When you have diverse teams, you create potential for high performance. Companies often assume because they have a diverse team, they’re going to get more perspectives and ideas, which will make them more effective. But research shows that if you want to get more out of a diverse team, you have to create a climate that is inclusive.
Diversity can be an opportunity, particularly in India, where there is already a tremendous amount of diversity in terms of gender, age, ethnicity, language, communities and culture etc. Is India taking advantage of all that?
When it comes to imposing a quota to have more inclusiveness at work, like the recent Supreme Court ruling to reserve 3% jobs for people with disabilities, one needs to keep in mind that numbers create pressure to break some of the unconscious biases that are stopping people. If there are numerical guidelines, you can overcome some of those biases. But you don’t want companies to hire people only to make the quota. That feeds the perception that this is just a giveaway to people who aren’t qualified.
Unconscious bias and insider-outsider dynamics are two things to look out for when trying to create a more inclusive workplace. We tend to carry biases we are not even aware of. But the voice of reason to call us out on this can come from many places.
The insider group is the one that is perceived as better and more effective that everyone else. The others are all outsiders. Insiders need to make sure they are constantly engaging with the outsiders rather than trying to ‘fix’ them, ie force them to fit in. What we really need is for insiders to create a climate where outsiders can find it easy to make contributions, even if it’s simply a different way of thinking.
Indian companies have to look at the climate they create and ask themselves if it is one in which a diverse group of people can be successful. If you cannot create a climate of inclusiveness, you are less likely to get a dividend on your investment in people. What you don’t want is a senior management team that tends to have a similar background and tends to see things in a similar way. Then it’ll be harder for you to innovate and grow as an organisation.
Source: The Economic Times
Date: 29th October 2013