Diversity has become an imperative for all organisation as it helps increase the profitability, problem solving, innovation, creativity and stronger innovation across organisations. If we were to quote some numbers to make the business case for diversity water tight.
A BCG study reveals that companies with below-average vis-à-vis above average ‘diverse leadership team’ have an innovation score of 26% and 45% respectively. In increasingly technology driven world where business models are being disrupted everyday by start-ups – innovation will differentiate the unicorns from the also-rans.
Similarly, if we look at diversity from a gender lens – teams with women display the following traits (Pew Research centre).
It has been estimated that closing the gender gap would add $28 trillion to the value of the global economy by 2025 – a 26% increase. (The Economist)
Diversity is important at all levels because if an organisation wants to truly reap the benefits of the statistics mentioned above – diversity and inclusion will indeed need to be entrenched at all levels and initiatives will need to be enforced not just in letter but also in spirit. Also, if we continue with the gender lens, we would see that there is a good percentage of women at entry level jobs but there is a drop out either due to life events like child or elder care or lack of sponsorship or being ‘elbowed out’ due to not effectively being able to deal with the organisational politics. We will need to ensure that there is a robust pipeline that starts from entry level and continues up to leadership level.
I personally prefer the word leader to a manager. Without going into the oft repeated text-box differences, I think a leader is not only able to guide his direct reports on the day-to-day tasks but is also able to help chart a career path for them in the near and long term and is always actively working towards recognising their strengths and finds satisfaction with people realising their full potential. I think my personal achievement is that I always like to bring out a person’s strength rather than catch him/her for her short-comings. Also, find the right fit for the person so that he is set up for success. One such difficult instance that I faced was a business analyst reporting into me had poor communication skills which are an essential requirement for the job. I was quite unhappy with the situation and wanted to help out As the person had great analytical skills. He was struggling with the client and was on the verge of being fired. I was facing intense pressure from the senior management to replace him. I inducted him in the Japan business unit at that time where English was not a key requirement and the person is now very successful and has shifted to Japanese asset management firm.
Managing is very directive where you are able to give a direct report instruction to be able to perform a task but coaching goes into the realm of helping an individual unlock his own potential and its bed rock is the belief that the individual has his own answers and the coach will help the coachee discover then by asking pertinent and insightful answers. It may involve technique like role play and simulation of a difficult situation that a person is facing and is becoming an Achilles’ heel for the individual.
Pay -parity should be possible in an ideal world. An employer should be calling itself an equal opportunity employer only if it can produce data to showcase that it indeed has parity across diversity lenses and location which is inflation or cost of living index adjusted. There are many activists and CEOs who have picked up the cudgels and going all out to ensure that we do make the marquee. To quote a few names – Melinda Gates is a vital voice in talking about gender pay parity and has referred to the WEF reports that say it will take it two hundred years to reach pay parity for women in her speeches.. This indeed needs to be hailed as the first step in bringing about any change is awareness. Also, I would like to mention Marc Benioff, CEO of Salesforce, he is made conscious efforts to ensure pay parity for women across levels in the organisation. Not just corporates many political leaders like Canadian premier has set aside funds to ensure that there is gender equality in all walks of life.
There are many organisations and I quote a conversation with a leader in HSBC who ensured that her direct report a women was given the pay range of the role she qualified for and it was not based on her current salary which was much below the market standards.
I am hopeful that there will be pay parity based on the skill the individual brings to the table.
I do not think Robots will replace humans in the coming decade but we will begin to see a lot of robots in every arena of life. We already know about robots manning Amazon warehouses, humanoid Avatar like bots talking to customer in banks. The coming decade will see a lot of disruption of business models and investment in artificial intelligence and robotics. A lot of low skill jobs will get automated at first; leaving high skill jobs for humans. Elon Musk’s venture Neuralink’s development trajectory with artificial intelligence work chips in human brain will be a science fiction fantasy that we will live out in our lifetime. But with all this excitement, we need to tread with caution – we should endeavour to develop unbiased AI which addresses privacy elements and is not used for any armed forces activities (as called out by Sundar Pichai).
A Diversity program in an organisation could be based on the following depending upon the organization construct – gender, disability, age, gender, ethnicity, marital status, race, religion and sexuality. A sensitisation program would be based on which elements we are addressing. Apart from sensitisation program, there would also be other elements to ensure that the diversity targets are being met and are translating into tangible benefits. Accenture has gone out and done something radical – they have made diversity goals a part and participle of business leaders’ goal sheets.
Disclaimer: The responses to the questions are solely the views of the interviewee as a professional and do not reflect that of the Organisation he/she works for.