Managing "Diversity in the work place"
As the wave of globalization sweeps across organizations, there is convergence of workforce from diverse countries, cultures, values, age and gender compelling organizations to change not only their policies and practices but also their core framework and culture in order to create conducive environment for all. More and more organizations are concentrating their efforts towards Diversity, not because it is a “fad” or a “buzzword”, but because it is the need of the day.Workplace diversity can foster agility, adaptability, sustainability, creativity and innovation which are a must in today’s VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous) world for organizations to succeed and remain viable.
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In line with the efforts of organizations to strive for viability and sustainability, it is imperative for organizations to focus not only on diversity but also inclusion. Diversity is incomplete without inclusion. Only having heterogeneous workforce will not benefit the organization. Inclusion supports a diverse workforce by focusing on the needs and having the right conditions for an employee to work in. While diversity is the measure, inclusion is the mechanism. It is only when you foster a culture of inclusion, will the diverse workforce be truly embraced.
LANXESS is a specialty chemicals company with its presence in 29 countries worldwide and around 16,600 employees.Thus managing diversity forms one of our top priorities. Embracing Diversity can only happen when it is embedded in the leadership and is driven from the top. LANXESS Board of Management has launched “Diversity and Inclusion” initiative in order to lay a foundation for development of LANXESS by drawing upon wide ranging capabilities of a diverse workforce fostering a working environment of creativity and innovation.
While diversity has many dimensions, there is an increasing focus on gender diversity. The overall outlook of the society towards a role of a woman is gradually changing with much more social support mechanisms at disposal than before, for instance, professional agencies offering full-time help and so on, which can support women in achieving their career aspirations along with fulfilling home responsibilities. In sync with this,lot of organizations too have become more conscious and have started acknowledging the need and implementing women-friendly policies. At LANXESS, we offer Extended Maternity leave, separate leaves for women employees during times when their children fall sick, adoption leave and leave for parental (including in-laws) care.We offer flexible work arrangements as well viz. work from home or part time work for women employees whose nature of job allows this flexibility.A woman employee can also choose to apply for a new role available within the organization which matches the job requirement under our career shift option in order to enable her to strike the right work-life balance based on her priority. The idea is to provide a platform where a woman has the freedom to choose her path based on her goals in life. Although paid leaves during maternity are often viewed as an issue for working mothers, it is equally important for working fathers as well. Many organizations, including LANXESS, offer paternity leave to promote parent-child bonding and increase gender equity not only at workplace but also at home.
With women representing quite a big number of total workforce today, safety becomes central in creating an atmosphere conducive to increased participation of women, positively encouraging and supporting them. Special provisions are made for women employees keeping their security and safety in mind viz. door-to-door pick up and drop service, hiring of cabs/transport vehicles on regular basis only from specific established agencies, designated officer round-the-clock to be contacted in case of emergency, setting up and creating awareness of Sexual Harassment policy and code of conduct agreement, conducting workshops sensitizing male employees. Many companies also organize or sponsor self-defense classes at workplace.
In order to empower women employees, organizations have dedicated support groups for women. LANXESS India conducts special events and holds engagement campaigns built around diversity themes which serve as a platform having focus on enrichment for its women colleagues which facilitates them to learn from, bond, and realize their potential to achieve career aspirations and network with each other. This also enables women employees to emerge emotionally stronger by sharing their experiences and breaking the barriers that they might face while achieving their aspirations.Organizations need to create an environment that fosters open culture and two-way communication between male, female employees and amongst each other as well. LANXESS India conducts workshops where both male and female colleagues participate and have a healthy and open discussion around gender-sensitive issues which have direct or indirect impact at workplace.
Diversity and Inclusion should be reflected in organizations policies and practices as well. Talent acquisition strategies can serve as a crucial factor in promoting organizations as diverse and inclusive. The first step is to attain diverse candidate pools that fit the profile requirement. This can be done by tapping various social media, professional networking forums or through company referral program. In order to encourage more gender diverse profiles, at LANXESS, we have partnered with a recruitment agency that specifically focuses on providing us with women candidate profiles who fit the profile criteria. While the selection of candidate is totally based on merit and fit to the profile and organization, this helps us provide diverse profiles to the business to find best fit for the job and an opportunity to maintain a representative demographic profile. Apart from recruitment strategies, LANXESS bases its development strategies too on meritocracy;however with focus to encourage female talent, for example, lack of physical presence due to maternity leave and so on does not affect their chances for elevation.
Another slice of diversity that needs to be given due attention is generational diversity. For organizations whose goals are to seek growth and sustainability in the long term, it is imperative to leverage and capitalize on generational diversity which can contribute to increased competitive advantage, enhanced workplace productivity and succession planning. LANXESS India comprises of three generations, the boomers, Gen X and millennials with the average age around 37 years. It is a known fact that there is distinct difference between the ways different generations approach work, define work-life balance, loyalty and other issues but they should be united by common organizational goals and objectives. While all the generations contribute to the success of organization in their own way, the solution is to challenge the “one-size-fits-all” approach and shift gears to a more “one-size-fits-me” approach that empowers everyone. For example, organizations need to review their Compensation and benefits structure which can offer flexible benefits. Generational diversity should be viewed as an opportunity to build leadership pipeline comprising of people who are adaptable and innovative.At LANXESS, we have launched “X – Trainee” program under which we hire management trainees / trainees / interns to promote and encourage young talents to work in our organization. While many organizations have Mentoring program in place which can be an important way to integrate, develop and retain employees since it involvespairing of a more skilled or experienced employee with a new employee to encourage dialogue and information sharing thus promoting knowledge exchange, better understanding and appreciation of differences and beliefs, cultural acclimatization– understanding workplace norms, expectations and values, Reverse mentoring as a concept is gaining momentum with Gen Y supporting Gen X leaders / managers on coping with the rampant technological advancements and current trends.Keeping in mind the different communication styles followed and preferred by various generations, at LANXESS we use different platforms for communication viz. Intranet and informal social media and applications to reach out to all employees. While we conduct traditional learning programs, we have also moved towards e-learning modules to cater to the Gen Y population. Although we belong to a traditional industry, on Fridays we have smart casual dressing at corporate. The employee engagement calendar is built in a way to maximize interaction between different generations and so that it caters to all employees, for example, celebrating traditional festivals, organizing talent and sports competitions.
In order to address cultural diversity, LANXESS promotes active exchange of culture and experience through its expatriation and short term assignment programs, posting of national and international job opportunities on Intranet to encourage diverse applications. We also offer various language courses for employees to foster better communication, openness, respect to embrace diversity. In order to enable multicultural interaction, we conduct cross cultural training for employees who are required to interact with global colleagues. LANXESS also has cross functional teams across countries to maximize on different perspectives and create synergy leading to high levels of creativity.
Having an organization that endorses and encourages diversity not only helps in employer branding but also in improving the bottom-line of the organization contributing to its success. Ignoring diversity and inclusion issues can cost time, money, and efficiency. Integrating diversity and inclusion in organization is a formula for success and as long as organizations strive to achieve it, it will help them keep ahead of the competition; just like the saying goes, “You don’t get harmony when everyone sings the same note”.
Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house