diversity and inclusion, diversity, inclusion, leadership

Inclusion is a mindset, a conscious decision, and a positive reinforcement. Hence leadership must walk the talk every step of the way and be careful that personal biases do not come in the way of inclusion, says Shailesh Singh, Senior Director and Chief People Officer, Max Life Insurance.

In this piece, the author covers the following:

  • How organisations can nurture both strong and authentic leadership and D&I meaningfully.
  • How leaders can be trained to develop an inclusive mindset. 
  • Why measurement is necessary to ensure D&I goals are met with strict adherence.

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Today, workplace diversity has become a critical factor in business success, with companies all around the world debating on how to leverage the diversity of their workforce for optimal performance. As Jacqueline Woodson rightly said: "Diversity is about all of us and about us having to figure out how to walk through this world together", and hence there is no contention that organisations that are diverse and inclusive, produce creative results.

Despite this, many firms often fall short in attracting and nurturing diverse talent, leading to undesirable workplace inequity.

One of the most competitive advantages a firm can retain in the changing world dynamics is a strong corporate culture that invests in diverse and inclusive leadership. Corporate leadership and learning have never been more important in leading our firms through cultural changes, embracing diversity, and inspiring inclusion.

It is only through strong and authentic leadership that diversity and inclusion (D&I) can thrive. This brings in the question: how can organisations nurture the two concepts meaningfully? 

Here are three ways to achieve this: 

Developing an inclusive mindset

Leaders who demonstrate a true commitment to D&I, understand that a strong strategy is critical for bottom-line success.

Through carefully-designed programmes and workshops, leaders can be trained to develop an inclusive mindset and become well-versed with the business case of building a workforce that reflects the market's ever-changing demographics, as well as the opportunities afforded by diversity as a competitive advantage.

Recognising the zeal to become transformative D&I leaders is a prerequisite for shaping up an inclusive leadership. This core visionary group has to be committed to developing their individual and team D&I competencies and skill sets, that will ensure that the workforce can work in any global and cultural setting and at every stage of an organisation's development.

What gets measured, gets done

'What gets measured, gets done', is a quote that stands relevant in the context of organisational D&I. Every firm today must consider instituting a dedicated diversity and inclusion council that creates, assesses, and measures broader corporate D&I goals. It is important to recognise and leverage this particular body to utilise its power and position to promote change while monitoring and responding to progress when it comes to ensuring diversity and inclusion across the company. 

Here, it becomes important to strive for regular and close involvement of the senior leadership to ensure that the D&I goals are met with strict adherence. When a chief executive officer (CEO) chairs or meets the diversity council regularly, the company's D&I programme gets more credibility and functional integration becomes much simpler.

The route to success hence becomes more assured if the CEO critically evaluates D&I representation objectives and performance and helps chart the future course of action.

Building fairness and equity

It is observed that minority and marginalised communities continue to be under-represented across industries, often with several structural and cultural barriers contributing to it. Hence, to enable a diverse workforce to lead future workplaces, firms must focus on cultivating inclusive strategies that will help tackle any inequities arising due to the changing nature of work.

Ingraining inclusion-led charters in everyday work environments like adjusting candidate screening, establishing mentorship programs that grow diversity, making available diversity training at all employee levels, and enhancing the organisation language will help attract and retain a diverse talent pool.

In conclusion, while each firm has its framework and procedures, a proper leadership infrastructure needs to be in place when it comes to building a diversity and inclusion charter. The leadership must individually establish principles, procedures, and accountability measures, as well as review frequency, based on the nature of the goals to be achieved.

One must remember that inclusion is a mindset, a conscious decision, and a positive reinforcement. Hence leadership must walk the talk every step of the way and be careful that personal biases do not come in the way of inclusion.

Continuous, sometimes uncomfortable, but integral conversations are the only way we change mindsets and it starts right from the top.


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