Diverse & inclusive workforce: Easier said than done

While most companies genuinely wish to hire more women, members of the LGBTQI community as well as people with disabilities, the real challenge lies in sourcing them.


Diversity and inclusiion at the workplace is a trend that most organisations are aware of, and wish to follow. All organisations, large and small, are endeavouring to adopt a diverse workforce these days. However, finding a diverse talent pool can be a huge challenge. And making the workplace congenial for such a diverse and inclusive workforce requires a lot of thought. This is because, diversity goes beyond the typical matrices of gender and LGBTQI. It includes people from different geographies, languages, and castes and also physically-disabled people, that is, persons with disabilities (PwDs).

The aim is to include all existing differences to ensure fresh perspectives and more innovation. Moreover, the brand name of the organisation also gets a boost through its diverse hires. A larger reason is that inclusivity at the workplace speaks a social message and can set an example for the kind of society we are striving for.

Organisations and hiring managers are well aware of the benefits of recruiting a diverse workforce. Even so, most diversity and inclusion policies remain on paper and seldom materialise into the workplace. Let us look at five factors which make hiring for diversity a challenge.

Language: There are company positions which may demand fluency in a particular language for ease of performing the job. If candidates fail to fulfil the language requirements, they may be overlooked despite possessing the skills necessary to perform the job. Many candidates never apply for such roles because of the language barrier, and companies do not wish to try to train such candidates in the required language either.

Migration: In India, certain areas are hotspots for different industries, and therefore, witness large-scale migration into these areas for jobs. For instance, there is a steady inflow of people into Bangalore, the IT hub of the country. While this increases the diversity of talent in the south, an IT company in Haryana may not have a much diverse pool to choose from. Such migrations take place all the time across the country and can increase or decrease the chances of diverse hires.

Location: “If the job description requires an employee to work at a remote location or perform a significant amount of travelling, then automatically certain sections of the population are eliminated. Women may not consider applying for jobs where there is no guarantee of safety. Parents will find it difficult to navigate between taking care of their children while getting work done. People with disabilities are overlooked as well, as they cannot deliver maximum productivity if they have to deal with physical challenges every day,” observes Sudheesh Venkatesh, CPO, Azim Premji Foundation. Location poses a challenge for companies willing to hire talented and diverse people. Moreover, even parents discourage their children from taking up jobs far away from home.

Industry: There are certain domains or core industrial areas, such as steel, iron and infrastructure, which are not the first choice for many candidates. Students nowadays may be more interested in working as environmental engineers rather than at steel plants. For the top talent, the core industrial areas, such as coal, refinery, electricity, crude oil, natural gas, iron and steel, and cement, may not feature amongst the most desired fields. On the other hand, the non-core areas, such as the service industry in HR or finance, are highly preferred by job seekers.

Educational institutions: Most of the recruitment happens via placement drives and career fairs at universities and institutes. As Rahul Taneja, group CHRO, Jindal Steel and Power, explains, “It is equally important to encourage the educational institutions to admit a more diverse pool of students from which organisations can source. The extent to which companies can diversify also depends on the educational institutes, which limit the pool in the first place.” There needs to be a healthy collaboration between the industry and the educational sector so that they can help each other out.

Internal bias: It can so happen that despite a diverse talent pool available to source from, recruitment brings in a homogenised workforce. This occurs when there are not adequate policies on board or the hiring managers are susceptible to internal bias. Sensitisation workshops, inclusive of all diversities, should be a periodic affair if an organisation wants to project an all-inclusive company culture. As Rajendra Mehta, CPO, DHFL, opines, “Internal sensitivity is important especially among the hiring managers who may suffer from bias. A lack of sensitivity can affect inclusive hiring.”

Sensitivity can also be shown through amendments in physical infrastructure. If a company wishes to diversify and include, it can build gender-neutral bathrooms for members of the LGBTQI, or physical infrastructure can be upgraded to make access for persons with disabilities (PwDs) much easier. Such changes are important elements to consider while making plans to diversify.

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