Article: How HR business partners can champion DEI in the workplace

Strategic HR

How HR business partners can champion DEI in the workplace

HR business partners play a key role in influencing leaders and the management team to nurture diverse and inclusive culture, says Sharmila Khan, Director, Country HR Business Partner, Micron Technology.
How HR business partners can champion DEI in the workplace

Building an inclusive and healthy culture in the workplace requires a holistic, yet curated, approach that creates seamless experiences for team members.

Sharmila Khan, Director, Country HR Business Partner, Micron Technology, an innovative memory and storage solutions provider, says diversity, equality and inclusion (DEI) programmes must be as unique as the countries, languages, people and teams they represent.

“Our DEI programmes are globally recognised and locally designed. As a global company with factories and offices in 17 countries, 'one size' does not fit all. We recognise that building strength in the diversity of our team members also requires diversity in our approaches.”

In an interaction with People Matters, Khan dwells on the crucial role HR business partners play in fostering an inclusive workplace culture by ensuring that all employees feel valued and respected regardless of their background, gender, race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, or any other characteristic.

In what ways can HR business partners can contribute to creating a more inclusive workplace culture? What strategies or tactics have you found to be effective in this regard.

As HR practitioners, we take for granted when we say to leaders that they need to be inclusive and we assume that they know what we mean. Hence it must begin with “Leader Education”.

At Micron, leaders at all levels need to undergo training in unconscious bias, which usually occurs when leaders make judgements about people based on gender, race, or other factors without realising they’re doing it. Training helps make people aware of this form of bias and drives home the importance of modelling inclusive behaviour.

Inclusive behaviour includes engaging in active listening during performance reviews, encouraging different points of view in meetings and carefully choosing what language to use, hiring practices, consciously looking at promotion mix, pay parity etc.

Our global DEI team and people development team continuously evaluate professional development offerings to ensure managers have opportunities to learn and better manage a diverse workforce.  

Listening to team members – To better understand team members experience, we conduct engagement survey, convene focus groups to get a better understanding of engagement and inclusion issues. HR can and should play a pivotal role in facilitating these sessions and heighten awareness for leaders and opportunities for team members to share feedback.

Though I would admit, it can be daunting sometimes, especially for HR, to go into these meetings because you never know what you’re going to be asked.

Comprehensive assessment of surveys of organisations demographics and people processes helps in developing specific strategies to promote inclusiveness. Leader-led town hall meetings as part of ongoing communication also helps create an environment of on-going communication from the top.  Just being listened to is important to people – being able to voice your concerns in a safe place. 

What advice do you have for other HR business partners who may be struggling to promote inclusion and diversity within their organisations? What steps can they take to be more effective in this area?

HR Business partners play a key role in influencing leaders and the management team to nurture diverse and inclusive culture.

We collaborate with the business, define, develop a common understanding and vocabulary which is then translated into a strategy and specific data backed actions.

For example, we can take lead in driving initiatives to improve objective decision-making processes by devising inventive ways of identifying workplace bias, and sensitising team members and furthering collective understanding about discrimination at various levels and ways to address them.

What are some common challenges that you face as an HR business partner, and how do you typically address them?

People are complex and having to build and nurture an environment where ‘each’ individual can assimilate, contribute and develop is ‘the’ challenge. Rapid technological changes have added even more layers of complexity to nurturing a high performing and innovative workforce.

How do you measure the success of your inclusion initiatives, and what metrics do you use to track progress? Can you share any examples of successful initiatives you've led in the past?

Building products that are foundational to the data-centric world, it is only natural that we track and trace each of our people initiatives.

In Micron India we conducted the first return ship programme for women and while we had success in terms of numbers, we found that most of the returnees were filling non-technical roles. This made us up the bar in the programme’s second year where a greater emphasis was put on technical/engineering roles. While numbers in the second year went down, the outcome was more meaningful.

How do you collaborate with other departments within your organisation to ensure that inclusion and diversity are incorporated into all aspects of the company's operation?

We have a network of Employee Resource Groups (ERG) that bind the organisation together with communities. Micron’s Women Leadership Network (MWLN) is one such ERG that brings together and supports our women through their career at Micron.

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Topics: Strategic HR, Employee Relations, Employee Engagement, #DEIB, #Work Culture

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