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How to build a truly diverse and inclusive workplace

By Pradeep Chavda

Diversity and inclusion are among the primary guiding principles of every organisation today, and yet the scope is often limited to bringing about gender balance only. True diversity goes much beyond and believes in empowering and appreciating people who belong to different ages, ethnicity, geographical locations, sexual orientations, religions, education and disabilities. Here are five major things practised by Sodexo at workplace and which, we believe, should be provided by other companies for differently-abled persons:

Enabling recruiters: Instead of asking learning-abled to attend interviews at designated centres personally, companies should emphasise on online interviews where the candidate is given access through a QR-code based scanner.

Making reasonable adjustments: Understanding the inherent difficulties due to disabilities, workplace rules and infrastructure must be suitably modified to support them. Ramps should be integrated to help the physically impaired commute across the workplace. Flexibility in work timings must be allowed so that they can avoid traffic rush hours.

Reinforcing equality: As a principle, a company should not differentiate between specially-abled and rest of the employees, and provide equal pay for equal work. The staff needs to be regularly sensitised about how to deal with survivors, especially people with disabilities.

Fighting the unconscious bias: Despite all attempts, there might be unconscious bias or preconceived beliefs prevalent in the workplace that need to be countered. HR policies, processes and framework must be tailored to fight this bias. We, at Sodexo, hold regular seminars and discussions to check with clients for onsite preparedness. Moreover, bonus amount could be doubled for disabled referral.

An inclusive mindset: Companies should provide an SOS button for differently abled staff. They should have a kind of 'friend at work', maybe a marketing manager who works as a buddy. Also, there should be a 'spirit of inclusion' session that focuses on building awareness and skills around diversity and inclusion.

The author is director of Human Resources India, Sodexo