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Ieva Jankelaityte

 The pandemic has upended workplace certainties and physically separated people - through remote working, homeschooling, and ever more agile teams. Sustaining a culture of belonging in this virtual environment and creating safe spaces has been critical to helping employees cope. 

This was the context for TCS’ UK and Ireland 2021 Inclusion and Diversity Excellence Awards. The awards recognised and honoured the incredible achievements of employees, leaders, and initiatives that were driving the inclusion agenda during the pandemic. This included recognising employees for building networks supporting mental health and single parents, as well as taking initiatives to make learning more inclusive. Inclusive leaders and champions across the business and in the community were also honoured.

A research from McKinsey suggests that more diverse executive teams are likely to financially outperform the ones that are less diverse. TCS’ experience suggests that broader equality and diversity in the technology space, and a culture of equity and belonging throughout an organisation provide the much-needed strength at critical times.

“TCS UK and Ireland has achieved the highest satisfaction and engagement rate for the last 13 years among different geographical units within TCS,” says Ramkumar Chandrasekaran, HR director, TCS UK and Ireland. “These awards have also brought a lot of awareness about the initiatives and visibility to our role models.”

Ecosystems for inclusion

This year, more than 10 award categories recognised achievements, including the most impactful diversity and inclusion initiatives, community champions and inclusive accounts — as well as inclusive leadership. In a year marked with anxiety and separation, however, supportive employee networks were also firmly in the spotlight.

“It started with a very small network of people who are single-handedly managing their children and managing all the challenges,” explains Rasika Sangra, co-chair of UNO Parenting and the winner of the Outstanding Employee Network of the Year award. 

UNO Parenting was set up as a network for single parents in TCS. It provides one-to-one confidential advice, and is a supportive and safe community that offers weekly virtual coffee breaks for members, who are offered HR interventions specific to their needs. This network became especially relevant during the lockdown as all working parents were hit with doing two full-time jobs at the same time – looking after their children and doing office work. However, single parents faced the additional pressure of childcare and work all on their own, often not having the option to ‘leave’ the workplace as they were the income earners. This has led to increased pressure, stress, and other health issues for single parents, in particular single working mothers, who make up 90% of the single parents in the UK. 

“An inclusive team brings different cultural beliefs, different ideas,” says Rachel Langham, UNO co-chair. “If you have all of these in a group, you suddenly find yourself with a massive amount of strength in that group, rather than a weakness.”

Not alone

According to the UK’s Office for National Statistics, the proportion of people showing moderate to severe symptoms of depression in England and Wales following the first COVID-19 lockdown doubled to reach 19%. Issues like mental health are top of the wellbeing agenda, and giving everyone a safe space to talk openly, but in confidence, affects not only our work selves, but has an impact on our personal lives, too.

This was the world in which another award-winning network, TCS Minds, was born. 

“Our aim was to address and improve the mental health of our employees by breaking barriers and raising awareness,” says Sarah Mason, who helps run the network. “Winning the award shows that what we stand for is also recognised.”

This recognition extends to those who have supported inclusive learning – a key focus for TCS, which made its TCS iON™ education platform free for schools during the pandemic. 

The Inclusive Learning project – the winner of TCS’ Impactful Inclusion and Diversity Initiative award - was set up to focus on ensuring that the strategic digital upskilling initiatives left no one behind. Through group learning and a unique reward and recognition mechanism, the Inclusive Learning initiative ensured that underrepresented employee groups and women were engaged in the learning agenda and continued to stay relevant from a skills perspective. It has helped TCS UK and Ireland engage 95% of underrepresented employee groups and 97% of women in competency building in the last year. 

Strengthening resilience 

TCS is mindful of the big picture. As an organisation with more than half a million staff globally, and more than 18,000 in the UK, maintaining a cohesive and supportive community is vital.  

Inclusion initiatives, including the focus on D&I, appear to be succeeding. Almost all (95%) respondents to a recent TCS Employee Network members survey reported that membership of TCS networks had boosted both their productivity and sense of belonging and company engagement.

“Our awards have fostered a healthy competition among different departments to contribute to D&I initiatives more effectively,” says Chandrasekaran. “As a result of this, the membership of our employee networks increased by 50% last year and the leadership involvement in our inclusion initiatives has also increased drastically.”

People power

In recent years, evidence has grown of the potential of technology to be an ally of diversity in the workplace. 

Shipping company Maersk has used online games to encourage hiring managers to avoid cognitive bias during recruitment. There is also growing interest in the potential of anti-bias AI to assist in human capital management (HCM).

However, TCS’ experience also shows that individuals – and the teams they’re part of – should be at the heart of any D&I strategy to build a more inclusive workplace. The real diversity and inclusion meaning seems to be people.

As the UK and Ireland enter an uncertain post-pandemic chapter, the value of supportive workplaces looks likely to grow.

As Chandrasekaran puts it, “More diverse, more inclusive teams mean a stronger TCS.”

About the author

Ieva Jankelaityte
Ieva Jankelaityte
Ieva is looking after the talent management and diversity agenda for over 18,000 employees of the UK and Ireland. She is focused on creating a culture of equity, inclusion, and belonging and works in close partnership with business leadership, diverse groups, clients, and the community. She believes that everyone can thrive in the right environment given the right level of support.
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