Diversity and inclusion: building a balanced working environment

With the pandemic pushing diversity and inclusion higher up the agenda, businesses have all to gain from putting forward-looking policies in place. Aakanksha Bhargava, CEO of PMR Relocations in India, looks at the benefits of hiring from across a broad range of backgrounds

The terms diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) are becoming synonymous with a happy and balanced work environment. During the pandemic, DEI has become particularly significant, a trio of terms that encourage employers to foster a holistic work environment to bolster their growth.

DEI in the workplace should help improve productivity and creativity, and boost innovation. Diversity can be seen as a culture that respects uniqueness in all its forms, acknowledging people from different backgrounds, cultures, genders, races and ages. Inclusion, meanwhile, is about organisations inviting diverse groups to help spearhead the company’s journey. Equity, next, is a critical piece of the triangle, implying that each person is given an equal opportunity to feel accepted for who they are and, therefore, to thrive in a company’s work environment. 

Many business leaders believe that DEI brings together talents that thrive together, a diverse skillset that encourages productivity and innovation in a team. However, while many organisations say they do this, there is an epidemic of misinformed leaders with poorly formulated DEI strategies that, accordingly, fail. Globally, there is an overall mismatch of talent, and it is time that corporates take on board the real key to transitioning into dynamic, inclusive, equal, and diverse workplaces.

Hiring and retaining diverse talents, listening to employees, and integrating DEI should be a focus for HR. Efficiently embedding DEI into the system is essential for start-ups, small and medium-sized enterprises or established multinational corporations.

Before COVID impacted the lives of people across the world, recessions revolved around ‘men accessions’ – and at best they affected men and women equally. However, during the pandemic there has been an alarming number of job losses for women and/or women taking a step back to pursue their primary ‘care-giving’ responsibilities. COVID has triggered and worsened the situation of women’s employment internationally overall.

PMR has always believed in tackling the underlying issues to ensure an all-inclusive environment for our workforce. Starting from humble beginnings, we have always emphasised gender equality. While many companies look at it superficially, we have brought this thinking to our internal leaderships, cultural adaptation, and tweaking of our policy infrastructure.

The positive outcomes of workplace diversity are not just obtained by the presence of diversity itself. Effective leadership is also required to tackle conflicts and manage the different cultural and gender mindsets of diverse groups.

We have always ensured that we are consistent in our positioning both externally and internally, with proper policies and practices with respect to both men and women in the office. This includes: policies for pregnant employees at work; discouraging the use of racist language; having a performance-based compensation structure; having a diverse interview panel; making work-life balance a priority for our employees; having strict policies against harassment at workplace; and raising awareness of stereotyping.

Implementation begins at the hiring process where key resources are taken on in a bias-free and merit-based environment. Corporate leadership is well balanced with respect to skill set, age, gender, and experience. Our teams are sensitised to work efficiently and cohesively to avoid conflict.

We have aimed to build a culture based on the foundation of equal work opportunities for men and women, understanding their key challenges and working together with them to solve them. Having a balanced, focused and diverse team encourages that any challenges and growth opportunities have a 360-degree viewpoint.

Decades of research on the impact of DEI in a company’s ecosystem suggests that corporates with a diverse functioning outperform less diverse organisations – not only in terms of profits but also the quality of employee engagement, experiences, creativity, culture, and productivity. However, we must also remember that the key is to implement DEI tactically and sparingly rather than treating it as a miracle cure to a firm’s challenges for growth.

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