The highly-complex and ever-evolving financial industry demands swift, innovative, and bespoke solutions to stay ahead of the curve.
And diversity and inclusion is one of the fundamental pillars of long-term organisational success, in this pursuit, says Arijit Pal Choudhury, managing director head - HR & corporate communications at Nomura Services, India.
““Outside the box” ideas are unlocked only when individuals from diverse socio-economic backgrounds, gender, experiences, as well as physical and cognitive abilities come together. Powerfully leveraging these differences leads to the generation of new ideas, products and services,” he adds.
Needing to be closely interwoven with business strategy, and the organisation’s manpower, the diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) strategy should ensure that its workforce is a fair representation of its diverse customers. This, in turn, will allow them to be more aligned with customer needs.
However, Choudhury stresses diversity without inclusion is like having an engine without fuel. “It’s important that companies rejig organisational processes, practices and policies to ensure inclusion at the workplace lies at the heart of their DEI strategy.”
DEI has been an evolving journey at Nomura-India, which has advanced from being reactive to adopting a coherent strategy integrated with business imperatives, he says.
“In the last couple of years, we have gradually enhanced the proposition from culture building via awareness, education, and sensitisation sessions to now focusing on crafting specific policies, offering bespoke benefits, and making infrastructure adjustments to make a tangible impact. As a group, we also focus on multiple diversity strands such as race, women, LGBTQ+, mental health, disabilities, and neurodiversity,” says Choudhury.
Taking pride in being an equal opportunity employer, Choudhury says Nomura-India has fostered an ecosystem where people feel valued and are encouraged to realise their full potential on the back of inclusive employee policies and practices based on five pillars: leadership endorsement and role models; education, awareness and sensitisation; policies and programmes; facilities and benefits; and marking significant days and periods in the calendar.
“All our DEI initiatives are endorsed by senior leaders in the organisation in the form of leadership messages, and their involvement in planning and execution. In addition, through a multi-channel approach including unconscious bias programmes, external speaker series, and theatre, we focus on educating and sensitising our employees towards inclusion,” he says.
Nomura-India’s people policies and practices are written in gender-inclusive language and include people irrespective of their gender identity, gender expression, etc.
Leveraging tech to drive workplace inclusion
Organisations not only have a geographically distributed workforce, but also, one looking for flexibility now. With technological advancements such as artificial intelligence and the metaverse, complimented by remote working, organisations have access to an increasingly diverse talent pool.
“HR, as a workplace function, is going through massive digital transformation. We have adopted a new-age technology tool to enhance employee experience all the way from hiring to exit. In recent years, due to the pandemic, new inequalities like proximity bias have surfaced. We are working towards leveraging technology and sensitising managers and employees to ensure that we eliminate inequalities stemming from whether people join meetings in person or remotely,” says Choudhury.
“Further, we have digital solutions and vendors who help us source CVs from a diverse talent pool including underrepresented diversity strands. Technology has brought in flexibility at the workplace, which in turn has helped expand the talent pool. Candidates with disabilities, those from remote locations in the country, or women who were on a career break, all of whom may have found it difficult to continue in a job or join the mainstream, now find technology as a great enabler to bring them back into the work fold,” he adds.
Pitfalls in implementing DEI strategies
The complex subject of DEI has many unexpected obstacles, intricacies, and pitfalls to navigate. Often, organisations look at diversity through a linear lens which results in oversimplification.
“Diversity is not linear and largely exists at the intersection of various diversity strands. The question managers and leaders are constantly asking themselves is whether they need to do something different to ensure all employees feel comfortable, included and have a sense of belonging,” says Choudhury.
Another pitfall, he says, is the one-size-fits-all approach, when in reality, DEI is about creating bespoke opportunities and solutions for people.
“That is where the E or equity of DEI comes in. DEI cannot be calendarised and event-based. DEI strategy should be integrated within the organisation’s strategy and involve a systematic approach towards driving inclusion and belonging,” he adds.
Many organisations also fall into the trap of diversity metrics.
“When companies start chasing a diversity number and it becomes a mandate for recruiters and managers, it steals the essence of DEI, which is to address a human challenge, impacting real human lives. Sharing real individual success stories from DEI efforts, as well as specific approaches to recruitment, on-boarding and career development that are built on the foundations of DEI, will be more impactful for firms,” says Choudhury.
He adds that the biggest pitfall is not aligning the DEI strategy with business goals. “While there are various credible advantages to having a DEI agenda, it needs to be aligned to the overall business strategy for it to be more widely and deeply ingrained within the organisation,” he stresses.