In these trying times, as global economies are coming to terms with the new normal and are in the process of resurrecting, it is ever more important to focus on building and nurturing a diverse workforce. And diversity of not just people from varied ethnic backgrounds, nationalities, and genders, but also folks who bring diversity of thought, can be an asset to any company, seeking ’out of box’ and agile solutions to beat the challenges brought up by the new, post COVID world. They may include people from different industry backgrounds, educational qualifications, professional experience or age, apart from their demographics.
And while diversity in the workplace has been encouraged in the modern professional world, it is yet to be fully understood. Decision makers and HR leads need to first understand that it goes much deeper than to just recruit a ‘diverse’ pool of people to build cross-functional and global teams at work and need to learn how to best leverage these enriching skill sets to the best possible use for the business. Above all, they need to also appreciate diversity and inclusion as a method to bring different perspectives for problem solving and driving innovation, so as to gain a ‘competitive advantage’ over just being an HR policy and corporate image building tool.
In order to attain ‘competitive advantage’ by leveraging the diverse workforce, one needs to identify, nurture and work towards a consistent performance management plan, that is sensitive, customised, engaging and enriching for the employees, as much as it is to the company. Managing employee performance is the key to build competitiveness and ensure growth through continuous monitoring, feedback and training. While all employees need to have fair performance management systems to keep them productive, an organisation also should give some consideration for differences and uniqueness of its employees.
Listed here are 5 key steps to ensure this is done smoothly and effectively:
- Understanding the strength of Diversity: The gist of having a diverse work pool means there are complementary and unexplored skill sets in every member of the team. Analysing and understanding the individual strengths and areas of improvement, in an unbiased manner, without encouraging stereotypes or bringing in prejudices of caste or religion. Class, race, gender or sexual orientation, is the first step. Not only does this help build a neutral environment that puts talent and skills above all else, but it also makes employees feel respected, valued and understood, while providing them with a supportive environment where they can excel and perform, without the fear of being judged or rejected.
- Building trust in leadership: An unbiased and approachable Paternalistic Leadership is important to build trust among employees. As much as it is important to set rules for conduct and basic operational and behavioral protocols, it is important for employees to feel that they can trust their leader and thus the company, to be non-discriminatory and that their talents and efforts are appreciated. This, in turn, will help build and nurture a diverse set of next-gen leaders, within the company, that are efficient and well nurtured, to become successful partners in the growth of the firm.
- Meaningful employee engagement: Most companies tend to have the standard employee feedback mechanisms to evaluate their performance and identify any problems or challenges that anyone may be facing at work. And while these are a part of the basic ‘good HR practice’, it needs to go much farther than just being the only way to collect feedback on employee performance. Other ways such as 360-degree feedback are very important to reduce unfairness. Regular and meaningful engagement with a diverse pool of employees, helps in not only creating a positive environment but also builds team spirit and provides employees a chance to face/ seek solutions to their challenges, either among themselves or through HR. Measuring employee “engagement” is equally important as is measuring employee “satisfaction”.
- Customised performance review: Just like it’s important to understand individual strengths and weaknesses when assigning KRA’s, it’s important to analyse individual challenges and roadblocks. Because just like strengths and weaknesses, each member of a diverse pool, comes with their own set of challenges and roadblocks, both personal and professional, when dealing with work. Hence, customised and empathetic work reviews matter, when one is ensuring that every employee feels motivated and supported enough to give their best to the organisation. Also, frequent feedback on employees should be part of the performance management process especially coming from diverse set of folks to achieve equity
- Equal growth opportunities: Last but not the least, it is important to nurture, train and help employees develop their individual skills and talents, and offer them equal growth opportunities based on their talents and strengths. Ultimately, the growth and success of a business depends on the growth of its employees. And just like no single approach can fit all, managers and HR heads can be pleasantly surprised at how much of a competitive edge and diversely enriching skill sets a rich pool of people can bring to an organisation. Its culture, its work ethics, environment and the overall spirit of teamwork and commitment to give their best for the growth of the company.
Going forward, our differences and varied backgrounds is what is going to help us survive and get through the post COVID era, to build a more inclusive, and growth oriented economy.
This article was first published in March 2021.