When people say ‘diversity in the workplace’- what do they mean? If you’re trying to create a diverse workplace, a little definition would help. Basically, diversity refers to the different ways in which people not only identify themselves, but also how others perceive them. A diverse workplace is one that embraces it all – gender, orientation, thought, approach, and experience.

More and more organizations and their leaders are stepping up to promote diversity. A February 2017 report by Deloitte Insights found 38% of employees surveyed say that the primary push for their company’s diversity and inclusion efforts came from their CEO.

What does it mean for corporate India?

India is a diverse country by any standard. You need to look at the Indian rupee note for confirmation. The number of scripts there are only a fraction of the many languages spoken in the country! The diverse culture brings many stereotypes with it. Hence, it is crucial for companies to give importance to diversity and inclusion in the workplace. The same report by Deloitte Insights found that over 69% of executive’s rate diversity and inclusion as an important workplace issue, up from 59% in 2014.Recent changes in law will also affect diversity in the workplace and these must be accounted for. Some of the headways made in this regard include:

  • Maternity Benefit Act of 1961: In 2017, the central government enhanced maternity benefits to increase the period of maternity leave from 12 to 26 weeks.
  • Companies Act of 2013: as of July 31, 2018, companies must now disclose in Board of Directors reports whether or not they have complied with the Prevention of Sexual Harassment Law’s requirement, in every establishment with 10 or more employees.
  • Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code: A landmark judgement by the Supreme court stated that homosexual persons have a fundamental right to live with dignity without any stigma attached to their sexual orientation and are entitled to equal protection under the law.

What can you learn from those leading the way?

Business is about efficiency. There is always a constant push to standardise business practices and a longing for homogenous markets. Anyhow, the reality is – the world is a diverse place. Businesses need to constantly adapt or you lose out to competition. Here are the leaders of this space in corporate India:

Initiatives for women

  • Vodafone: The aim behind the ReConnect programme was to bring women back into the workforce after a career break. They also are looking at digital inclusion for underprivileged women.
  • Nestle: Gives 24 weeks of paid maternity leave, 6 weeks of adoption leave, and also has ‘Project Harmony’ that aims to increase diversity in business operations, factories, R&D Centres, as well as offices.
  • Culture Machine: Was the first Indian company to introduce ‘period leave’. Women employees are allowed to take leaves on the first day of their menstrual cycle.

Transgender inclusivity and LGBT initiatives

  • IBM: In a first, IBM was named as the world’s most LGBT-inclusive company by Amsterdam based Workplace Pride Foundation. As part of their endeavour, IBM India launched ‘Project Vayati’- aimed at employing members from the marginalised transgender community. A spokeswoman for IBM India also said that they will include gender affirmation surgery under their corporate health benefit plans.
  • Kochi Metro Rail: The first government-owned company to employ staff from the transgender community. It was part of Kerala state’s initiative to make the workplace more transgender-friendly.

Initiatives for disabled persons

  • Lemon Tree Hotels: 22% of their staff are opportunity-deprived individuals, or ODIs with Down syndrome and other disabilities like hearing and speech impairment. The aim to increase this to 40%.
  • Aegis India: Its diverse staffing initiative includes 600 PwDs (Persons with disabilities) with disabilities like visual impairment, locomotor disability and more

Benefits of having a diverse workforce

  1. They bring innovation: Hiring PwDs gives you an edge as they bring different ideas to the table, through their unique perspective.
  2. Brand value: As companies become more accepting of people from different ethnicities and disabilities, they will add more value to their brand image. It also makes for a positive environment at the workplace.
  3. Employee retention & productivity: The result of a positive work environment is higher productivity. It also helps in increasing loyalty as employees are treated with the respect that they deserve – it gives them a feeling of belonging.
  4. Customer satisfaction: Your customers will be happy to interact with a diverse workforce who can relate to their needs. It’s a win-win for everyone.

How-to guide: Introducing diversity initiatives at the workplace

  1. Communicate clearly: Effectively communicate with employees the policies, procedures, safety rules and other important communications to overcome language and cultural barriers. Use translating materials, pictures and symbols whenever needed.
  2. Create diverse work teams: Encourage employees to work in diverse groups, this will help them get to know and value one another on an individual basis. It also breaks down barriers and pre-conceived notions that they may have.
  3. Set standards: Make sure all employees are treated the same with a standard policy that covers actions to be taken, including disciplinary, so that nobody is singled out.
  4. Be open to new ideas: Encourage new perspectives from employees. They come from different backgrounds and cultures and their inputs may be of great value to your efforts in achieving organizational goals.
  5. Train management: Without a training plan in place to handle the conflicts and complexities that come with a diverse team, your initiative will not succeed. You should offer training on laws and the effects of non-compliance to make it work. Introduce training during the new-employee orientation or when employees are promoted to leadership roles to set a standard.

Conclusion

It’s time we made our workplaces more inclusive for all. A diverse and inclusive workplace is a boon for any business that wants to be both a beneficiary and an agent of change. Companies must do everything to fast track the process towards inclusive and sustainable development to promote resilient society for all.  So, let’s all do our part to create inclusive, happier and productive workplaces.

Do you want to focus on diversity at your workplace? Call us to help spread awareness with our tried and tested engagement programs.

Call us on +91 80500 58002/3 or email us at reachus@thefullerlife.com to know more.

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