Diversity Is A Change In Mind-set, Not Conducive Infrastructure

As we make our way through the 21st century, entering most workplaces will bring us face-to-face with infrastructural changes aimed at making the workspace more conducive to diversity and inclusion


Diversity has evolved into a focus area for most of the organisations worldwide and businesses across industries are stepping up to create an environment in which every individual's needs are acknowledged and respected. As we make our way through the 21st century, entering most workplaces will bring us face-to-face with infrastructural changes aimed at making the workspace more conducive to diversity and inclusion. From easily accessible pathways to inclusive washrooms and common areas, offices are taking myriad steps to bolster diversity in the workspace.

Indeed, in the process to gear up towards an inclusive environment, greater emphasis is being placed on the infrastructural requirements than an actual change in people’s mind-sets. Though a conducive infrastructure is critical, it is not the only factor that contributes to the creation of an inclusive environment. For example, what is the point of building a ramp for specially-abled persons when the organisation does not focus on offering roles that value their skills and capabilities?

Alternatively, many workspaces today strive to create safe working conditions for women and individuals belonging to the LGBTQIA+ community. However, despite these progressive alterations, the actual abilities of the minority groups are largely ignored, leading to multiple hindrances on their way to the top of the corporate ladder. In simple terms, organisations and the workforce need to realise that diversity is not merely relegated to conducive infrastructure – rather, it is a drastic change in the underlying mind-set and this pivot can only be affected through consistent reinforcement.

Appreciating and accepting the need to be inclusive

Organisations will be inclusive only if they accept diversity as seen in the outside world and, as a result, have adequate representation from each community. Empathy and acceptance of each individual in an organisation is essential, but more importantly, they must be included as normal team members, respecting their diverse abilities and differences and making them comfortable. Efforts to handhold, mentor and train them so that they adjust to the work environment would be necessary. Creating allyship and groups to share challenges and successes would also be extremely beneficial. This will help in creating a culture where DiversAbilities (different abilities of the diverse workforce) are appreciated and valued.

Fostering a cultural shift

Diversity necessitates a collective approach and contribution from all employees. It requires an environment where employees listen intently, acknowledge the other person’s feelings, own up to their misjudgements and open up conversations respectfully. There is tremendous need for education and sensitisation programs aimed at fostering a cultural shift in the organisational DNA towards Diversity. This can only happen through a responsible approach and a focus on the end objective.

Rather than a top-down approach to drive compliance, there needs effort to be receptive and inclusive, by each and every individual in the organisation, irrespective of their position in the chain. Understanding the importance of diversity and having an idea of the role they play in creating an inclusive workplace will enable individuals to collaborate seamlessly and affect optimal change. Organizations need to make the changes relevant to the employees, as this will help them hold on to the evolving philosophy and transform themselves accordingly. When you visualise the impact of your actions, you become more willing to continue doing the good work.

Bridging the systemic divide

Yes, facilities like gender neutral and accessible washrooms, period leave, conducive organisational policies, biodegradable sanitary napkin dispensers, etc., are important for an inclusive and sustainable environment but, at the same time, it is also imperative that organisations take consistent steps towards bridging the systemic divide and bring employees on a common ground. Not only will it help them accept each other’s abilities but it will also fuel collaboration and inclusion in decision-making and other organisational activities.

Education and sensitisation are the two facets to consider while laying the foundation of an inclusive workplace. Organisations should work towards creating an equitable work culture where every employee is filled with a sense of ownership and belonging. This will help instil team spirit and allow you to bring the best out of your employees. Fostering connections in the team will enable each individual to develop trust and dependencies and make them more aware of the unique abilities inherent in their teammates. Regular engagements within the team, and a safe space, where they can voice their concerns and emotions will boost solidarity and ensure a happily inclusive workspace.

Promoting an inter-connected approach

Many organisations struggle with adopting an inclusive mind-set because the employees do not feel connected to their specially-abled colleagues. They either consider them a source of inspiration, or an object of pity, thus removing the human element from the equation. Our specially-abled colleagues are neither super-heroes nor weaklings – they are just like us and they want to be viewed through the same lens that we use to view ourselves. Removing this barrier will help drive a diverse mind-set and this can only be done through an inter-connected approach. When individuals from different groups come together, they find it easier to empathise rather than sympathise, and this change in attitude can make a great difference.

The new-age workplace should not be a cookie-cutter operation wherein specially-abled employees are required to stick to their corners and stay away from momentous decisions. Every organisation and every individual employee needs a personalised experience at the workplace, as this will enable them to fulfil their innate potential and embark on a successful career path. Larger organisations cannot implement this through the involvement of just the Human Resources (HR) function – every employee and manager needs to step up and do their part in creating a workspace that is conducive to diversity and inclusion, in both its mind-set and its infrastructure.

Being a true peer ally is all about authenticity and building a culture that appreciates an individual’s different background, ethnicity, and belief system. It requires policies that promote diversity, employee-led task forces, a variety of opportunities for connecting outside of the typical workday, recognizing achievements and structured feedback mechanisms. Yes, it is not an easy ask, but then, nothing worth achieving has ever been truly easy.

(The authored has been curated by Sunil Wariar, Chief People Officer, Future Generali India Insurance Company Limited exclusively for BW People publication)

Tags assigned to this article:


Around The World