Diversity Is The Reality

Diversity isn’t just a buzz word anymore. Diversity is a fact of this faced paced, modern world.

The workforce has altered significantly – be it increasing number of women entering the workforce, the existence of multiple generations in a single factory or the expression on different gender identities or sexual orientations. Organisations have to keep pace with these changes. To be profitable in the vuca world, organisations are making efforts to look like the world around them.

A diverse workforce is not a feel-good, fuzzy concept – it is makes absolute business sense.  Diversity is not only about gender or religion. It refers to ethnicity, sexual orientation, physical abilities etc. The definition of diversity is wide and varied. Some organisations do hold a view impeded by blinkers – they choose to focus on certain types of diversity. Others hold a wider view. The more important fact is the transition that is happening – the recognition that diversity is now a key priority, and the steps that have been taken to address it.

Mixed teams, with people of different genders, sexual orientations, age and physical abilities represent the customer that the company caters to. They allow the company to access previously untapped markets, which is of critical importance in this global economy. Moreover, they encourage creativity and innovation which contributes to competitive advantage for the company. Additionally, a diverse organisation also focuses on retention and attraction of the best talent, and helps minimise the costs attached to turnover. Numerous studies have stressed the importance of diversity in the workplace, and have built strong theoretical backing for this argument.

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Diversity helps counter ‘group-think’. Group think is when people make irrational and illogical, because the internal harmony – consensus – within the group is prized above all else. Diversity challenges the dominant thoughts that arise out of group think as it brings different perspectives to the table. It disbalances conformity, as the group members are no longer homogenous, and the cognitive, ideological, physical and sociopolitical factors are no longer the same.

Organisations have now accepted that diversity is important. Various Indian organisations have started stellar programs, or adopted policies that would help them move towards a more diverse workforce. SAP Labs, for example, has an extremely comprehensive policy to support working mothers. Goldman Sachs has committed to supporting mothers by providing child care, pre maternity support etc. Infosys seeks to bridge the geographical gaps between its employees virtually – a dedicated team helps propagate inclusion and diversity. IBM promotes workplace equality for LGBT. Many organisations have now started following in its footsteps.

The question remains of how to internalise diversity. This is where Human Resources step in. HR is the conscience keeper of an organisation – they hold the keys to the culture. Management of Talent is an HR domain – it is fitting that while effecting any such change, it is HR who pushes the change. There could be a three pronged approach to dealing with diversity – attraction, monitoring, and retention. First is attraction – actively supporting diversity through widening the pool of candidates. It requires setting aside the notions one might carry, and recruiting the best fit for the position irrespective of gender, sexual orientation etc., something that is easier said than done.

Second is through active monitoring. A finger on the pulse of the organisation will help understand how the situation is, and what steps are needed to counter it.

The third is retention through development – by encouraging leaders to take up the initiatives, development interventions like coaching and mentoring etc. will help develop the talent. This would ensure that the vision crafted by senior leaders and HR professionals in the organisation, is translated to reality.

 

References:

Anderson, T and Metcalf, H. 2003, Diversity: Stacking up the evidence, CIPD

Meena K., Vanka S., Diversity Management and Human Resource Development–A Study of Indian Organizations, Pacific Business Review International, Volume 5 Issue 7 (January 2013)

Paul’t Hart. (1991). Irving L. Janis’ Victims of Groupthink. Political Psychology, 12(2), 247-278.

Singh M., Gender Inclusivity in Corporate India: A Business Imperatives based Framework, January 2012

http://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/organization/our-insights/is-there-a-payoff-from-top-team-diversity, Retrieved 3 August 2016

https://hbr.org/2013/12/how-diversity-can-drive-innovation, Retrieved 4 August 2016

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