Interrupting the unconscious bias: Interview with Raman Kumar Singh, CHRO, ABB India
"An equal world is an enabled world."
Individually, we're all responsible for our own thoughts and actions - all day, every day.
We can actively choose to challenge stereotypes, fight bias, broaden perceptions, improve situations and celebrate achievements. Collectively, each one of us can help create an equal world where opportunities are not distributed on discriminatory basis rather accept and embrace diverse needs of the new-age workforce."
In this series of #EachForEqual, read this exclusive interaction with Raman Kumar Singh, CHRO, ABB India to know how to design and implement a well-rounded, organization-wide inclusion strategy.
Q: What are your views on workplace equity and workplace equality? What do you think is more important?
At ABB we are clear that workplace equity is a precursor to workplace equality. Creating and driving a gender diverse and inclusive workplace is a constant endeavor which requires daily action. Recognizing this, gender diversity & inclusion goals are part of our people strategy which is to be driven across the organization.
Q: How do you make equity at the workplace a leadership agenda?
ABB recognizes that a diverse and talented workforce provides the quality and skills required to create competitive advantage. Such diversity promotes both innovation and business success, if allowed to flourish in an atmosphere of inclusiveness. The purpose of the Diversity & Inclusion committee at ABB is not only to enhance diversity for the organization, but also leverage it for gender diverse workforce to achieve superior business results. To support this, our diversity metrics for measuring internal KPI’s are aligned with the Group People Strategy and crucial programs for capability building like the Women Leadership Development Program (RISE) for potential female employees to ensure we encourage and foster the next line of leadership.
Q: What are the opportunities for businesses in creating an equitable workplace? How can we change the mindset of people around equity and help them avoid any kind of unconscious bias?
Ease of working with someone is a major factor in employment considerations today. At ABB, we remain cognizant of this and driving an equitable workplace gives us an opportunity to create better leaders, innovate and be agile. For example, we train business leaders & employees on ‘Interrupting Unconscious Bias’ through training programs which would further help them to ponder over what could be some of the biases and how to engage and work in an inclusive work culture where we ensure a safe working environment. We also launched the Telecommute (work from home) policy which was a path breaking step in a typical manufacturing company which is measured a lot on productivity, but ABB embraced virtual tools and systems to increase connectivity in a smooth way. Additionally, our Re-Board Program aims to rehire former female employees. ABB also has day care facilities at all its locations that help in building an inclusive organisation by making the facility available for both men and women employees.
It also gives an opportunity for organizations to be more personal with an aim to humanize a workplace. For example, as part of an ongoing effort to build awareness & promote gender inclusion, the Diversity & Inclusion committee needs to communicate regularly on different aspects and showcasing personal stories of our female leaders throughout the year. This ensures we know the person beyond the role.
Q: Talking specifically about gender diversity, what do you see today as the biggest obstacles that block senior leaders from supporting gender equality and pay parity in their organizations?
In 2019, it was reported that 29 percent of senior management roles were held by women. While this is the highest number on record, it is indicative of how leadership ranks are still highly male dominated. Hence, in order to garner support from senior leaders for gender equality and pay parity, it is imperative that we focus on involving and engaging men in the gender equality movement. This would require organizations to make huge strides in creating awareness on gender equality, pay parity and the importance of an inclusive environment for business growth. At ABB India, gender diversity and inclusion goals are a key part of our people strategy. We continue to focus on training business leaders & employees on addressing unconscious bias through training programs which would further help senior management identify and address some of the biases, thus creating a safe and inclusive work environment.
Q: Conventional wisdom says that women hit a “glass ceiling” as they advance that prevents them from reaching senior leadership positions. In reality, the biggest obstacle that women face is the first step up to manager, or the “broken rung.” This broken rung results in more women getting stuck at the entry level and fewer women becoming managers. How do organizations fix this broken rung?
While the glass ceiling is a known challenge at senior levels, women continue to be underrepresented at all levels in an organization. Companies need to recognize the value of diversity and inclusion as a business priority, since a diverse workforce leads to more creativity, productivity and better employee retention. Companies need to focus on building and sustaining a culture of inclusivity by implementing programs that can help eliminate bias.
Q: How do organizations make sure that their women empowerment policies and programs are not discriminatory towards other forms of diversity?
For organizations to create a truly diverse and inclusive workforce it is essential that they lay emphasis on all minorities, equally. While gender equality is a major facet of such a movement, other aspects need to be taken into equal consideration. Companies can capitalize on the expertise of D&I (Diversity and Inclusion) specialists to address this and work closely with them to design and implement a well-rounded, organization-wide inclusivity strategy.
Q: How can an organization become an equal employer in the true sense?
Over the years, an increasing number of companies have realized the importance of a diverse workforce and are taking active steps towards its development. In order to become an equal employer, companies need to first recognize equality at the workplace as a business imperative. Companies can begin by creating awareness amidst business leaders and employees through training programs on how they can help facilitate a more inclusive work environment. Secondly, organisations need to work towards implementing programs that can turn the idea of a diverse and inclusive workforce into reality. These can include fair compensation, rewards and recognition programs, showcasing employee success stories, flexible working options to maintain work-life balance, etc. Lastly, it is essential that organisations continually review and benchmark their D&I program to stay up to date with evolving trends and improve ongoing practices.