D&I is increasingly becoming a top priority for organisations. While implementing Diversity & Inclusion (D&I), many companies focus exclusively on hiring diverse talent. This is indeed essential to keep feeding into the talent pool and building a diverse workforce, but is not sufficient. A more holistic approach to D&I should include employee retention, enriching employee experience, inclusion training and continued leadership and organisational commitment towards the cause.
The need is to inject D&I into the blood of the organisation.
Gender diversity is one of the many forms of diversity that most organisations are currently working at; as it is relatively simpler to achieve and can be pursued without too many challenges and hassles. Including physically challenged, or neuro diverse, or LGBT employees into an organisation would require more sensitive handling of the parties involved.
Improving the gender balance at the workplace comes with challenges that could be unique to the organisation’s industry, operations, geography and most importantly the internal culture and mind-set. It is essential to identify and differentiate what really matters to the women talent in order to attract such talent and retain them.
So how would you go about doing this?
The first and foremost pre-requisite to implementing Gender diversity in an organisation is leadership commitment. A strong leadership statement that expresses the beliefs and values of the leadership team should be communicated throughout the organisation. This has to be re-emphasised at every possible occasion in order to get the message clear and ensure continued commitment. A clear and concise diversity vision and aligning the same with the organisational goals would be ideal.
The D&I Team
Depending on the size of the organisation, an individual or team can be allocated with the responsibility of driving gender diversity. This will ensure that there is constant focus on making progress, rather than treating D&I as a management reporting activity. The individual or members of the team should be identifiable, accessible and approachable to the womenfolk, rather than a fictitious committee whose whereabouts are unknown.
Strategic Road Map
The present state of gender diversity at the organisation needs to be determined, in order to aid in chalking out clear objectives and critical goals. Data analytics plays an important role in ascertaining the current state and establishing various parameters that will help measure progress. For example, historical data on gender ratios and pay parity, analysis of exit interviews are a few critical data points. The objectives should be concise and drawn from the diversity vision.
A strategic roadmap will assist in visualising the key deliverables over a particular time horizon. The programs or measures required to achieve the targets can be brainstormed or sketched out based on industry best practises. These programs should be based on an in-depth assessment of the needs of the targeted talent pool and should enhance employee experience. It is a common practise for corporates to brand their diversity programs with unique names to promote them both internally and externally.
Campus hiring from women-only institutions, fixing a gender ratio for interviews, Returnship programs for women on break, mentoring and professional development programs for existing women employees, Accelerated leadership programs for mid-managerial women are some of the programs that are widely used.
For the successful rollout of D&I programs, it is essential that ‘diversity’ and ‘inclusion’ should move hand-in-hand. This implies that there is a need to identify and lay out inclusive practices, and inclusion training becomes inevitable.
The measurement tools required to monitor the gender balance and track progress of the programs need to be carefully set. Measuring the right KPIs will help in demonstrating the effectiveness of the D&I programs and to make amends wherever required. Communicating the success of the D&I measures can serve as a branding tool to build an image, in-order to attract unique and diverse talent. Women are often looking out for employers who embrace diverse talent and empower them.
The most effective programs and measures can be infused into the DNA of the organisation thereby ensuring the sustainability of the D&I initiatives. Including men as advocates or champions of gender diversity programs will assist in overcoming resistance from men towards these programs and in turn accelerate the success of the initiatives.
The success and sustainability of such programs depends on how well the women employees feel heard and supported. A proactive D&I strategy can genuinely foster such feelings and lead to long-term employer-employee relationships.