Article: Embrace cognitive and demographic diversity for a positive work culture: BluWheelz’s Pranay Prakash

Diversity

Embrace cognitive and demographic diversity for a positive work culture: BluWheelz’s Pranay Prakash

In conversation with Pranay Prakash of BluWheelz, learn about emerging DE&I trends, leadership strategies, and best practices for creating an inclusive and equitable work environment.
Embrace cognitive and demographic diversity for a positive work culture: BluWheelz’s Pranay Prakash

Pranay Prakash is the Head of Human Resources at BluWheelz. With nearly 20 years of experience in the industry, he comes with expertise in scaling operations and implementing transformative HR practices across enterprises like PokerBaazi, SportsBaazi, and CardBaazi. Having also contributed to the development and success of intensively growth-driven organisations such as Delhivery, Optum, UnitedHealth Group, and Reliance Retail, Pranay is now invested in changing the paradigm of leadership and helping build human-centred processes for a wide range of businesses. He also holds extensive expertise across Logistics, Technology, Manufacturing & Mining, BPO / ITES, and Consumer Durables industries.

In this exclusive interview with People Matters, Pranay shares his thoughts on the emerging trends in DE&I (Diversity, Equity and Inclusion), how organisations can align DE&I initiatives with business goals and more. 

Here are some excerpts from the conversation.

As the landscape of work continues to evolve, how do you see the concept of diversity and inclusion evolving, and what emerging trends or best practices do you believe will shape the future of workplace diversity?

With the changing landscape, diversity in the workplace has extended beyond the contours of gender to include a wide spectrum of identities and backgrounds. Individuals belonging to different economic groups, educational backgrounds, ages, and cultures are entering the workforce. Companies are opening their doors to specially-abled people and LGBTQ+ individuals, thus acknowledging their importance in driving growth. 

Leaders need to welcome diversity in its multifaceted forms to create a thriving workforce that is inclusive and equitable in its truest sense. They must formulate policies in a way that keeps pace with the changing needs of the workforce and revise them timely to stay relevant. Creating a safe space where everyone feels valued and respected for who they are and the unique skill sets they bring to the table is also important. 

In your opinion, what role does leadership play in driving diversity and inclusion efforts within organisations, and how do you ensure that leaders at BluWheelz are actively championing these values?

Leaders are the face of the organisation and it is pivotal that they champion diversity and inclusion, failing which all DE& I policies would go for a toss. They need to embrace both cognitive and demographic diversity to create a positive culture. Their experience and adeptness at managing different perspectives can make a radical difference. 

The most critical part is for the leadership to set a compelling vision and the right policies for DE&I that align with the overall values and goals. At Bluwheelz, we continually focus on creating a safe workspace around the diverse workforce that we have and continue to acquire and offer equitable opportunities. Diversity at Bluwheelz is not only a number but a reflection of the kind of opportunities we offer. Recruiting on merit is just the start, but employees are included in various internal groups and projects, not based on their seniority, but the nature of their role.

Building an inclusive culture requires ongoing commitment and effort. What were some of the challenges that you faced in this journey, and how did the company overcome or address them? 

I agree. Having a diverse workforce in an organisation is promising, but it would fall short of its goals if it were not inclusive. It calls for both individual and collective efforts to bring about meaningful on-the-ground change. 

The challenges are no different than what any other leader would have faced—unconscious bias amongst staff, resistance to change, inconsistent policies, and an inability to understand cultural differences are just a few examples. Breaking down the communication barriers, providing adequate training and sensitisation, and continuing to increase the diverse representation are some of the initiatives that have given positive results. Leaders need to be cognizant of the diverse needs of team members and celebrate their differences. 

We should aspire to become, as Jimmy Carter once mentioned, “Not a melting pot but a beautiful mosaic. Different people, different beliefs, different yearnings, different hopes, different dreams.” 

Diversity and inclusion are not only about policies and programmes but also about fostering a sense of belonging among employees. How can organisations create an environment where every employee feels valued, respected, and included?

Although DE&I policies reflect an organisation's commitment to acknowledging and respecting employee differences and yield tangible benefits too, they alone won’t suffice in creating a healthy workplace culture. They need to be implemented in a practical manner and on a day-to-day basis, as building a healthy work environment is a continuous and consistent process. 

To inculcate a sense of belonging among employees, show that the organisation cares about them. It’s the small things that matter. Try to squeeze in some time to check on them. Value their inputs while creating policies and programmes that impact them. Embrace their unique individuality and avoid situations where they might feel alienated. Envision a culture that supports them in becoming the best version of themselves. 

Given your experience in both HR and business leadership roles, how do you align diversity and inclusion efforts with broader business goals and objectives at BluWheelz?

For us, DE&I initiatives are not standalone projects but part of the overall business objective. Being an integral part of our overarching business strategy, we try to align our endeavours towards creating a holistic work environment. Being an early-stage company is an added advantage, as we can focus on creating an inclusive culture and driving collaboration across diverse teams. We are fortunate to have the flexibility to shape our workplace culture from the very outset and bring in innovative solutions that address issues that impact other organisations.   

Another opportunity area is to break the myths around certain roles and industries being dominated by one gender or set of people. At Bluwheelz, we challenge prevailing societal norms to make space for diverse identities and make sure they are valued and respected. 

Finally, what is one piece of advice you would offer to other organisations striving to create more inclusive workplaces?

One key piece of advice would be to have a diverse top management team as well. The executives at the workplace speak volumes about an organisation. It is usually seen that diversity and inclusion policies are aimed at grass-roots levels, leaving the key decision-makers behind. 

Also, try to have a diverse clientele, which will provide insights into varied customer needs and preferences. Identify microaggressions at the workplace and work proactively to address them. According to a study by McKinsey, 84% of respondents say that they become victims of microaggressions at the workplace. 

Acknowledge the cultural practices of employees and make them feel valued by encouraging their active participation in policy-making. This would forge a nexus of multicultural ideas and breed new solutions to pressing problems. 

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Topics: Diversity, Leadership, #HRCommunity

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