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Nirmala Menon, Founder, and CEO of Interweave Consulting, shares how organizations can adopt diverse workplace management practices to promote healthy workplaces.
“Creating diversity means onboarding based on talent, but inclusion means giving employees access to accommodation and celebrating their contributions.”
Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) have become corporate buzzwords today because of the core position they hold in human resource management. Diversity refers to opportunities individuals across the social spectrum get to showcase their talent, and inclusion means building spaces where employees can work without bias.
For Nirmala Menon, D&I practices are meaningful solutions woven into the company culture to build a healthy workplace. The Founder and CEO of Interweave Consulting, she shares how personal preferences and unconscious biases dissuade us from explicitly engaging in D&I.
Social groups like women, individuals with disabilities, individuals from weaker socio-economic sections, or members of the LGBTQ+ community often lose job opportunities because of the biases associated with them.
It is to address these biases that Nirmala Menon founded Interweave Consulting. She believes that workplaces are a microcosm of society, and hence are responsible for making employment equitable.
As an HR professional with over three decades of experience, Nirmala knows that when organizations hire without diverse policies they lose out on their talent and innovation capacity. A lack of a diverse talent pool ultimately results in missed opportunities in a thriving business space.
“An organization that promotes a rich D&I space holds the responsibility of influencing mindsets.” Being spaces of social interaction, building an approachable attitude toward inclusion can create a ripple effect across levels. “Hiring without bias is the first step to promoting inclusive workplaces.” The second step, therefore, would be to ensure that the talent has the resources to sharpen their skills and contribute to the workplace.
Nirmala firmly believes that one which stops us from building accessible inclusive workplaces is our perception of privileges. We often interact with those people who belong to a social standing similar to ours. If this remains the case, building a diverse workforce is a far-fetched goal.
She says, “Hiring committees need to be trained in a way where they can identify their biases and privileges. Moreover, organisations must hunt for talent based on skills.” Such practices ensure inclusion at the pre-employment level.
When asked what more can be done, Nirmala said that we must develop human resources through innate attributes. “Innate attributes develop from your social setup. They are the skills we develop over time. Talented individuals from underrepresented groups may not have access to these attributes, but they can learn them. The key is for organisations to develop innate factors.”
As the conversation with Nirmala progressed, it became clear that Diversity and Inclusion are learnable practices. Leaders at all levels must learn what their organisations have to offer to make a lasting impact on society.
Being a leader herself, Nirmala emphasized the role leaders play in accelerating workplace diversity. Their engagement acts as a catalyst for kindling inclusion practices across organizational levels.
Nirmala suggests that the active participation of leaders is only possible through their education in D&I. As we celebrate Pride Month, we see the educational impact on awareness. It gives us more resources to evaluate how we refine the inclusive work culture.
Simple things like respecting pronouns and providing gender-neutral resources are born from education about individual identity and inclusion.
When a leader has access to this knowledge, they turn into enablers. Nirmala says, “The D&I work culture needs regular focus and accountability. Leaders must realize ignoring D&I practices will only accelerate the problem in the future.”
One question that prevails here is how inclusion becomes an active part of everyday discussions.
“The first step is to make the experience personal for leaders,” Nirmala suggests that to learn about Diverse Workforce Management, we need to make leaders acknowledge the current situation. Workshops come in as solutions.
Being a D&I specialist, Nirmala suggests, “Workshops need to be safe spaces where politically incorrect conversations are welcome and addresses to help employees warm up to the idea of inclusion.”
Engagement in such practices promotes empathetic leadership adept at building workplaces that prefer talents and skills over prejudice.
As Nirmala Menon discussed the essence of empathetic leadership, one word that resonated with the discussion was allyship. Organizations can mandate policies to suit their diverse workforce. It is the people who translate policies into practice. “Allyship is in action. It has to be a part of employee behavior,” she says.
Focused on this, Nirmala shared how allyship needs to reflect in the leadership decisions employees make. She said, “Allyship is not a state of being. It is about standing up and owning your privilege and encouraging others to become more responsible.”
One way of promoting allyship is through organizational policies. Imposing practices on employees while asking for accountable behaviors introduces them to practices that encourage an equitable workplace.
To ensure allyship becomes a part of company culture, Nirmala says, “We must ask employees and leaders what they are doing. We must learn about D&I patiently, own up to our actions, and actively ensure we look out for each other.”
Nirmala Menon shares best practices that help organizations with Diverse Workforce Management. Practice the following at organizational and employee levels:
A diverse workforce is rich in perspective. It is efficient for innovation, growth, and market penetration. However, a diverse and inclusive workforce creates a healthy work culture that brings equal opportunities to all employees.
Which practices is your organization engaging in to manage its diverse workforce?
I am a researcher working toward understanding the complex fabric of society. I have a Master's degree in Sociology and am currently exploring Diversity and Inclusion in corporate spaces. read more...
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