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12/03/2018 6:44 PM IST | Updated 12/03/2018 6:48 PM IST

The 'Business Case' For Creating A More Diverse And Inclusive Company

What corporates can learn from societies which got it right.

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I was recently part of a panel discussion hosted by an organization which works closely with individuals with special needs. We discussed ideas on what it will take for India to be a more inclusive society which successfully integrates differently abled individuals into the mainstream. While a lot got discussed in the forum- particularly, how much ground is still to be covered for India to be at par with more advanced nations, one thought which stayed with me after the discussion was on the role companies can play towards making India more inclusive and where they can pick up cues from.

Diversity and Inclusion is a big enough talking point in corporate circles to merit its own acronym (It's called "D&I" in company boardrooms). With very few honorable exceptions however, there are huge gaps I notice when it comes to implementing it. Moreover, it is mired with undue cynicism and often seen as a necessary evil

To make a "Business Case" (Consultees for "show me the money"), for companies to pursue a systematic and focused D&I agenda, I have tried to pick up cues from societies which have got it right.

To be fair, that inclusive societies are generally more effective is an argument which is easier to make due to the very purpose of society- to get as close to the idea of universal well-being as possible.

It is arguably a tad more complicated for businesses, which tend to have a pecking order of the relative importance of stakeholders. Moreover, there is plenty of data to settle the argument that more diverse and inclusive organizations tend to sustainably outperform their peers. That data however, is limited to only the dimension of gender and does not cover the larger demographic tapestry which makes up humankind.

Enough cues however, can be found among societies which are more successful in integrating a diverse category of individuals across race, class, religion, gender, lifestyle, sexual orientation, disability status or others

The table below tells its own story:

The world's most inclusive countries (Source: World Economic Forum, 2017)

The world's happiest countries(Source: World Economic Forum, 2016)

The world's most innovative countries(Source: World Economic Forum, 2017)

The world's most functional countries (Source: Global Peace Index, 2017)

1

Norway

Denmark

Switzerland

Iceland

2

Luxembourg

Switzerland

United States

New Zealand

3

Switzerland

Iceland

Israel

Portugal

4

Iceland

Norway

Finland

Austria

5

Denmark

Finland

Germany

Denmark

6

Sweden

Canada

Netherlands

Czech Republic

7

Netherlands

Netherlands

Sweden

Slovenia

8

Australia

New Zealand

Japan

Canada

9

New Zealand

Australia

Singapore

Switzerland

10

Austria

Sweden

Denmark

Ireland

Clearly:

Inclusive societies and organizations are happier

8 of the world's top 10 most inclusive countries are among the happiest 10.

Here's why your company should care: "Employee Engagement" is probably a key pillar of your strategy. More inclusive workplaces make for happier and more productive employees.

Inclusive societies and organizations are more functional

5 of the 10 most inclusive societies are among the 10 with the least crime.

Here's why your company should care: Unethical practices, corporate fraud, conflicts of interest. Heard of these? Well, that's why. More inclusive and diverse organizations tend to be better governed and more professionally run.

Inclusive societies and organizations are more innovative

While creating an environment conducive to innovation takes a lot more than inclusion, it's a no-brainer that an organization which encourages people with diverse perspectives, world-views and experiences to express their individuality and contribute ideas would do better at it

That's not all it takes of course. However, it surely helps.

Inclusive societies and organizations respond better to change

If, like me, you have spent the better part of your career spinning corporate jargon, you have probably said and heard the term "VUCA" (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, Ambiguous for the uninitiated) more times than you care to remember. Like it or not, the VUCA world is one of those buzzwords which is not only true but gets truer by the day. The only way to thrive and survive in this environment is through innovation.

Diverse and Inclusive societies tend to be better at it. As do companies.

(The opinions expressed in this post are the personal views of the author. They do not necessarily reflect the views of HuffPost India. Any omissions or errors are the author's and HuffPost India does not assume any liability or responsibility for them.)

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