Diversity and ethics are beneficial to the workplace

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Our workplace is where we spend almost one half of our life. After our home (some would argue, even before), workplace is the focal point around which our lives revolve. In fact, a workplace should be like a second family where every member, no matter what his or her origin or background, must feel at home. It is also a place that should teach its members, who represent it in the outside world, the absolute importance of ethical behaviour.

Our workplace is where we spend almost one half of our life. After our home (some would argue, even before), workplace is the focal point around which our lives revolve. In fact, a workplace should be like a second family where every member, no matter what his or her origin or background, must feel at home. It is also a place that should teach its members, who represent it in the outside world, the absolute importance of ethical behaviour.

Why ethical behaviour and respect for diversity is important for a workplace is a subject often talked about. However, very few organizations make a deliberate and concerted effort to imbibe these two values into their blood by formalizing policies around it. Human resource professionals generally tend to be focused on the short term ahead, targetting issues of immediate importance like hiring, retaining and placating. Not many reflect the foresight of looking ahead to construct an organizational fabric that cherishes diversity and makes ethical behaviour the hallmark of its culture.

In today’s world of free flow of people and brain, work communities can no longer afford to be monolithic. The diversity that people of multiple origins bring to an organization is immensely enriching. The term diversity itself is an all-encompassing term that may be used to refer to the characteristics in individuals which make them all unique and different from each other. Not just race, color, gender, caste or sexual preferences, even individual personality traits add to the diversity of an organization. Some employees will be more adventurous, and advocate risk taking while others may be more cautious and may suggest safer routes. Some may be brilliant in ideation yet lax in implementation; others may be better executors.

The moral responsibility of an organization is to make sure each individual is respected for his or her abilities and not discriminated against for any reason whatsoever. The majority group should not be sidelining or undermining those in minority, men should not exercise an upper hand over women employees, or an employee’s sexual orientation doesn’t become the subject of ridicule! An organization’s work culture should be cultivated to ensure complete assimilation and acceptance so that the environment is congenial for all.

The question of assimilating diversity and using it to advantage is a burning question in many countries which have witnessed a huge influx of migrants from across the world. These migrants who are providing valuable workforce to people-starved nations are undoubtedly an asset to these countries. Yet, often the growing diversity presents difficulties in the form of cultural differences and preferences leading to arguments.

A workplace in some ways is a microcosm of a nation, representing multiple kinds of people all under one umbrella. An organization however should ensure that its employees do not carry such attitude to the workplace or when amongst their colleagues outside workplace. Similarly an organization’s reputation in client and customer circles has got a lot to do with work ethics and moral guidelines followed there. If your organization works by ethics, its reputation is bound to reach places much ahead of it.

An all assimilating work environment enhances productivity: If your workplace has good assimilation policies where people from all backgrounds are treated well, it will have a positive bearing on the total work environment. The more belongingness your employees feel with the organization, the more wholeheartedly they will contribute to it. Having a diversity-friendly set-up therefore helps enhance the productivity of individual employees and the entire organization.

Cultural diversity enriches individuals and the organization: Diversity doesn’t just bring together apples and oranges; it also brings together their respective cultures, practices, beliefs and work ethics. This amalgamation provides a wonderful cauldron from where new ideas and systems will originate. Working and living in a culturally diverse place is always enriching for individual employees, and it stimulates the thinking and ideation process.    

Ethical practices mean happy customers: Apart from effective result delivery, what customers and clients look for in a service provider is reliability, trustworthiness and honesty. If a client trusts that you will be ethical and morally driven in whatever transactions are conducted, or whatever deals are struck, their trust will substantiate into their willingness for a longstanding and sustainable relationship. Since no organization desires to lose business, it is imperative to understand that ethical practices help companies retain clients and produce a long-term relationship.

Adherence to work ethics translates into a good image: It is often stated that reputation – both good and bad – precedes a person. The same is true for an organization as well for which a good word of mouth is always desirable. In a world where unscrupulousness tends to be the norm, ethical behaviour, in all streams, always impinge positively upon people. If your employees are ethical in dealing with the customers, the clients, and even fellow industry-wallahs, this will translate into a good image for the company outside.  

Good reputation attracts good human resource: While your dealings with customers and clients will determine your image as a service provider; the way your employees, present and former, associate with the organization, will determine your reputation as an employer. A good and enriching work environment is what most people look for, apart from remuneration. This means the organization will attract good human resource from across the industry. There is no doubt about good human resource being a company’s biggest asset.

(Article written by Rajeev Bhardwaj, head of Human Resource Department at SunLife Financial Asia Service Centre, New Delhi, India)

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