Every day I see proof of how businesses reflect their society. Society, today, is more sensitive to public welfare issues than ever before and that’s reflected in business too. Diversity and inclusion are now accepted as integral to good business practices.
But beyond being passive adapters to societal change, I also believe that businesses have the capacity and the potential to give change a helping hand. In organizations, the Human Resource function has the power to become a catalyst for transformation and usher in an era of inclusion because the positives are too many and too significant for this change to be ignored.
Leveraging different perspective
Giving opportunities to a diverse mix of employees in an organization is a step towards creating an enabling environment. As we anticipate the explosive productivity gains engendered by Industry 4.0 and AI, it’s worth remembering that sharing of different perspectives prevents organizations from being blind-sided in a global marketplace.
Diversity thus doesn’t only mean increasing representation of underrepresented ‘identity groups’ but also tapping their identity-related knowledge and experiences. Allowing different perspectives to breed can help organizations perform their core work better and find hitherto unacknowledged business opportunities.
Diversity is not complete without creating an environment where ‘out of the box’ ideas are heard. Not doing so leads to token representation which festers organizational potential. There is a reason that the most innovative business centers in the world like Singapore, New York, London are international melting pots. An inclusive, diverse environment allows different ideas to grow, merge and nurture possibilities.
A recent study by the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) made the business case for diversity clear. It found that diversity increases the bottom line for companies.
There is no denying the fact that diversity and inclusion are critical for business growth but just increasing the numbers of traditionally underrepresented people in the organization does not automatically produce benefits. Business cannot continue as usual while we wait for the benefits of diversity to take root. Perceptive HR teams must develop, support, and create actionable strategies to further the cause. Here is how:
Using AI and ML in recruiting and hiring practices can help reduce the unconscious bias. These hiring practices should focus on the competency and capabilities of the profiles to ensure equal opportunities for all. Along with this, we also need to ensure the use of intelligent systems that are able to capture the base data accurately. It is also very important that the data sets are bias free.
Organizations should walk their talk and ask for resumes that just specify the work done by the applicant. In fact, I have seen businesses implement policies where resumes are shared without the names of the applicants to cut the hiring bias in the bud.
In today’s socially conscious age, the modern HR professional must have the foresight to proactively identify opportunities to make diversity an integral part of the business. They have to champion the cause by conducting an honest, unblinkered analysis of the business processes and the work environment. This analysis is critical for identifying blind spots and creating opportunities for inclusion on a daily basis across all levels — from the corporate boardroom to the junior-most employee.
Finding ways to reimagine the processes is just half of the actual work. HR has to design ways to measure the impact of the change.
I believe in trainings and can see their efficacy but we cannot rely on them as the only path. We have to build new habits or ‘micro behaviors’ like asking for everyone’s opinion in meetings and ensuring each person gets time to present their views. Cultivating these habits in an empathetic, diverse environment that supports honest conversations can lead to real change.
I know that change takes time, yet that cannot be our oft-repeated excuse for doing less. Proactive HR teams can help organizations take many small steps which are do-able. Small, consistent, actionable steps in my opinion is a better alternative to one big step which can create disarray.
Developing a diverse workforce is a journey that cannot be delayed any longer— its time has come. Diversity spells greater opportunities for organizations and leaders who recognize its undeniable potential and implement processes that smoothen its path.