Implementing workplace diversity is an emerging concept in Asia. Having a solid diversity and inclusion (D&I) strategy often benefits businesses, as it has the potential to bring in new talent pools that hold new perspectives, economic backgrounds and family structures, potentially impacting a company’s ability to create and innovate.
Most businesses in Singapore have set D&I as a priority: Here are some of the top practices that are in place around the country.
Implement relevant diversity programmes
To support a diversified workforce, companies should ideally have programmes in place that retain talent from different backgrounds. Some initiatives that have worked included leadership development schemes for women and fair performance review processes.
One company has a programme that specifically targets talent attraction. Under this programme, 50 per cent of the candidates shortlisted for a position had to be female. While meeting such KPIs may be challenging for certain roles that typically see more male applicants (like tech positions), having a set number could possibly help to reframe mind sets and encourage hiring managers to look beyond the conventional talent pool.
Once a diverse workplace is set in place, companies should follow up by introducing programmes that foster collaboration among the different groups. This can be done through organisation-wide projects, like corporate social responsibility initiatives, which allow employees of all levels to work with groups they care about while connecting with each other.
Avoid unconscious bias
Women are still subject to many unconscious biases in the workplace. For example, many still assume that women play the role of the primary caregiver at home. Some of our candidates said that their husbands are often asked where their wives were if they were to take leave to care for a sick child.
Another bias that exists, especially when it comes to hiring, is when managers unknowingly favour candidates who are similar to them in terms of backgrounds and perspectives. But hiring a group of people who think and act like each other often goes against the very idea of diversity.
While it’s difficult to fix a bias we cannot see, experts have suggested that such unconscious negativity can be broken by focusing on similarities or shared goals. For example, companies can communicate to employees through videos or other forms of internal communications how employees from different backgrounds have helped bring the business forward. Having positive images associated with diversity can help to reduce this bias.
Create an environment that shows support
It is great if your company has work-life balance policies in place and it will be even better if these policies are well-supported.
For example, if your company has a work-from-home policy, ensure that line supervisors and senior management are supporting this initiative 100% and that the employees have the tools, like laptops and remote access permissions, to telecommute productively. Otherwise, employees might feel disengaged if they feel that the policies are just for show.
It is hence pertinent for businesses to create a culture where these well-supported policies are communicated effectively and a benefit that is actually used by employees.
While it may not be easy to create or manage a diverse workforce, it is encouraging to see that many companies in Asia are already starting to introduce D&I initiatives. Creating a truly inclusive organisation often brings about innovation and new business streams, which benefits the company in the long run.