Why diversity initiatives are crucial for a great workplace

Why diversity initiatives are crucial for a great workplace

Given that today, workforce diversity is a key driver of innovation and success, companies across the world need to place an emphasis on diversity training and develop conducive policies to support them

SRIMATHI SHIVASHANKAR

Diverse talent comes from a diverse workforce. As cultures merge and the world transforms into a global village, the impact of this is being felt in the social and economic fabric of our environment. Business culture, as part of socio-economic fabric, has started adapting to this trend in order to find the right talent available to suit the business needs. Moreover, today, the ability to adapt efficiently and effortlessly is considered one of the greatest assets to remain relevant.

Perhaps the most important reason for companies to harbour employees from diverse backgrounds and promote diversity initiatives is to improve productivity of employees who hail from historically underrepresented and underutilised groups and thereby improving the organisational competitiveness. Diversity is a key driver of innovation and is a critical component of being successful on a global scale. A workforce of such nature is necessary to foster creativity and guide business strategies. The fact that multiple voices lead to new ideas, new services, and new products, and encourage out-of-the box thinking has never been clearer.

The training component 

While most companies feel they have made progress in building a diverse workforce, there is still scope for putting in place a diversity training program that is integrated with the company’s overall objective, planned to include accountability and is delivered to all employees. An important inference is that the success of any program fostering workplace diversity is dependent not so much on its intent or constitution or even comprehensiveness as much as it is on its implementation, execution and monitoring.

These days, companies spend significant amount of money recruiting, training, and developing their employees, so it’s not surprising that among some of their top priorities is the retention and development of diverse talent. Companies need to embrace and operate in this new age multicultural world by implementing plans or practices that  manage and retain people and hence maximise the potential advantages of diversity and also minimise its potential disadvantages. It is vital for companies to build a foundation in place, both at the value level and at the practical level – in order to integrate a diverse workforce to work well together. Leaders and workers at the workplace need to constantly examine how effective they are in bringing out the best in their people who may belong to diverse nationalities, religions, genders, differently abled groups, age groups, ethnicities, sexual preferences.

Companies need to embrace and operate in this new age multicultural world by implementing plans or practices that  manage and retain people and hence maximise the potential advantages of diversity and also minimise its potential disadvantages.

At the value level, for all leaders and workers, the absolute necessity for cross-cultural sensitivity is an imperative. This can be done effectively by identifying training programs that highlight sensitivities required when working with a diverse workforce. These trainings need to be targeted to both groups — mainstream and minorities. The former get trained so that they are more aware about how their behaviours and cues may affect the performance of minority groups and the latter so that they feel empowered to tackle the situation and not be victimised by it.

Formulating conducive policies

On a practical level, successful companies have seamlessly integrated policies in areas such as hiring, maternity leave, and work-life balance, to ensure that they are supportive to diverse workforces in their time of need. The obstacles faced multiply when you deal with a heterogeneous group. In such a circumstance, smart organisations will think through these holistically, keeping in mind its diverse workforce. It will formulate systems and policies that help them persist and persevere. This could mean, for instance, giving an extended maternity leave if the situation demands, or incorporating incentives and promotions of a diverse workforce in hiring policies.

To summarise, organisations today have realised that a diverse workforce results in better client outcomes and value to the company. It is not enough any longer to just have an idea of diversity. The employees and the organisation need the plans to work. Organisations should consult leaders, gauge the cultural climate of the company and then come up with effective diversity initiatives, and implement and monitor them to see the best results.


Srimathi Shivashankar is the Associate Vice President – Diversity & Sustainability at HCL Technologies. Her role encompasses all activities related to diversity, including gender, cultural assimilation, work-life continuity and employee well-being initiatives. She also manages sustainability programs covering ethics and governance, and green and community service (HCLT foundation). She has considerable experience in the areas of human capital strategy and diversity. Her core work areas in Human Capital include diversity and inclusion, employee engagement and retention, culture institutionalization, training and assessments, leadership development and counselling.