Global technology firm HCL Technologies has taken a three-tiered approach to improving gender diversity and inclusion outcomes, which has resulted in a number of positive outcomes across the business, according to its HR leader.

Every phase of talent management, from assessment and acquisition, to growth and retention, incorporates elements of diversity and inclusion which are all part of the planning and monitoring process, said Subrat Chakravarty, senior vice president – HR, HCL Technologies.

The three key elements of HCL Technologies’ gender diversity strategy involve:

  1. Leadership commitment and extensive ongoing advocacy to address the unconscious bias in the workplace
  2. On-boarding multiple stakeholders and driving the agenda based on diversity and inclusion goals of the respective unit, wherein the framework is global but the implementation is global to suit varied business and location needs, and
  3. Two enabling programs for women leadership development which are based on formal mentoring.

The first program is called ‘ASCEND’, which mandates increases in the representation of women in senior management via multiple ways, including support programs, peer mentoring and coaching at all levels, and providing platforms to enable women leaders to learn and exhibit transformational leadership.

The second program is called ‘Stepping Stones’, which is a focused career development program to enable mid-level female employees to realise their career aspirations and potential and help them in their developmental journey. It focuses on coaching women who are new mothers and require help to manage the new expectations at work and home.

“While every business subscribes to the diversity and inclusion philosophy, the ability to progress varies from one business line to another”

Chakravarty said HCL Technologies, which employs more than 111,000 people globally, also runs a number of other diversity-oriented programmes.

These include ‘iBelieve HCL Women Connect’ which aims to engage and advance women through development programs, and advocate a gender neutral work environment by suggesting appropriate policies as well as position HCL as an employer of choice by women across the globe.

This group also coaches and counsels aspiring young women professionals, shares experiences on work/life priorities and includes life coach support, daycare in office premises, concierge services, and policies such as extended maternity leave, work from home, flexible careers and flexible work hours.

“All these have helped young women, especially those who take maternity breaks to pursue or resume their careers,” said Chakravarty, who explained that in FY16, around 8023 employees were covered through such sessions.

Another initiative is ‘Feminspiration’, which is a platform facilitated by the HCL Women Connect Affinity Network in which successful women leaders are invited to address employees and provide insights into successful leadership as well as understand perspectives on gender matters.

Another internal programme is called ‘BlogHer’, which is an internal platform where Chakravarty said many aspects of gender-neutral policies are discussed.

“These discussions are constructive, non-hierarchical and help both HCL and employees to demystify workplace myths and stereotypes on gender, culture and other issues,” he said.

“While many companies invest in diversity training, we have this blogging forum.”

As a result of HCL’s gender diversity strategy and initiatives, Chakravarty said its overall gender ratio has been sustained while there has been an improvement in the middle level of the organisation, “which we believe would translate into improved representation at the leadership level in the years to come”, he said.

“It’s important to understand the fact that flexibility is one of the key elements that at times defines the hardness or softness of a role”

There have been a number of challenges and lessons learned for HCL Technologies in the gender diversity journey – the main one being “pace”, said Chakravarty.

“While every business subscribes to the diversity and inclusion philosophy, the ability to progress varies from one business line to another,” he said.

“Given the complexity of distributed work locations and multiple cultures that the organisation needs to embrace, the diversity and inclusion journey has been a progressive one.

“While as an organisation we have been able to focus on some of the key areas such as gender, culture, disability, work life, and age, we do believe the need to focus on multiple other aspects of diversity and inclusion as well and the journey ahead looks interesting too.”

For other companies looking to advance gender diversity, Chakravarty said a clear diversity roadmap for each business line would go a long way in ensuring a balanced acquisition, retention and development of women talent in any business function.

While some softer business functions, such as HR or marketing, might seem more suited for female talent, he said understanding the business case of what other functions may be missing out on because of lack of representation is pushing more and more organisations to seek female talent from the internal and external pool for such business functions.

“Finally it’s important to understand the fact that flexibility is one of the key elements that at times defines the hardness or softness of a role,” he said.

“Organisations are clearly acknowledging this reality and are enabling flexibility for some of these roles which would not just help women but men too, in the long run.”

“Internal mentorship initiatives address these needs at an individual level and provide focused enablement”

There are a number of key steps for HR in setting up a successful internal mentoring program, according to Chakravarty, who said internal mentoring programs are essential to nurture talent in a workplace.

“Going a step further and putting together a focused programs that nurture women leaders is crucial, as some of the leadership challenges and opportunities faced by women are unique; thus the need to go a little deeper to understand those nuances and enable them accordingly,” he said.

“Internal mentorship initiatives address these needs at an individual level and provide focused enablement.

“The mentorship program is not just an interesting way for a senior leader to give back to the ecosystem by supporting budding leaders to achieve their career aspirations, but to also get a pulse of the talent pipeline and get reverse mentored on certain aspects.”

For such an endeavour to succeed, Chakravarty recommended a number of steps for HR to adopt:

  1. Identify suitable sponsors
  2. Orient the mentors and mentees to drive the connect based on short term / long term outcomes
  3. Create networking opportunities for the participants and mentors to connect
  4. Uncover the common thread that could bind the cohort as this would help to zero in on suitable additional resources that could be extended
  5. Leverage SMEs to enable both the mentor and the mentees
  6. Set up a strong governance and follow through framework such that progress is driven
  7. Identify or create suitable growth opportunities for the mentees such that the mentorship program is in sync with the succession planning exercise

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