WORKFORCE DIVERSITY CAN HELP YOUR BUSINESS

At Inception Day, the People Panel saw a lot of interesting aspects of attracting, managing and retaining talent for start-ups and growing organisations being discussed. Moving on from gender diversity, the discussion also looked at diversity of other kinds – religion, language and origin. This prompted this blog on what workforce diversity really does for your business.
Organisations today, are supposedly more aware of the need for gender diversity. (At IBS, we are guilty of maintaining a rather skewed one which not surprisingly is currenty in favour of women!) Are women more suitable for working in start-ups or early growth companies because of their inherent instinct and emotional make-up? Perhaps more women are at liberty to opt for alternate careers or perhaps they rate smaller companies and start ups higher because of flexibility options? Whatever the reasons, there was no doubt that a healthy gender balance is a very good standard to work with. As our Keynote speaker K Pandia Rajan shared, at Ma Foi, they had always strived, from Day one, to keep the gender ratio at 48-52% at all times. This he felt had been an important rule while building a world class HR services organization.
But diversity of the workforce is not only split two ways by gender. Especially in India, diversity by means of religion, language or mother tongue, origin state – the list is quite interesting.
Here is a quick cheat sheet of sorts for you to know what Workforce diversity can or should be doing for your business.
·         As are your customers, so be your employees:
      One of the key learnings at my earlier organization (HSBC) was that customers are a diverse lot. And in any direct to customer business, a similar diversity in the workforce is often a useful tool to help your employees connect better with different sub-groups in your customer or target audience.  This was reiterated during the People Panel discussion at Inception Day. A couple of participants felt that their retail business was better oriented to service customers from different backgrounds because they had store staff from similar backgrounds.
·         Balanced needs:
      When it comes to workplace expectations, a diverse workforce may force you to create a more holistic workplace. Having a diverse team can also aid you in running your business at top gear right through the year since different groups would need time off at varying periods, particularly in the context of the wide array of festivals celebrated by different communities.
·         Better Insight:
More perspectives culled from employees of varying background can be very useful in gleaning customer or other business insight. A workforce drawn across a wider spectrum of communities can be the simplest way to get access to varying outlooks with reference to your business.
·         Global ready:
      If your business has anything remotely international about it, a diverse workforce is a great stepping-stone to ensuring you have a culture with the basic ingredients for being global. Global or multinational organization building begins right here!
·         A Neutral Culture:
      A diverse workforce is a very good way to ensure that the organization’s culture is not dominated by any one group or community, or even completely flavored by your own ideas (if you are the main owner/promoter). While we all tend to impose our conditioning upon the businesses we build, a team that is drawn from across multiple communities and backgrounds can help temper this and push towards a more neutral culture. This is probably healthier for the organization in the long run.
     
      (And oh well, here’s one more reason that is on the lighter side and definitely one for the foodies. Imagine the sheer range of culinary delights that you could sample in the office just by ensuring you have people from differently communities and sub-cultures J)
You don’t need a whole bunch of reasons, as long as even one of these appeals to you strongly. It may seem easier to work with people who are just like us. But the benefits of pushing ourselves beyond this comfort zone and ensuring workforce diversity are far too many to ignore.
We are going to be thinking a lot about this even for our own firm. How about you?

About the Author:  
Pavithra is Founder & Partner at Inception Business Services. A Marketing & Management professional with a keen interest in people and passion for ideas, Pavithra moved from being a Banker & Wealth Management professional to entrepreneur. Working with start ups, Brand management, Customer engagement, Content creation and Coaching/Training are areas of work that most excite her. Multi-tasking entrepreneur, mother of a 3 year old and wife of a businessman, Pavithra confesses that her 2013 resolutions include being regular with her blog writing and any encouragement in that direction is welcome. Mail her at pavithra at inception.net.in
Author – Team Inception

Categories: alternate career, global ready, Inception Business Services, Inception Day, K Pandia Rajan, Keynote speaker, Ma Foi, workforce diversity, balanced needs, better insights, Culture, HR services, People Panel

