Tania Chatterjee is presently serving as Director - People & Transformation; India Lead - Inclusion, Wellbeing & Culture, India at NatWest Group.
Awarded 'Top 100 Training & Development Leaders in India' and 'Top 100 Training & Development Minds' by World HRD Congress, Tania’s rich expertise as an HR Professional is drawn from her 21 years of cumulative experience as a strategic business partner in the areas of people, culture and organisation development.
She comes with extensive experience across Human Resource Partnering, Leadership Development, Diversity and Inclusion, Performance Management, Talent Management practices and Employee Relations. Tania also holds strong cross-geographical experience having worked senior stakeholders and teams in India, US & UK largely for leading Corporates in Financial, Technology and FMCG business sectors.
Prior to her corporate career, Tania worked with an international NGO, affiliated to the UN, 'Initiatives of Change( IofC)' which is a world-wide movement of people of diverse cultures and backgrounds, committed to the transformation of society through changes in human motives and behavior, starting with their own. She attributes her professional ethics and career choices to her experience with IofC.
In this exclusive interview with People Matters, Tania talks about the key workplace shifts gaining a bigger focus in 2022, the need for more male allies, driving economic parity for people with disabilities, and the two biggest roadblocks to sustainable DEI.
Here are excerpts from the interview.
What key shifts shaped workplace 2.0 in 2021? Which of these shifts do you foresee gaining a bigger focus in 2022?
The two most important drivers that shaped workplace 2.0 last year were proximity and care.
One thing that I will always remember from the COVID-19 crisis is how fast workplaces across the globe and industries moved in three areas – remote work and virtual meetings, heightened care for employee well-being, and the urgency to respond to customer preference for electronic channels (e-commerce and digital transactions).
In 2022, every industry will prioritise their strategic focus on where we work, how we work, and what organisational culture we need. I believe the hybrid work culture and automation will act as enablers to create more equitable and inclusive places to work, attract diverse talent, and redefine corporate business culture. Organisations will shift their attention to leverage skills of their diverse workforce to accelerate innovation of products and services through automation and artificial intelligence (AI).
Among the many elements of talent strategies that have drawn global attention in recent times, one key element is DEI. How is NatWest making DEI more sustainable in everyday routine vs occasional awareness programs?
At NatWest Group, our continuous endeavour is to provide an equitable employee experience for all. Our India Inclusion Council, which comprises senior business leaders, business representatives, and subject matter experts (SMEs) from the HR, is committed to driving inclusion across five recognised workstreams – Disability Smart, Gender Balance, LGBT+ Innovative, Ethnically Diverse, and Multigeneration. The Council is focused on supporting everyday inclusion and improving access to development and career advancement for all colleagues. We have a range of integrated programs across our Inclusion agenda – Women Comeback program; ASPIRE development program and Well-Connect well-being program for colleagues with disability; Transcend program, Internship program for professionals from the transgender community; Women in Leadership program, and Women in Technology program (WiT) to name a few.
All our employees have the opportunity to participate in our Global Employee Led Networks (ELN), which help foster an inclusive workplace and a sense of belonging across a range of diverse segments. We continue to support colleagues and people leaders in the organisation to embed inclusive behaviours by giving them access to best-in-class Inclusion Learning. Learning modules are centered around raising awareness on bias, thinking before acting and speaking, and good judgement for decision making. Our Inclusion Champions and Inclusion Interview Ambassadors form a global network of colleagues who act as positive disruptors and drive a cultural change.
At NatWest Group, Inclusion is about making sure everyone brings their best to work every day.
It's about creating a culture where people feel comfortable being their true selves, knowing we'll support them.
Particular to gender giversity, how do you see the role of men in enabling and accelerating gender equity?
According to the World Bank estimates, India has one of the lowest female workforce participation rates in the world. This participation rate further fell to 16.1% due to the COVID-19 crisis and has not recovered since. Women’s careers continue to be held back by socio-cultural biases and it is clear we need more male allies, both at the workplace and home.
It is heartening to see more men are stepping up as role models and are taking up the family caregiver and parental responsibilities with great pride. Such actions from men will help break the stereotype around ‘gender roles’ that act as socio-cultural barriers to women workforce participation. We are also witnessing more men as allies at work. They are focused on taking action against gender bias and discrimination, and promoting recruitment, development, and retention of female employees.
