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How Indian Corporates can Improve Diversity and Inclusion in the Workplace?

A news article from 2019 shared that several companies, including KPMG, Infosys, Accenture, Nestaway, and Sodexo, had introduced policies and hiring plans to hire transgendered talent. There are start-ups, like PeriFerry, which exclusively provide trans talent to companies. As of 2019, only around 5% of trans women were engaged in gainful employment, so such initiatives are essential to help trans people, and other marginalized communities, gain employment. Till now, the community has struggled for their right to work, with many turning to entrepreneurial ventures to help them break the glass ceiling, such as Madurai’s famous trans kitchen.

Similarly, many historically marginalized groups in India need help to enter the mainstream workforce. These groups included women, those from Adivasi backgrounds, SC/STs and OBCs, individuals with disabilities, and more. The government has also taken a few initiatives for social inclusion, such as the Equal Remuneration Act, 1976 (and its successor, the Code on Wages, 2019), the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016, the Human Immunodeficiency Virus and Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (Prevention and Control) Act, 2017 and the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act, 2019. These have certain anti-discriminatory provisions in place. These are still a work in progress, and much is left to be done in the space of corporate inclusivity and equity. What can Indian companies do to improve their DEI policies? Let’s take a look.

Any corporation would have to create a strategy that’s aligned with their own inclusivity goals, as well as their corporate identity. That could include hiring DEI officers to oversee and execute best practices. They could create sensitization workshops and conduct them at the right time. These officers could partner with NGOs and advocacy organizations to hold recruitment drives. That way, they would be equipped with the knowledge to create helpful measures such as flexible work hours, additional paid leaves, and more.

While developing any strategy, the company must be cognizant of India’s laws and policies. Many DEI initiatives are tailored to Western needs but those are different from ours. After editing the policies to suit the Indian context, they must consider the nature and size of their organization. Calculate the number of underrepresented and marginalized categories. The specific needs of each group will differ and those must be considered.

1. Identify your core values:

If your company wants to be recognized as an equal opportunity employer, take efforts to widen your recruitment drive. Then partner with organizations that would give you access to the best talent available in your industry. That way, you’ll be able to give the rightful people employment and you’ll boost your reputation as well as your DEI score. Ensure that you work together with the organizations to understand your candidates’ requirements and if there are any requirements even at the interview stage.

2. Collect and assess sufficient data:

Your company could conduct an audit of its practices from a DEI perspective. They could collect personal data from their employees, such as their gender, the number of children, age, marital status, sexual orientation, position in your organization and how long they’ve been at that position, and more. Then examine the data to understand the underlying patterns. Perhaps you’ll learn that there are fewer women in the age group of 30-40 in your company. Why is that? Is it because you don’t have sufficient childcare policies or flexible work opportunities for mothers? Do you have paternity leave? Perhaps you need to add policies that would encourage the hiring of women who want to get back to work after a career break. Look into all these things and you’re sure to find ample opportunities for developing inclusive policies.

3. Draft and implement a DEI strategy:

After you do enough research, create a list of actionable goals. You need well-thought-out research to substantiate these goals. Then create a detailed plan and explore these ideas. A document like this would help you identify your problems and the various challenges involved. Then create a to-do list on how you can implement these ideas. Then gain feedback from all the concerned stakeholders so that you can edit and create your plan to maximize its effectiveness.

4. Create internal policies and ensure you meet all the legal compliances:

Better hiring practices will help you build a more diverse workforce. But if you want to be more inclusive, you’ll need a separate set of strategies to help people from marginalized communities fit in. Draft clear internal policies which offer strong support to those who need them. That could cover structural changes such as separate washrooms. You could create group-specific ERGs, mentorship programs, soft skills training, and more. You could offer scholarships, nominate certain individuals for leadership training, and help them gain access to credit, hotlines, grievance redressal officers, and even mental health professionals if needed. In case of violence or harassment, offer legal assistance. All these must be drafted according to the applicable laws. Publicize these internally.

5. Conduct sensitization workshops:

Most DEI strategies include sensitization workshops as these are important to help employees from underrepresented communities fight the fear of facing stigma or career impediments due to prejudice. But these can be tricky areas to navigate. No one likes a sudden spotlight being thrown at them, nor do people like being accused of being ‘bad people, as many internalized prejudices are subconscious ones. You’ll have to create suitable training modules that are creative and help the trainees feel comfortable enough to be receptive to what is being taught to them. You could try creating short videos, quizzes, podcasts, screen movies, hold plays, and have informal discussion groups around these topics. Invite experts and ensure that the top management is participating as well for the best results and a feeling of camaraderie.

6. Monitor the progress:

You must create a list of KPIs and targets to assess whether your policies are reaping results. These measures must be taken and evaluated now and then. That way, you can also iron out any issues with these plans. Remember to take constant feedback from your employees who belong to the communities that you’re aiming to empower and include. That would give you the clearest idea of your DEI plan’s effectiveness.

7. The extra mile:

Ensure your initiatives aren’t simply surface-level initiatives. Partner with grassroots-level organizations and incentivize employee volunteers to design and manage specific initiatives. Have an open-door policy and be receptive to different perspectives. You can use this as an opportunity to include policy experts, activists, lawyers, and academics to help you create a real change. That will help you enhance your company’s DEI policies at a very deep level.

Follow these steps and empower those within your organization who need it – the right way. You’ll be creating a better company environment, yes, but also a more inclusive and equitable society.