Addressing DEI: Equity is equally important for inclusive workplace

Instead of hiring for cultural fit, hire for cultural contribution. The global business landscape has evolved along with the times

In the complex, dynamic and diverse world we live in today, the more interconnected we seem to get, the more polarised or segmented our communities seem to become, which makes it standard for HR policy to state, “We are an equal opportunity employer. We believe in diversity and believe in creating inclusive cultures.”

While these buzzwords are casually used in daily corporate lingo, actively incorporating Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in the workplace is crucial for enterprises to succeed. ‘For All” is critical for success. Workplaces today are more diverse and globally connected than ever before. With the complexities of today’s work environment, leaders must tap into the collective intelligence to maximise the potential of every person.

Technological and social changes continue to alter the landscape in every industry. Organisations will need the human judgment, empathy, passion and creativity of all their people to realise the full promise of the era’s new technologies, increase agility and inventiveness and address the challenges of an increasingly demanding, vocal marketplace.

Do all employees in your organisation compete on an equal playing field? The concept of workplace equity attempts to address this issue. When discussing diversity and inclusion (D&I), a critical concept that is sometimes overlooked is equity.

Equity refers to a state where each individual – regardless of their ethnic background, country of origin, age, physical ability/disability, or gender – has a level playing field. When diversity, inclusion, and equity go together, your workforce is empowered to bring their best to work.

Multiple studies have investigated the direct correlation between diversity and company success. A recent study noted that companies with more diverse management teams are likely to bring in 19% higher revenues owing to greater innovation. But you cannot unlock these benefits unless every employee group has the opportunity to join management teams in the first place. And that is exactly what workplace equity tries to address.

What is interesting to note is that underscoring the importance of an equitable workplace, a group of 100+ investors representing $1.7 trillion in assets recently signed the Workplace Equity Disclosure Statement asking companies seeking investment to disclose their equity data. Leaders are becoming more conscious of the concepts around equity.

You should, however, note that equity is not synonymous with equality. Companies that strive for workplace equality (treating everyone the same, without discrimination) may not factor in the need for equity. The entire workforce comes under the same blanket of rules, privileges, and employee experience design, without an eye on unique, demographic-related needs. This may lead to an unfair work environment.

Let me explain: Equality is like working very hard at providing and, in many organisations mandating the same horror movie to watch and enjoy for everybody, knowing that you have humour and maybe a rom-com audience in the group as well.

Companies that invest in equity can reap multiple benefits. Here are my top three reasons why equity should be at the centre of your strategy for diversity and inclusion:

  1. Equity equips the entire company to contribute to a shared mission essential in today’s hyper connected global marketplace.
    Equity prevents dissatisfaction, and ultimately employee attrition addressing employee engagement head on.
    Equity encourages cognitive diversity in decision-making – a key to agility and innovation.

The global research data has shown many benefits of a diverse and inclusive workplace. Main among them, higher revenue growth, greater readiness to innovate, increased ability to recruit a diverse talent pool and 5.4 times higher employee retention, thus establishing that equity and inclusion in the workplace is one of the most important keys to retention.

Research on company culture goes on to show that when employees trust that they and their colleagues will be treated fairly regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, or age, they are:

• 9.8 times more likely to look forward to going to work,
• 6.3 times more likely to have pride in their work,
• 5.4 times more likely to want to stay a long time at their company.

Having an equitable and inclusive workplace culture will not only help you attract a diverse set of talent but also help you retain the diverse talent you attracted in the first place.

Yeshasvini Ramaswamy
Serial Entrepreneur & CEO, Great Place to Work®️ India

Organisations that remain ‘For Some’ workplaces will risk losing money, earning less, and falling behind their competitors in this disruptive climate. Several companies are now taking concrete steps towards achieving equity in addition to diversity and inclusion. Employee resource groups (ERGs) are an excellent way to raise awareness around differing employee needs, which is integral to equity. ERGs can enable equity by providing the space to discuss issues and create solutions among their peers and allies, which can be useful to empower them to voice their needs to the leadership team.

In the end, one key new hiring practice that I would strongly recommend is stop hiring for culture fit; instead, hire for cultural contribution. Ask: ‘What does this new hire bring to my team that I do not already have; what skills, background, and perspectives?’ It is time for us to go beyond clichés of DEI&B.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ET Edge Insights, its management, or its members

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