Diversity and inclusion's (D&I) is far more than just policies, programmes, or headcount, with the medium also having a significant remit in its success.
In an interaction with People Matters, Urvi Chhaya, senior vice president HR at ICICI Prudential Life Insurance dwells on what inclusive communication in the workplace is, explores why it is important, and discusses strategies to foster inclusive language at work.
What is inclusive communication in the workplace and why is it important?
Communication is key to inclusion, as it involves enabling employees to contribute wholly with their skills, experience and perspectives, thereby promoting a sense of belonging to bring their authentic self to work. Communication entails written, verbal, as well as visual communication cues and plays a significant role in making employees feel valued.
What are some of the strategies to foster inclusive language at work?
As an organisation, our priority is to extend a safe and inclusive workplace that promotes a congenial environment where people respect and value each other’s opinions. While we have always been an equal opportunity employer, we now actively track and measure D&I at the workplace on a continuous basis and implement initiatives that augment and foster D&I.
Through our employee policies and benefits, we actively discourage use of gendered references, promote going beyond binary assumptions of gender, avoid asking people to declare their gender, and include norms for persons with disability.
To ensure that our employee policies can be availed by a larger set of employees, we have made changes to these policies and benefits to go beyond the standard acceptable norms of gender binaries, role stereotypes and formal definition of families. For example, all employee policies now have gender-agnostic pronouns unless these are references to life-stage policies.
The definition of family, wherever relevant, has been expanded from the terminology of spouse to include same-sex partners.
For child-related policies, wherever relevant, the scope of benefits has been expanded from mothers to primary caregivers.
Further, we are looking at framing all job descriptions with gender-agnostic references and this will also be cascaded to our recruitment partners.
We understand that managers play a critical role in ensuring their team members have a sense of belonging.
As part of the managerial learning programmes, all managers are undergoing training on “unconscious bias” to be aware of workplace biases and minimise them, so as to build a more inclusive team.
How are you building an inclusive culture in the workplace?
As an organisation, we have constituted a Diversity Council comprising seven members from the senior leadership team.
The Council steers the D&I agenda, reviews progress and promotes interventions to enhance diversity and inclusion at the workplace. We have also formalised Diversity Dashboards to track progress on the agenda at periodic intervals which gets discussed and reviewed at various fora.
As part of the D&I agenda, there has been a step-up on the sensing and communication with women employees. We are creating awareness amongst employees about this agenda through various connect programmes.