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Managing a Diverse Workplace

By Mr. Dhrubajyoti Majumdar

Over the last two decades there has been significant paradigm shift we have observed in HR processes as well as practices. Predominantly such shift had taken place due to various socio economic factors, which were consequently responsible for rapid industrialization particularly in nontraditional sectors like IT-BPO and various other service industries which required a talent pool for seamless operations to serve their clients across the globe. As a result, a talent crunch has been created within the internal labor market and need was felt to cater such talent crunch by employing diverse workforce with requisite expertise.

During the post globalization phase we have experienced some vast changes in industrial economy namely

  • Bargaining power of unions got restricted due to lesser government intervention; except few union hostilities like in in HMSI or MSIL. This has paved the way for attracting foreign investment in India.

  • Merger and acquisition activities across the organization opened up the new opportunities in home as well as host country. Major acquisition like TATA motors acquisition of Jaguar of U.K. or Reckitt Benckiser with Paras Pharmaceuticals has created more opportunities for technocrats.

  • A major fundamental shift in post globalization phase was perhaps more institutional thrust on technology driven industry instead of labour intensive one. In order to cater such scarcity of talent, workforce mix based on race, culture, gender, ethnicity and religious belief changed significantly.

  • Various deregulation measures that had been institutionalized for attracting Foreign Institutional Investment rose significantly.

  • Boom in IT sector also tremendously affects the workforce diversity particularly IT-BPO sector. In one of the survey of 2009 by NASSCOM-Mercer; Indian IT-BPO sector employing 30-35% female employee and out of which 20% are from urban India. Since most of the IT-BPO sectors are having highly globalized operations, they always requires to industry ready talent pools across their operations, One of the success indicators of the IT industries may be their number of well trained and equipped bench strength. This can only be possible by creating talent pools across the globe with various ethnicity, race, gender and even if PWD (Person with Disabilities).

During last two decades, particularly in post liberalization period our economy has undergone through a major structural changes in its nature, which obviously played a pivotal role in changing the industrial climate. Before unraveling the reason and challenges for workforce diversity, let us first understand what actually denote diversity management and how it is important for modern organizations. By the term ‘Diversity Management’, we actually mean the processes through which an origination integrates its non -traditional workforce (female, different race, physically challenged, expats) in to the organization to benefit the firm to enjoy the competitive advantage. Through this definition we find one important aspect which is ‘integration’ and integration is most essential part of the Diversity Management in any workplace. Organizations and its management must come out from parochial thinking process and welcome the diversity in positive way by designing the policies and processes in such way that can be rightly fit with multilingual, multicultural and multiracial workforce; failing which can bring to a disastrous results.

Through our above discussion, one thing is quite evident that workforce diversity is inextricably associated with the 21st century industrial economy and if handled proactively, it can produce a result by which the firm can enjoy a competitive advantage over years.

In our forthcoming paragraph, let us now examine why diversity at all required or how it can benefit an organization. Also we will try to find out crux of the challenges that HR professional may face while handling diversity management particularly in Indian context.

Major challenges :

  • First and foremost challenge is to change the outlook of the management which still predominantly male dominated. Though in most cases management accepts the diversity but due to predominance of certain cultural orientation, surface level attitudes or behavioral inclination towards that specific cultural or religious orientation observed. These actions can be proved to be counterproductive as the minorities may suffer from lack of faith on the management and presume hindrance in furthering their career aspirations.

  • One of the major challenges that HR professionals may come across is to create an atmosphere of inclusiveness across the organization which can block glass ceiling effect which is an invisible barrier prevents particularly the female and minorities to progress their career within an organization. To mitigate such apprehension, most of the professionally managed organization designed a code of conduct and whistle blower policy which is basically raising the employees’ voice against any illegal or immoral or discriminative practices by the employer or against any other employee/s.

  • Another grey area for proper management of diversity can be segmented communication. In our country we are having 22 scheduled languages and 15 official languages (as per census report 2001). So there is a high chance of segmented communication, the communication or exchanging of thoughts within group consisting of members with same language or gender or ethnicity. This can adversely affect cohesiveness of the work group.

