Article: Business strategies, not just HR programmes, drive diversity and inclusion, says BNY Mellon’s Sudish Panicker


Business strategies, not just HR programmes, drive diversity and inclusion, says BNY Mellon’s Sudish Panicker

Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) practices have undergone many transformations over the years. However, there is more to an inclusive work environment than just goodwill or absence of harassment, says Sudish Panicker, Managing Director and Head, BNY Mellon Operations, India.
Business strategies, not just HR programmes, drive diversity and inclusion, says BNY Mellon’s Sudish Panicker

Over the years, organisations have seen a transformative change in how they approach their diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) practices. It has become amply clear that while the diversity of the team is important, inclusion and belonging is what unlocks the strength in diversity.

When leaders are able to create an organisation in which everyone can be themselves and celebrate their differences at work, the organisation shows a significant growth trajectory.

However, Sudish Panicker, Managing Director and Head, BNY Mellon Operations, India, says there is more to an inclusive work environment than open goodwill or the absence of harassment. As sexual orientation and gender identity can be an invisible form of diversity, it is not often discussed or addressed at work.

Many LGBTQ+ individuals often feel the need to hide their gender identity, as they feel they may no longer be accepted or included in group activities. When the stress and effort of hiding your true identity impacts your well-being and productivity, the business case for inclusion becomes crystal clear, he contends.

“All too often, creating inclusion gets lost in the focus on hiring metrics, promotion metrics, and fair pay.  Employees who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, or gender nonbinary (LGBTQ+) in today’s workplace face a disproportionate share of fear of losing ground at work and feeling isolated. In general, they report more acute work-related challenges than their straight and cisgender peers, including increased workload and stress over performance reviews, as well as a heightened loss of connectivity and belonging,” he adds.

In an interaction with People Matters, Panicker talks about the need for organisations to review their policies for LGBTQ+ inclusion and ways in which organisations can make workplaces more LGBTQ+ friendly.

Why do organisations need to review their policies for LGBTQ+ inclusion?

The most powerful strategies to drive inclusion and diversity come from business strategy, not HR programmes. When a business has the right focus, HR practices add value.

Studies have shown that LGBTQ-supportive policies often directly correlate to greater job commitment, improved workplace relationships, increased job satisfaction, and improved health outcomes among employees belonging to this community.

For businesses, this could have a positive impact on recruitment and retention, new ideas generated by drawing on a workforce with a wide range of characteristics and experiences, and attracting and better serving a diverse customer base.

At BNY Mellon, DE&I is integral to who we are as a company, what our people experience as members of our global team, and how we serve all our stakeholders. Our four-pillar DE&I strategy is embedded in our business strategy, operating model, talent experience, and client value proposition.

BNY Mellon employees come from all races, ethnicities, cultures, genders, sexual orientations, ages, abilities, and backgrounds. To ensure that diversity advances, we develop tools, conversation guides, and learning sessions for senior leaders and managers, annually publish DE&I metrics for workplace diversity, senior leader diversity, supplier diversity, pay equity, and board diversity; and regularly conduct pay gap analyses and implement processes to address any gaps.

We also embed DE&I in every stage of the talent life cycle and strengthen an ecosystem of capability and support to improve diverse talent hiring, development, advancement, and retention. For example, we leverage technology such as artificial intelligence to tap into more diverse talent pools and enhance engagement with diverse candidates in the recruitment process.

Why do companies need gender-neutral language in HR policies and payroll systems? What are the benefits?

While a small tweak in language may seem inconsequential to most of us, it can go a long way in respecting non-binary individuals, with much of our everyday language often alienating people who don’t identify as exclusively male or female.

One of the most effective ways to promote DE&I policies that are friendly to all genders is to normalise and implement the usage of non-binary pronouns. While updating manuals, documentation, processes, and office language may seem daunting, using digital tools can help align employees with this purpose and create opportunities for communication and connection.

Companies can even enlist the help of LGBTQ employee groups to provide guidance on the best way to incorporate the usage of pronouns in official channels of communication.

What is the need for LGBTQ+ training in the workplaces? The best way to execute it?

Training the staff effectively on the nuances of the LGBTQ+ community may seem like an exhaustive task.

Shifts in organisational culture and practices require buy-in at all organisational levels. The way a company designs, communicates and implements the training plan must consider the needs of all staff members, so it becomes imperative to gather input from varied perspectives very early in the planning process.

At BNY Mellon, we conduct regular sensitisation workshops to build empathy and compassion amongst employees towards their fellow LGBTQ+ colleagues, with a special focus on appropriate ways of addressing individuals.

Over and above mandatory courses about inherent biases for employees, we have also developed resources to design practical strategies that try to mitigate the impact of bias on the quality of workplace decisions and actions.

How can DE&I hiring initiatives be focused on the LGBTQ+ community, persons with disabilities (PwDs)?

Building diverse, equitable, and inclusive teams takes deliberate work. Because of human bias and without intentionality, people often gravitate toward those who are familiar to them, and those who share similar backgrounds.

The first step in improving DE&I hiring is to create an actionable DE&I recruiting strategy that is impactful for your teams, which not only takes investment but is a continuous process of eliminating unconscious bias.

Similarly, companies often mistake hiring persons with disabilities with being “the right thing to do”, but do not evaluate the talent that will benefit them and outweigh what they see as potential expenses and risks. By sensitising all employees on the challenges that persons with disabilities face, organisations can create a work environment where such employees can contribute at their best.

We have established a culture of interdependence where our Employee Business Resource Groups (EBRGs) collaborate amongst each other as well as with our Talent Development and Wellbeing teams to ensure cohesive support towards other forms of diversity while building a culture of growth and belonging aligned with our core values.

How can organisations make workplaces more LGBTQ+ friendly?

There are a few ways that organisations can create a more LGBTQ+ friendly workplace, including:

Inclusive policies and organisational culture - Inclusive policies include considerations of personal and other characteristics, zero tolerance for violence and harassment, and making available dedicated resources to pursue diversity and inclusion, as well as addressing specific issues workers might face with regard to their gender and sexual diversity.

Language – As mentioned before, using gender-neutral language in company communications, workplace policies and programmes, and forms, fosters gender equality and can help gender non-conforming workers feel included.

Leadership and visibility - A visibly inclusive work culture can help LGBTQ+ workers feel comfortable, welcomed, and open in the workplace. In fact, we have senior leaders who are out and open in our company, something that has encouraged a culture of openness and belonging. Our senior executives and management are encouraged to show commitment to diversity and inclusion, offer sponsorship (such as advising and creating opportunities for underrepresented groups), and speak against discriminatory behaviour.

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Topics: Diversity, Employee Engagement, #DEIB, #PrideMonth

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