LOOKING IN AT CULTURE – MY YARDSTICKS

Most organizations boast of having a culture. And no one is wrong when they do so, because every organization does have a unique identity and a way its employees perceive that identity. Organizational Culture, as defined on businessdictionary.com, is “the values and behaviors that contribute to the unique social and psychological environment of an organization”.
Removing all the jargon from this definition, what it really boils down to are some basic questions. What does the organization believe in? How does it react to employees who may not share the same beliefs? Do the employees feel proud and happy to work for the organization? Or is it one long dreary engagement between two unlikely entities?
So much has been written on organizational culture and matching the employee and the organization and so on and so forth, yet we find a high number of dissatisfied, disgruntled and positively unhappy employees around us in this corporate world. So here are some of my yardsticks to evaluate or understand an organization’s culture – looking in from the outside. Starting from the first job these yardsticks are valid and have value in every transition made.
1.       The Start
There was once an interview I attended where the interviewer questioned me for about 45 minutes. When I stepped out I felt like I had just committed a felony and had been interrogated instead of being tested for my knowledge on the relevant subjects.
Many companies approach the interviewee with the idea of stressing them out, purportedly to understand the individual’s capability. However, my view on this has always been that jobs in the corporate are not ‘life-endangering’ and ‘constantly under stress’. Compare a job in marketing or finance to one in a hospital- as a surgeon or a nurse. People quite literally perform under stressful conditions there! However in business you have time to evaluate your options to approach a problem in the best way possible, especially jobs at entry and mid-level. So the concept of stress interviews never has made sense to me.
2.      The People
When you walk in through the door, you notice a lot of small little things- the décor of the office, the arrangement of cubicles, a professional air around the place and so on. Yet, to me, the most important and palpable vibe comes from the people. When you sit down and the interviewer asks you if you’d like a glass of water, you know they think a little beyond themselves. Trivial and obvious as it may sound, there are many places where the interviewer may dispense with this or other cursory politeness. This for me is a no-go. The demonstration of care begins from minute one. Because culture is not something that begins when you join or stop when you leave – it is the cumulative effect of many such small behaviors.
3.      Scope to Learn
Unless you are at the point of retirement, every job will have a learning curve. The biggest challenge for most organizations is to keep this curve steep for as long as possible. When evaluating a job, I believe, figuring out the organization’s attitude towards encouraging learning is critical.
If you choose to pursue a course to improve yourself, would the organization support the move? Would the job give you enough time at work to read up and research the latest in your field of work? Would it be viewed as something one should do on one’s own time? Answers to these questions would help in assessing the organization’s attitude towards enhancing your learning experience. And this is for me an integral part of the work culture.
4.      Your Peers
Our experiences at our workspace are largely defined by our peers. How your colleague responds to you will essentially make up how you are going to behave in the organization. When your peers guide you, encourage you, and help you learn the ropes you know you have the right support system. Additionally if you can use them as sounding boards for great ideas and they respond to you, you know you have struck gold! What is important here is the fact that the organization is an eco-system comprising of you as well as others. The better you vibe, the better your experiences in the organization.
5.      Your Boss(es)
This seems like a no-brainer in the organizational culture context. Statistics say that amongst the most common reasons people are looking to quit their jobs is the fact that they are dissatisfied with their bosses. They associate a plethora of problems linked to poor leadership. You can read some instances here. So what is seemingly obvious is for some reason not so obvious. When you join a organization you look for leadership and direction but on a more personal level, you look for challenging tasks, fulfilling work allocations and appreciation- all of which the boss will hand out. So often, organizations invest in building a culture and then fail in maintaining it because of a few bosses who believe otherwise! Culture is as great or weak as it is in the hands of your managers.
To some the above points may seem like the makings of an ideal and perhaps unrealistic work culture. But truly, culture-wise, there are many organizations today that are consciously investing in giving their employees the best they have to offer. Some offer work-life balance, while others offer a great work atmosphere, while still others offer great learning opportunities. When you see the right mix of some of these aspects; you can be sure that the organization has taken efforts to build its culture with great care.  
If you lead an organization, you may want to relook at some of these points to take a reality check on what prospective colleagues read about your culture when they meet you.
Write in to us with your thoughts on building or evaluating culture, especially in start-ups and growing businesses. We think it is a very important aspect of building a sustainable organization. Which is why some of this will be discussed in our People panel on Inception Day on 1 st June 2013. Read more about that here. For Event details click here:  http://tinyurl.com/adktfmz and for Registration click here:  event.ayojak.com/event/inception-day-2013
About the Author:  
Madhumita Ganapathy  - Associate Consultant at Inception Busi ness Services
Madhumita is a brand marketer known for her exuberance and zeal for getting things done. An MBA grad, Madhu started her marketing career at ITC and has been with IBS since mid-2012. She has contributed immensely to shaping  some of our young client brands. She now supports us in her new role as Associate Consultant based in Connecticut, USA. Apart from her passion for brands & marketing, Madhu loves classical Indian dance, travel and writing.
Connect  Madhu on LinkedIn.
or
Connect with her via email at  madhumita@inception.net.in
Author – Team Inception

Categories: Office Culture, Organization, Peers, Work, Boss, Colleagues, Culture, Employees, Learning

Search

Categories

see all