Pooja Malhotra, Head - HR, British Council, 0
Building an inclusive culture’ is easier said than done. My tryst with equality, diversity and inclusion began about a decade ago when I joined the British Council to initiate and eventually managed the Human Resources function for the Shared Services Centre in Noida. I attended an e-learning training as part of my induction programme, and I sat bolt upright (in a manner of speaking). ‘This is new’, I thought to myself. Two years went by in the struggle to setup a new organisation and stabilize.
Then in 2012, I was told by the board to now build and setup the Diversity and Inclusion framework for the Shared Services. Again, easier said than done! This journey started on track that I wasn’t enough acquainted with, and this made me remember Robert Frost’s ‘The road not taken’. Let me pen down my favourite lines: ‘Two roads diverged in a wood and I - I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference’.
Every action gave me new learnings and opportunity. It started as a mandate but over the years, it grew on me. In fact, I’d say that I feel it has made me a better HR professional. It has surely made me a better person. Now everything we do, we ensure to be conscious of EDI principles.
Several efforts have been involved in mainstreaming EDI in the organisation. To create a diverse workforce, we iinitiated a partnership based approach with organisations working with disabled people. We had hired two interns from the Noida Deaf Society and I love to boast about the fact that they both made it to become our fulltime employees.
Another action that helped us with this aim was creating a capability to train facilitate conversations and provide consultancy on Equality, Diversity and Inclusion. This helped us immensely improve our employee satisfaction score.
Organisations around the world now see diversity and inclusion as a serious subject, and there is a strong emphasis on CEOs to take ownership and drive accountability across senior management to create fair, equal and inclusive workplaces. Workplace inclusion also creates stronger engagement as employees feel more valued.
However, Equality, diversity and inclusion is an abstract area and a lot of us in Human Resources are not able to wrap our heads around this, especially the one who are more comfortable with data, numbers and facts. There is a risk too of treating the EDI as a trivial matter and not treat it like a business imperative. HR’s role is to lead and
1. Focus on Creating a Strong Governance: We realized that our parent organisation has way and means through which we can measure our performance on creating the right culture. We decided to adopt all that we could. We understood the local context, setup regular meetings with the global diversity unit, ensured that the board has a substantive agenda to discuss every time it meets, and setup an internal team to drive mainstreaming.
2. Measure What You Do: British Council measures EDI mainstreaming as a 'Diversity Assessment Framework' score across 10 parameters ranging from Essential to Good Practice. Every operation in the network is assessed every two years. We decided to participate in the assessment and have done very well in the scoring because of our strong governance.
Focusing On Inclusion In Your Workplace Will Not Only Help Your People Feel Valued And Comfortable At Work, But IT Will Help Increase Employee Wellbeing, Engagement, Innovation, And Ultimately Boost Company Performance
3. Mainstream EDI in the DNA of the Organisation: British Council is an organisation that focuses on building strong cultural relations between the UK and the world. They believe in mainstreaming EDI in all the cultural relations work that they do. This means that that there is a strong focus on main streaming it internally as well. There are several ways and tools available to do this. Equality screening impact assessment tool ensures that every major change in a policy or process is screened for a possible positive impact on EDI and any negative impact is mitigated. Similarly, there are others such as the Living Library The 'Books' are people who have experienced prejudice, social exclusion or stigma, and they are ‘borrowed’ by 'readers' who can ask any question they like on that topic.
4. Make the Employees Understand EDI through Fun & Engagement: We found that people engaged well with EDI when having fun with the concept. Quizzes on floor, videos, stand-up comedy, and games make the floor a lively place while telling the employees about basics of EDI.
5. Find Volunteers:People love giving back to the society and do extremely well when a platform is provided by the organisation. They feel more engaged and achieve self fulfilment. They take it up as their own responsibility. We have had cases where some employees started a school for under privileged children, participated in cleanliness and education drives.
Overall, there is a strong case for diversity in organisations and a stronger one for having a framework in place to mainstream it. Focusing on inclusion in your workplace will not only help your people feel valued and comfortable at work, but it will help increase employee well being, engagement, innovation and ultimately boost company performance.