This article is a lightly-edited summary of the key takeaways from our speakers’ appearance on our podcast, “The Shape of Work.” If you haven’t listened to our show yet, be sure to check it out here. These speakers have an incredible stable of startup experiences to draw from, the kind of stories that are unbelievably helpful for HR/people managers to hear.
On this episode of The Shape of Work podcast, we welcome Shweta Chandrashekar, an HR professional with more than 14 years of experience in the High Tech and Telecom industry.
GUEST AT A GLANCE:
Name of the guest: Shweta Chandrashekar
What she does: Global People Enablement Lead, HERE Technologies
Find her on LinkedIn.
Get Smart: “Diversity of inclusion and equity is actually everyone’s responsibility, right from the organization, to the leaders, to the employees.”
In this episode, you will learn about:
- How to build a culture focused on diversity and inclusion?
- How to make people aware of topics related to D&I?
- Dealing with different mindsets when practicing D&I.
- Factors related to D&I to keep in mind while creating policies.
- Changes that 2020 brought along globally in the organizations.
- Hybrid work and the challenges companies faced while transitioning to it.
- Focusing on the mental well-being of the employees.
- Increased attrition rates in organizations.
- Recognition as a tool of employee engagement.
- Cultural sensitization for freshers.
How to build a culture focused on diversity and inclusion?
Shweta says that Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) should be defined broadly by the organizations. They need to make inclusion more inclusive. Including women, LGBTQ, and other communities are the first step towards it. A prime emphasis on this practice is an absolute necessity. However, it should be done by gathering the majority together such that everyone feels belonged.
There are several D&I practices/policies that organizations can adapt. They should focus on the different requirements of different people based on gender, age, career stages, geography, and more. The second aspect can be supporting flexibility in the workplace, specifically with hybrid/remote workspace. The best workplace policies are the ones that offer flexibility and thereby help attract diverse candidates.
The third aspect is trying to see how we eliminate unconscious biases. Building a culture that is free of bias can be done by bringing the community together. Having these internal conversations and training on gender inclusivity is necessary to make this a success.
Role of leaders in inculcating D&I:
Diversity and inclusion is about changing behaviors and mindsets. Here is where putting a stop to favoritism and updating organizational systems becomes necessary. To practice inclusive leadership, business leaders need to focus on creating an environment where employees feel welcomed. The leader needs to be a good listener to their employees’ concerns and issues. Additionally, they need to identify negative behaviors that could derail the team and use coaching tools to resolve them. Leaders need to evaluate that and find ways to provide reasonable accommodation to these qualified candidates and ensure everyone is included. Valuing all perspectives is important. A leader should encourage their teams to collaborate and respect diverse opinions. Employees give their best performance when they feel valued.
From a leader’s standpoint, ensuring fair and equal growth/career opportunities to the team is very important. Empathy is the key to inclusion.
How to make people aware of topics related to D&I?
Multiple factors could contribute to the introduction of these topics in the workplace. Shweta tells us the story behind starting a Pride week in her organization. This created awareness about the LGBTQ community in her workplace. It paved the way to more formal campaigns where employees would come up with ideas, and the leaders would put them to practice. Leaders also play an important role here. If they are part of these communities externally or internally, they play a huge role in introducing new initiatives. Diversity should not be viewed as a number game. It is more about creating an environment where everyone feels included and can be their true selves.
Dealing with different mindsets when practicing D&I:
Making everyone understand the depth of these topics revolves around awareness. One of the challenges would be to convince people about the unconscious bias they might have. However, when an organization talks about these sensitive topics, it also results in enthusiasm and excitement among these employees. It gives them a sense of pride for doing something for the under-represented. Thus changing the conversation positively can prove to be fruitful.
Factors related to D&I to keep in mind while creating policies:
From an HR standpoint, when an organization is forming its policies, it is important to get the buy-in from the leaders. It becomes effective when leaders walk the talk and demonstrate inclusion in their practices. Secondly, it is also important to have targets to get them done better. Trying to form employee resource groups can also help. It is a great way to include employees in bringing this change. Diversity and inclusion is not only HR’s responsibility. It is every employee’s responsibility to understand and demonstrate it.
Changes that 2020 brought along globally in the organizations:
Shweta thinks that the previous year has been a great opportunity for organizations to learn and adapt to change so easily. All the organizations globally came up with so many different concepts. There were plenty of restrictions for a particular set of employees, which now have been lifted. It is a shift that the pandemic has brought in organizations, people leaders, and HR. Left without a choice, everyone became adaptable to this. However, keeping up with this learning and not going back to the previous way of working and controlling employees is yet to be determined. Organizations need to believe in their employees to drive good results.
Technology is the main crux of the entire evolution of workspaces. Organizations and HR leaders can leverage modern technology to make employees feel more connected. People are still missing the social connections that they had before the pandemic. Thus humanizing the virtual world is necessary. Technology is effective, but it is also important that the managers have a rapport with the team. They need to trust their team members. Technology plus the leaders play an important role in making the virtual world better.
Hybrid work and the challenges companies faced while transitioning to it:
Shweta thinks that the future of work is going to be hybrid. Productivity has increased while working from home but employees are still missing those connections. And that is where the hybrid workforce model would be the best option. They can still get the flexibility of working from home while also being able to come to the office and collaborating with their colleagues.
Shweta talks about the challenges her company faced after the onset of the pandemic. The majority of her employees have been desktop users. Only the ones with the laptop were working fine. However, they managed to come up with innovative ways to keep them engaged. They focused on learning goals that motivated employees to upskill themselves. At the same time, they offered fully paid leave. The other aspect around enabling work from home was to make sure that the managers are prepared for it. They conducted training and prepared documents to explain ways for the managers to engage with their team. A lot of emphasis was on the well-being of the employees. They introduced a week-long holiday for the employees. Although it has been a challenge, the company came up with several new initiatives for their employees.
Focusing on the mental well-being of the employees:
Leaves should be seen from a holistic perspective of physical, mental, and financial well-being. Here is where Shweta’s company used its employee resource group. They took several initiatives for employee well-being. Additionally, they did a lot of physical activities like wellness or yoga sessions. It made the employees feel more connected to the organization. They organized sessions on financial well-being to reduce the panic among people during the pandemic. Apart from providing on-call doctor help, they also arranged employee assistance programs where employees could talk to counselors and seek mental support.
Increased attrition rates in organizations:
Organizations are seeing a huge job switch trend. The question lies in how an organization differentiates itself from others. It can depend on the culture of the organization. How they treat an employee is an extremely important factor. It is the role of HR to find ways to retain them. They need to come up with ways to engage employees and make them feel connected to it.
Recognition as a tool of employee engagement:
Recognition is an indispensable tool to build a high-performance culture. It can be both financial or non-financial. The major idea that lies behind it is to motivate employees. They should be timely, frequent, visible, and inclusive. Being fair in the process is extremely important. However, Shweta feels that monetary awards focus on compliance. They are short and do not enhance the creativity of the employees. Thus both monetary and non-monetary awards need to be balanced. The organization can also make it more personalized by giving them the option to select.
Cultural sensitization for freshers:
While Shweta’s company was hiring freshers, their focus was more on transitioning them from the campus to the corporate world. Leaders should understand the cultural aspects of the team members as well. They need to accept a few differences and give them the space and time to groom themselves into the culture of the organization.