We all know there is a lot going on in reimagining the workplaces of the future. There are so many important questions we have yet to answer, among them: What will collaboration look like? Will physical offices continue to serve a purpose? How can we set up a successful hybrid-work arrangement?
Within the entirety of this work, it’s important to repeatedly ask, “Where does diversity, inclusion, and belonging (DIBs) fit in?”
What we have seen in working with hundreds of organizations over the past year is that the call to action on DIBs—globally—has never been louder. Spurred by some of the events that happened in the U.S. that have spread around the world and have required organizations to step into the conversation, we have an opportunity to weave DIBs into the fabric of how we reimagine workplaces of the future, putting people at the center.
Diversity, inclusion, and belonging from an Asia-Pacific perspective
DIBs is a relevant conversation everywhere in the world, especially as it relates to employee experience.
Let’s look at the Asia-Pacific (APAC) region as an example. It has a wide range of geographic, ethnic, and cultural diversity, and there are certainly nuances to DIBs conversations here by country that we need to consider. Yet there are themes that emerge across the region and coincide with DIBs challenges we see around the world.
For instance, if we look at gender, we can see that progress is slow, and we have work to do to improve representation and equity at all levels.
In India, Only 3% of CEOs and managing directors of National Stock Exchange-listed companies were women in 2019. In Japan, women earn 23.5% less than their male counterparts. In Australia, women make up only 18% of CEOs.
DIBs conversations in the region that extend beyond gender are still nascent, as seen in research that shows a gap in programs aimed at ethnic minorities and LGBTQ groups. Colorism is rampant in many parts of Asia, and has implications for exclusion inside and outside the workplace.
Start with the common ‘why’
Some might see DIBs work as benefiting only a few, generally in an underrepresented minority. Other groups, often those who hold positions of power and influence, tend to disengage from the conversation. We need a common language and a common “why” we can rally around. Our research shows that belonging is that reason. As Devyani Dutt, Head of Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging for LinkedIn Asia Pacific put it, “At LinkedIn, we talk about it this way: Diversity is being invited to the party. Inclusion is being invited to dance. Belonging is being able to dance however you like; you are accepted as you are.”
Belonging is a fundamental human need, so much so that we have adapted our behaviors to minimize lack of belonging in much the same way we try to avoid physical pain. And research shows that when we create a more inclusive work environment, it fosters a stronger sense of belonging, which in turn positively impacts engagement and performance. Anchoring on belonging also allows people to build empathy regardless of their stake in the conversation. We can all think of a time where we didn’t feel like we belonged. Ideally, this common experience helps us foster greater understanding for those in underrepresented groups.
Acknowledging the strong need to roll out DIB initiatives, Vidya Munirathnam, Director - Learning & Diversity at Lowe’s India shares, “At Lowe’s, our commitment to diversity, inclusion, and belonging form the foundation of our culture and extend to every area of our organization. At Lowe’s, we are not all the same, and that’s our greatest strength. We draw on the differences in who we are, what we have experienced, and how we think because we believe in celebrating our differences, and valuing every associate makes all of us better. At Lowe’s we combine our differences to achieve greater results.”
Change the conversation on the ‘business case’
It’s not uncommon for me to hear from my clients that they are working on a business case for investment in DIBs. I often wonder what business case will be compelling enough to prove it’s the right thing to do if you don’t believe it’s important. But the business case is there.
Research has shown organizations with inclusive culture are six times more likely to be innovative and agile, and eight times more likely to achieve better business outcomes. But the ultimate business case is that people do their best work when they can bring their authentic selves to work and succeed not despite who they are, but because of who they are. Today’s multigenerational workforces want their workplaces and leaders to lead from the front on inclusion, and staying out of the conversation, or only having it if it shows up in the bottom line, is simply not an option. So rather than having a “What is the business case?” conversation, reframe it to a “How can this make us a stronger organization?” conversation.
