In this age of information and curation, it's easy to lag behind. Constant new updates, bylaws, policies etc are being scrutinised by the organizations as the effect of COVID19 wanes and rises. With the leaders reevaluating their strategies and structures, is it high time for D&I to take the center stage?
In an exclusive interaction with us, Pankaj Lochan – Chief Human Resource Officer, Jindal Steels and Power ltd. shares his thoughts on hybrid workspaces and how leaders can tap into the value of inclusivity and diversity deposits to bring the best out of their employees.
Inclusive leaders have fast become the norm in the businesses now. Do you think if the idea will perish as the trend changes or are they here to stay for the long run?
The fundamentals of ‘inclusion’ comes from ‘mutual respect’ among the work peers irrespective of their ethnicity, gender or color. Inclusive leaders are here to stay because the organizations are realizing that they have to be more employee-centric and these leaders promote mutual respect and consider it as the main driver of performance. With disruptions/changes in the work environment, everyone in the business community can see that people are more important than the machinery; for changes today are way beyond what machines and processes can take care! Hence, uplifting Employee potential is the key. Inclusive leaders value quality of work and nothing else – and that is what uplifts overall organizational performance! Slowly these leaders will gain prominence and drive the people-centred work culture in the future.
The books written by you emphasize problem solving skills in managing work culture. So what kind of actions leaders can take to be more inclusive & diverse management wise?
My books emphasize the need of problem solving skills in every aspect of quality management. It's important to integrate different types of value systems and respect different perspectives.
From an organizational management perspective, it is important to remember that ‘the mind should be without fear and the head should be held high’. The presence of perspective of different cultures, ethnicity and gender has to be encouraged among the employees. This would lead to a successful work-culture based on meritocracy. At JSPL, nationality may be an attribute but above all, respect for perspective is paramount. What an employee brings on the table, the way they add value to the organization, would definitely earn the respect of individuals as well as leaders irrespective of their gender or ethnicity.
It's important for the leaders to believe that the workplace where they have worked for 15-20 years, is part of their family and employees their family members. Philosophically, I live by the sanskrit shloka 'ayam bandhurayam neti ganana laghu-chetasam udaracharit-anam tu vasudhaiva kutumbakam', it means - only small men discriminate saying: One is a relative; the other is a stranger. For those who live magnanimously the entire world constitutes but a family.' i.e A good leader takes good care of their team like a family.
As ‘Hybrid Workplaces’ are the talk of the town, how can D&I with a hint of empathy be a recipe for employee success in these?
“What is measured well can be managed effectively”: A structure based on merits can be a good foundation for the ‘Hybrid Workplaces’ to be built on. In today’s times, almost everyone is working from home and it's important to create that social cum professional environment to allow them to thrive and let them be judged on merit of their work and not on their proximity to their bosses. It will take a lot of stress and politics away from the employee culture. It will save a lot of productive employee time - commute of employees. It will conserve a lot of resources and make sure the quality of delivery is better!
A hybrid workplace has to fulfil the functions and demands of the business and employees alike. For example: the operation team cannot work in a hybrid workspace. They need to be physically present at their workstations. Hence applying hybrid concepts on them would be superficial. As for the IT team, they just need their laptops, can connect with everyone with ‘zoom calls’ and don't have to be physically present. Hence the hybrid environment would definitely work for them.
Building up confidence to adapt is critical while managing the teams. Leaders can be more empathetic to the pleas of their team members. The hybrid workspace can definitely encourage that. Interesting to note is how the workforce gauges merit and empathy together. A balance is must but so is the abundance of ideas from the millennial crowd and the new age leaders alike. Only when everyone invests their passion into amplifying the effect of the culture in a hybrid environment.
How can leaders tap into the potential of D&I and create an enduring formula of success?
Meritocracy is the key - the leaders of today have awakened and are looking for cognitive opportunities to create a niche. It's interesting to think how a work group would react to a new hire or a new member. That inclusivity can bloom when the groups take distinct interest in the new member and provide a safe space to thrive.
A structure of meritocracy can definitely be beneficial for D&I to endure in the future. The workforce is subjected to a tight scorecard: every employee can be measured only on the basis of how much value they add to the organization irrespective of their gender, ethnic origins and more. The fairness in numbers can diversify performance of every individual and develop inclusive nature in the organization.
How is your organization contributing to the ongoing enthrall of Diversity and championing its cause?
JSPL are a fairly diverse organization. Our organization is based in multiple locations like Oman, Australia, South Africa etc. Our expansion into a Global entity has made us diverse by default. Since the COVID19, we grappled with performance issues with a hybrid workplace and there has been a strong endeavour from our side to let our work force like IT, Corporate, Service and more to let them work from home.
We ask ourselves “Why come to the office when the only reason is to make your boss more comfortable?” The reason being that if an employee can add immense value by not commuting for long hours to office, let them be in their space to thrive. We champion gender diversity by taking the initiatives on the forefront. Our corporate HR team has 9 people, out of which 6 are ladies and we are planning to hire more. Our chairman is enthusiastic about new avenues and we as an organization strive for a good and diverse work culture.