Why aren’t more businesses in S’pore adopting DEI?


Diversity training within the workplace is nothing recent.

Every office with a Human Resources (HR) department has a listing of dos and don’ts. Nobody really pays attention to them, not less than not until an audit or litigation demands it. And for a really very long time, organisations could get away with paying lip service towards diversity. 

It wasn’t until the winds of social change was a tornado that diversity took centre stage. From what was once a neglected component of HR, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) at the moment are on the core of many forward-thinking businesses.

From hiring to promotion, and branding to onboarding, it has grow to be increasingly trendy for corporations to introduce a slew of DEI policies as a response to social unrest and inequalities.

Is DEI the reply to create a successful workplace, or is it nothing greater than a veneer of change to make corporations look more enlightened and progressive than they are surely?

Why DEI matters

Embracing DEI on the workplace will help organisations retain top talent and drive modern outcomes / Image Credit: Salt Recruitment

While interconnected, diversity, equity, and inclusion are very different concepts. 

Diversity broadly refers to having different representations within the workplace when it comes to race, gender, age et cetera. Meanwhile, equity requires firms to make sure that processes are fair and equitable to all individuals. As for inclusion, it’s the art of creating people feel heard, valued, and supported at work. 

Thus far, quite a few research has shown that having a solid DEI strategy will help corporations to outperform their peers and drive sustainable economic growth

For a start, implementing DEI policies creates an environment that empowers employees. It creates a secure space for them to talk up and reduces herd mentality in decision-making. 

Corporations that bring together people from different backgrounds also encourage the flourishing of modern and inventive ideas

Moreover, with talent a scarce resource, DEI is instrumental in promoting worker retention and engagement. When employees can show up at work as their true, authentic selves, they usually tend to realise their full potential, contribute their best and feel more fulfilled at work. 

Chatting with the Business Times, Mr Sim Gim Guan, executive director of the Singapore National Employers Federation (SNEF) further reiterates why DEI ought to be taken seriously.

By managing DEI higher, employers can strengthen workplace relations, collaboration, and innovation. Constructing on workplace fairness, employers can develop inclusive workplace policies and practices that can attract and retain the most effective talent.

– Sim Gim Guan, Executive Director at SNEF

DEI landscape in Singapore

raffle place office workers
Many Singaporeans consider in the worth of DEI within the workforce, but such sentiments aren’t reflected of their workplace policies / Image Credit: Nikkei Asia

For a rustic that strives to be the hub of every thing, and primary at anything, one would expect corporations in Singapore to leap onto the DEI bandwagon. 

And yet, we’re lagging dreadfully behind in a US$15 billion industry that guarantees higher productivity and revenue growth. 

Based on a report by human capital firm Kincentric, seven in 10 Singapore-based employers haven’t introduced DEI policies. That is though greater than half of those surveyed consider within the positive impact of DEI on worker engagement and company culture. 

When probed, a scarcity of DEI data, managerial ineffectiveness and incompatible work culture are cited as reasons behind the absence of DEI strategies in most businesses. 

The dichotomy here is that while employers are aware they should do higher, many, especially larger firms, are bogged down by institutionalised practices stopping them from making positive changes. 

That is clearly hurting employees. In a poll by consulting firm Kantar, which ranked Singapore because the second-worst place globally for workplace diversity, one in 4 Singaporeans reported feeling bullied at work and unable to talk up. 

In one other survey by Hays Recruitment, 61 per cent of respondents were adamant that their leaders were biased towards promoting individuals who “think, look or act like them”. 

Ageism has also been flagged as a priority, with one-third of respondents saying age was an element that would lower their possibilities of being chosen for a job. 

These statistics paint a depressing picture and makes one wonder, are employees in Singapore living under a façade of peace and harmony?

In the long term, a growing population of disenfranchised employees will impede the power of organisations to draw and retain the obligatory talent to drive business growth. 

Hard truths about DEI

TAFEP logo
TAFEP has been promoting the adoption of fair and progressive employment practices. Nonetheless, encouragement can only go thus far / Image Credit: THG Asia

The issue with showing even an iota of doubt about DEI is, one immediately gets labelled a racist, or a misogynist, amongst other things. In consequence, many businesses now have a set of pledges and affirmations to placate the wokerati

They may even hire a diversity manager, or send their staff for diversity training, naively pondering that a number of hours of re-education can overturn a lifetime of prejudices. 

What is probably the worst thing to advertise diversity is a hiring quota. As a substitute of judging candidates for his or her skills, there’s a directive and insistence that candidates must come from a specific race or gender. 

This myopic manner will definitely backfire because corporations might find yourself with a United Nations of staff but no person capable enough to do the work. It also makes a mockery out of the DEI process and reduces it right into a box-ticking exercise.

While there are initiatives to deal with DEI on the workplace, they often don’t go far or deep enough. 

The OneWorkplace.sg (OWP) programme, for instance, focuses on the mixing between local and non-local workforce. While laudable, it simplifies the workplace divide and fails to deal with the chasm between employers and employees, and even employees themselves. 

Meanwhile, the Tripartite Alliance for Fair & Progressive Employment Practices (TAFEP) has several guidelines, and employers can pledge to be a TAFEP partner. Nonetheless, they aren’t legally binding. 

Employees haven’t any way of knowing they’re indeed omitted for a job due to their age or sexual orientation. There’s also nothing an worker can do if their colleagues consistently speak of their Mother Tongue as an alternative of using the lingua franca. 

At the tip of the day, DEI policies are probably not reaching the workspaces that need them probably the most. Specifically, small-medium enterprises which might be less concerned about litigation or brand name. 

In a standard and somewhat intolerant society, organisations don’t actually need to alter, but they do need to look as in the event that they are.

Featured Image Credit: Zuehlke Singapore

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