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) estimates that equal participation of women in the workforce will increase India’s gross domestic product (GDP) by 27%.
We need more male allies in the society to understand and consider the impact of male privilege and work towards promoting gender-balance fairness in pay, position, and power at the workplace.
This will have a long-term positive impact on our country’s socio-economic environment.
With a multi-generational workforce working in a hybrid environment, how is NatWest enabling an ecosystem of empathy, respect, collaboration as well as understanding individual life stage needs?
The hybrid workplace environment has acted as a great enabler to bring all generations on a common platform. At NatWest Group, our virtual working and collaboration is enabled by the everyday use of Zoom cloud meeting/video conferencing facilities, Microsoft Teams, and Workplace by Facebook. Some basic aspects across generations that may have caused friction and bias in the past, such as different opinions on flexible schedules, work from home, relaxed working conditions and casual attire are non-issue in today’s context. As an organisation, we continue to challenge stereotypes, encourage cross-generational mentoring (companion learning), reverse mentoring, and encourage leaders to demonstrate flexibility and care for employee well-being as per individual needs. All our colleagues are encouraged to make their voices heard and skills put to use by contributing to ELN.
In the last 18 months, there have been several occasions where our multigenerational workforce has formed agile teams to volunteer for COVID-19 emergency response taskforce, community giving/charity, Well-being Committee, D&I Council, and Climate action groups. Participation in these action groups foster a sense of purpose and embeds a culture of empathy, respect, and collaboration.
With technology underpinning workplace accessibility for people with disabilities, how do you foresee inclusion becoming a reality? What can organisations do to overcome the social model of disability?
Assistive technology is a boon that helps increase, maintain, and improve functional capabilities of colleagues with disabilities at the workplace.
The social model of disability promotes the notion that while physical, sensory, intellectual, or psychological variations may cause individual functional limitations, these do not lead to disability unless society fails to take account and include people regardless of their individual differences. This perspective has a profound effect on workplaces. Organisations are currently making efforts to identify barriers (communication, environmental, institutional, and attitudinal) and introduce assistive technologies to remove these barriers. They aim to offer persons with disabilities (PWDs) the much-needed independence and choice. Though, this is clearly a welcome move to enable PWDs with a sense of control, the medical model of disability is overlooked in this approach. The medical model recognises the need to diagnose individual impairments and their degree of limitations, the impact it has on an individual, and the efforts made to find a cure for it.
Organisations need to recognize that the degree of individual impairment affects/will affect an individual’s productivity at the workplace and, thereby, have economic consequences for the individual. This poses a unique challenge to us - How do we achieve an equitable, effective, value-for-money distribution of disability related benefits? Organisations and policy makers need to solve this question to bring in true inclusion and economic parity for PWDs.
What are some of the biggest challenges prolonging sustainable DEI? How can organisations overcome these?
Cultural transformation requires time and sustained efforts. The two biggest challenges on the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DE&I) agenda are inconsistent commitment to recruit and advance historically underrepresented groups in the workforce. Leadership commitment is vital for the transformation. To make a start, organisations need to ensure DE&I is a strategic priority that has measurable leadership commitments to hire, train, retain, and track progress of workforce participation by women, PWDs, and LGBTQ community.
Actions from leaders who adopt inclusive behaviours and establish policies, systems, and processes to support underrepresented groups can help organisations make a quantum leap towards diversity and inclusion.
What are you most looking forward to in 2022?
The last two years have redefined humanity in many ways, and I look forward to 2022 when conversations on inclusion of all gender, age, religion, race, sexual orientation, and medical disability will find place in every home, classroom, social gathering, and workplace.
I am hopeful that more business bodies will begin to recognise that DE&I commitment is not only a moral imperative but also an existential imperative. It will provide greater opportunity for financial outperformance, help raise capital, and culturally enable organisations to be better equipped for the future. This shift in business mind-set will see an accelerated growth in 2022 and beyond.
My sentiment on diversity and inclusion is best conveyed through Dr. Seuss’s quote – “Today you are You, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You.”