‘ROI not tangible; employee feedback best indicator of success’

In every enterprise there are differences in ethnicity, gender, age, national origin, disability, sexual orientation, education, and religion. Organizations these days have started keying on on the needs of every individual to secure congenial conditions for each employee. Diversity and Inclusion reflects an organization’s culture, practices and relationships that are in place to support their workforce. Chandrasekar Krishnamurthy, Vice President, Global Services, EMC in an interview with Techseen, talks about how enterprises look at Diversity and Inclusion and how EMC makes it a part of its work culture. Excerpts:
Techseen: According to enterprises such as EMC, is Diversity & Inclusion just about race, ethnicity and gender, or has it moved beyond?
Krishnamurthy: There have been significant changes in the way corporates think about and approach – diversity and inclusivity. In the modern context, gender, race and ethnicity are not the only measures of diversity. At EMC, diversity and inclusion are business imperatives and our initiatives go beyond just race or gender to extend to persons with disabilities, people from weaker socio economic backgrounds and people from different age groups. Here are our some of our ongoing Diversity and Inclusivity initiatives:
  • Our work with Unnati (NGO) for a socio economic enablement program. Under this program we work with educational institutes in smaller cities and towns to train students in soft skills considered essential for employment. We have provided scholarships to a considerable number of students from such backgrounds as well, and have already hired a few of them.
  • The India Chapter of Disability Empowerment Resource Group (DERG) at EMC provides disability educational programs to assist employees and their families, co-workers and managers in achieving their full potential. Redefine Abilities’ is a first-of-its-kind one-year internship program that aims to absorb people with profound disabilities into mainstream work life.
  • The India Chapter of the Women’s Leadership forum that aims to foster gender inclusiveness and ensure holistic development. The activities undertaken by this Forum are:
    • RISE: The objective is to create a pipeline for senior women leadership by identifying and grooming potential talent.
    • Lean In Circles: An initiative that encourages knowledge/experience sharing among women employees
Techseen: How important are the voices of the people in corporations? What has EMC done to ingrain this in its work culture?
Krishnamurthy: People are the foundation of any great enterprise. Without people and talent, there possibly would not be an organization and so, people’s voices, opinion and feedback are critical components of any corporate work culture. At EMC we celebrate our workforce in multiple ways. Our employee communication activities include routine emailers acknowledging outstanding achievement, regular newsletters showcasing our diverse workforce and success stories, special events like the D&I Week celebrations, Women’s Day celebrations and more. We also strongly believe that the first step to mainstreaming disability or moving beyond socio economic differences has to stem from sensitization and awareness of the larger community.For instance, through the year, we conduct a number of awareness workshops and training sessions for teams that work closely with differently abled colleagues. One more example is the recently conducted sign language training course to ensure that our employees can communicate effortlessly with their hearing impaired team mates.
Techseen: What role does technology play when it comes to Diversity & Inclusion in an enterprise? Can you share some examples?
Krishnamurthy: We are a technology company and we believe that the ultimate goal of technology should be to enrich human lives. For us, diversity and inclusion is a business imperative. We aim to provide our employees with all kinds of support (including technological support) that they need to perform their work effortlessly. One example is the way in which we empower our employees with disabilities – with a number of assistive technology tools such as voice dictating software, special mouse or keyboards to help them with their work. We have also ensured that our workspaces and other facilities are designed keeping the special needs of all our employees in mind. They are accessible and ensure easy movement. Our offices are also equipped with panic bells in the restrooms, elevator facilities and doctors on call. For those colleagues with severe mobility challenges, we enable work from home or flexible timing options.
Techseen: What is your view about measurement of ROI based on indicators such as employee responses and feedback about policies?
Krishnamurthy: Employee feedback about policies and initiatives are the best indicators of success. While the ROI might not always be tangible, it’s generally observed that organizations that empower employees to have a ‘say’ in all things that matter tend to fare much better than those that don’t. We encourage an open work culture – employees are free to voice their opinions on all our programs and policies. There are several open forums as well as suggestion boxes to enable employees to share their suggestions. One of the interesting initiatives we have to celebrate our open culture is ‘Pop Conversations’, where our senior leadership team members regularly participate in open conversations with employees on the floor. This monthly event seeks to promote free-flowing, informal conversations, giving employees the chance to “hang out” with leaders over popcorn and cola and elicit their feedback. The response to this program has been astounding.
Techseen: Enterprises these days employ talent dashboards that allow the leadership to study the diversity and inclusion progress, as well as eLearning modules that serve as a way to educate employees about diversity and inclusion. Has EMC globally or locally employed solutions for global mentoring programs, employee resource groups, multicultural talent management or strategic partnership development?
