Celebrating Diversity - An Organizational Perspective

Posted by - Ketan Bhatt

I newly came across a statement which said, "let us move away from Unity in Diversity to Celebrate Diversity". Very interesting!

The time could not have been better to celebrate diversity now, when the Indian organizations are getting more and more diverse. Nevertheless, their diversity is more visible in their choice of businesses and approach to success. Look inside these organizations and you discover that, diversity is interpreted in terms of gender-ratio of employees only.

Diversity has already existed in the Indian organizations, but today has become a buzzword with the prefix "Gender". This in a way implies that there is limited appreciation of diversity. If organizations get too much packed away by the term "Gender Diversity", then they carry the danger of diluting other dimensions of diversity, which are largely interrelated and overlapping.

What are some of these already existing dimensions of diversity, which organizations already know and merely need to turn further on them if they truly want to "Celebrate Diversity" explicitly?

Cultural Background:

Employees represent different cultures. An Indian law mandates that certain % of employment be given to local people. It is likewise recognized that even a local individual who belongs to another region, keeps his or her cultural values and customs. Should not organizations imbibe some of the cultural values and regional customs, brought in by different employees, for enriching the overall organizational culture? Multinational companies run special programs on culture management for employees being sent abroad. However, most Indian companies do not consider necessary to tell employees about the cultural subtleties of the location where employees are being placed.

Socioeconomic Status:

Socioeconomic status of the employees is a critical dimension of diversity that is undergoing a subtle and significant change. In the last couple of years, due to availability of information and opportunities, persons from deprived socioeconomic classes have started making their presence felt in different professions. This is a healthy sign as it has been always a challenge to bring lower socioeconomic classes into the economic mainstream. Further, organizations have more talent available for their demands due to such changes in socioeconomic status of prospects.

Spiritual Faith:

Employees have different spiritual faiths. Shouldn't spiritual faith be a dimension of organizational diversity? Don't we associate certain attributes of employees with the faith they believe in? I firmly believe that if India has to become truly a secular state in the next decade, then the Indian organizations will have to look at employees only from the talent perspective. It is evident that the secular organizations have contributed a great deal in the progress of the developed countries.

Educational Status:

Employees with qualifications ranging from 4th pass to PhD work in an establishment. Though qualification is a central determinant of the type of job employees would start out, there are enough examples where employees with much lower qualification, but with proper guidance and self-belief, have done wonders within their work areas. In some instances, they have even gone much higher in the hierarchy purely on merit. All school dropouts can't become Bill Gates, but then one of them can if the environment is right. Research has shown that merely 30% of success is attributable to academic credentials and remaining 70% success is due to emotional and social intelligence.

Matrimonial Status:

An employee is either unmarried or married or divorced or widowed. Matrimonial status does have a rub-off effect on the aspirations of employees and, thereby, on their workplace performance. In case of a married employee, a sub-dimension of matrimonial status could be whether the spouse is working or not. This sub-dimension too impacts the aspirations and stability of the employees. Organizations have rarely paid attention to the meaning of DINK (Double Income No Kid) and DISK (Double Income Single Kid) culture that is becoming a norm in developing countries.

Disablement:

Employees, who are physically disabled, form part of workforce diversity, though very insignificant in most cases. There are legal requirements for employing physically disabled persons in India as well as in most other countries. If an organization is a micro image of the society, then it also can set examples for the society, by treating such persons with more dignity and giving them opportunities they deserve.

Generation Gap:

Researchers classify employees into generation X or Y or Z or now even Alpha, depending on their year of birth. A generation gap in my opinion is a critical diversity-dimension. The fact that we classify employees in generation X or Y or Z and associate different attributes to each class implies that we consider them diverse. In most cases, the generation gap is considered a problem. Organizations actually can devise ways of harnessing the best from each generation and celebrate the generation gap. India is expected to have the highest number of youth in the world in near future. Should not organizations prepare themselves for this impending change in the workforce diversity? It is always a challenge to marry wisdom with raw talent.

Conclusion:

If India is the most diverse country in the world, then Indian Organizations should also be the most innovative in their approach to employee diversity. The time is right for them to start celebrating diversity and set examples for their counterparts in the developed nations. The journey of Indian organizations towards becoming the most admired ones for their conviction in diversity, is about to begin.

 

 

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