Sanjay Bose, Executive Vice President - Human Resources and Learning & Development at ITC Ltd, Hotels Division, highlights the business case of ITC for investing in DIB initiatives. He shares, “Besides globally credible research and organizational experiences, our own experiences and beliefs have reinforced the fact that a diverse community of stakeholders enables delivery of superior customer experience. The contribution of mixed communities of employees and partners in our value creation processes is highly enriching and meaningful and enables us to offer differentiated products and services which are competitively superior, reaching a far greater mix of customers than they would otherwise. More importantly, the principles of inclusivity and diversity are embedded in ITC’s core values of Trusteeship, Customer Focus, Respect for People, Excellence, Innovation and Nation Orientation and, therefore, it is a way of life for us.”
'Glocalise’ your strategy
It’s not always easy to have a conversation about DIBs across countries with varying political, societal, and cultural nuances. However, having clarity on core tenants and behaviors that underpin the type of inclusive work environment we want to build is still critical.
Sandip Mishra - SVP, HR at Prodapt Solutions Pvt Ltd, shares, “We have made diversity and inclusion one of our primary company objectives. Even though we are globally dispersed, we come together as a team to celebrate our cultural diversity & connectedness. Our global strategies are largely locally responsive. Women play a key role in leadership roles across geographies and businesses. For us, DIB is beyond gender, ethnicity and minorities. Our multi practice service delivery execution centres are spread across North America, Latin America, UK, multiple countries in the European region, South Africa and India.”
Get your leaders to lead from the front
Leaders’ behaviors matter. Senior leaders set the agenda in organizations; they signal what’s important. But research has shown that only one in three employees report that senior leaders encourage an open conversation on diversity and lead the charge of improving workplace inclusion.
Devyani talks about one of the most important behaviors LinkedIn leaders get coached on: cultural humility—rather than just cultural competence, which is focused on achieving a certain level of expertise. Cultural humility is about a journey of ongoing learning.
Ruhie Pande, Chief Human Resources Officer at Godrej Housing Finance & Godrej Fund Management, shares, “As an organization, and as a part of the leadership team, the one true service we can do to bring in, sustain and most importantly help an often lesser understood construct of diversity and inclusion thrive is by backing any aspect, whether big or small which enhances the sense of belonging the individual feels and experiences on a day-to-day basis; and ensuring that this is in line with our purpose, values and organization objective. Leadership backing and involvement plays an important part in having a pulse check on how our employees are experiencing their managers, teams and the gamut of processes and interactions that take place at different milestones, in addition to their daily interactions. As a young organization, we have the responsibility at GHF, of defining and building a culture where we move towards an era where diversity and inclusion becomes a part of our very fabric and becomes a way of life.”
Glint’s research also shows that perception of how inclusive leaders are is strongly correlated with confidence in leaders, which, in turn, is often a strong driver of engagement. Bottom line, leadership commitment to inclusion promotes better outcomes for employees and for the organization.
Skill up across the board
Inclusion is systemic and dynamic. It’s not a one-time event or a training program. It can be created (or destroyed) in every interaction in the course of how work gets done. Upskilling across the organization is critical.
Reflecting on creating the right impact of DIB initiatives, Ruchi Bhalla, Country Head India Delivery Centers and VP human resources APAC at Pitney Bowes India Private Limited suggests organizations need to move out from working in silos and work together. She says, "Running DIB initiatives in silos doesn’t work anymore. There was a time when one could run bucketed initiatives for Gender, LGBTQI etc. but in this era of globalization, diversity is more than gender, race, and ethnicity. It is about Intersectionality. Intersectionality covers how the different layers of social stratification, like race, sexual orientation, social class, age, disability, and gender, can combine to disadvantage people. By creating awareness about employee stories, through initiatives such as Pitney Bowes ‘I for Intersectionality’ Program, one can raise awareness about employees’ diverse circumstances and journeys and is not limited to one individual or team."
The evolving complexity of businesses like DIB, requires companies to increase their capacity for collaboration, by making long-term investments that build relationships and trust, and smart near-term decisions about how HR teams can execute complex events like a pandemic effortlessly by being One HR.
People Matters and LinkedInTalent Solutions bring to you One HR, a digital initiative aimed at how HR teams together, as ‘One HR’ can respond, recover and reimagine the new world of talent on a foundation of people's success.