Krishnamurthy: Mentorship programs and exposure to global collaboration programs are the best way to inculcate D&I at every level of the organization. The main objectives of our D&I initiatives are creating awareness, acquiring talent and collaborating with the ecosystem and therefore we have a number of such programs in place. The EMC DERG program (Disability Empowerment Resource Group) is a global program, and the India Chapter conducts regular awareness and sensitization programs with three main objectives:
  • Creating awareness –provide equal opportunity to everybody, irrespective of their gender or disability and sensitize people on inclusivity through various practices and program
  • Talent acquisition –Several special recruitment drives and innovative employee referral programs with special incentive structures to aid talent acquisition efforts. There are robust mechanisms to hire and retain diverse talent. The focus is on building and sustaining a culture of inclusiveness in all aspects
  • Collaboration with the ecosystem – EMC actively collaborates with industry bodies such as CII, NASSCOM to sharing best practices and learnings with our peers in the IT industry, in addition to engaging with our NGO partners
We also have in place a number of mentoring and collaborative programs for our women employees:
  • Women’s Leadership Forum (WLF) – the India Chapter: designed to foster gender inclusiveness and ensure holistic development at EMC and outside, in the larger community.The activities undertaken by this Forum are:
    • Employee Engagement, Professional Development and Community Outreach programs – including regular speed mentoring sessions.
    • Hundreds of women employees benefited thus far from mentorship on varied topics by senior leadership
  • RISE: We aim to creating a pipeline for senior women leadership by identifying and grooming high potential talent. To this end we have instituted the following:
    • An intensive one-year program offering insightful professional and networking experiences spanning industry conferences, instructor-led training, and a round table with visiting leadership.
    • Mentoring programs by the India COE leadership to help enhance participants’ self-awareness, define and renegotiate professional and personal goals, reflect on gender beliefs and build support systems to deal with career related challenges
  • Lean In Circles: An initiative that encourages knowledge/experience sharing among women employees :
    • Each Lean In circle comprises about 20 women across various levels, and across Business Units exchanging experiences, learning new skills, exploring solutions to common challenges and focusing on specific areas of professional and self-development
    • 15 learning circles operational currently, with 350 members in all
Techseen: A Forbes report cited that diversity is a key driver of innovation; do you believe this to be true? Can you explain how a diverse workforce helps in the growth/ progress of a technology enterprise?
Krishnamurthy: Yes, I think a diverse and inclusive workforce is a key requisite for innovation. Research has substantiated this point as well. A few recent studies that echo this reality include:
  • A Bersin by Deloitte report– High Impact Talent Management- shows that companies that focus on developing diverse and inclusive talent systems reported 2.3 times higher cash flow per employee over a three-year period. These companies were 1.8 times more likely to be change-ready and 1.7 times more likely to be innovation leaders. The report states that companies with a well-established diverse and inclusive workforce is statistically more likely to outperform its peers
  • A report by McKinsey Global Institute indicates that by 2025, $12 trillion could be added to global GDP by just ensuring women’s equality at the workplace.
An organization that makes a concerted effort to hire and include people with different abilities, from different backgrounds and ethnicities demonstrates an openness that adds to an employee’s value. They appreciate being part of the conversation and feel that they are valued by their employer. They are motivated and enthusiastic and offer their best to the company. A diverse workforce also means a workforce that represents a wider cross section of society. This means a wider range of expertise, life experience and diverse thinking. In a constructive, enabling environment, this can translate into out of the box thinking and a unique approach to strategy and execution. As markets get increasingly competitive and challenging, it would be quite counterproductive to not leverage the tremendous potential of diverse workforces to drive growth and innovation.
Techseen: You talked about mainstreaming disability, companies only employ a bare minimum percentage of disabled personnel to comply with D&I. Why is this so and what are the challenges that a company faces?
Krishnamurthy: While there have been significant changes in the way corporates approach mainstreaming disability, some challenges remain. One of the main issues that corporates need to address is that of facilitating an environment that allows differently abled employees to work effortlessly. It is also important to address mind-sets and prejudices that might exist within the larger workforce. At EMC we ensure that our facilities and policies are designed keeping in mind special needs of our disabled employees (called PwDs, or persons with disabilities). We provide the right physical infrastructure to ensure easy mobility and leverage apt technology infrastructure like assistive technology to ensure such employees are able to work under optimum conditions. We also organize regular training and sensitization workshops for the rest of the employees in order to spread awareness and understanding about disability. We are proud to report that thanks to these efforts, the number of employees in the Disability Empowerment Resource Group at EMC has tripled since 2012. Further, we’ve won several prestigious awards in this space – including the global ‘Disability Matters’ award two years in a row, the Nipman Foundation Equal Opportunity employer award and the NASSCOM Award for Diversity & Inclusion.

Abhinav Mohapatra

An author who has a keen interest for the ‘off-beat’ <!--more-->An author who has a keen interest for the ‘off-beat’, he has covered and explored multiple facets of the marketing, advertising

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