "one-size-fits-me" approach that empowers everyone. For example, organizations need to review their Compensation and benefits structure which can offer flexible benefits. Generational diversity should be viewed as an opportunity to build leadership pipeline comprising of people who are adaptable and innovative. While many organizations have mentoring program in place which can be an important way to integrate, develop and retain employees since it involves pairing of a more skilled or experienced employee with a new employee to encourage dialogue and information sharing thus promoting knowledge exchange, better understanding and appreciation of differences and beliefs, cultural acclimatization - understanding workplace norms, expectations and values, Reverse mentoring as a concept is gaining momentum with Gen Y supporting Gen X leaders/managers on coping with the rampant technological advancements and current trends.

Having an organization that endorses and encourages diversity not only helps in employer branding but also in improving the bottom-line of the organization contributing to its success. Ignoring diversity and inclusion issues can cost time, money, and efficiency. Integrating diversity and inclusion in organization is a formula for success and as long as organizations strive to achieve it, it will help them keep ahead of the competition; just like the saying goes, "You don't get harmony when everyone sings the same note."