Diversity is any dimension that can be used to differentiate groups and people from one another’. It is the unique characteristics that differentiate each one of us as individuals or members of a group- ethnicity, gender, age, national origin, disability, sexual orientation, education and religion. Inclusion is welcoming and embracing the strengths of our differences thereby encouraging involvement and providing equal access to opportunities and information. It’s about focusing on the needs of every individual and creating an environment to enable individuals to perform to their full potential. Workplaces perceived as diverse have the highest levels of employee engagement and have strong correlation to the employee productivity. With globalization and emergence of multinational companies in the last few decades, diversity agenda has received a major push.
D&I has gained currency in recent times, as organizations are working towards building a cohesive and collaborative work environment that will help achieve continuous growth and customer trust. In a new order, that focuses on achieving meaningful results, the potential benefits from this ‘melting pot’ is not only helping in building a goodwill but also profitability. The Diversity & Inclusion agenda offers us a unique opportunity to strengthen connect with our customers, employees and stakeholders.
In today's global competitive arena, successful companies capitalize on diversity and inclusion as a source of competitive advantage. Just like the target market of the company is far from homogeneous, similarly the workforce comes from different backgrounds, skills and aptitudes. Far from being a challenge, diversity can create competitive advantage by increasing innovation, acceptance and problem-solving capacity. Benefits of having diverse workforce include:
War of Talent: There is an immense crunch of good employees with desired skillsets. In such a scenario, it is very important to tap every employee pool necessary. Restricting yourself to engaging with a particular set of employees reduces the possibility of getting a talented employee.
Acceptance: In today’s scenario companies, both large and small, are working in multiple geographies. Even domestic companies face a shifting demography along the lines of language, nationality, religion and race. As a result, customer expectations about the way the company should work are diverse and the best way to gain acceptance of customers is to reflect the diversity of the customer base.
Innovation: Diversity is not simply about having a heterogeneous workforce. Companies employ the concept in developing new products, services and business concepts. Managers increasingly realize that diversity of experience, opinion and background help conceive new ideas. Additionally, a diverse workforce ensures that product and service concepts do not conflict with different cultural values.
Control Groupthink: Groupthink is an approach in which people in a small, cohesive team stick to their group's values and mentality to the extent that they do not consider realistic alternative views from outside. Groupthink leads decision makers to unanimity rather than to the best decision. Diversity and inclusion can fend off the dangers of groupthink by offering fresh perspective and alternative solutions.
Having a diverse workforce isn’t the solution to all the problems. The most important issue comes once the diversity goals are at its place i.e. “Inclusion”. If diversity is about having the right team photo, then that is not very hard. We can get diverse people in the door, and declare success. But without a focus on inclusion, five years later many of those people will have gone, and the team photo will look the same as ten years ago. Inclusion in that context then becomes more important as it is about making sure people can make the contribution they were brought in to make.
In today’s scenario, when we talk of diversity and inclusion it has gone beyond the discussion of gender. Today, diversity and inclusion means having a healthy male is to female ratio, multigenerational mix within employees, Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender acceptance, and acceptance of differently abled employees.
Building an inclusive workplace is a structured process and requires a deep understanding of company’s present state and desired state. Below are few recommended steps to embed into our culture:
- Building Core Skills Equipping the crucial management population with tools, skills and confidence to drive the D&I agenda
- Chartering the D&I Journey – Before you go ahead with a strategy to embrace D&I into your organization, it is very important to understand the pulse of your organization and the business goals that you want to achieve through D&I. A well-researched Business case with facts and figures needs to be drafted to get the buy in from the senior leadership.
- Appreciating the differences – Self-awareness session to understand the difference between Diversity and Inclusion and appreciate connections between attitude, behaviour and performance
- Inclusive Leadership - Enabling individuals and groups to contribute to their fullest potential by leveraging and addressing their unique experiences and abilities for the collective benefit of all stakeholders
It is very important to continually measure yourself on success parameters. Both lag and lead indicators need to be put in place to ensure that we are on the right track. Steps taken by Bharti AXA Life to bridge the gap and create an inclusive workplace:
Building a Strong Foundation
This includes assessing the current state, establish business case and prepare detailed plans. At Bharti AXA Life, our D&I journey started with an elaborate case study that measures the pros and cons of the plunging into diversity. A strong business case is critical to build D&I in the fabric of the organization. Diversity & Inclusion audit was conducted to assess the current state and understand the pulse of the organization. Based on the audit findings, and elaborate D&I Roadmap has been created to dial up our diversity and inclusion quotient.
An Inclusive Approach to Talent Management
Creating an inclusive environment is integral part of our Talent strategy. We strive and find new ways and avenues to attract and retain talents. As a part of our Talent initiatives we have partnered with leading Management Institutes to recruit next generation talent. Focus on gender hiring through, a ‘Second Career platform’ for women who have taken a career break for any personal exigencies. Comprehensive ‘Onboarding process’ has been designed to enhance experience for the new joiner and make them feel included. Leadership development opportunities, coaching, mentoring and Reverse Mentoring Programs help us to further strengthen our talent pipeline. Gender specific initiatives like Women@AXA - ERG, Sponsorship programme and Women Leadership programme helps to groom and accelerate career path for women talents.
An educational approach can help to negate many fears that people have when it comes to addressing diversity. Raising awareness and gaining knowledge on diverse workforce is a critical factor to create inclusive workplace. ‘Diversity and Inclusion Toolkit’ servers as a ready reckon for employees to embrace diversity and provide them guidance on how they can practice inclusion. This covers topics like, LGBT handbook, working with Differently abled employees, Back from Maternity leave, Tackling Unconscious Bias, Adoption handbook, Multi-generation at workplace and Prevention of Sexual Harassment.
A month long celebration was conducted to build awareness on Diversity, Inclusion and Parity through a series of fun filled activities. It is important to use multiple communication vehicles to lay the foundation
Inclusive policies and practices
Building an inclusive workplace starts from building clear and objective processes which are free from biases. This process begins right from hiring and recruitment processes, Talent management, Succession Planning, Performance management, rewards and recognitions, compensation, learning and development opportunities etc. Employee friendly policies such as Extended Maternity Leave, Adoption Leave, Paternity leave, Flexible working hours are available to help employees to strike work life balance.
Assessment & Benchmarking
We are in the process of conducting an Infrastructure audit across all branches to evaluate their quality accessibility, and safely from a diverse workforce perspective. The target group for this audit will be gender and differently abled employees. To create sustainability, we have devised strong processes of measuring our D&I on regular basis, in the form of Diversity & Inclusion scorecard, putting a strong governance structure and regular Engagement surveys to gauge 360 degree perspective.