Diversity and inclusion are the two trending topics discussed among recruiters and HR professionals widely.
Many organisations are publicly adopting diversity and inclusion (D&I) strategy (source: PwC’s D&I Benchmarking Survey) though we are without the success reports of their D&I strategy.
However, it seems not the case for Singapore.
D&I in Singapore
Recently, Singapore has earned the world’s second-worst in workplace diversity (source: NST Singapore, Kantar Survey September 2019).
In terms of workplace diversity and inclusion (D&I) practices, the result is based on a poll of 18,000 people in 14 countries, including 1,050 individuals in Singapore, covering 24 industries.
Despite the survey results by Kantar, women make up 33% of their companies’ senior management team in Singapore beating both the ASEAN average of 28% and the world at 29% (source: Grant Thornton International’s Study).
This gives many businesses in Singapore the added advantage as studies have shown that women possess leadership styles that are more inclusive, open, collaborative and collegial than men*.
Though diversity does not directly relate to performance, it does indirectly through inclusion. However, it is inclusion that attracts diversity in your workplace in the first place.¶
It is a virtuous cycle.
For businesses, diversity and inclusion practices are becoming an imminent necessity.
The reason is simple—it’s millennials’ time. That means those that were born between about 1980 and 2000.
It matters to us because, by 2025, millennials are predicted to make up 75% of the workforce¥.
It also matters because 47% of millennials are found to prioritise D&I in a job search, which is 14% higher than gen Xers§.
According to Jim Clifton, the Chairman and CEO of Gallup, millennials are profoundly different. And they will continue to disrupt the way we communicate and socialise.
Their lack of attachments to institutions, religions, political parties and such, plus their less likeliness to get hitched speak of their strong will for the world.
And their definition of diversity and inclusion is very different from my generations or the gen Xer†.
If you haven’t already deciphered your D&I strategy and looked at how it could drive a positive culture and growth, then this article is for you.
Diversity vs Inclusion
What is diversity? What is inclusion? How are they different? What does it mean to you?
When adopting cultural changes, diversity seems to be the primary focus thus far while inclusion appears to be left out often in most organisations’ D&I strategies.
Workplace diversity is about understanding the uniqueness in people and accepting and valuing their differences.
The differences often encompass races, ethnicities, genders, religions, ages, disabilities, sexual orientations, education, personalities, skill sets, knowledge, and experiences.
On the other hand, workplace inclusion is all about the feeling invoked in your employees through collaboration, supportiveness, and respectful environment. In turn, it allows for participation and contributions despite their differences.
The Importance of Diversity & Inclusion
Now that we’ve got the definition out of the way. Let’s investigate why D&I strategy is so crucial for your business.
- Companies that are more gender diverse are 21% more likely to outperform their competitors.
- Businesses with a right mix of ethnicity are 33% more likely to outperform their competitors.
- There is a significant correlation between diverse leadership and better financial performance1
- Team with a healthy balance of gender, age, and ethnicity make better decisions up to 87% of the time2
According to multiple studies, greater diversity in the workplace is known to provide higher profitability and value creation.
When you are more accepting of people from diverse backgrounds, you can access larger pools of talents. You’ll have your pick of the best of the best.
With inclusion, you can engage better with your talents and get the best out of them.
Think about it this way. When one is happy in their skin when they work, they don’t just perform, they thrive.
It is a simple formula to get the best out of your talents.
When your employees are being respected and accepted, they are more likely to share their ideas for change or optimisation. That, in turn, may bring significant impact to the company.
Besides, when mutual respect is cultivated, collaborations between employees or departments become much more constructive. This allows for a more rewarding outcome when solving problems.
How Will Diversity & Inclusion Strategy Go Wrong
Just like a problem faced by different people, there is no one solution to their problems.
Many organisations try to promote diversity and inclusion just for the following few reasons.
- Stakeholder pressure
- Government regulations
- Client pressure
This often results in a counterproductive D&I adoption that tries to be one-size-fits-all.
