Article: Checklist diversity often leads to a failed policy: Head HR, Tata Starbucks


Checklist diversity often leads to a failed policy: Head HR, Tata Starbucks

“We believe we have a responsibility to help create opportunity, advance equity and encourage economic growth in every community we serve. ‘Checklist’ diversity often leads to a failed policy,” says Nabamita Banerjee, Head Human (Partner) Resources at Tata Starbucks
Checklist diversity often leads to a failed policy: Head HR, Tata Starbucks

Nabamita Banerjee is the Head Human (Partner) Resources at Starbucks India.

Nabamita has over 15 years of experience across the Human Resource Management domain with expertise in Business partnering, Compensation & Benefits, HR Operations, and Talent management.

She joined Tata Starbucks back in 2014 and has risen through the ranks taking on the role of an HR leader for the retail giant.

In this exclusive interview with People Matters, Nabamita highlighted the risks of checklist diversity, balancing the multi-faceted needs of underrepresented communities, the role of men in enabling gender equity, and  advised how to steer clear of tokenism in hiring and cultural transformation efforts.

Among the many elements of talent strategies that drew global attention in 2021, one key element was DEI. How is Tata Starbucks enabling sustainable DEI in everyday work vs occasional awareness programs?

Our mission and values at Tata Starbucks reflect our fundamental principle - Everyone is welcome! We aspire to be a place of inclusion, diversity and equity where everybody cherishes the human connections over a cup of coffee.

Diversity and inclusion are an integral part of our business that makes us a better organisation.

Our partners are diverse not only in gender, sexual orientation,  religion and age, but also in cultural backgrounds, life experiences, thoughts and ideas. 

Building an inclusive culture:

  • Hiring tools to remove biases, ensuring candidates are evaluated based on experience and capabilities rather than gender etc.
  • Ensuring adequate representation of female partners at the hiring stage
  • Creating a Buddy program to support new joiners through the initial journey of settling in
  • Sensitisation programs across stores and partners to build a culture of belongingness and be welcoming to all our partners 
  • Implementing a flexible working model for partners
  • Recognising gender diversity and inclusion ambassadors
  • Including families of our partners, in celebrating organisation and partner milestones, and encouraging them to support a positive change towards a gender balanced and inclusive environment. 

Our women partners (employees) make up for 35% of Tata Starbucks workforce, a key gender diversity milestone towards our goal to achieve 40% gender diversity by the end of 2022. 

We have also established an internal Women Impact Network @ Starbucks to provide a platform for women to learn from shared experiences, experience leadership and mentorship programs, and to further advance gender diversity and provide support to women in communities.

Our All Women stores- a global first initiative acts as a medium to challenge the myths and stereotypes around women’s capabilities in leading café/ restaurants. With a total of 11 such women operating stores in Mumbai, Bengaluru & New Delhi, this initiative empowers female partners in a new and meaningful way and instills pride as they deliver the Starbucks experience.

With the pace of change still slow, how can organisations better balance the needs of underrepresented communities across access to employment, mental healthcare, career growth and cultural inclusion?

Balancing the needs of underrepresented communities is essential for the smooth functioning of any organisation. We partner with many skilling institutes to embrace partners from underserved communities, many of which also undergo apprenticeship programs with us. In case they get hired, we also offer them an opportunity to pursue a graduation program sponsored by the organisation.

We believe that offering flexible roles / part time employment opportunities and the flexibility to work from home or office depending upon the nature of the job, allows employees the liberty to balance their personal and professional lives- which in turn results in a higher happiness quotient and higher levels of productivity.

Amongst many of Tata Starbucks’ diversity initiatives in India, Brew of Balance has over the years created flexible employment opportunities for talent returning to workforce from a career break. To encourage references for such talent internally, Starbucks offers an enhanced bonus for their references. The company also encourages hiring ‘second-career’ women through the Tata Second Careers, Inspiring Possibilities (SCIP) platform.  

Apart from the flexible employment options, a 5-day work schedule available to all partners, Starbucks has always been a pioneer in introducing women focussed programs including access to Women’s Impact Network, extended maternity and sabbatical leave, as well as mentoring and accelerated development programs for key talent.

Tata Starbucks also has stores with signing (hearing and speech impaired) partners, who have access to learning content in signing language, and also have inclusive customer facing tools such as visual menus and coffee tasting tools. 

Mental well-being of our partners is as important to us as their physical health. We recently introduced an initiative called – Your Dost, which gives our partners and their families, an opportunity to anonymously speak to over 1000+ mental health experts. The helpline offers counselling sessions and support 24/7 in over 20+ Indian languages through online chat, video calls and telephonic calls. Furthermore, it’s 100% confidential to ensure our partners feel the most comfortable to seek help.

We try to ensure that our partners (employees) never have to choose between work and home. We have also introduced programmes like Silent Hours, Work from Home Desk, Internet Policy, etc to improve their work life balance.

