Both quiet quitting and diversity and inclusion initiatives require deep and nuanced psychological understanding and interventions, essentially staying abreast of even unarticulated needs of employees. It’s not about overall company-level metrics and answering questions such as, what percentage of an entire workforce comprises of underrepresented, marginalized communities? Not that this isn’t a relevant question but lost in these metrics, it’s easy to lose sight of real, tangible experiences.
A successful diversity culture is one that considers how employees are feeling and whether they are connecting with the strategic values and messages of the company. In the absence of this understanding, simply increasing headcounts is a ticking time bomb, waiting to implode at any moment because let’s be frank – a time when people just held on to salaries and designations is fast receding. Employees increasingly want to be part of a culture that is empowering – and retaining our best talent is about listening, investing, and instilling a feeling of belonging.
We want to achieve 40 percent diversity by FY35 – this is our commitment, but we want to retain people, not just hire them to increase our headcount in diversity and be absolved of their experience and career growth.
On some level, it might be conceivable that organizations can simply write cheques and hire more people from underrepresented minority communities to address the diversity gap and all will be well in a few years. But it’s not as simple as that. Monitoring and fixing systemic inequities that have been prevalent for centuries just takes a lot more than improving statistics.
The importance of instituting policies and frameworks of accountability is a start, but thinking through the employee journey is what counts more. People with certain disabilities might be hired, but if we are unable to support them with basic aids and actions at every step of their journey, are we actually grounding diversity in our organization meaningfully? We want to meet the needs of the LGBTQ community so that they truly feel at home, which is more often than not a series of small acts. For instance, we have a unisex toilet in our premises and offer same sex insurance policy, undermining the need to have a spouse for basic health benefits. We don’t claim that we have thought through every need that might arise, but through dialogue and feedback, we are committed to creating a truly safe and inclusive work environment.
Leadership commitment, shared ownership, and executive sponsorship
Enforcing diversity and inclusion initiatives cannot rest on an individual or even an individual team. Without regulation, education, and a sense of shared ownership, the power of individual action is so colossal, it is almost fated to fail.
01. Apart from encouraging leaders to take up moral responsibility and mentorship, our efforts are streamlined through a global council. This council includes people, representing a diverse mix of genders, ethnicities, career experiences, and ways of thinking. As a result, they are much less likely to succumb to groupthink and will be better at identifying opportunities that promote long-term growth.
02. Bias can be a real bane to innovation and our prejudices run skin-deep. So we never underestimate the importance to challenging, educating, and refining our own deep-rooted patterns of thinking and micro aggressions. In January 2022, we instituted a sensitization program and trained over 350 to address unconscious bias. We also review grievances regarding promotions and pay processes, and the criteria behind them to ensure fairness and transparency.
Addressing fatigue around diversity and inclusion programs
Innovation is fueled by the ability to define problems and solve for them - this process necessitates new thinking and different perspectives; it cannot be mired in prejudices, which in turn, will show up in the solutions and technologies of the future, and ultimately, affect the quality of innovation. Women ask different questions; they are needed in executive levels – everyone conceptually knows this yet not much meaningful change has occurred.
When women talk about a constraint, people perceive it as a limitation. A common example is around the commitment to travel extensively for work. These prejudices are still rampant and hamper career development.
When women are ready to step into senior leadership, they are of a certain age, and in all likelihood actively involved in family life. This continues to throw into question their leadership capabilities. They are still believed to be more emotional decision makers, which is traditionally not considered a leadership mindset.
So, progress hasn’t kept pace with conversations and people have become exhausted from pushing for change. Part of this is because the depth and dimension of systemic failure is overwhelming but overlooking it in the current sociopolitical climate would be catastrophic.