Future Trends of Diversity & Inclusiveness at the Workplace
Gender roles may have been defined but they were blurring. Voices that say women lack agency or only men possess the self-clarity to become leaders; and stereotyped the life of a successful-looking executive fainted through the crisis, creating an opening to draw new trends.
Organizational contexts must be deliberately set up to win. It is well-known that diverse and inclusive organizations easily outperform less diverse peers on all parameters – performance, profitability, and culture. Inclusive leaders with a passion for diversity understand that it is a lot more than just statistics or percentage of women or people of color in a company. They intentionally create a culture that is color, gender, passports, caste, or language agnostic.
With the COVID-19 pandemic, businesses were forced to adopt remote working overnight, this decision changed the way businesses were looking at Diversity & Inclusiveness. Organizations that were foundationally strong, saw how seamless it was; those that were on the fence noticed that the chasms that appeared were purely fictional – household chores and distractions played out equally but differently in people’s lives. Gender roles may have been defined but they were blurring. With children and parents at home, everyone was doing their best to make it work.
A pandemic reveals the disparities in the society quite unkindly. It also obliterates antiquated and pointless viewpoints. Exactly what followed this crisis! Voices that say women lack agency or only men possess the self-clarity to become leaders; and stereotyped the life of a successful looking executive fainted through the crisis, creating an opening to draw new trends.
· Inclusion as a strategic priority – With the COVID-19 pandemic, companies around the world confronted unprecedented challenges, including loss of critical business, financial difficulties, dislocation of operations, supply-chain disruption, and several others. In the wake of these difficult circumstances, many companies may unintentionally find ‘Diversity & Inclusion’ a receding priority for their business. As leaders, we need to be conscious about this and prevent it from happening. ‘Inclusion’ needs to be front and center when planning business strategies and leaders need to set clear priorities towards building greater equity for a vibrant, innovative, and thriving workplace and take concrete actions to counter inequity. The crisis has created an aperture for companies to take a systematic approach to DI&E (diversity, inclusion, & equity). This will cultivate a foundation that will not only comprehend crises better but endure it better as well.
· Create an inclusive culture – Ability to manage workforce can be a source of great competitive advantage, if done well. Building a strong cultural foundation that values diversity is the first step towards creating an inclusive workplace. We all know that unconscious biases stem from personal beliefs, stereotypes, and individual experiences and if not checked, can cloud judgement when it comes to making hiring decisions. Biases can creep into decision making based on the interviewer’s first impression, candidates’ personal details, background, age, and other factors. An organization’s culture transcends the four walls of the office. Hence organizations need to create an environment where employees can be their authentic selves, can learn and grow. It’s the little things that count when it comes to making people feel welcome and included. The checkbox on an application that asks if you’d like to be known as Mr., Ms. or Mx., or a line on an application that asks if you would like to specify your gender. These small things allow people to feel comfortable contributing to the even more important things.
At Pitney Bowes India, we have launched ‘Blind Applications’ for candidates for open positions. This means that a candidate can choose to reveal their first or last name on their application and do not need to mention their age, gender, or background – any personal information that could
bias the reader.
· Adoption of HR Technology – Biases are human, and AI and Talent Analytics tools can be leveraged to reduce preconceived notions and promote a more inclusive workplace. HR Tech tools allow organizations to source potential candidates and shortlist the best talent based on key skills required for the job. These tools help check prejudices that edge into the recruitment process and may overlook a potential high-performing candidate.
HR Technology can hold people accountable to an organization’s diversity goals. For example: capturing feedback from employees regularly via employee surveys or after townhalls can help the organization better understand how an initiative is being perceived and what can be improved.
Recruiters can promote diverse hiring by ensuring job descriptions are more inviting to candidates from different backgrounds. Blind Applications is one way to minimize bias in the selection process. Technology can also be used to identify if and where hiring bias does occur in the hiring journey and to make amends accordingly.
· Re-engineering employee experience – COVID-19 brought all four characteristics of VUCA (volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity) to life, as the world felt the devastating impact of the pandemic on the health of people and businesses. There are countless examples of leaders and organizations anchoring their business aspirations and focusing on humanity – being there for their people. Along with providing COVID-19 care and coverage for employees and families, many organizations set-up special trainings to help leaders lead remote teams, upskilling programs for employees to help them stay relevant in a dynamic post-COVID world, and EAP sessions on mental and physical well-being to help employees stay positive during this trying time. The concept of ‘equity’ is about understanding individual needs and tailoring policies that fit different needs, experiences, and opportunities. Organizations will need to focus on building virtual communities and providing avenues for pride and camaraderie.
One thing is for certain, the crisis has redefined the world order – the workplace as we knew it, will never be the same. As life and business slowly come back to normal – it is important to remember the lessons that we’ve learnt and to choose a more inclusive and a more authentic way of living and working.
(The given article is authored by Ruchi Bhalla, Country Head & Vice President, HR (Asia Pacific) at Pitney Bowes)