Apart from trying to fix a balanced D&I culture with a single strategy, there are many ways employers may be going about diversity and inclusion wrongly.
1. Differences blindness
Humans generally tend to turn a blind eye on matters that are taboo or controversial. It has always been an acceptable practice to ignore racial or age differences.
However, ignoring them doesn’t work.
The mere fact that we are different and have different needs and culture, ignoring them would be a disaster in the making.
Today, ignoring our differences is not just a form of disrespect. It creates disgruntled employees and potentially causes a high turnover.
What You Should Do: Instead of ignoring or encouraging your employees to ignore the differences in every individual, try to understand, be aware and value the differences among each other.
Take advantage of the differences to encourage better outcomes in collaboration, solving problems, and more.
2. Only hire diverse talents
In helping many of our clients in the recruitment process, we strive to achieve diversity according to their hiring goals. However, we noticed in many cases, that is not enough to instil D&I culture at the workplace.
Once hired, the onboarding, workplace culture, team culture, policy, and procedure requires D&I practices too.
What You Should Do: D&I strategies should be a top-down, company-wide strategic adoption. By injecting nuances of diversity and inclusion in every level of the company, from policy to process, people, attitude, and environment, then only you will see successful change.
If finding the right strategy for a specific area is not easy, you should start with industry best practices, which I have included in this article below.
3. Focus only on diversity but forgot about inclusion
Workplace bullying is a common thing all over the world.
In the recent report on Kantar Survey, we also see survey Singapore respondents admitting that
1 in 4 is bullied at work(source: NST Singapore, Kantar Survey September 2019)
Among the 18,000 people from 14 countries interviewed, 1,050 individuals were Singaporeans.
Among the Singaporean respondents, about 24% of workers said they had been bullied in the workplace in the past year. That is among the highest levels in the world, according to Kantar’s survey findings.
Corporate bullying may loosely be interpreted as harmful behaviours at work. They may include but not limited to
- Extreme performance monitoring
- Being purposely mislead about work duties or timeline
- Targeted practical jokes
- Denied requests for a day-off continuously without valid reasons
- Threats, humiliation and other verbal abuse
- Excessively harsh and unjust criticism
When you have a diverse workplace but insufficient inclusion strategy, there is no way to reduce, avoid, or manage workplace bullying that may potentially happen.
This begs the question, “How safe is it to work in your company?”
Inclusion is all about creating a safe environment where all employees, despite their differences, can work, collaborate, participate, and thrive.
What You Should Do: Do not tolerate bullying. Set a good example yourself, by first being aware of, then embrace and work with them based on your staffs’ differences.
Step up to own up your missteps and take corrective actions publicly. Do not practice favouritism. Be fair and just. Consider setting up an anonymous feedback channel to help your employees create their voice and be heard.
4. Ignore D&I strategy in policies and SOPs
Do not underestimate the power of D&I in policies and processes.
Many of your executives may be lost when it comes to practising diversity and inclusion.
While exclusive D&I training for leaders may be carried out to ease the adoption, still it is not a long-term solution.
What You Should Do: Adopt D&I in your processes and policies. When you provide the right directions and guides to your executives, they can adequately exercise D&I practices within their area. This long-term solution is better for a standardised adoption across the company.
5. Expect all employees to drop their baggage when entering the workplace
As much as you’d want your employees to just focus on their work, it is impossible. You cannot expect everyone just to drop their skin at the entrance to the office.
Someone gay or a woman cannot be otherwise when they enter the office.
What You Should Do: Therefore, you need to create an environment where everyone is valued and respected. You can create support groups for LGBTQ+, people of colour, women or more, giving them a place to vent, to get support, or aspire to be there for someone else.
6. Be inflexible and rigid on rules and regulations regarding diversity & inclusion
- When someone has a nagging problem at home who needs to watch over their elderly, they cannot just drop it off and go to work.
- Or when you need your team to deliver a specific task on schedule, you will not take no for an answer.
- Moreover, you can force an individual with a particular religion to follow a team culture that’s against their beliefs.
