20 Nov 2015 17:04 IST

Diversity is a survival need today

Research indicates that diversity is a pre-requisite for sustainability   -  Shutterstock

A diverse workforce creates unique sustainable advantages. It must be viewed from a long-term perspective

A lot has been talked about the need for diversity and its importance in today’s corporate world. Research also clearly indicates that diversity is a pre-requisite for sustainability. But the question that has been plaguing organisations is: how to leverage a diverse workforce to create a unique sustainable advantage?

Globalisation and industry trends have presented a unique opportunity to us. Companies that have learnt to harness this energy have seen tangible business benefits.

Is there a cookbook approach to managing diversity? While there are many best practices existing in this space, blind replication may not yield the desired benefits. With the many nuances of diversity, it is important to clearly identify the strategic intent. As a first step, we need to understand what it is that diversity brings to the workplace.

For simplicity, I break it down to the top three diversity focus areas that are most relevant in today’s context:

Ambition@Work: Gender diversity brings a lot of advantages to the workplace. Women wanting to walk the demanding path to self actualisation while ably managing family responsibilities, do so because of the sheer ambition to be successful. The hidden benefit that we see at the workplace is the drive towards excellence, result orientation and resource optimisation, all of which are key ingredients of ambition.

Passion@Work: Watching people who are differently abled, succeed at the workplace has always been an inspirational moment for me. Their hunger for success and ability to deliver superior performance vis-à-vis others can be attributed to their grit, determination and ability to leverage their strengths. Their zest for life is a true demonstration of Passion@Work. Any team that has had the opportunity to work with differently abled people has shown a significant upswing in performance and positivity.

Harmony@Work: Today’s integrated work environment inevitably requires people from different cultures and countries to work together as teams. Recognising the differences in values, customs and traditions and progressing towards development of shared values is key to great team work, higher morale and enhanced productivity. It’s a known fact that many culturally diverse teams have been responsible for a number of innovations. Just like the ingredients of a salad bowl build on individual flavours to produce an interesting dish, managing diversity is all about bringing Harmony@Work. It helps us respect and understand people who are simply “not like us”.

Diversity and inclusion

While the business case for diversity and inclusivity is clear, the key to harnessing the power of diversity lies in the enablement process. Knowing that Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) are more about changing mindsets, organisations started their journey towards diversity by putting in place three fundamental operating pillars. First, they identified D&I as a strategic focus area. Second, they co-opted managers into operationalising the strategic focus. And third, they created D&I teams to implement outreach programmes for raising awareness levels.

My parting thought to all fellow colleagues is to view diversity from a long-term perspective. Building diversity at the workplace cannot be event based. It has to be a deliberate continuous process, one step at a time.

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