On August 31, 2017, Prof. Colonel P. S. James started a highly interactive and intensely interesting discussion on diversity and inclusion in the work place. Here is an excerpt from the discussion.
Mr. Sovan Samal- Team Head HR Business partner- Pidilite India Ltd.
Mr. Sovan Samal joined the discussion by reminiscing about his old days in TAPMI. When asked about handling cultural diversity in FAS groups by the audience, he gave a few personal examples of the issues he faced during his student days. Speaking about the proposal of introducing menstrual leaves in organizations, he mentioned that India was still struggling with the concept of maternity leaves and was not mature enough to address this issue. While answering the question on how young leaders should adjust to cultural shift when joining an organization away from their hometowns, he explained that if someone had the aspiration to grow up the ladder, he/ she can’t let such apprehensions come in their way. On the topic of women in the manufacturing industry, he remarked that HRs faced more difficulty when compared other industries. He elaborated by pointing out that shop floors didn’t have all the facilities and women were more vulnerable to harassment there. He also added that typecasting roles according to gender had more to do with the mentality rather than capabilities.
Satyajit Dash-Vice President Human Resources Idea Cellular Ltd.
Mr. Satyajit Dash started the discussion by answering a very thoughtful question of forcing diversity during hiring. He responded, by saying that today we are trying to improve the gender diversity in the work place and sometimes the agenda had to be pushed to get the right results. He mentioned that in Idea, people were moved to different locations so that diversity could be maintained.
Moving to the question of conflict among colleagues Mr. Dash pointed out that even though it’s easier to reach conclusions, we should avoid rushing to judgment. He stressed that we should focus on the task conflict rather than personal differences. He quipped that diversity was about getting the right mix of people; however, the real trick was to get them to work together. On the question of discrimination of the third gender, he emphasized that diversity was not the measure of success, rather inclusion was and it always depended on the manager to display sensitivity.
Mr. Dash further declared that success always depended on how adaptive we are. He pointed out that we needed to be open to new ideas and experiences if we wanted to accomplish something.
Kamal Karanth – Entrepreneur, Kelly Services and Kelly OCG
Mr. Kamal Karanth began the discussion by stressing the importance of workplace diversity in helping businesses thrive. He opined that diversity is essential in creative industries such as ad agencies, where the representation of different people can generate rich ideas. “Diversity cannot be achieved without the inclusion of various segments”, he said, pointing out that minorities such as the LGBT community were largely ignored until recently. Giving the example of Goldman Sachs’ LGBT outreach initiatives, he stated that diverse communities are readily embraced by the organization when the leadership is sensitized.
The discussion was then focused on inclusivity in the Indian context, with the North/South and East/West divide and inherent prejudices being discussed. He observed that Indian employees tend to stay within the comfort zone of their regional identities. “Ambition and comfort do not go hand-in-hand”, he commented, emphasizing that employees had to let go of such attitudes to be successful in international organizations. Commenting on the inclusion of women in the workplace, Mr. Kamal strongly believed that organizational change would not be possible unless societal attitudes towards women changed.
Narayan Hegde-Deputy. General Manager-Hinduja Global Solutions
Mr. Narayan Hegde began by answering the question on gender diversity. He responded that his company had a US based client, where the gender diversity was fairly balanced, with a lot of women employees in the top position. He declared that to have an effective relationship with the client, they had to balance their own gender diversity. Mr. Hegde spoke about putting team structure in the KRA of the manager, as well as, designing several training programs, to increase the number of women leaders. To promote gender diversity, he mentioned the introduction of child care facilities as well as part time employment for women in his organization.
On the question of third gender bias, he responded gravely by saying that we did not need to talk about it, but show our change of mentality through action. He counseled the audience to be flexible with our approach towards movement and adaptiveness. He concluded by saying that although there was no compromise between diversity and talent, it was noticed that through diversity, the environment and culture became more empathetic.