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A common misconception doing the rounds in the corporate space is that by hiring diverse talent, you naturally build a workforce that ticks the box of “Diversity, Equity & Inclusion”. But as strange as it sounds, DE&I hiring is really not the start to creating a diverse workforce. It is, in fact, the second step!
Just as charity begins at home, so does diversity, equity and inclusivity! And that’s where the first step begins – sensitizing your current workforce!
But Isn’t Sensitization A Cliché?
Of course it is, but it gets the job done! The main aim of this activity is to create awareness and skill employees on best behavioural outcomes for certain situations. Varied communication techniques can be employed to increase the impact of these sensitization sessions, but the ‘idea’ of driving workplace sensitization stays! Shaping a diverse and inclusive environment needs to be done prior to bringing in new talent from sundry backgrounds.
Your existing employees need to be sensitized on how to welcome and be open-minded towards those who are diverse in thought, gender, ethnicity, and social background. They need to be made aware of how to address a person who identifies themselves as gender fluid, or how to respect their lifestyle, or something as simple as not mansplaining. But more importantly, the organization needs to address prevailing stereotypes and unconscious bias at the workplace by having managers and senior leaders talk it out with their respective teams. It should be viewed as an unconditional commitment; one that will inspire organizations to go the extra mile to ensure protection and job fulfilment.
Moreover, providing necessary infrastructure needed by specific employees with special needs, from setting up PWD bathroom-friendly stalls to ensuring creche facilities for new moms, are aspects that need to be taken into account before onboarding someone who is differently abled or has just returned from maternity leave.
Incorporating Tech In DE&I Hiring
Many recruiters and HR teams use AI in the hiring process to prevent any human bias in the initial screening of profiles. To support this, there are numerous platforms and tools in the market that are data-driven and offer a “special DE&I hiring feature”. But if DE&I is a filter feature, how is your screening impartial? Ironic, isn’t it!
With remote and hybrid working being the new normal we settle into, this year will keep witnessing a rise in DE&I focused solutions. Without a doubt, incorporating such technological advances into daily working operations will make life a lot more convenient for the workforce and management. Such tools help employers and managers identify DE&I gaps within and across various teams, guiding them to fulfil any disparity. However, we keep forgetting that at the end of the day, these AI tools will mirror human behaviour to an extent because of the specific data it is fed. For some recruiters, it gets confusing to trust the data when decision-making is in play. And there’s only one way to keep AI hiring tools truly neutral – by feeding it clean, diverse and large data. Not only will this practice reduce any form of favouritism but will also contribute organically towards designing a diverse workforce. The purpose of using such tools isn’t only to save time but to mitigate any form of prejudice. Remember, automating this process is an advantage, not the main purpose!
Boosting DE&I Impact Through Community Support
Talks on diversity and inclusion have been around long enough that people are beginning to face “diversity fatigue”. After a certain point when there’s no visible impact, the cause faces stagnation. Staying committed is a challenge most organizations encounter. And that is why relying on the concerned community for guidance can boost employee understanding, engagement and contribution towards the cause. The DE&I battle has many faces to it – sexism, racism, ageism, ableism. Tapping into these communities for help is like hitting a jackpot; it’s a pool of resources waiting to be consumed. By consulting and interacting with them, decision-makers have a better outlook on how to execute more impactful initiatives that drive effective diversity, equity and inclusion. Bringing about a sense of oneness among the workforce becomes achievable with the right kind of tools and methodologies. If you’re a senior leader, manager, HR member or a decision-maker for a set of minority people who are underrepresented in an organization, seeking advice from these sections of society solves half the problem.
The ROI is extraordinary – meaningful business and societal impact! Employees are able to get first-hand experience of others’ lifestyles and learn how to be more empathetic. Engagement between different teams rises and “being inclusive” is naturally ingrained in the culture. On the other hand, communities are uplifted. Certain taboos and misconceived notions are broken. People from minority groups feel more liberated and empowered to be themselves because they are being listened to.
As mentioned earlier, taking up the DE&I cause is an unconditional organization commitment to sincerely raise the diversity bar in the industry. It goes beyond a company’s responsibility to create a secure working space for people belonging to different walks of life. If you’re not at it wholeheartedly, you’re passively complying to mediocrity. The game is constantly changing but the rules are the same. Start at home with bringing change, and then go change the world!
This article first appeared in Higher Education Digest.