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BW Businessworld

Diversity, Equity & Inclusion – At The Heart Of Business Strategy

A truly diverse organization reflects the populations of the geographies in which it operates and its customer base.

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A combination of the global pandemic heightened awareness of social injustices, and strong headwinds in the global economy have raised the standards for excellence in leadership.  As visionaries, enterprise leaders are finding ways to best inspire their teams in the next chapter of this new normal. This shift in thinking has gained significant traction in the highly collaborative, complex, and unpredictable world we now live in.   

Inclusion, equity, and social justice are the clarion call in today’s highly aware and dynamic society shining the light on varying backgrounds, experiences, and expectations of very diverse demography of people.  An organization is but a microcosm of this dynamic society.  We know that successful organizations are powered by the diverse opinions, skill sets, and life experiences of their employees, and yet organizations struggle to leverage the full potential that diversity brings.

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion done right! 

A truly diverse organization reflects the populations of the geographies in which it operates and its customer base.  Harvard Business Review in an immensely readable article, The Value of Belonging at Work, suggests that, “Social belonging is a fundamental human need, hardwired into our DNA. And yet, 40% of people say that they feel isolated at work, and the result has been lower organizational commitment and engagement.” 

So clearly it is not enough to be diverse.  Workplace equity and inclusion are now informing successful talent strategies in enterprises. WEF’s  Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion 4.0 - A toolkit for leaders to accelerate social progress in the future of work – beautifully articulates the moral, legal, and economic imperative of embracing diversity building a strong case for integrating DEI into the business strategy of corporations and making business accountable for effectively leveraging diverse talent beyond the tokenism of mentoring, initiatives and annual day celebrations,  that underline   D&I efforts in most organizations, globally.   

Be intentional about inclusion

Human beings are complex.  We revel in our uniqueness, want variety in the many choices we make every day and yet, spend nearly 90 percent of our lives trying to seek affirmation and acceptance — to just belong.  The comfort of something ‘known and endorsed’ acts as a soothing balm in the chaotic world that we operate offering a convenient ‘safe haven’ for choices we make.   So, it is not surprising that we end up experiencing great comfort in homogeneous groups despite knowing that diverse and inclusive teams – if well managed – have a broader range of knowledge and skills; are better at identifying and solving problems, and gain a competitive edge in accessing new markets and higher market share.

Clearly, the only way to do this correctly is by being intentional.   Intentional about the way you hire.   From the way the job description reads to the way, it is advertised, to how you reach diverse talent and influence them to apply to the diverse set of hiring managers to an experience that continues to cement inclusion at every step of growth, development, and opportunities from policies, processes, and practices.  

We all know what gets measured, gets improved.  So, it is not a bad idea to invest in tracking data and continuously benchmark your performance.  Data on the diversity of the talent that applies gets selected, developed, and progressed.  Data on how included diverse talent feels, data on specific actions to cement belonging, data on ‘objectivity’ in performance appraisals, data on why talent leaves, data on cultures of inclusion, manager training… in short, measure everything when you want to be intentional about inclusion.  

Lead a larger change 

Building a sustainable world requires countries, organizations, and citizens to work in concert. A responsible business informs opportunities, education, economic progress, and cultural and social development of diverse communities. And business can be an essential driver of sustainable development and human prosperity the world over.  

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.

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Aruna C. Newton

The author is the Associate Vice-President and Head of Global Diversity and Inclusion, Sustainability Reporting and Governance at Infosys.

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