Article: Scope of diversity and inclusion has to go beyond communities: Gauri Padmanabhan


Scope of diversity and inclusion has to go beyond communities: Gauri Padmanabhan

In a recent interaction with People Matters, Gauri Padmanabhan, Partner at Heidrick & Struggles discusses the key trend that will shape the talent priorities for business in 2020 and shares how the definition and scope of diversity and inclusion is changing.
Scope of diversity and inclusion has to go beyond communities: Gauri Padmanabhan

According to “White Paper: Hacking Diversity with Inclusive Decision-Making” study, “Inclusive teams make better decisions up to 87 percent of the time. Teams that follow an inclusive process make decisions 2X faster with half of the meetings. Decisions made and executed by diverse teams delivered 60 percent better results.”

Gauri Padmanabhan, Partner at Heidrick & Struggles reiterates the same, in a recent interaction with People Matters. She highlights how employees are more productive at work if they feel more inclusive. Read the excerpts from the interview and learn how the definition and scope of diversity and inclusion is changing and how you can create more inclusive workforces as you prepare the next curve of your transformation journey. 

What would be the key trend that will shape the talent priorities for business in 2020?

One of the biggest shifts the world of work is about to witness over the next 12 to 24 months is talent prioritizing skill building versus just acquiring an academic degree. 

Businesses are getting disrupted and technology is transforming the way businesses operate at all levels in an enterprise. There is a huge demand for new technical skills from people who did engineering degrees probably 10, 15, or 20 years ago. Innovation is the need of the hour for businesses to stay ahead of the curve and hence they look out for these new age skills to innovate solutions and make most of the opportunities technology comes with. 

The individuals who've honed their technical skills, are tech savvy and have the drive to put those skills to use and make a difference will be highly valued. The field of work could be marketing, it could be sales, supply chain or, finance, all of them will value the tech savvy, highly driven workforce. 

Among all the talent trends, the focus on diversity and inclusion has recently increased. The scope of diversity beyond gender is also being talked about. How do you think the definition and outlook for ‘diversity and inclusion’ is changing?

The focus until now had been only on diversity, more emphasis is now being made on inclusivity. In fact many companies are now also thinking of having a diversity and inclusion platform within the company. 

But first what needs to be set right is the scope of diversity and inclusion. It has to go beyond communities, it’s really diversity of thought and diversity of skill that’s critical for businesses.

I think more companies and leaders are going to need to think about diversity and inclusion from a much broader perspective, otherwise what they will have is a very inward limited enterprise. Linking this back to the entire piece on hiring for skills and learning for skills, the business and talent leaders need to hire people for their capabilities and potential, without any bias. 

Having that said, talent leaders would still have to work towards empowering underrepresented communities like women, senior professionals, and some cultural minorities. And again this is only because these groups of people could have high potential which is not being utilized because of lack of opportunities. 

Talent leaders have to help them become productive members of society. 

How have you redefined the way you approach your D&I strategy in recent years?

Our focus has been on getting our employees to think about D&I differently and therefore every employee in Heidrick and Struggles, in the last 12 months, has gone through training for unconscious bias.  

All of us come in with certain perceptions and we are not even sometimes aware of it, so for us the biggest challenge to attend to was: how do we build awareness within the employee base at Heidrick and help them deal with their unconscious biases when they deal with people, both employees and customers. 

In addition, we have created certain networks within the organizations that work internally as well as externally. Besides a women's inclusion network, there are a number of other networks for ethnic diversity and equality and inclusion for disability. These groups are very vibrant and powerful in the way they reach out to people both within the organization as well as externally. These dedicated groups engage the respective talent and help them be productive at work. 

We have also leveraged technology and built a proprietary tool, called SYNAPP. It helps employees see where they connect best with people within a group or a network. And it allows us talent and business leaders to analyze how people are connecting and communicating. The real time data acquired from this tool helps build for a stronger diversity and inclusion program. 

SYNAPP makes us aware about the groups of people who are a little isolated. It helps us identify how we can make them feel more inclusive. The technological tool has helped us from both people's perspective and business perspective, as when all the employees feel like an included member of the community, the collective productivity increases.  

How do you plan to transform it further in the coming year? 

The journey continues for us, as we enter a new year and a decade. Together as a company we continue to assess how we sort of build a workforce that is in some ways reflective of the society we live in. The important questions for us to attend to are: How do the women who return from a break feel more welcomed, productive, and build their growth path. Next, would be encouraging and driving conversation of prioritizing inclusivity among leadership. Also, make leaders aware about the value technology will bring in to drive diversity and inclusion within the organization and help organizations be more productive. 

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Topics: Diversity, #MyNextCurve

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