How can organisations steer clear of tokenism in their hiring and cultural transformation efforts?

We believe we have a responsibility to help create opportunity, advance equity and encourage economic growth in every community we serve. ‘Checklist’ diversity often leads to a failed policy.

As a community, we ensure that we look at Diversity as a transition for our partners and offer them a supportive environment which is based on principles such as equal footing, transparency, and accountability.

Equal footing implies paying partners based on their skills, abilities, experience and performance and never basing it on gender. Transparency includes publishing pay equity progress annually and using an offer standards calculator to determine starting pay range for roles. Accountability allows setting a goal to achieve pay equity, conducting comprehensive compensation analysis, analysing compensation decisions before they are final and more.

We are committed to taking further actions toward tangible and lasting change. In 2019, we achieved 100% gender pay equity and set an ambitious target to increase our workforce's female representation to 40% by the end of 2022.

How impactful are virtual learning programs to sensitise the workforce and leadership towards being more inclusive? What are some essentials to shaping meaningful and transformative learning experiences and bringing sustainable mindset and cultural change?

With our focus on building capability and upskilling our talent, we issued various online learning programmes to ensure  our partners found ways to make productive use of their time. Communication, collaboration and celebration were themes that we prioritised. Our weekly coffee connects with all our partners, became an important listening platform for us at a time where there was little in-person interaction. Through these connects, we celebrated partner efforts on finding new ways to grow, acting with courage, passion for service and inclusive leadership.

COVID-19 also gave us as a chance to re-align and re-assess priorities and the pandemic didn’t affect our learning journey. During the lockdowns, we conducted extensive training sessions especially for our store partners (employees) through a blend of virtual classroom training and self-paced learning. The Starbucks Global Academy, a key learning platform, is extended to families of our partners as well as our vendor partners.

I personally think that the two key essentials in order to transform and bring a sustainable mindset and cultural change are - transparency and accountability.

For example, if I talk about pay equity principles at Starbucks ,Transparency will emerge by publishing pay equity progress annually and using an offer standards calculator to determine starting pay range for roles. Accountability will allow setting a goal to achieve pay equity, conducting comprehensive compensation analysis, analysing compensation decisions before they are final and more.

Particular to gender diversity, how do you see the role of men in enabling and accelerating gender equity?

Women would greatly benefit from having allies in the workplace to harbour an environment which is nurturing for everyone. In a workplace, eliminating discriminatory behaviours allows men to enjoy respectful relationships, while promoting greater collaborations with underrepresented communities. Eliminating such behaviours requires that men play an active role in enabling and accelerating gender equity.

As leadership positions are traditionally occupied by more men than women, many of the efforts needed at the corporate level (breaking down barriers, etc.) would deliver better outcomes if men took an active role. 

What role does technology play in accelerating the DEI agenda, especially in the emerging hybrid ecosystem?  

With shifting paradigms in the new normal, the future of the workplace has moved towards renewed focus on inclusion and diversity. The success of an organisation is now majorly determined by how inclusive, mentally and physically, the employees and customers feel about the organisation.

Companies have become proactive in creating greater transparency in communications and new systems, and policies and reinterpreting their corporate culture around digital in the workplace.

At our organisation, all partner forums are conducted in a way, that talent joining in person and virtually, can seamlessly participate and interact with each other. Onboardings, recognitions etc. are all enabled in a way that talent can engage virtually, and feel included. The role of technology is critical here to ensure we are able to offer flexibility to our talent, in a hybrid working set up. 

What are your top three DEI priorities for 2022?

Tata Starbucks is creating opportunities through its flexible employment programs as part of its ongoing commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion.

  • Women partners now make up to 35% of its workforce, a key gender diversity milestone toward its goal to achieve 40 percent gender diversity by the end of 2022. We continue to promote opportunities for women within the company, boosting the share of female partners (employee)
  • We will continue to create opportunities for all partners ‘to shine in leadership roles’ , create opportunities for women returning to the workforce from maternity leave, career breaks, offers more flexibility, including a five-day work schedule, childcare assistance, access to the Women Inclusion Network @ Starbucks platform, as well as family and sabbatical leave. 
  • We also believe in addressing the issue of girl child education. We have collaborated with non-profit organisations, Educate Girls, to improve girls’ education in rural and underprivileged areas and VIDYA India, to provide volunteering and educational support to girls and young women from underserved communities in urban cities. We will continue our efforts in the direction of women empowerment.
  • We would wish to add more all women stores to embrace diversity and inclusion of various genders and abilities.

How are industries performing on their DEI strategies? What are the deterrents, markers of progress and the next steps on making workplaces more diverse, equitable and inclusive? Participate in the multi-industry DEI survey and share your inputs. Click here to take the survey now.

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Topics: Diversity, #BreaktheBias

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