Leveraging Diversity:

As the world becomes more interconnected and organizations aspire to a global reach, there are so many opportunities and challenges. One such opportunity (and challenge) that comes with it is how to effectively manage diversity at work. Increasingly corporate leaders across the world understand the importance of diversity, who leverage diversity to business advantage.

Cummins Inc. CEO Tim Solso says:

“I believe strongly that those companies valuing diversity will have a distinct advantage over those that do not. The ability to manage diverse groups of people could well be the difference between success and failure for businesses and the communities in which they operate. I hope you will take some time to learn more about this important topic.”

The Invisible Diversity:

As Human Resource professionals you are acutely aware that diversity does not only include the visible part but also the invisible part. Visible Diversity (e.g. race, nationality, gender identity, age etc.) has been in the limelight for long time and there are several resources developed to help you formally acknowledge this diversity and have it reflect in recruitment, retention, non-discrimination and other policies and practice.

The latest challenge for HR leaders now is how to leverage the invisible aspect of the diversity (e.g sexual orientation). Until now corporate policies have been developed in house to support HR initiatives that are inclusive of lesbian, gay, bi, trans and intersex (LGBTI) people.  With the change in legal landscape in the US, Europe, South Africa, Australia, Asia etc. several jurisdictions now require compliance with LGBT equality laws.

Several Fortune 500 companies in India (Google, IBM, Intel, Cummins etc.) have non-discrimination policies and offer domestic partnership benefit to their LGBT employees.

Human Rights Campaign (http://www.hrc.org/issues/workplace) based in US, benchmarks companies across the world on LGBT specific work issues. Check out the position on LGBT equality by corporations across the world (including Forbes Fortune 1000 companies): http://www.hrc.org/apps/cei/

Is this relevant to India?

Despite India’s regressive sodomy law, Sec 377, creating stigma-free and inclusive workplaces for LGBT+ Indians is an ethical imperative, besides making good business sense. Further, Sec 377 does not criminalize identities and orientations, only certain behaviors.  A 2014 Supreme Court verdict mandates transgender inclusion in all areas of development including human resources and employment. You might be surprised to know that you might already be working with LGBT specific situations both in India and abroad.

  • Your client, for example may have LGBT specific policies and benefits (for e.g. most on Fortune 500).
  • Do your employees who travel abroad know how to comply with your clients LGBT policies at work? There have been documented cases of Indian employees in the US who have hazed their fellow LGBT colleagues without knowing that it will be breaking company policy and also illegal.
  • Your business competitor might offer LGBT benefits to attract and retain talent. You might have to create a conducing environment to attract and retain the same talent

Resources for Employers:

Are you looking for resources to develop LGBT-inclusive environments at the workplace? Check out this new publication developed by allies and community members from Bengaluru:

Venkataraman, Madhumita., Ritesh Rajani and Srinivas Muktha. 2016.
Guide to LGBTIQ+ inclusion at the workplace: Basic Guide to building diversity and inclusion in Indian workplace with specific focus on gender and sexuality [Link to PDF]

Some relevant media coverage of LGBT-inclusion in corporate India:

  • Going, going Gay
    Multinational companies in India are leading the charge in adopting policies that don’t discriminate against LGBTs, writes Varuna Verma
  • Indian IT drafts policy for gays, transgender
    Silicon India observes that some Indian companies have opened doors to target the lesbian, gay, bisexual & transgender (LGBT) community. Going ahead, the companies are holding manager and employee sensitisation programmes to avoid discrimination at the workplace. This is being considered a welcome gesture to the community as well as to boost diversity.

Recommended readings:

  • Straight Talk About Gays In The Workplace: Creating An Inclusive, Productive Environment For Everyone In Your Organization (Haworth Gay & Lesbian Studies)
    Jillian T. Weiss
    ISBN-13: 978-1419673283
  • Transgender Workplace Diversity: Policy Tools, Training Issues and Communication Strategies for HR and Legal Professionals
    Jillian T. Weiss
    ISBN-13: 978-1419673283

Journals and Magazines for HR Professionals:

  • How can HR executives protect their companies from fallout when an employee takes an unpopular and public stand on an issue? And what happens when it is the HR executive’s own viewpoints that draw fire? Read here.
  • Effective diversity councils and affinity groups transform diversity from obligatory mantra to personal experience — and measurable business results. Read here.
  • Inappropriate — but not illegal — behaviors too often prompt employees to find other jobs. The offensive behavior is sometimes so subtle that managers fail to realize the problem, and sometimes includes diversity-promoting efforts that prompt unintended results. Read here.
  • Michael Bach Video discussing LGBT diversity inclusion as part of HSBC Bank initiative

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