Diversity management practices in select firms in India: a critical analysis.

AuthorBuddhapriya, Sanghamitra

Diversity Management: What & Why

Diversity and inclusion are being increasingly recognised as strategic components of business, and the need to deal with these issues in an appropriate manner is being felt widely around the world. The thinking is driven by the assumption that a diverse workforce with an inclusive culture makes organizations "more innovative, agile, and attuned to the need of the customers" (Cox & Blake, 1991). It is usually believed that a heterogeneous workforce is a rich seedbed for ideas (Johansson, 2005).The need for diversity is also being driven by factors such as "talent non-availability, changing demographics, customer expectation, globalization of business, sustainability and an imperative for innovation' (NASSCOM, 2011) which stem from the dynamics of the changing business environment around the world.

One of the largest under-represented groups that organizations have tapped in recent years has been women. However, the approach underwent a change in the light of increasing talent complexity. Rather than focusing on women alone, today, organizations are aiming at taking optimum advantage of the complete talent pool available to them which includes people from multiple generations, PwDs (people with disability) and smaller groups of LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) (Saikia, 2012). Business leaders are now emphasizing on diversity and aiming at boosting organizational effectiveness through a diverse workforce (Thomas & Ely, 1996). They are seeking to build a diversity-sensitive workforce which would be comfortable with diversity tensions. It is being increasingly felt that it is not just enough for leaders to possess these capabilities themselves; they must also develop them throughout the organization (Goldsmith, 2010) and thus they are encouraging their employees to understand each other and be sensitive towards each other's needs and capabilities. The ability of a diverse group of people to build strength and unity through their diversity is the power that propels organizations towards new dimensions of performance.

However, the challenge of managing diversity is immense. Employees do not usually set aside their cultural values, lifestyle preferences and differences when they come to work. The real challenge, therefore, is to make employees develop an accommodative attitude to wards people from different backgrounds by addressing their diverse lifestyles, needs, aspirations, interests, capabilities and work styles (Robins et al, 2009). There is also an additional issue of impact of diversity on human resource management practices, which have to accommodate all demographic and social factors. The issue of cross cultural communication is important too while dealing with diversity.

Diversity Management Practices of Indian Organizations

Cultural diversity is the hallmark of Indian society and very few countries in the world are as diverse as India. At the governmental level, there have been affirmative efforts (in the shape of caste and region based reservations) right since independence to strike a balance in terms of different castes and communities in the governmental workforce. This had often led to accusations of trumping merit in the name of balanced social development. Therefore, in the private business houses there has been a conventional distaste for ensuring diversity through affirmative action. Diversity initiatives within the private organizations thus largely imitate global practices to ensure a diverse workforce.

Business houses in India turned their attention towards diversity management initiatives only during the last decade. Various organizations have now started linking 'diversity' with their strategic objectives. Especially, the issue of gender diversity, which is narrowly defined as more women participating in the workforce, has been a new trend with organizations going overseas and looking for global reach. As statistics show, over 400 million women are employed in different sectors in India. Women constitute thirty percent of the workforce in the IT sector. Moreover, socially disadvantaged classes (scheduled castes/ tribes, etc.) have also entered organizations through affirmative policies of the government. The number of older employees has grown because of improved medical and healthcare facilities. IT Industries like Infosys, TCS and Wipro are actively recruiting foreign nationals and women, by both choice and design. Bharti Enterprise, for example, has mandated its recruitment agencies to ensure 25-30 percent of women candidates at the interview stage.


The primary objectives of this study


* To study the diversity management policies and practices of the select leading IT- BPO companies of India.

* To critically analyze their diversity management initiatives.


Organizations in the service sector are well-known for their human resource practices in India. The rapidly growing IT- BPO sector, which faces talent crunch to a great extent, has especially set the trend in case of many HR initiatives to attract, develop and retain talent. During the last two decades this sec tor has grown many folds in terms of business and manpower. Hence, this study has chosen to examine the diversity management practices in three leading Indian IT organizations--Infosys, HCL, and Wipro. These are Indian multinational companies having their operations in different parts of the country. They hire manpower across the country and globe and have diverse workforce with them. The human resource challenges they face are more or less similar. Hence it is important to understand what kind of diversity management practices they have. This research is mostly based on the published data made available by these organizations.


Registered in 1956 as a company and headquartered in Bangalore, India, Wipro Limited has 87 subsidiaries of which 7 are Indian companies and the remaining 80 are registered outside India. It has operations in over 50 countries with a predominant presence in the Americas, Europe and India. Its IT businesses consisting of Wipro Technologies (WT), Wipro Infotech and Wipro BPO seek to deliver expert solutions to its clients.

Nature & Purpose of Diversity & Inclusion: WIPRO has an employee base of about 120,000, including people from 74 nationalities, spread across 54 countries. WT is committed to "leveraging diversity through effective leadership, engagement and accountability', which, as it claims, has improved its performance. It has been striving to attract and retain the best talent from a globally diverse talent pool which helps it better serve its customers and provides a strong competitive edge in the global market place.

Diversity of Nationality: The diversity and inclusiveness initiative at WT aims at turning it into "a truly global employer with a local touch, gaining worldwide acceptance and penetration'. The initiative's three main goals are: (i) to attract and recruit top talent primarily from the local population, (ii) to encourage employees to be diversity sensitive and work together as global teams, and (iii) to develop their capabilities to partner effectively with clients from diverse nationalities. At WT, there has been an increase in global recruitment in recent years. It has about 122,000 personnel from 69 nationalities (Sustainability Report, 201011: 61). Out of its total workforce overseas, 38 percent are locally hired. It attracts local top talent and 19 percent of its IT workforce are non-Indian. (1) WT promotes an inclusive environment and recognizes the differences in backgrounds, knowledge, experiences and potential of people from various...

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