Rapid technological change, globalisation, the demand for skills and education, and greater inclusion of women and Generation Y in the workforce have forever changed the employment landscape in Malaysia.
The definition of diversity and inclusion now extends well beyond the traditional view that was once focused primarily on gender and race.
It’s all about creating an environment that maximises the potential of all employees. It’s about encouraging and enabling all employees to draw on their talents, skills, and experience for the benefit of business.
HR (human resources) plays a key role in diversity management to create and empower an organisational culture that fosters a respectful, inclusive, knowledge-based environment where each employee has the opportunity to learn, grow and meaningfully contribute to the organisation’s success.
There are, though, still barriers to implementing diversity in practice. At a recent Engagement Network seminar run by Towers Watson, more than half of HR specialists (57%) felt traditional structures – including factors such as a fear of change and an unconscious tendency for those in the majority to surround themselves with people of a similar background – were the biggest block to implementation in their business.
More than one-fifth felt the biggest barrier to diversity is down to a range of misconceptions, such as the view that diversity can lead to impaired organisational effectiveness, that some groups lack commitment, or that it may drive up the overall cost of employment.
Fostering diversity and inclusion in the workplace
An inclusive culture occurs when differences are valued, people are treated fairly and feel accepted and respected, and opportunities are open to all.
Explicit policies and programmes create the infrastructure for such an environment. Senior leadership and middle management set the example, while clear expectations for behaviour and actions help all employees to “walk the talk” on a daily basis.
Over time these efforts result in an inclusive culture recognised internally and externally (see graphic below).
Forward thinking companies are taking a leadership role to maximise the benefits of a diverse workforce. An effective diversity and inclusion strategy results in motivated and engaged employees that power creativity and innovation.
It leads to a better understanding of the different needs of customers, better marketing strategies and improved sales performance.
It enhances the employer brand attracting high quality talent. It also leads to reduced reputational, legal and financial risk.
All of these combine to deliver a strong competitive business advantage.
Managing director of Towers Watson Malaysia, Lim Chin Han
“Towers Watson research of high performing companies has shown that Diversity and Inclusion is one of the key drivers for employee attraction, engagement and retention resulting in improved business performance.
This can also play a key role in winning the war for talent, reduce brain drain and contribute to the success of the Economic Transformation Programme and turn Malaysia into a high income economy by 2020.
We are privileged to partner TalentCorp to conduct the Life at Work Award 2014, which is a timely initiative to encourage Malaysia-based companies to lead with workplace strategies to further the diversity and inclusion agenda.”
About the author : Lim Chin Han is managing director of Towers Watson Malaysia.