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6 Steps Indian Bosses Must Take To Ensure All Employees Feel Equally Valued

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Written by: Karan Arora

While diversity in the workplace has a lot of benefits, when managed poorly, it can lead to employees from diverse backgrounds feeling undervalued and unwelcome. A survey conducted by the Harvard Business Review found that when employees did not feel valued or thought they did not belong in the workplace, they had lower workplace satisfaction, found less meaning in their work, and had one foot out of the door.

Every individual seeks to feel valued and welcome in their workplace. This becomes even more important for individuals who come from different religions, ethnicities, abilities, and so on. That said, organisations haven’t quite mastered the art of building an inclusive workplace.

When people feel undervalued and unwelcome because of their identity they can suffer from a condition known as ‘identity threat’, a situation in which they perceive that one or more of their social identities are under attack. This may lead to performance decrements, antisocial behaviour and general unhappiness.

diversity and inclusion is important in indian companies

Here are six measures to ensure that the people associated with your organization feel valued.

1. Recruitment Strategy Focused On Ensuring Diversity

Valuing people from diverse backgrounds starts with recruitment. A recruitment strategy where diversity is a priority sends out the message that individuals from diverse backgrounds are recognised, needed and welcomed into the organization’s workforce.

Organizations that truly value a diverse workforce train their recruiters and talent managers on the needs and value proposition of different demographics, partner with organizations associated who are in-sync with the same values and offer corporate citizenship opportunities to diverse international talent. They may also engage with candidates from diverse backgrounds through college recruitment programs and mentoring systems.

2. Back Diversity Initiatives And Hiring Strategies With Inclusive Policies

Engaging and retaining employees from diverse backgrounds is as important as recruiting them. One of the biggest misconceptions is that diversity and inclusivity are synonymous, but that could not be more further from the truth. An organization can be diverse without being inclusive, and diversity without inclusivity is a sure-shot way of sending out a message that people from diverse backgrounds are not truly valued.

Why is this so? Without inclusive policies, it can be difficult to create a sense of belonging for people from diverse backgrounds. It can make leveraging diverse talent pools and incorporating various perspectives not just difficult but also fruitless. When individuals are not heard and their inputs not considered, it is only natural that they don’t feel valued.

This is not to say that all-inclusive policies are effective in making people feel valued. Research has shown that inclusion initiatives may also fail or not be adequate because it does not necessarily lead to a sense of belonging. Efforts must be placed on inclusion that fosters belonging.

3. Sync Diversity Initiatives With Your Organization’s Objectives

Individuals from diverse backgrounds feel valued when their hiring is within the scope of the business strategy and mission and is aligned with the organization’s objectives. When diversity policies follow a one-size-fits-all approach, individuals from diverse backgrounds may feel like token hires brought on to provide the appearance of diversity in the workforce. Diversity initiatives follow a one-size-fits-all approach when they:

i) Are a copy of another organization’s diversity initiatives, whose objectives are starkly different.
ii) Duplicate what works for one kind of diversity for other diversities.

When your diversity initiatives are aligned with your organization’s objectives, individuals are able to contribute effectively and have their value recognized.

4. Promote Effective Communication And Engagement

diversity and inclusion is important in indian companies

Effective communication and engagement between various employees in a diverse workplace can pose a challenge. Having authentic communication in a diverse workplace can take longer than what it would take in a workplace composed of people from similar backgrounds. However, the time invested in doing this can reap significant rewards and can make people from diverse backgrounds feel seen, heard and valued.

Groups demographically different from one another communicate differently. This can make it difficult to understand one another and communicate without misunderstandings. This problem is exacerbated by the fact that minority groups do not always feel free to express themselves in fear of repercussions or being judged. Listening and processing information before responding become essential skills in ensuring that people from diverse backgrounds are heard and their contributions are valued. This, in turn, makes individuals feel valued.

Organizations must therefore focus on developing effective communication systems, training their employees to be effective listeners and empower diverse individuals to speak up and contribute to ongoing conversations.

To ensure that individuals do not stay silent in the fear of repercussions, organization’s can use anonymous communication mechanisms for them to express their concerns and ideas. In smaller workplaces where anonymity may become a concern, organizations can employ more hands-on approaches to opening lines of communication such as one-on-one conversations with managers.

5. Have Strong Non-Discrimination Policies And Grievance Redressal Mechanisms In Place

The introduction of diversity initiatives in a workplace does not automatically ensure that employees no longer hold on to pre-existing biases. When the workforce becomes from diverse, individuals from not-privileged backgrounds may face discrimination in pay, promotion and termination decisions.

A non-discrimination policy goes far in making people from diverse backgrounds feel secure and valued. Such policies must place strict sanctions against individuals who engage in discrimination of any kind or treat fellow employees unequally. Such a policy must be backed by strong and effective grievance redressal mechanisms through which employees can challenge pay, promotion, and termination decisions.

Effective redressal of discrimination in important decisions can make people from diverse backgrounds develop a sense of psychological safety. However, if they see that the grievance system isn’t warding off bad behaviour in their organization, they may become less likely to speak up, and may even think about moving to another organization.

diversity and inclusion is important for effective communication between employees

6. Ensuring The Organization’s Leadership Is Committed To Your Organization’s Diversity Initiatives

None of the above-mentioned measures can be successful if an organization’s leadership is not committed to making their employees feel valued. People from diverse backgrounds feel like they belong when they see that the organization’s leadership is committed to diversity and inclusivity.

The success of diversity initiatives itself depends on the degree of involvement and commitment of the top brass. Leaders who are actively involved in implementing diversity and inclusivity measures in their organization create a culture that embraces diversity, and can make employees from diverse backgrounds feel immensely valued.

These are only six steps to begin with. The road to accomplishing inclusion in your company can be a long and arduous one and Ungender’s here to help. Our SaaS solution – Conduct – will make implementing inclusive policies easier. To know more, click here.

About The Author: Karan Arora is a final year law student with a keen interest in labour laws and labour compliance.

Ungender Insights is the product of our learning from advisory work at Ungender. Our team specializes in advising workplaces on workplace diversity and inclusion. Write to us at contact@ungender.in to understand how we can partner with your organization to build a more inclusive workplace.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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