Diversity, Equality & Inclusion : Importance for SME's in India

In recent years, diversity, equality, and inclusion (DEI) have become crucial elements in the workplace. DEI means creating an environment that respects and values differences among employees, including race, gender, religion, age, sexual orientation, and more. This approach to the workplace is becoming increasingly important, as research has shown that a diverse and inclusive workforce can lead to greater productivity, innovation, and profitability. Diversity offers us the solution to unlocking greater creativity in our business, and to finding growth in today’s competitive markets.

The economic case for diversity in the workplace has been proven. Several research and studies have shown that greater diversity, especially at the senior manager management level, leads to better results.

We live in the time of VUCA (Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity). At times like these we need creative leadership which is agile and disruptive in their approach. Employees in the organization can reach out to the board through some mode of communication and share their perspective.

However, DEI initiatives are often associated with large multinational corporations, and small and medium-sized companies (SMEs) in India are often overlooked.

As of 2021, there are an estimated 42.50 million SMEs (Small and Medium-sized Enterprises) in India, according to a report by the Ministry of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises. These SMEs contribute significantly to the Indian economy, accounting for over 30% of India's GDP and employing over 110 million people. In reality, SMEs make up a significant portion of the Indian economy and employ millions of people. It is crucial that SMEs in India also prioritize DEI in their workplaces.

Diversity will also boost the reputation and brand of a business in line with an increasingly globalized working world.

Why DEI Programs Fail
Despite the increase in diversity executive and initiatives, many companies are struggling to achieve their DEI goals and to develop successful programs because they have been asked to do a lot of things in a lesser span of time. For example, understanding of the CAPE process in crucial for the success of DEI. CAPE stands for
Collect the Demographic Data is critical to have a successful program. Knowing what date to collect and when is critical to knowing if you are going in the right direction.

Analyze the data is equally important. It is crucial to analyze the data in a meaningful way across the organization in order to make an actionable plan with achievable goals.

Plan Having a plan based on the measurable DEI data that outlines the challenges and opportunities of the organization will help effectively manage time and resource.

Execute After the planbeing built on data, execute the plan.

Why DEI is important for SMEs in India:
Small and medium-sized companies in India face several challenges when it comes to implementing DEI initiatives. For one, many SMEs lack the resources and expertise to develop and implement effective DEI programs. Additionally, some SMEs may be reluctant to focus on DEI, believing it to be a low priority or unnecessary for their business. However, there are several reasons why SMEs in India should prioritize DEI.

India ranks high in diversity, equity, and inclusion awareness. Eighty-nine per cent Indians are familiar with the term, according to the study,which also says 90% of respondents expect companies to act and communicate about DE&I

A diverse, equal and inclusive culture is imperative for a business to continue to thrive because it puts its people at the heart of its operation. When people feel valued and included, they are more likely to flourish at work. More diverse teams lead to better business outcomes. Diversity will also boost the reputation and brand of a business in line with an increasingly globalized working world.

Firstly, having a diverse and inclusive workforce can improve the company's reputation and attract a wider range of customers and clients.

Secondly, diverse teams can bring new perspectives and ideas to the table, leading to greater creativity and innovation.

Thirdly, a more inclusive workplace can help retain employees, leading to lower turnover rates and higher employee satisfaction.

Finally, a more diverse workforce and inclusive workplace therefore offers many advantages; including improved customer orientation and service, innovation, productivity, profitability, morale and staff retention.

"By prioritizing DEI, SMEs in India can create a more inclusive and welcoming workplace that attracts and retains employees, fosters innovation and creativity, and improves the company's reputation."

How SMEs in India can prioritize DEI
There are several steps SMEs in India can take to prioritize DEI in their workplaces.

Firstly, companies should establish clear goals and objectives related to DEI, and communicate them to their employees. This can include goals related to hiring and promoting a diverse workforce, providing equal opportunities for all employees, and fostering a more inclusive workplace culture.

Secondly, SMEs can develop training programs for their employees to help them understand and appreciate diversity in the workplace. This can include training on topics such as unconscious bias, cultural competence, and workplace harassment prevention.

Thirdly, SMEs should establish policies and procedures that promote DEI. This can include policies related to recruitment, hiring, and promotion practices, as well as policies related to workplace behavior and conduct.

Finally, SMEs can foster a more inclusive workplace culture by celebrating diversity and promoting awareness of different cultures, beliefs, and perspectives. This can include celebrating cultural holidays, promoting diversity in company events and activities, and providing resources and support for employees from different backgrounds.

Conclusion: In conclusion, diversity, equality, and inclusion are crucial elements for all companies, regardless of their size. SMEs in India may face unique challenges when it comes to implementing DEI initiatives, but the benefits of doing so are significant. By prioritizing DEI, SMEs in India can create a more inclusive and welcoming workplace that attracts and retains employees, fosters innovation and creativity, and improves the company's reputation.

Mahendra Lodha is a Chief Financial Officer at Bloomsbury India. He is an experienced Chief Financial Officer with a demonstrated history of working in the publishing industry. Strong finance professional skilled in Cash Flow, Budgeting, Internal Audit, Tally ERP, and Accounting.