The HRM Challenge: Promoting Diversity and Inclusivity in Illiberal and Charged Times
The Challenges Confronting the HR Professionals in these Charged Times
World over, the emergence of nationalist and populist movements has meant that women and racial minorities as well as immigrants are under unprecedented threat.
Indeed, with the charge against immigrants and women coming right from the top in the United States, with President Trump leading the attack, Human Resource Professionals everywhere are confronted with the challenge of promoting diversity and inclusivity in these illiberal and charged times.
Moreover, immigrants who are the mainstay of the lower wage workforce are no longer welcome in the United States as elsewhere and this raises questions about whether HR managers should continue to hire them.
In addition, with workplaces being polarised and divided along political lines, the challenge before the HR managers is to ensure that the workplace culture is not vitiated and remains healthy and conducive for working productively.
Apart from this, the other challenge is to ensure that racial and sexual minorities feel welcome in the organisations especially when they are under attack outside the walls of the workplaces.
These then are the challenges facing HR managers in the present times and the way in which they respond and deal with them would shape the future of the corporates in the United States and world over.
How should HR Professionals Respond to the Challenges?
So, how should HR managers respond to these challenges? To start with, they must first clarify the organisational stand on Diversity and Inclusivity with the senior leadership and frame appropriate policies accordingly.
What this means is that the direction to promote diversity and inclusivity or otherwise must come from the top and the message that the CEOs or the Chief Executive Officers and the Members of the Board send down the hierarchy should dictate the stand taken by the HR managers.
This means that if the organisational stakeholders as a whole remain committed to Diversity and Inclusivity, then the HR managers need not do anything other than follow the policies that are laid down.
On the other hand, they would be in a dilemma if the top leadership is either hostile or ambiguous to such causes.
Indeed, in the case of the former, the HR managers can only push the case for D&I especially when their stand is not appreciated which can affect their career prospects.
On the other hand, if the top leadership is ambiguous, it presents an ethical and moral dilemma for the HR managers especially if they personally believe in the causes.
What Must HR Professionals do if they disagree with the Organisational Stand?
Talking about personal beliefs, it is the case that when HR professionals find their personal views on D&I and Immigration clashing with that of the organisational stand, then they are confronted with the decision as to whether they must continue in the organisation, or leave it.
Indeed, much like Doctors who take an oath to protect the ethical and moral moorings of the profession, HR professionals too must make the choice between standing up for their beliefs and compromising them for the sake of their careers.
Moreover, the real challenge here is to ensure that HR professionals themselves do not bring their prejudices and biases to the workplace.
In our working experience, we have come across many such professionals who outwardly claim to be all for D&I and are pro Immigrant, but in reality, they are as biased and as prejudiced as some of the public figures who rail against these communities.
In such cases, either the top leadership must step in and rein them or their peers or colleagues must report them.
In both cases, the stand taken by the organisational stakeholders matters much either to discipline the errant HR professionals or to let them get away with their beliefs.
The Importance of the Stand Taken by the Organisational Stakeholders
We have mentioned the role of the organisational stakeholders quite a few times. This is important as any organisation runs on the principles and the policies that are framed by these stakeholders who can include the Board Members, the Senior Leadership, and the Middle Management.
If these members do not believe in D&I or Immigrants or LGBTQ causes, then there is absolutely no chance that such organisations would be welcoming towards these individuals.
Indeed, in recent times, despite the heated rhetoric and the charged atmosphere in the United States, very few business leaders have come out strongly against these divisive issues.
This is also the case in the rest of the world where populist and nationalist politicians are not being challenged by the business elites.
However, there is a tiny minority of business leaders who have taken a stand against the politicians and hence, our point is that it is better for women, racial and sexual minorities as well as immigrants to join such organisations lest their working life is scarred by discrimination and harassment.
On the other hand, there is a business case for Diversity and Inclusivity and for hiring Immigrants and this is the hope that many express as stopping the corporates from joining the politicians in their attack on these issues.
Lastly, in these charged times, maintaining a healthy workplace culture is also challenging for the HR professionals and much depends on how they tread the fine balance between allowing freedom of expression and outright harassment and discrimination in the workplace.
Indeed, already corporates such as Google are grappling with the issue of what is permitted and what is not as far as employees expressing their opinions on public forums are concerned.
To conclude, HR professionals have a duty and responsibility to uphold organisational norms and at the same time, ensure that they do not bring their personal baggage to the issues confronting them.
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