Embracing a diverse workforce has emerged as a top priority for leaders. It has evolved from being a mere legal imperative to becoming indispensable for business. Many research studies have suggested that companies with more diverse workforce outperform companies with a homogeneous workforce. Unconscious bias, cultural barriers, lack of opportunity for advancement, are some of the biggest challenges faced by organizations while retaining and engaging the diverse talent.
Shraddhanjali Rao, Head of Human Resources, SAP India in an interaction with People Matters explains how SAP is embracing a culture of inclusion and shares challenges companies face while building a culture of inclusivity. Shraddhanjali is responsible for designing and executing the people strategy focusing on leadership, talent, and culture to meet the needs of the region’s more than 11000 employees.
Q- What is the most overlooked diversity issue in any organization?
A: The need to create awareness across the organization to accept diversity.
Companies today have agreed to the fact that diversity can help in uplifting the organizational effectiveness. It fosters an open-minded approach and brings access to new segments of the marketplace. The notion of having a homogeneous workforce has indeed changed, and more and more companies are hiring people from diverse groups. However, a lack of inclusive environment, i.e., the inability to adopt diversity in a single entity leads to hindrance in the organization’s culture and productivity.
To leverage diversity as a contributor to business profitability, one has to move beyond discussing diversity and create a culture of inclusion. There is a need for leaders and managers to bring a mindset shift in the workforce and create a culture of respect and care which will prevent bias.
Q- What are some challenges in creating a culture of inclusion?
A: We first need to understand the concept of inclusion. Inclusion is not a look and say approach, i.e., it can’t be practiced by merely looking at other organizations’ culture and adopting it as it is. You need to evaluate your organization’s challenges and develop practices that are relevant to each diverse group and consequently change mindsets. The two hurdles that organizations need to address right now to create an inclusive culture are:
1. Mindset Shift: Embedding inclusion at the workplace is incumbent to embracing the power of diversity. Organizations should adopt a top-down approach to creating awareness on inclusion. The leaders should first understand the significance of diversity and inclusion and influence a mindset shift to overcome behaviors that resist inclusion.
2. Creating Employee Experience: Developing a holistic work environment that is inclusive and enables development. This means giving employees a wholesome experience comprising of training, initiatives, and policies & benefits for each diverse group.
Q- How HR can take a more active role in creating a culture of inclusion?
A: HR needs to play a front facing role to infix diversity and inclusion in the organization’s DNA. The need is to view it as a business requisite rather than a CSR act. As practitioners, we need to review and reinvent the diversity and inclusion initiatives and policies that focus on eliminating issues like bias and stereotype threats. E.g., HR needs to know how managers are making compensation decisions. They need to ensure that women employees are getting equal salary as their male counterparts.
Q-What are some best practices and policies that helped SAP to build a truly inclusive environment?
A: Diversity and inclusion have been a priority for us over the last couple of years. Some of the initiatives that foster inclusiveness and diversity at SAP include-
1. Leadership Awareness Workshop: A full day workshop was hosted for all senior level executives to help them understand diversity and identify the importance of a diverse workforce. The workshop was organized by renowned researchers and leaders and was attended by SAP executives all around the world.
2. Back to work program: This program was launched for women to come back to work after a career break. It aims to provide flexibility in timings, role, and responsibility, etc. so that they can manage their professional as well as personal priorities.
3. SAP Talk: Managing multi-generational workforce is a challenge. A challenge arose regarding understanding the millennial mindset and build processes that are relevant to them. For example, instant gratification and instant feedback are an expectation by millennials. We rolled out a program called SAP Talk that builds a culture of continuous dialogue between managers and employees.
4. EDGE Certificate- Economic Dividends for Gender Equality (EDGE) is a global assessment and certification standard for gender equality at work. We were the first multinational technology company to be awarded the worldwide certificate, recognizing our global commitments and actions in achieving and sustaining gender diversity and equality in the workplace.