Thursday, December 20, 2007

IT.India part – II: Workplace diversity

Before reading this post, please check out this link for my opinions about diversity.


Here is the latest buzzword among Indian MNCs -- ‘Workplace diversity’.

The amount of non-sense going behind this topic is pretty interesting. It also shows how, we Indians bow our heads and accept things without asking any questions. Whatever told by the parent organization in US/UK is taken as a ‘mantra’ and we end up implementing it without knowing head or tail of it. Especially the senior management of India based MNCs has no clue of the rationale behind many of such initiatives. The latest ‘workplace diversity’ campaign is a classic example.

According to ‘Wikipedia’ the diversity in workplace or business is defined as:

The "business case for diversity", theorizes that in a global marketplace, a company that employs a diverse workforce (both men and women, people of many generations, people from ethnically and racially diverse backgrounds etc.) is better able to understand the demographics of the marketplace it serves and is thus better equipped to thrive in that marketplace than a company that has a more limited range of employee demographics. An additional corollary suggests that a company that supports the diversity of its workforce can also improve employee satisfaction and retention.


What does that mean? It’s very straight and simple. When hiring new employees organizations need to make sure that they hire people from diversified background. This really helps in business as different set of people bring strengths in different areas. For example: the diversified mutual funds have proven track record of giving consistent, better returns for a long period of time. This is mainly because it has stocks from various industries in various proportions. When one sector is not doing well another will balance it, which eventually keeps the ROI intact for the investors.

In western countries, organizations promote diversity by -- hiring more women candidates (gender diversity), physically disabled, African Americans, Asian Americans etc to have the proper balance in the workplace. Even in those developed countries (like US) they are very particular and make sure all sectors are represented properly. In the past, initiatives like ‘Affirmative action’ (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Affirmative_action) were taken to promote the workplace diversity at corporate level.

As we all know, US/UK based companies have started their offshore centers in countries like India to take the demographic advantage. Now these western organizations want to promote initiatives like ‘workplace diversity’ India. What is the result? The ‘workplace diversity’ is narrowly interpreted as ‘gender diversity’ and companies are hiring women candidates with special recruitment drives. Here is the pattern of advertisements I get to see in job portals and local news papers.

"SPECIAL DRIVE FOR WOMEN CANDIDATES at company XXX"
"Diversity initiative for women candidates at company XXX"

And one of the HR guys makes a generic statement like:

Hiring more women into the organization has brought in stability and
maturity within the organization. We find that women are also better at
multi-tasking and move more easily from one project to another.
I can agree on the advantages that gender diversity brings in; I am not agreeing the narrow interpretation these companies are doing a about diversity. When it comes to India, it is the country with diversity at its best. People are different in terms of food, culture, customs, caste, religions, regions etc and no-body need to do any diversity hiring in India as a special drive. When a team has ten people, they are naturally diversified given India’s nature. Given this Indian context I am not able to understand how hiring more women candidates will bring in strength to any organization? This might have worked well in the western world, but requires some amount of retrospection or customization when it comes to India.

The local management and HR folks in India need to evaluate such initiatives before implementing. This also shows how much un-aware the local folks are when anything new is asked to be driven. I have one simple word to tell them: ‘Grow-up!’

2 comments:

ManishBajpai said...

Hi,
This is a case of belated comments. Read your article, and I agree with the spirit of diversity, as described by you. I would like to point out that even an Indian software company, there are drives to hire more women. I think the reason for the same may not be diversity but something else. To hazard a guess:
1. Women are considered to be more dedicated to work.
2. They don't resign as fast as men do.
3. The workplace is more 'enjoyable' with the presence of both sexes.
4. As in Japan, may be we want to hire women because they are more easily disposable in case company runs in crisis.

Anonymous said...

ya.. i iagree with manish,because, the company you have mentioned.