Article: Building a mindset of inclusivity: YSC Interview


Building a mindset of inclusivity: YSC Interview

In this interview with People Matters, Carmel Pelunsky, MD & Global Head of Diversity, YSC, and Rachna Chawla, Head of YSC India share their viewpoints on inclusive leadership
Building a mindset of inclusivity: YSC Interview

People Matters in a special conversation with Carmel Pelunsky, Managing Director and the Global Head of Diversity, YSC and Rachna Chawla, Head of YSC India, talk about the importance of business strategy in driving inclusive leadership, and challenges that organizations face while embarking on inclusion and diversity related work. 

How would you articulate inclusive leadership?

Carmel: Inclusive leadership is a kind of leadership that helps organizations get the full range of people they need to deliver their business strategy. It also means enabling people to bring their whole selves to work. From a culture standpoint, it refers to leaders who can create a culture that is both accountable and encourages risk-taking.

Rachna: Inclusive leadership is leadership that encourages experimentation even in the face of failure so that one is willing to take chances. Another leadership attribute is to be willing to listen to everyone, not just the most powerful voice in the room.

You mentioned “the range of people required to deliver the business strategy”. What is this range? 

Carmel: The range needs to be defined by the leadership strategy – what talent do you need to deliver on your business strategy? The key question to ask is what is the talent we might miss out on, that we desperately need, if we keep recruiting the same people we recruited in the past?  Then it is important to look across all types of diversity i.e. gender, cultural, religious, socio-economic; age - we need to think of the full spectrum of society.

Rachna: This approach ensures that inclusion and diversity doesn’t become a tick in the box or a numbers game. The minute we tick the box, it is no longer about the inclusion of the diverse voices or the contribution in decision-making.One of our clients in the financial services  sector wanted someone from  consumer facing retail to head marketing for them and be a part of  the leadership team. It was a difficult decision because it is an insular industry where conventionally talent has moved from one company to another. And for them to take a conscious decision as part of the business strategy, so that the organization could hear the voice of the customer and start thinking in that way was transformative.

A lot of the diversity and inclusion initiatives are about workshops or training programs; they are focused on inputs and outputs rather than on actually having an impact

Are there any inclusive leadership interventions that have seen considerable results?

Rachna: When we define inclusive leadership in the way that we are, then interventions take on a very different form. For example, if you look at the work that we do with leadership teams, even the work of facilitating open, honest conversations and creating an environment of trust in that leadership team becomes an intervention towards inclusive leadership. 

Carmel: At the moment, a lot of diversity and inclusion initiatives are about workshops and training programs. What we’re saying is that it is much broader than that – and something as simple as two people who come from different backgrounds or who have had very different life experiences having an honest conversation about a business issue is actually what it takes to create an inclusive culture. And that’s much more important than a workshop where participants merely nod and listen to a new framework or model. It is about day-to-day moments or conversations to help people really say what they’re thinking and saying, and to be able to disagree in a respectful, courageous yet kind manner. 

What are some challenges that you have seen companies face?

Carmel: One challenge is thinking about diversity and inclusion as two separate issues. And to separate from culture and leadership. Another challenge is that the issue is actually very broad and includes issues like politics and legislation. It can get really complex and many of our clients tell us they feel overwhelmed by where to start. For us, our job is to break it down to manageable chunks – because otherwise the agenda is almost too big.

Rachna: Leadership at the top should be able to see the connection between having these conversations and building a mindset of inclusivity, and business results. Another key thing to remember is that it will create conflict. In one of our client organizations, we are looking to transform their working culture, and one of the ways they are doing it is by bringing in people who are different. One can sense the tensions between the guardians of the old organization and the younger generation who want to take on. So, it is important to have patience and resilience as part of the journey.

Why do you think companies are reluctant to change?

Carmel: I think to actually embark on this journey you have to touch people in quite a deep and a personal manner. And most organizations are scared of that. It is easier to say we do something than to have a difficult conversation. There is a lot of fear in the system about it. So it is important to ask what are you scared about. It is then they realize that it is not a big deal. Often, it is as simple as that and as difficult as that. 

It is a real challenge for women to do sales jobs in India, there is this perception that they will give up in three months or weeks due to the conditions they need to work in

Are there any trends you’ve observed in India?

Rachna: One thing we do particularly well in India is regional diversity, although it is largely in urban India. We really struggle with gender and intergenerational issues – which has got to do with socialization and culture. There is still a long way to go especially among manufacturing companies and traditional Indian companies. 

It is a real challenge for women to do sales jobs in India, especially beyond the urban centers. There is this perception that they will give up in three months or weeks due to difficult working conditions or social pressures. For an organization to say that they will create an experience where there will be limited working hours, or special facilities and considerations even in a really tough market requires support on the policy level. We have seen exceptional organizations acknowledge and then address these issues, an in the interest of bringing up the contributionof women talent across roles. 

In terms of impact measures, how are organizations measuring themselves? 

Carmel: We’re moving to more bespoke measurements depending on the business and leadership strategies of the companies. We work with companies to identify the metrics that will link their business strategy, leadership strategy and degree of inclusion. Regardless of the specific tangible measurements, a few questions that always need reflection are: Does the culture feel vibrant? Do people in the company feel like they need to watch what they say or are they free to speak their mind? And finally, do they understand how they are contributing to the business strategy through their contributions? 

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Topics: Diversity, Culture

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