How robust is your DE&I strategy? Let’s evaluate.
(Arjun Paleri and Jaya Ramachandran)
We have frequently heard about organizations having an Equal Opportunity Policy which mainly stems from the requirements under the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016; in the Indian landscape, increasingly companies are now going beyond being an equal opportunity provider who ensures there is equal opportunity for everyone and there is no discrimination at the workplace and are setting serious goals towards having a diverse workforce which contributes to the talent pool of the company and an inclusive workplace environment where employees feel valued and included.
What is Diversity, Equity and Inclusion?
Diversity, Equity and Inclusion or DE&I, as it is more commonly referred to is not a new concept, however, to build an effective DE&I strategy, it is important to understand the difference between each of these three concepts and how to address each of them.
Diversity refers to the all the ways in which people differ and focuses on recognizing these differences, respecting and celebrating them. In a workplace, that can mean race, ethnicity, religion, gender, gender identity or expression, differing abilities, sexual orientation, age, socioeconomic class and more. Diversity would also mean hiring individuals who come from different work backgrounds and experiences; who can provide a fresh perspective, ideas or give a different take based on such individual’s previous experience.
Equity (not to be confused with ‘equality’) refers to how each diverse individual has the same access, opportunity and is treated fairly by identifying and eliminating barriers. Simply put, equality refers to everyone being treated the same exact way, regardless of any individual difference, equity on the other hand means everyone is provided with what they need to succeed.
In the Indian context, while there is no all-encompassing legislation in place to deal with equity or equality, there are certain legislations in place that recognize and address certain areas that have been identified as lacking these. Most of these legislations place a a negative obligation on employers to not discriminate and not unfairly treat or deny employment to minority groups and hire fairly.
Inclusion is the practice of ensuring every individual feels welcomed, comfortable, supported and empowered. It refers to the collective behaviour at the workplace which creates an environment where each individual feels valued and included; and thereby having a sense of belonging in the workplace.
How do you measure DE&I?
Since each of these three concepts have a different end goal and cannot be equated to one another, organizations will require different tools to measure each of these concepts.
Organizations generally consider measuring Diversity the easiest, as they mostly determine diversity by viewing the demographic scale of the organization and seeing who represents the organization and assume diversity equates to equity and inclusion, however, that is mostly not the case. While integrating diverse individuals is important, but retention of such diverse workforce would depend on whether the organization has provided such workforce with necessary tools to complete their tasks and if they feel valued in the workplace and have a sense of belonging.
So how do you measure DE&I?
There are several ways to measure DE&I, some of which are discussed below:
How do you encourage DE&I?
It is a very narrow approach to assume that DE&I naturally refers to race, gender, gender orientation or expression and disability. Instead, organizations need to ask themselves the question ‘where are there still inequities to be addressed?’ DE&I can address any and all issues of inequity and therefore, it is important for organizations to look deeper and determine if there are any forms of inequity it must address.
There are several means to encourage DE&I, some of which are discussed below:
Creating a DE&I Policy and reviewing the other existing policies of company to ensure it is in line with the DE&I Policy.
Creating a gender neutral POSH Policy to maintain a safe work environment for not only women, but those who identify with genders apart from female.
Language used in job adverts placed by the company for qualified and diverse individuals to apply for the job posting. Identifying job postings to which differently abled individuals can apply.
Similarly, organizations must ensure that communications that are regularly sent out to its employees do not include any stereotype that would leave any diverse group of individuals out.
Trainings teaching to recognize unconscious bias at workplace to all employees, including interviewers to create a more inclusive and supportive environment.
Use hiring teams or panels, rather than one individual, focusing on the skills needed for roles.
Create focus groups to collect information on issues or challenges faced by diverse individuals or groups, while ensuring anonymity of the information source is maintained.
Regular employee survey/feedback- Asking a series of open-ended questions which is customized to a particular organization, team or function about the organization’s DE&I culture and how the organization could improve it. This could help ascertain job satisfaction, inter-team relationships and team dynamics. It is important that the employee feels absolutely safe about providing such feedback and their anonymity is maintained.
Taking into consideration the responses found during exit interview and creating a plan of action to address them. An exit interview is only beneficial if the feedback has been relayed back to the organization.
Extending medical benefits to same sex partners of employees.
To measuring whether an organization’s DE&I strategy is successful or moving in the right direction, the organization needs to track whether there are any improvements in the measures/parameters listed above. When individuals are treated fairly, it will in turn result in a sustainable and thriving work environment.