As India Inc. looks for different avenues of value creation in FY 2020-21, it is the right time for us to introspect on building human capital as a lever of growth and competitive advantage. For enterprises to make the most of the opportunities presented by the tech boom, they need to create a large talent pool of people that brings together diverse ideas, competencies, and cultures.This will enable them to fulfil the requirements of the truly global, diverse and inclusive customer challenges. It is in this context that we need to understand what we may put at stake if we look at ‘diversity and inclusion’ as ‘good to have’ as opposed to ‘need to have.’
D&I best practices: From recognizing individual identity to building the right teams:-
- Recognize that individuals have plural identities at the workplace and beyond
It is heartening to see human capital leaders taking cognizance of the most fundamental question regarding the identity of individuals at the workplace and beyond. The blueprint for conceptualizing and implementing best practices for diversity and inclusion starts with accepting and mapping what Prof. Amartya Sen has referred to as “the pluralism of identities.” Every individual wears many hats at a time. More human capital leaders in the tech industry are investing time and effort in engaging with people, knowing the responsibilities that individuals in their teams shoulder at home and beyond the workplace. Understanding the life and needs of individuals beyond work is the key to understanding what motivates people to meet and exceed performance benchmarks.
- Build workplace teams that reflect the diversity in the customer base
A recent study by the Center for Talent Innovation published in the Harvard Business Review in January 2020 makes an undisputed business case in favor of diversity and inclusion. The report found that workplace teams that reflect the diversity of their customers are more than twice as likely to innovate effectively for their end-users as teams that don’t. In other words, diversity boosts innovation. Tech enterprises that build diverse teams shall not only register operational growth in the short run but continue to be at the leading edge of the tech transformation.
- Build an inclusive talent pipeline and trust individuals to do the job
Annette Dixon, Vice President, World Bank South Asia, has argued that the Indian economy could add anywhere between 1.5 to 9 percentage points to its real GDP growth rate per year if 50 percent of our women could join the workforce. Women comprise 17 percent of the total workforce of the Indian economy, and we see that numbers in start-ups compare favorably. Tech enterprises need to continue to recruit women employees actively as they grow.
- Empower individuals to help them get better work-life balance
Women account for 37-42 percent of the entry-level jobs in the tech industry. Despite making a good start in the tech industry, many women drop their career plans on account of the challenges of unconscious bias, cultural expectations, and the lack of support systems to ensure better work-life balance. This leads to an imminent leakage of talent from the ecosystem. In the past few years however, enterprises have started offering workplace facilities for women to pull-off the tightrope walk between work and family. These include crèche facilities at offices, providing interest-free loans wherever required as necessary, provision to request part-time work, and flexible working conditions.
- Offer opportunities for learning & development that surpass gender barriers
A study found that just about 7-8 percent of leadership roles in Indian tech organizations were filled by women leaders. Tech enterprises need to actively work on providing the requisite support systems to convert junior-level entrants into tactical level leaders, and correspondingly tactical leaders into strategic level leaders, else risk losing the talent war. Tech enterprises that recognize this are offering equal opportunities for learning and development to both women and men at the workplace, and exclusive mentoring programs for women in the middle management to put them on the right path to leadership roles.
- Resolving the missing women’s mystery key
For business leaders in the technology industry to offer women their rightful places in corporate boardrooms, we need to be proactive in resolving what Prof. Amartya Sen has called the “missing women mystery” by addressing grassroots level entitlement failures and deprivation. A study presented by the IMF Chief Christine Lagarde at the World Economic Forum 2018 posited that should the Indian economy be able to raise the participation of women to the currently existing levels of men, it shall enable us to add another 27 percent to our real GDP. These insights assume a special significance in the context of our mission to reach the milestone of $5 trillion in real GDP by 2024 and therefore addressing the skills gap as we move forward in our economic transformation journey.
Globalization has led organizations to cater to a highly diversified market. Therefore, it is more critical today than ever to be aware of, and to be sensitive to, the needs of various customer segments. While catering to the diverse landscape of people, enterprises need to become the melting pot of talent and culture. An inclusive and diverse workforce will help organizations understand various markets better, curate customized and relatable products and services, and address customer challenges, which will contribute to building customer loyalty and consolidating brand presence.