Celebrate Diversity Through Your Employees

Celebrate Diversity Through Your Employees

By Laurindo Garcia, Content Lead – Catalyse Consulting

Celebrating diversity in the workplace is nothing new in Singapore and other parts of Asia.

An example lies in a tradition that many Singapore companies observe during lunar new year festivities. Imagine hordes of company employees crowding around a round dining table reciting chinese proverbs in loud chorus calling for prosperity for the company. As the chorus continues each participant wield chopsticks in unison to toss a delicious salad of shredded fish and assorted vegetables through the air. Each colourful ingredient in the salad is symbolic of luck in Chinese culture.

The scene is that of a yusheng or lo hei – an annual tradition for family and friends that Singapore companies have also borrowed. As with Lunar New Year, Singapore offices are also abuzz with festivities during Christmas, Hari Raya and Deepavali in acknowledgment of the diversity that thrives within the country. Everyone is invited to participate, regardless of differences in cultural background. 

Human history and our personal experiences have taught us that celebrating together deepens engagement between peers, builds a sense of belonging and raises awareness about the variety of cultures from which people hail. 

In recent years shifts in culture and the proliferation of personal stories shared on social media, business leaders are awakening to the true breadth of diversity that exists in the modern workplace. Consequently, people managers in Asia are increasingly faced with uncomfortable questions from staff about why certain groups are celebrated while other groups are ignored. 

To solve this problem some larger companies encourage employees to form affinity groups as a means to build trust, forge stronger ties and nurture a sense of belonging. The formation of such groups are particularly helpful for women, seniors, people with disabilities, LGBTQ and other traditionally underrepresented segments in the workplace. 

Celebrating diversity of underrepresented groups sometimes makes business leaders in Asia feel nervous. The risk of upsetting workplace harmony is reportedly one concern that prevents many business managers from fully embracing diversity. 

That said, the workforce of the future is forecast to be the most diverse in history. Learning how to tap into the value of increased workforce diversification is the key to success for any 21st century company and according to research from the World Economic Forum, companies must embrace diversity NOW.

How can the modern corporate leader in Asia do more to celebrate diversity while delivering direct business outcomes for the company? There are three opportunities for business leaders to consider:

  • Nurture employee groups to become pipelines of leadership: Employee groups or networks are often formed around special affinities like hobbies, shared life experiences or cultural backgrounds. These groups help build a sense of belonging, especially for new recruits adjusting to the workplace culture. But employee groups have the potential to be more than mere platforms for employees to socialise.

For example, DELL, the computer manufacturer has shown how a structured approach to employee groups can create a pipeline for emerging leaders in the company by providing members with professional development outcomes. Participation in employee groups is known to be one key factor that guides Dell’s leaders when they anoint rising stars in the company. 

Well structured employee groups ultimately deliver business value by deepening employee engagement, increasing talent retention and reducing costs associated with staff attrition.

  • Refresh your niche marketing campaigns to reflect the modern consumer: Astute business leaders ensure that their workforce reflects the diversity of their customers and opens new market opportunities. Consider how leveraging insights among your diverse workforce can help to deepen customer success stories and increase the reach of your brand.

For example, to mark its 70th anniversary, Poh Heng the Singapore jewelry company revealed a public photography exhibition in the Orchard Road shopping district. The exhibition presented a diverse array of couples across ages, ethnicity, sexual orientation as a celebration of “journey of trust” that the brand has come to epitomise. Poh Heng’s campaign resulted in significant organic social media engagement – that would otherwise cost a fortune in terms of marketing spend – while reinforcing the company’s core values.

Engaging your diverse workforce to reflect the true diversity of your customers helps your company build loyalty, address unmet consumer demand and leverage word of mouth.

  • Tapping the power of allyship through corporate giving: Giving back to the community is a core tenet of good corporate citizenship. Corporate giving efforts have historically been decided by the interests of founders and directors. Nowadays some companies are inviting greater participation of employees in corporate giving decisions that encompass donations of cash and time. Some corporate giving programs are designed to encourage allyship between employees and disadvantaged groups in the community. 

For example, companies are increasingly implementing gift matching programs where employee donations are matched by the company and employees can nominate non-profit to be part of the program. Allyship programs are powerful channels that help bridge the divide between different groups. For example male employees mobilised to support emerging female business leaders or straight allies mobilised to help LGBT organisations.

Employee driven corporate giving plus allyship initiatives unite a company behind a strong sense of purpose that brings more meaning to daily work. Nurturing allyship among team members is essential for diverse teams to build empathy, find common ground and ultimately leads to productivity gains for the team.

To be sure, some executives say that the workplace is not a place to celebrate diversity and argue that conformity and homogeneity in teams is more efficient, while celebrating diversity leads to chaos. While it is true that diverse teams must grapple more with instances of conflict than homogenous team. But if constructive conflict is managed effectively, business research shows that diverse teams outperform homogeneous teams in terms of innovation and problem-solving

In closing, celebrating diversity is part of the recipe for successful teams in Asia. Business leaders who create workplaces that enable diverse perspectives to be celebrated while uniting teams behind a common purpose stand the best chance of delivering winning outcomes for their company.

Follow Catalyse Consulting and stay informed with news and resources tailored to help organisational leaders in Asia cultivate an inclusive, high-performing environment.

Copyright © 2019 Catalyse Consulting. All rights reserved.