  • In the recent past we have come across expansion of Indian incorporations in abroad market and vice versa. Several foreign subsidiaries also expanded their business in India. Though these business activities create greater employment opportunities but simultaneously changed the work force mix as well. So strategic choice of HRM is becoming a big challenge for HR professionals due to potential cultural conflict between parent company and its subsidiary operating from host country.

  • Some of the offshoots of globalization as we came across which may be more relevant for IT-BPO industry is employment of LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual) and PWDs (People with Disabilities). Though the issues and intricacy related to LGBT is not so predominant in Indian context as of now, but it can be a potential challenge in future times. Nevertheless HR can play very crucial role to integrate these workforce with the main stream. Some of the IT majors are following UN Convention on Rights of Person with Disabilities, 2006 by ensuring their inclusiveness through employment of talented PWDs in these organizations.

  • Another significant challenge for any HR professionals is to integrate the value system of diverse workforce. After the year 2005 more and more millennial are inducted in to the industry with their own set of values and beliefs which are far more different than the Xers or Veterans. Therefore, to amalgamate as well as effectively engage these various workforce cohorts by designing policies accordingly is really a potential challenges for any HR professionals across industries. Institutionalization of various staff engagement measures can produce good results and can increase the work group cohesiveness.

  • Last but not the least is competition for opportunities which is also a potential challenge for HR professionals particularly when it is a question of minorities or female employees. Some of traditional belief managers are still carrying away with them like female employees are more suitable for back office jobs or more inclined to avail leaves etc. These actions construed the female employees and minorities suffering from lack of career aspirations. Here the managers themselves have to change this misconception by treating every employee as an individual, not as a member of a group or gender or ethnicity. A potential challenge is not only to secure but to maintain the distributive justice for this cross section of these diverse workforces in order to achieve the desired outcome for which workforce diversity is being introduced.

In our last section, we will try to figure out the various measures that are being taken out for proper diversity management in the workplace.

  • Adoption of Top down approach to create a climate for sustained diverse of workforce – The Top leadership must come out from the traditional belief system and foster a culture within the organization wherein diversity not only grow but can function effectively to generate the desired business outcome. The organization can design its mission statement and strategy which should be in tandem with organizations stand point in favor of diversity.

  • Employer branding – A strong employer branding which propagates diversity positively can be beneficial for the organization for attracting talents. Various measures that an organization can initiate like job sharing/ child day care facilities for female employees. Providing equal opportunities for deserving female employee or physically challenged or religious minorities. Some organization deputes Chief Diversity Officer to monitor the diversity issues and undertake time to time diversity audit related to policies and practices in order to enhance its efficacy.

  • Well chalked out strategic plan for diversity and talent mix - Indiscriminate or unplanned diversity can create mayhem for the organization. Therefore, HR department has to play a very crucial role to identify talent gap and integrate accordingly the talent pools.

  • Diversity Training – Both employees and employers should be educated properly in order to come out from some of the deep rooted misconceptions about gender or religious diversity. Understanding of why the diversity is essential for an organization to achieve its outcome should be clearly communicated in the training and should be clearly be understood.

  • Inclusiveness as a lever of successful diversity management – In our earlier section, we have tried to figure out the various issues on diversity management particularly discrimination based on age/sex/ethnic orientation and religions. Creation of a culture of inclusiveness is essential and can act as a lever for successful diversity management.

The issues of workforce diversity quite finely woven with individual belief, value systems; perception of what is diversity varies considerably from individual to individual, hence designing an ideal system for managing the diversity at a workplace is quite a challenging task altogether. However, in a nutshell, we can conclude with these observations that diversity can produce overwhelmingly good results for a firm which can welcomes it without any prejudice, judiciously plans it to match the talents across various workforce demographics and lastly nourishes it with inclusivity so that it can be synergized to achieve a greater organizational outcome.

 

Mr. Dhrubajyoti Majumdar

Mr. Dhrubajyoti Majumdar
Cluster HR Manager
Building & Factories
L&T Constructions Ltd.
Kolkata


 


 


 

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