Diversity and inclusion (D&I) practices in company culture have a direct impact on trust capital, a crucial factor in enhancing engagement and performance, especially in a hybrid and diverse workplace. A key aspect of organizational culture is inculcating a mindset that fosters D&I.
A company with D&I at its heart empowers employees with a sense of belonging to their workplace, allowing greater innovation and collaboration. Statistically, ethnically diverse companies are likely to perform 35% better than their counterparts and gender-diverse companies are 15% likely to gain higher financial returns as compared to their counterparts, according to research from McKinsey.
Here are some best practices to build and retain D&I in the remote workplace:
A CASE FOR EMPATHY
Leaders and managers are crucial in creating the essential psychological safety net for everyone to bring their whole self to work, irrespective of gender, race, colour, religion, sexual preferences and age group. If D&I remains only an HR or corporate agenda, it’s most likely to fail. For a company to be truly inclusive, every individual leader and manager needs to actively own it. Through unconscious bias trainings, managers can identify deep-rooted biases and be forced to challenge them. Through inclusivity sensitization sessions and trainings, they can develop the right skillset to build a more diverse and inclusive culture. Managers need to demonstrate an empathetic style of leadership. This will become more important as the “future of work” will bring down geographical barriers continuously on the back of technology, and talent will place much more demands on flex.
INCLUSIVITY IS KEY
Inclusivity should be a behaviour or a value that must be assessed as part of performance evaluations. This will ensure everyone sees it as a hygiene expectation and not just something that the senior management talks about in town halls. It’s crucial to have a clear D&I roadmap for the organisation by setting specific long-term goals, such as more women in leadership positions, integration of the LGBTQ+ community or representation of various nationalities in leadership positions.
Displaying the right values needs be the threshold requirement before one is even considered for succession planning, promotions and other major people decisions. Companies must evaluate even vendors and external associations through the lens of inclusivity and learn more about third parties to track their record on inclusion. What’s more, companies need to measure how the company and individual managers are performing in terms of inclusivity through regular well-designed D&I surveys. Transparent sharing of the results followed with action planning gives further confidence to employees on the company’s seriousness on the agenda.
EQUAL OPPORTUNITY RULES
Having job ads that encourage people to apply, irrespective of gender, race and other demographic aspects, is key to attract diverse talent. The hiring process needs to be designed to filter out biases by having diverse interview panels, ensuring diverse slate of candidates for every open position and masking gender identifiers in resume. Having a NPS (net promoter survey) of candidates can help uncover biases displayed by select managers. Development interventions such as mentoring, coaching, diversity lens on the succession plans/promotions and leadership programmes targeted at hitherto under-represented groups can act as enablers. Sometimes under-represented groups struggle to find role models inside and enabling a wider network outside the company, such as a women’s networking forum, helps bridge the gap. Showcasing success stories of under-represented groups in the company, both inside and outside, helps create a virtuous cycle.
THE RIGHT THOUGHT PROCESS
Supporting employees with the knowledge of how to foster a diverse, friendly, and inclusive workplace should be a priority for business. D&I trainings is one such way organizations can create awareness around unconscious biases, cultural differences and build an environment where everyone is respected based on the value they bring to the company. Through feedback surveys, D&I trainings, mentoring and facilitating open door conversations, employees can assess their own behaviour and realise how their biases may impair their judgement and get insights on how to become more inclusive.
PROVIDING SAFETY VALVES
Company policies and benefits play a major role in supporting a culture of inclusion by catering to varied requirements of a diverse workforce. For example, working parents may require more flexibility options such as remote working, and baby boomers may want medical and insurance support. Gender-neutral parental policy and paid leaves, personal care days or volunteering leaves, dress code flexibility, and adjustable lunch times can help ensure diverse needs are accommodated. A speak-up culture to ensure each employee is heard is also a must for an inclusive workplace. Channels of regular two-way communication need to be established with the help of town halls, leadership and HR connect and engagement surveys.
PERKS OF A FLEXIBLE WORKPLACE
While the remote-working model has altered our way of working, it has also created opportunities for companies to hire or collaborate with a pool of talent that was previously limited by factors such as geographic location or childcare concerns. Going forward those employers that successfully embrace a more flexible work arrangement will benefit vastly from a wider representation of diverse talent that can lend them a competitive and even cost advantage.
Sayan Chatterjee, human resources director, Beam Suntory India.
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