These are possible cases where employers are rigid and highly inflexible in terms of culture, rules and regulation. This could stem from the individual personality or fear of changing the set rules.
What You Should Do: Be empathetic. Listen to what others have to say. Be as accommodating as the project or task allows to be. You will be surprised by the results it brings. Recently, this video about the tactic to close the “impossible” deal has been going around on social platforms.
The primary focus is on how empathy gets you in the door and its reliability, competency, integrity, and vulnerability that keep you there.
This applies to not just selling products or closing deals but also to encourage respect, embrace differences, and practice D&I.
7. Provide everyone with the same work-life balance support
Everybody’s life and career goals are different. You cannot expect your work-life balance goals to be the same for everyone.
Gone are the days that every employee works for the company goals. It is more about matching the employees and company goals.
That is why we should do search and recruitment right to get the right fit for a company.
Hatch Asia takes goals and cultural fit seriously. Therefore, we seek to understand candidates and businesses well before embarking on searching and recruiting for them.
What You Should Do: You have to first understand your employees’ goals before working on helping them achieve it. If your company is too big, this should be a part of your company culture where leaders seek to understand their team members and help them achieve it, perhaps during one-on-one performance reviews.
8. Adopt a rewarding culture based on what used to work
Back in the days where men flood the working world, golfing, happy hours and chilling at gentlemen’s club are typical after-work activities. Though some women today do these too, probably not the gentlemen’s club. But these were once the symbol of masculinity.
- What about women with young children who cannot take extra off days just to hang out with colleagues and boss after hours?
- Also, what about employees who have elderlies that rely on them at home where they cannot be away too often?
What You Should Do: This type of rewarding culture has to change. There are other ways to reward talents.
Consider a bonus or individual bonus based on performance. Perhaps a day off after a considerable project. Team breakfast or lunch. Be creative!
9. Pigeonhole individuals according to their ‘categories’
Gender generalisation is still a common thing today.
Some examples may include
- Men not considered for secretarial roles because we generally assumed they’re not meticulous enough.
- Women may get a chance at executive positions fear she might not be able to focus on work and family concurrently.
- Specific roles that require physical strengths will bypass women
Traditionally, our world is such.
We cannot deny our history. Consequently, it has become our universal beliefs and unconscious psychological defences that we didn’t realise our own biases.
However, in this modern-day, it requires that we change our perspective and tactics when managing and planning workforce related to such categorisation because it is undeniable that more women are entering the workforce.
What You Should Do: Focus on individual strengths instead of gender, sex, social inclination and more.
For women leaders, you may want to discuss family arrangements and planning with them.
When you focus on the individual strengths, you don’t only create a safe environment for them to thrive, you’re optimising their best performance for their work.
10. Turn blind eyes to biases and domineering behaviours
Sometimes, we are all so attuned to the traditional ways of things. We tend to overlook biases and bullying that happened right before our eyes.
It is a fact that beauty premium matters to living beings. If you watch nature, you will see many types of animals still find mates by flaunting their beauty. It is a norm.
In our world, gender and beauty stereotyping, and bullying is very real‡.
It is still mostly a norm thanks to gender and beauty stereotyping, and bullying we see in the media, entertainment and education industries.
What You Should Do: As a leader, you need to train yourself to be aware, be stern and fair, and to stop biases and bullying from happening in your office. Great employees learn from great leaders who are honest, firm, and authentic.
Diversity and Inclusion Strategies
According to Gallup, you must include the following three essential requirements in each of your D&I strategies to succeed.
Here are the qualities that will drive your D&I adoption to success.
1. Employees are treated with respect. They tend to speak up and share new ideas when they know respect is a company requirement.
2. Employees are valued for their strength. People who had received strength coaching showed higher perceived inclusiveness.
3. Leaders do what is right. By intentionally creating an environment where employees feel safe to express themselves, you create a healthy level of trust among your subordinates.
Changing Your Workplace Culture To Adopt Diversity & Inclusion Best Practices
Here are five key summary steps to changing your workplace culture for D&I adoption.
