StrategySustainability & ESG

Diversity matters – De-risking your business strategy

The way companies adopt and cultivate diversity is an important aspect of diversity initiatives that an organization drives. Targeting ethnic, economic, gender, or cultural diversity should not only be a part of recruitment agenda, but also be smartly integrated into the day-to-day curriculum of workforce Management which makes an organization ‘INCLUSIVE”

Transformation & Growth; are two terms that steer organizations towards achieving their full potential. As disruptions in the business environment begin to stabilize, Transformation & Growth have returned to occupy their rightful position in most business strategy lexicons, in boardrooms! But discerning organizations are also intent on taking forward the lessons from disruptions as a great learning for sustained growth. These include Innovative approaches to cut down on potential risk on the path towards capturing new markets and creating new products/solutions. And here is where a hitherto underexplored intersection of business and talent strategy emerges – the diversity potential. When your teams comprise of people, inherently diverse with varied lived experiences, their collective ability to manage and respond to business VUCA multiplies. As per a research study reported in HBR, higher cognitive diversity correlates to better performance, improved knowledge processing and diverse perspectives.

There is data closer to home that states with increase in diversity numbers, a company’s innovation revenue soars – As per data from 2020 Working Mother & Avtar Best Companies for Women in India:

  • 52% companies recorded improved innovation through new product lines, during a timeframe when women’s representation increased by 2.9%.

As per Accenture Research – the Getting to Equal: The Disability Inclusion Advantage, champions of disability inclusion outperform other companies on profitability and value creation. These substantiate our fundamental hypothesis that focus on workforce diversity is key to de-risking businesses.

Dr. Saundarya Rajesh, a pioneer in Diversity, Equity & Inclusion in India and Founder-President of Avtar, notes in her book, The 99 Day Diversity Challenge, “In this brave new world, the relevance of inclusion and diversity rises to never-before heights, simply because of the increased advantages that organizations obtain of being agile and adaptive. The inclusive organization which is capable of harnessing a broader set of perspectives, heuristics and truths is infinitely better placed to manage the constant flux of this new normal.”

When organizations adopt to the big picture thinking and focusing on inclusive growth, their diversity intent also transcends into the ecosystem. One of the interesting strategies companies pursue is that of skilling diversity talent towards future-proofing their careers. This is an impactful model that helps preserve the diversity promise for tomorrow, giving the market access to skilled and competent diversity talent. A case in point is the success of DigiPivot 2020 – a longitudinal skilling program hosted by Google in association with Avtar and Indian School of Business. The program hosted by this triage of industry-expert-academia was aimed at building digital marketing skillsets for women professionals in India. An observatory research on the growth potential of the women who enrolled for the program, indicated a positive correlation between up-skilling and career intentionality, with pillars of intentionality (including ability to seek mentors, technical competence, polarity management, executive presence, leadership skills and collaboration) growing at an average rate of 65% in the cohort. More evidence from the research suggests that confidence in pivoting their careers into mainstream digital marketing careers surged collectively by 46%, the manifestations of increase in confidence including proactively seeking out digital marketing opportunities and greater clarity on transitioning their careers.

All of us, organizations included have a past of mixed experiences – the good & not so good. There are lessons we have learnt, patterns we have archived, all of which feeds into building the aspect of organizational intelligence. But as leaders, we must remember not to become ambivalent during seasons of lowered disruption, especially when it comes to a ubiquitous workforce dynamic, called diversity. And we must remember that future is indeed a function of our current controllable elements. This is where, as strategic leaders, we must learn to align our foresight with that of insights emerging from data. In the context of talent strategy, this would be the insights we have access to, on various talent dimensions.

Having a diverse workforce enriches the effectiveness of an organization as people from different ethnic backgrounds lifestyles & genders challenge the way others within respective Teams think, operate and the end result – it fuels growth, innovation mind set & adaptation. Furthermore, organizations tend to attract larger customer base because diverse employees can reach out to wide range of customers. On an individual level, it gives great opportunity to sharpen their cultural and interpersonal skills by being exposed to thinking differently.

Every organization’s success story is written by the diverse teams that drove it, the people who belonged there. Let’s remember that if we are indeed able to harness the power of diversity (and if data helps us build our conviction), our organizational future could be that of heightened stability, sustained improved performance, lower risk, and happier employees!

–  By P. Sriram Chief Strategist, DEI Transformation AVTAR

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