How to turn D&I policies into practice

Is it just 'all talk, no action' in Singapore?

How to turn D&I policies into practice

There’s been a lot of talk about diversity and inclusion in Singapore, but is enough being done to achieve results? “There’s been a lot of discussion in the last few years,” said Sher-li Torrey, founder and director at Mums@Work, a social enterprise in Singapore. “But where the action comes in, it’s always the hard part because we’re talking about a mindset shift.”

Read more: Why diversity and inclusion policies are failing

Speaking at panel organised by the Singapore HR Institute (SHRI), Torrey pointed out that organisations do have policies in place to protect different groups of employees and minimise inequality at work. However, those policies may just turn into a paper exercise if the company culture didn't enable results or any progress towards business goals.

From experience she’s found that even if a company had a diverse hiring policy in place, when it comes down to actual operational processes like recruitment, individual hiring managers may “go past the policies” and pick a candidate that fits their “mould”. “That’s where everything goes haywire,” she said. The policies may be in place but bias, whether conscious or unconscious, may still exist across the organisation.

Read more: Is hiring for culture fit a bad idea?

How to turn policy into practice

Since it’s a question of policy versus practice, she suggested that leaders consider implementing practical systems like offering a reward or punishment for managers. “Sounds quite harsh but it’s really the idea that if I’m a manager, and I’m rewarded for actually practising inclusion and my KPI improves then I’m going to put a little bit more effort into it,” she said.

On the flipside, if there’s a punishment involved for failing to meet KPIs like diversity hiring goals, then the manager may start thinking, ‘okay, this does affect the people around me and I have to do something about it’.

“The firms that we’ve worked with that are very good at this, it’s not just a policy, you can see the process involved in it,” she said. “They’re very strategic and [there are] operational processes put in place that say, ‘We’re going to do this. If we want a target of 50% women, for example, these are the specific things [we must] do’.”

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