- Helping individual thrive by increasing personal contribution, team collaboration and customer value
- Inclusion should be ever progressing
- Foster innovation and reduce groupthink
- Create a sense of belonging
- Build a culture where individuals can use their voice
At Hatch Asia, we will not get two people of the same background. We want to adopt a more collaborative environment than a competitive-focus workplace. We believe this is how you achieve optimum performance.
If you want to do right by your diversity and inclusion strategies, you can simply begin by not focusing so much on the differences and how to make the differences tolerable to everyone. Counterintuitive? Well, no.
If you focus on the strengths of individuals instead of educational background, then you will avoid having to cringe over whether your D&I strategies are right or not.
If your requirements for a job is on a standardised level, it doesn’t matter if they are men or women, gay or straight, atheist or religious.
All they require is the skills to perform the job given.
Also, best practices for inclusion should be people-focused. For instance, support work from home culture as required, adopt flexible working hours, understand and be flexible for people with family—be it old folks or young children that need more of their attention.
This is because we always believe that if you take care of your people, they will take care of your customers.
* Merchant, Karima, “How Men And Women Differ: Gender Differences in Communication Styles, Influence Tactics, and Leadership Styles” (2012). CMC Senior Theses. Paper 513. link
* Alice Eagly and Linda L. Carli, “Women and the Labyrinth of Leadership” (2007). https://hbr.org/2007/09/women-and-the-labyrinth-of-leadership
* Samantha C. Paustian-Underdahl, Lisa Slattery Walker and David J. Woehr, “Gender and Perceptions of Leadership Effectiveness: A Meta-Analysis of Contextual Moderators” (2014). 0021-9010/14/$12.00 http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/a0036751, https://www.apa.org/pubs/journals/releases/apl-a0036751.pdf
¶ Chow, Irene Hau-Siu, “Cognitive diversity and creativity in teams: the mediating roles of team learning and inclusion.” Chinese Management Studies (2018)
§ Sarab Kochhar, “Nearly Half Of American Millennials Say A Diverse And Inclusive Workplace Is An Important Factor In A Job Search” IPR website: https://instituteforpr.org/nearly-half-american-millennials-say-diverse-inclusive-workplace-important-factor-job-search/ (2016).
† Smith, Christie, and Stephanie Turner. “The radical transformation of diversity and inclusion: The millennial influence.” Retrieved from Deloitte. University website: https://www2. Deloitte. com/us/en/pages/about-deloitte/articles/radical-transformation-of-diversity-and-inclusion.html (2015).
1 Delivering through Diversity, McKinsey & Company, 2018
2 Diversity + Inclusion = Better Decision Making at Work, Forbes
¥ Karyn Twaronite, EY, “Global generations: A global study on work-life challenges across generations”. Website: https://www.ey.com/Publication/vwLUAssets/Global_generations_study/$FILE/EY-global-generations-a-global-study-on-work-life-challenges-across-generations.pdf (2015).‡ James Andreoni, Ragan Petrie, “Beauty, Gender and Stereotypes: Evidence from Laboratory Experiments” https://www.issuelab.org/resources/4341/4341.pdf (2005)
As the Managing Partner & Co-Founder within Hatch Asia, Anirudh co-leads the operations across Southeast Asia and works with clients to identify, assess and integrate both senior and emerging leaders within Southeast Asia, focusing on industries such as Professional Services, Technology, FMCG, Conglomerates, Manufacturing, Supply Chain, Logistics, Shipping & Family Businesses.
Anirudh has substantial experience working with organizations across multiple industries on assignments such as identifying high performing and high potential talent across Asia, building and rolling out global talent acquisition strategies, crafting out succession strategies and working with clients across the talent lifecycle. He also has experience in the implementation of successful talent management strategies that have demonstrated strong ROI for clients across APAC, MENA and the US and continues to work in partnership with leaders to identify high potential talent, structure effective promotion and new leader selection assessments.
As a trusted advisor to clients, his promise to the search industry is to connect the right talent to the right organisation with a major emphasis on data, science and technology to improve the quality of people decisions we make as a whole.