Monday, September 22, 2008

Building a case for Diversity & Inclusion

Diversity is talk of the town. Visit website of any of the MNCs and it would read "We want to attract, develop and retain diverse talent. We value differences of gender, race, age, ethnicity, sexual orientation, thinking styles...etc etc etc". The subject has gained a lot of momentum over past few years though Diversity is not a new concept for corporates. IBM started its journey on this path more than 100 years back when it hired its first black and women employees in 1899 and first employee with disability in 1914.

If Diversity is important, creating an inclusive environment to embrace and leverage diversity is critical for business success. Inclusion is a very personal sense of belonging. Inclusion refers to an environment where everyone in the organization gets an opportunity to contribute to the business success and is valued for the distinctive skills, experiences and perspectives he/she brings to the workplace. Diversity & Inclusion has become the way of doing business for IBM and many more companies now and is interwoven in their long term vision and strategy.

There are different reasons why Diversity & Inclusion is now being seen as a critical business issue.

Ethical: It is the right thing to do
- CSR and its linkage with Diversity & Inclusion
- Company values and culture
- Corporate image in society
Regulatory: Complying with law of the land/International laws
- Demographic changes
- Reputation, employer of choice
- Innovation - New products, services and markets

Diversity & Inclusion is one of the major engagement factors for employees. Talent is found in all population groups and is becoming a make or break corporate competency. Demographics of world are changing, customer profiles are changing, talent pools are changing and hence it is imperative in order to be successful, a global company mirrors the outside world in its employees as well as customers. Diverse employee base helps in understanding and addressing the divers customer group needs. There is plenty of research to support the hypothesis that Diversity drives innovation. Diverse teams take more time to settle in and perform compared to monolithic teams but the results produced by them are far more superior. Ofcourse, the role of leadership in managing diverse teams and leveraging the diversity cannot be over emphasized. How to develop inclusive leadership is another big topic in itself which merits detailed discussion.

Diversity & Inclusion is not about recruiting more women or disabled people or having a crèche facility or flexible working hours for working parents. It is about a process of culture and mindset change where everyone acknowledges and understands that diverse groups (be it employees or customers) have different needs and about respecting and fulfilling that need. As any culture change process, it also flows top down and hence top leadership commitment is vital for it to succeed. Diversity & Inclusion has to be approached as a culture change management process with

- Defining a clear Business case
- Building leadership commitment
- Establishing an infrastructure to support implementation (resourcing)
- Communication with stakeholders
- Building it into existing processes like Performance objectives and rewards to create ownership and accountability

However, there is a paradox with this concept. If Diversity is about valuing and leveraging differences, what happens to the concept of a strong organizational culture? What happens to shared values, common leadership behaviors, a prototype IBM/Unilever/XYZ employee? Where to strike the balance between commonality and diversity both in their own ways leading to high engagement and sense of belonging and hence high productivity? Comments are welcome :)

The 10/20/30 Rule

Well, if you are wondering what is a post on presentation skill doing at 'The HR Channel', the answer is here. There is nothing more putting off for people than having to sit through hour long presentation on God knows what, because by the time the presenter has finished you have lost track of the presentation. And what adds insult to the injury is if the presentation is completely in caps.

Here is a small guide on how to structure your presentations.

The 10/20/30 rule. 10 is the number of slides your presentation should have. 20 is the maximum time you get to talk. 30 is the font size on each slide. How does this help?

10 slides is more than enough for you to talk about anything under the sun. Especially if you are doing an induction program and you know that the previous guy just covered everything that you are going to cover. Talk about something different. If you are presenting to a board, you don't want board members asleep at the end of the meeting. Trust me, at our age (junior/middle management level) it is difficult to keep your eyes open when the presenter is droning on and on, at the age that most board members are, you wouldn't want to risk having more than 10 slides.

20 minutes is all that you get. If you observe carefully, people start walking in and out, fidgeting in their chairs after 20 minutes. The intent listener who is taking down every word as you speak, get a life, she is probably doodling. Plus the earlier you finish, the more time you get for some fruitful discussion. And in case there is no discussion, all of us do get to go home early.

30 font size. Face it people, we are already half blind after having to squint at our monitors all day. The last thing we would want is to try and read your point 10 slides on the screen. And also the more material you have on the slide, the more is the tendency to read out the slides. The minute you start that, you have already lost your audience, they can read faster than you can speak.

To sum up, follow the 10/20/30 rule. And if nothing else, at least we all can get on with our lives instead of having to sit through presentations that go on and on and on.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Why work on my Employer Brand?

Let's face it! Companies in India are not the brightest, when it comes to marketing their workplace. This May, I had the opportunity to work with a client in the NBFC sector. One of the several sunrise sectors in India's booming economy, with several verticals finding and establishing their corners like micro-credit, and commodity loans.

The company is huge, based out of Trichur and a 4000 strong workforce spread across India. A strong reason to join? On the contrary, A case of Employer Branding gone terribly awry. The only ones who knew the company were from Trichur and they, who knew, considered it their last option. Incredulous attrition of more than 40% and a growth rate of 80% in employee strength only found them digging themselves deeper in the rut. It roughly translates to 200 employees leaving every month with 300 others joining. In other words, 200 new channels of bad publicity every month.

In support of the company, they were in a stage of exponential growth ant the HR department was not up to the task. As part of the Engagement, several processes were designed and implemented to bring method to the madness. The results of these interventions will show probably one year from now. People continue to leave though. Did we miss a chapter?
Walk in Employer Branding, the company failed to re look their Employer brand need in full. If you have a good product, it is imperative that you create the "Awareness" to sell it to your customers. Companies fail to recognize their Employees as customers. This is quite understandable. India never had a problem with finding talent? No longer.

Prospective employees have choices now. They are leveraging on their network to find them better employment, better work places, better experiences. They are constantly comparing, constantly on the lookout for something better. The consumerist economy has hit the paymaster hard. They are not holed in their jobs and the flush job market is providing them ample opportunities to choose.

Employer branding has never been more important in India. With a booming knowledge economy, shortage of skilled labor and a Services sector led boom. It's high time, employees were given their dues.

You need them more than they need you! It's not a waiting game any more.

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