Diversity For Greater Creativity

SM Gupta, Global Chief People Officer, Startek, makes a case for D&I as a matter of social responsibility as well as a good business case


Diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) is no longer a nice-to-have phenomenon; rather it is a strong business case to create a competitive advantage. The concept of workforce diversity poses the biggest challenge and at the same time provides the biggest opportunity for present day organisations. A successful INSPIRATIONAL ROLE MODEL OF THE YEAR diversity management policy and programme will eventually make a huge difference in the communication among employees and the general productivity of the organisation. Hence, it is highly imperative that today’s organisations recognise and manage workforce diversity effectively and formulate a very healthy ROI around the same. 

Many companies now view diversity management as a way of addressing the need to reflect the diversity of their customers through diverse set of employees who can understand better and communicate with them. This will definitely result in better customer and supplier relationships, which in turn could lead to improved financial performance. Another strong argument for diversity management is that recognising and valuing diversity as a resource for the organisation can create competitive advantage. By capturing a wider set of opinions and experiences through a broader lens, more creativity and better decision-making can be achieved, as diversity generates a variety of thinking across the organisation. In an era of critical talent shortages, organisations are finding ways to attract, motivate, retain, and utilise their valuable employees effectively if they are to be competitive. Diversity management can reduce turnover and absenteeism. In order to get the best out of the workforce, companies cannot exclude any particular diverse group. 

Organisations have also recognised that they can best serve different customer groups in many different markets with more diverse workforce. In communities where other languages dominate, organisations benefit from hiring employees who speak the dominant languages. They could also have diverse workforce design products that attract diverse consumers or customers. The surge in international markets, the increase in reliance on diverse workforce to address the emerging diverse market trends and the growth of investment by companies on diversity initiatives such as training, shows that in operating a business, diversity management has become a critical aspect. Business context appeared to be a powerful impetus for managing diversity through opportunities associated with increased market and customer base.

In order to view DEI as a business case, it is important to identify champions at senior levels to both communicate the intent and drive tangible efforts. For a change in culture and mindset of the entire organisation, there is greater need for all functions to be part of the team and drive the change and highlighting the business imperative to support DEI which plays a major role in promoting the same. How senior management champions diversity & inclusion plays an active role in disseminating the message and the efforts towards building diversity, equity and inclusion. Creating organisation-wide awareness through sensitisation & communication helps in embedding inclusion in the workplace. 

There is a need to overcome workplace challenges in adopting DEI by applying principles of change management i.e., defining a clear case for action, building leadership commitment, establishing an infrastructure to support implementation and communicating diversity and inclusion principles to employees, customers and other stakeholders. It is also important to place a great deal of emphasis on internal and external benchmarking and on the value of effective monitoring systems to enhance demographic knowledge of markets and local communities. Some of the common performance indicators used could be representation of women, differently-abled people, generational diversity, socially and economically diverse, culturally and linguistically diverse or ethnic minorities, especially at senior levels. In some cases, it can be linked to specific targets for each; the retention rate, specific engagement levels, growth opportunities and the improvement in employee perceptions of diversity issues, measured against a target percent satisfaction rating in employee attitude surveys. 

Therefore, companies are not adopting diversity and inclusion as a social activity, but for the business benefits, most important of which are enhanced employee recruitment, retention from a wider pool of talent, increased engagement, reduced turnover, improved corporate image & reputation, greater innovation and enhanced marketing opportunities. Thus, it is crucial to define what diversity means for the organisation, identify the strategic priorities, align diversity policy with organisational priorities, develop a business case by linking diversity data with business outcomes, achieve commitment for the business case from stakeholders, sharing the responsibility for management of diversity across the organisation and monitoring the effectiveness of the business case. 

(The article appeared in the August issue of BW People publication)

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