The #FutureOfWork Is Here

The #FutureOfWork Is Here

By Laurindo Garcia, Content Lead – Catalyse Consulting

The future of work has been a catchphrase for people managers in Asia over the past couple of years. In fact, the future has already arrived at many companies where automation and augmentation of business processes is already in full swing. Meanwhile other companies are at their beginning of their journey to improve productivity through the latest technologies.

But if you think that the future of work is merely about gearing up with robots and artificial intelligence then you are missing another significant trend that has emerged from the conversation: the urgency of diversity and inclusion in business.

On one hand, the rise of new and emerging markets across Asia, Eastern Europe, Africa and Latin America means that companies face increasing expectations to reflect their diverse customers and suppliers in order to secure business. On the other hand employees and job seekers in Asia increasingly expect employers to lead with inclusive values, offer flexible work arrangements, provide on-the-job training and imbue a strong sense of corporate purpose that is in sync with a socially-conscious world. 

If your company has yet to embrace a future of work that is more diverse and inclusive here are five quick wins to help start your journey:

Ensure everyone is on the same page: When thinking about introducing something new at your company consider how your workplace culture has reacted to change in the past. 

For example, reflect on past situations where new tool, a new supplier or other organisational change was introduced. In the process of introducing change what worked and what did not work? How would you describe your company’s appetite for curiosity and risk? How does appetite change from team to team? Guided by insight from past experiences communicate the business case for inclusion in Asia at your organisation. 

Start small: Make the first steps on your inclusive business journey small and achievable. Invite participation from your team to help you build momentum through a small project.

For example, plan for a workplace seminar, a recruitment drive for diverse talent, a fact finding mission on new markets or other small initiatives to get started. Ensure that your small initiatives are designed with clear time-frames that aligned with direct business outcomes. Illustrate your vision for translating your pilot into a full scale program that adds value to the company. Be explicit about limitations, potential risk-factors, positive and negative outcomes. 

Encourage diversity of participation: Every initiative has a variety of actors who help to conceptualise, build, execute and evaluate the test. Consider how a diversity of perspectives can add value to your project idea.

For example, are your project teams typically dominated by men? Consider how are other genders, ages, personality types, cultural backgrounds and other positions in your company’s structure could be better represented in new initiatives. 

Blind spots and unconscious bias are commonplace in any project. Having a diversity of perspectives on your team will improve your ability to identify blind spots and interpret valuable results that your company can capitalise upon. Be cognizant that diverse teams are most effective if a common ground of mutual respect is established among all members.

Listen, improve and repeat: Things rarely go according to plan. Rather than solving everything through a top down approach consider how feedback from across your organisation can add greater value to future improvements to your business. 

Imagine a scenario where a new deal renders favourable results for the company, but implementing the deal came at a high personal cost for your employees. Would you pursue gains for your company at any cost? How empowered are your employees to give feedback in this situation?

Failure to invite and listen to constructive feedback means that problems get swept under the rug and risk hurting the company down the track. When inviting feedback remember that power dynamics in your company may lead women, people with disabilities or other underrepresented groups to feel that their opinions will not be valued. Employees have more faith in providing feedback when multiple channels for providing constructive input are established. Moreover leadership must commit to listen feedback shared. Garnering feedback from diverse perspectives gives you the best chance of identifying a replicable and sustainable solutions.

Form a diversity council: Augment your business strategy with input from experts with diverse perspectives.

For example, establish a council of customers of diverse ages, genders, abilities, races and cultural backgrounds to perform an advisory role for your team’s business strategies and product or service design. Having regular input from structured diversity council in an invaluable asset that helps your company identify blind spots, new market opportunities and new sales channels.

To be sure, some people say that the future of work means that technology will render many jobs obsolete. While this argument may be true, it fails to consider the jobs created through diversification of customers and markets. 

In summary, continual learning and improvement, underpinned by an inclusive workplace culture where diverse perspectives are valued, are the key components for any team wanting to build resilience for the future.

While we wait for the future to unfold, implementing inclusive business practices today is a small but significant step towards future proofing your company.

Follow Catalyse Consulting and stay informed with news and resources tailored to help organisational leaders in Asia cultivate an inclusive, high-performing environment.

Copyright © 2019 Catalyse Consulting. All rights reserved.

How Your Startup Can Promote Diverse Hiring and Inclusive Leadership

How Your Startup Can Promote Diverse Hiring and Inclusive Leadership

Diverse Hiring and Inclusive Leadership Is How Startups Thrive

The biggest challenge for any startup founder is to achieve high productivity from a lean team with a tight budget. Shortages in local talent and stiff competition from larger employers are major obstacles that startups in Singapore must overcome in order to succeed. Many local startup founders already hire diverse talent only to struggle with integrating teams of different capabilities, genders, ages and cultural backgrounds.

Come, join Roslina Chai and Laurindo Garcia from Catalyse Consulting for a panel discussion with Beverly Dolor from WeWork on 20th August, 2019. At this discussion, founders and hiring managers will be able to:

  • Learn how inclusive recruitment practices can help startups gain the competitive edge in the Singapore talent market.
  • Gain tips on nurturing an inclusive workplace culture that enables diverse teams to become high performing teams.
  • Hear case studies of Singapore startups who have led successfully through inclusion.

Roslina and Laurindo are both serial entrepreneurs with a background in tech startups in Asia. Catalyse Consulting is a proud member of the WeWork Community.

Sign you here: http://bit.ly/DiverseandInclusiveHiringCC

Copyright © 2019 Catalyse Consulting. All rights reserved.