Diversity & Inclusion (D&I) are not just boxes to be ticked, they actually provide the ideal opportunity for businesses to enhance their ethical standards as well as performance. The global economy recognizes the benefits of a diverse workforce and perceives it as an organizational strength, not as a mere watchword or regulatory compliance with the law.
Several legislations in India such as the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act 2016, the Code on Wages 2019, the Prevention of Sexual Harassment at Workplace Act 2013 and the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act, 2019, contain anti-discrimination provisions. However, there is no specific framework in India relating to incorporation of D&I in private companies.
In spite of that, LinkedIn’s Global Recruiting Trends 2018 report has revealed that D&I is a key trend and companies which make a conscious effort to adopt it perform better in their industries. A study by global management consulting firm McKinsey & Company indicates that businesses with gender and ethnic diversity outperform others. D&I rankings like the ‘Great Place to Work‘ are also increasingly being taken into account for ESG evaluation and are also seen as a significant measure to attract talent, promote employee engagement and brand value.
Accordingly, in the last few years, there has been an evident effort to promote diversity but it is clear that corporate India has not yet won the battle and still has a long way ahead. Although most organisations seem to appreciate the value of D&I as observed from the survey results but the practices are majorly limited to policies and trainings. However, organisations that truly aspire to be progressive, have to focus on creating an environment that caters to individual needs- whether it be someone from the LGBTQ+ community or having disabilities.
According to the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), organizational diversity in the contemporary times needs to go beyond just racial, gender, or religious differences. It also needs to embody different thinking styles and personality types, as well as other factors such as physical and cognitive abilities, all of which impact the way an individual perceives the world. In order to truly incorporate D&I practices, organisations need to have an extensive understanding of the issue – managing sensitivities and lending an empathetic ear to all employees keeping in mind their diverse backgrounds, has become necessary for the long-term success of an organisation.
In order to apply such practices, the employer can conduct a review of its practices from a D&I standpoint. Data collection (e.g. gender, domicile, age, sexual orientation, ethnicity, marital status, position within the organization etc.) is vital for examination and to understand it reveals any patterns. So for instance, if the data reveals that women workforce participation drops between ages 30 and 40, then the organization could consider childcare and flexible work policies, increasing paternity leave and hiring of women who wish to return after a career break.
For truly integrating people from diverse backgrounds, structural changes in corporations are also required. These can include but are not limited to creating scholarships, standalone need-based trainings, specially designed work tools and software, hotlines, appointment of a grievance redressal officer, access to mental health professionals and support groups, legal assistance (if required- eg: cases of violence, harassment etc.). These internal policies must be drafted in accordance with applicable law and must also be widely publicized to spread awareness.
Finding an appropriate set of individuals for one’s organization, and creating the conditions in which they can excel are crucial business goals as inclusion and integration have become a paradigm of the twenty-first century workplace.
This post was written by Samridhi Seth (IV year)