By SURESH SIDHU
Our globalised economy is gradually changing the workforce composition of companies from a truly homogenous organisation into a more multicultural, multi-environmental and multi-practice one.
The ubiquity of the internet and technological advancements, have made it easier for organisations to grow at a radical pace. When people are able to connect beyond borders, businesses are able to expand their footprint more rapidly across various markets beyond their home ground.
Having this presence in multiple geographic markets makes it necessary for companies to start tapping into a workforce that is not only homegrown, but that also comprises of a mix of local and international talent. Companies must recognise diversity as a source of competitive advantage as it serves as a business imperative for each organisation to stay ahead.
Recognising Your Competitive Advantage
In their 2018 report, Delivering Through Diversity, McKinsey revealed that companies with the most culturally diverse management and directors are more likely to experience higher profits against its peers by 33% and 43% respectively.
A diverse talent pool allows organisations to benefit from a breadth of unique exposures, experiences, beliefs, values and perspectives that are brought in by employees from varied backgrounds and cultures.
The key is for organisations to harness these differences to their advantage, creating a melting pot of new ideas and innovation that is able to meet evolving demands of the marketplace and enable them to remain relevant.
How can organisations build solid foundations in this area? They can do so by creating a workplace environment that is inclusive and which empowers everyone to thrive.
This cannot be achieved by sheer luck or coincidence, nor does the responsibility rely solely on the shoulders of Human Resources (HR) professionals.
It requires the participation of employees across all levels. Business leaders and front line managers have to drive this agenda and set the right tone for an effective environment of openness.
Beyond The Numbers
While companies may be inclined to favour diversity quotas as a course-correct measure for the lack of representation in their workforce, merely treating this as an end goal is counterproductive.
For example, if a company sets a 30% diversity quota for talents from a minority group or background, there is a possibility that the company will stop hiring once it reaches this goal, and lose out on other candidates who may be a great fit for the company. It may also results in employees viewing it as a tokenistic policy rather than an overall empowerment agenda that applies to everybody.
Instead, any organisation that aims to reinforce their commitment to workforce diversity should employ a more sustainable approach and delve beyond the numbers by creating an environment which encourages and attracts talent from all backgrounds and disciplines.
The ultimate goal should focus on cultivating a workplace that allows employees to thrive and grow while being comfortable in their own skin, and that promotes a non-discriminatory culture ensuring fair treatment for all employees.
Managing diversity can be complex, and just amending policies alone may risk having a segment of employees who feel that they do not fit within a certain mould.
Instead, organisations should begin to create a workplace environment which focuses on creating awareness and acceptance of the different personalities and groups that shape their organisation.
In doing so, often the best way to gain acceptance from employees is by having the management live out a commitment to diversity through role modelling the right behaviour. Beyond a written commitment to diversity, actively shaping experiences for employees to be able to ‘see and feel’ the management’s commitment has proven to carry more weight.
Companies need to go beyond celebrate diversity beyond age, gender, and ethnic backgrounds by ensuring that its various departments and teams are made of a good mix of people from different geographical locations and skill levels.
This encourages employees to understand and embrace different cultures and backgrounds. It also encourages open-mindedness as the employees are given the opportunity to work through their differences and leverage on each other’s unique values in achieving a common goal.
Mobility transfer experiences, where employees are given the opportunity to experience similar roles in another country have also proven effective in terms of shaping positive behaviour towards diversity in the workplace.
Every business should aspire to create an environment that encourages and accepts diverse input without judgement. Rather than focus on individual personalities and characteristics, decision making and performance appraisals must focus on facts and actual achievements. As such, a person’s performance is judged on the basis of empirical evidence and not on affinity or familiarity.
While the management can mandate that a certain type of candidate is interviewed for roles, it’s always better to inculcate a practice where CVs are sought from candidates who display suitable skills regardless of personality traits, age, gender or background.
Ultimately, diversity and inclusion are not just another few items to check off the HR To-Do list. It is an ongoing process that organisations need to work towards every day.
While the World Day of Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development is celebrated each year, let this be a reminder for all organisations to shift their mindset and continue the endeavour until these causes are ingrained in the very culture and DNA of every business.