Companies must Walk the Talk on Diversity & Inclusion: Urvashi Verma, Head of Talent Acquisition, APAC, Xperi

The lack of diversity and inclusion in a company’s workforce impacts the business and puts an indirect cost on the organisation, says Urvashi Verma, Head of Talent Acquisition, APAC at Xperi, the American technology company.

Her observations make sense, as a study from McKinsey & Company observed that a company with a more diverse workforce is 25% more profitable when compared to others.

“Not just on the profits front, but when a team is composed of diverse individuals with varying backgrounds and experiences, it can lead to a more creative and innovative approach to problem-solving. Different perspectives and ideas brought to the table stimulate a more robust discussion and lead to better decision-making,” said Verma while talking to UPDEED.

Accepting employees for who they are, regardless of their background, gender, or ethnicity, helps employees feel valued and respected. They are more likely to be motivated and engaged in their work, leading to better performance and higher productivity levels, she added.

Reality is still far from distant

The approach towards diversity, inclusion and equity was under par, and the practice is limited to a few top MNCs. It was not a top priority for many companies, and very few took deliberate actions.

For some, it was merely a project to work on for a couple of months in a year to hire a few diverse employees, or a “tick box” approach, where they only focused on hiring people from various backgrounds and showcasing their presence at conferences or events, without truly promoting a diverse and inclusive culture within their organisation, Verma said.

It is no longer sufficient, and many companies are beginning to realise that embracing diversity fosters a positive work culture and brings about fresh perspectives, innovative ideas, and increased creativity, she added.

But how to walk the talk?

Companies are now taking deliberate actions to promote diversity and inclusion, not only as a “tick box” exercise but as a fundamental aspect of their company culture.

Verma said leaders must be willing to confront any biases or prejudices within their organisation, challenge the status quo and make changes to ensure that all employees have equal opportunities to succeed. This may require implementing new policies or procedures, providing training and education to employees, or even restructuring the organisation.

Creating a diverse and inclusive workplace requires a commitment to ongoing learning and growth, both as individuals and as an organisation. By prioritising diversity and inclusion, leaders can create a culture of belonging where all employees can thrive.

According to Verma, there is a significant gap in diversity and inclusion, and while many people recognise this, unconscious biases still exist due to societal upbringing, particularly in India.

Addressing this issue requires honest conversations, introspection, ongoing education, and meaningful action to create a more inclusive society with equal opportunities for all.

Further, while promoting diversity, the focus majorly remains on gender diversity, particularly in the technology industry. However, many other communities remain underrepresented and are not receiving the attention they deserve. For instance, people

with disabilities and pride community are often left out of the conversation. Although promoting women in technology is a positive step, we cannot ignore other groups who also face barriers to participation.

“All these changes will pay off in the longer run. Start measuring your success but do not make it a metric in the short run. Keep going, and positive changes will be visible,” said Verma.

The Dos and Don’ts of Hiring

The hiring process begins with creating a job description outlining the position’s requirements.

Verma believes that organisations make the job description attractive using fancy language; this often becomes a barrier for people from diverse communities who may feel intimidated by the expectations set out in the job description.

It is important to write job descriptions that are clear, concise, and inclusive and avoid using overly complex or technical language that may alienate potential candidates.

“We have to make sure we use gender-neutral language in the job description, plus add only realistic skills, which is required,” said Verma.

Secondly, having a diverse interview panel is important to represent different cultures and perspectives, making candidates feel comfortable during the interview process. It also ensures a range of opinions and perspectives are considered when collecting and debriefing feedback, leading to better decision-making.

Verma said: “Sensitising interview panels to unconscious biases is crucial when interviewing candidates from diverse communities. Ongoing education and awareness-raising are necessary to mitigate biases and ensure a fair evaluation process.”

She added that collaborating with organisations that support diverse communities bridges the gap and creates opportunities for underrepresented individuals in the tech industry.

Finally, take new initiatives. “As new generations come up with fresh ideas, listening to them and understanding their perspectives is essential. It brings innovative ideas to the table,” said Verma.

Initiatives can include mentorship programs, diversity and inclusion training, and community outreach programs. Taking new initiatives helps the company stay relevant and adapt to changing times and shows a commitment to supporting diverse communities and fostering an inclusive culture.

The way forward

Organisations need to collaborate to support diverse communities, focusing on knowledge sharing and best practices. While there may be performance criteria for leaders and companies, the mindset should be on supporting these communities somehow.

At conferences and events, leaders should be open to discussing policies and sharing best practices to help others adopt effective strategies. This collaborative approach can help organisations create a more inclusive culture and positively impact the communities they serve.

The time is ripe to live and inculcate values into the organisational culture rather than just writing them down on paper. Values should be reflected in the behaviour of each employee, from the leadership team down to the front-line workers, said Verma.

By making values an integral part of the organisational culture, employees are more likely to feel engaged and committed to the company’s mission. This, in turn, leads to a more positive work environment and better outcomes for the organisation, Verma concluded.

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