A growing number of organizations worldwide are now emphasizing the importance of a balanced workforce. But what exactly does this really mean and why should your company or organization attempt to reach this desired state?
Most often, the road to workforce equilibrium requires a two-tiered objective: to create an environment that is both culturally balanced and gender-neutral. Cultural diversity is an over-riding imperative of an organization that requires the mentoring of individuals from different backgrounds so that they can effectively contribute to the organization.
To ensure cultural diversity, effective communication with individuals from diverse cultures is an irrefutable imperative.
Organizations that are conducive to cultural diversity typically show sensitivity towards older employees, which can help build foundations for teamwork and provide staff with the ability to deal with the varying perspectives of individuals from diverse cultures. In addition, these organizations resolve conflicts by focusing on common goals and creating a work environment that provides all workers with equal opportunity for growth and development.
Strong Organizational Framework Needed
Organizational frameworks that enhance cultural diversity are extremely important in today’s global businesses. By building an inclusive workplace environment, organizations can aptly leverage their global teams which usually are rich in diverse people, talent and ideas.
In addition, there are many advantages of workplace diversity. First, creativity increases when people from different backgrounds and cultures offer distinct or unique problem solving skills work together toward a common solution. No single answer is better than another. The more ideas one can obtain from different people, the more likely they are to develop a workable answer. Also individuals from different cultures can offer insightful alternatives to standard organizational challenges.
Studies have also shown that productivity increases exponentially when people of all cultures work together to reach a single goal. For instance, foreign executives are extremely successful in the American corporate world because of globalization and internationalization. More specifically, Chinese and Indian workers have proven to benefit US firms with their stellar quantitative skills. All these examples underscore the fact that that increased productivity is a frequent by-product of workplace diversity. Furthermore, new perspectives are brought to the business table by people from diverse cultures.
Other Forms of Diversity
From cultural diversity also emanates language diversity that is a clear requirement in today’s increasingly global economy. In order to truly build relationships with colleagues, customers or partners around the globe, one must speak their language. Today, legions of technology firms have expanded abroad by leveraging workers (at least at the operational and ground level) who can help management more effectively understand and comprehend the end consumers, stakeholders and beneficiaries.
This is truly possible only when the workforce is proficient with the local language and can interpret beyond words. They must be able to help the organization fully understand the meaning, essence and contexts that lie behind the words and actions of the people that it affects.
Cultural diversity can also augment business practices like innovation, ideation and problem solving. When people with different ideas come together and collaborate, new processes and thought paradigms are created.
Operating on a parallel track is the mandate of gender diversity. Gender diversity is, of course, achieving a balanced ratio of men and women in the work place while building an ecosystem within the organization that is conducive to the growth and development of women managers on the other.
The emphasis of including a balanced ratio of women in the workforce is essentially pronounced through a multitude of HR policies. Though individual organizations have their signature approach in terms of creating gender neutral work environments there are certain broad hallmarks that characterize these organizations.
Gender Neutral Organizations
First, gender neutral organizations are conscientious about providing equal opportunities to men and women. There is psychological evidence that women are predisposed with a set of qualities that place them in a winning position as far as certain organizational roles are concerned. For instance, women have an inherent sense of empathy that excels in in positions pertaining to corporate social responsibility and human resource development and management. They also score high in terms of offering training and mentoring programs that are tailored to meet specific needs.
Recently, many studies have proven that having a gender balance in an organization’s boardroom improves financial performance. According to Catalyst, companies with more women on the board of directors generally outperform those companies with fewer women directors. Other studies suggest that women have a set of leadership styles that in turn, translate to a beneficial equation for today’s progressive minded organizations which thrive on innovation and are constantly seeking newer and more effective management styles.
For instance, women score higher than men in areas such as participative decision-making, mentoring and coaching, defining expectations and offering rewards, inspiring peers and taking the mantle of role models. These facts underscore the point that women are endowed with certain unique leadership traits. Consequently organizations that want to truly qualify as gender neutral organizations must recognize this fact and invest in structured leadership succession programs for the benefit of aspiring women leaders. In addition, organizations that are genuinely inspired by gender balance imperatives are the ones that champion transparency in the decision making process so that all employees irrespective of their gender feel valued in the organization.
Finally, organizations that are sensitive to the unique challenges faced by women, and have established flexible policies and virtual work environments, have taken a considerable step forward in easing the pressures of work life.
Srimathi Shivashankar, is the AVP, Diversity and Sustainability, HCL Technologies.