Srikanth Chakravarthy is an experienced industry professional with an extensive career spanning over 28 years across diverse verticals. Prior to joining Bekaert in 1998, he had successful stints at companies such as Sachsenroeder GmbH and Hi Draw International. He completed his engineering degree in Electronics & Communication from Bangalore University and his PG Diploma in Marketing & Sales from the National Institute of Sales. Additionally, he attended programs on operations leadership at CEDEP (INSEAD) in France and inclusive leadership at IMD in Switzerland recently. In a recent conversation with Thiruamuthan (Correspondent, Industry Outlook), Srikanth shared his insights in various aspects pertaining to inclusive leadership approaches, especially in the manufacturing sector.
How does inclusive leadership enhance productivity and collaboration in the manufacturing sector?
An inclusive leadership culture is one that embraces and enforces the principles of DEIB (Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging) within the workforce. In the last few years, we have witnessed a rapid revolution in the area of creating more inclusive societies. Since the workplace is also a part of society, the framework that started with gender diversity has now been broadened to include other aspects such as equity, inclusion, and belonging. Although a relatively new concept for many, “Belonging” is also one of the most important aspects of every workplace. This is because even though many organizations have already brought in diversity, equity, and inclusion, they sometimes still fail to retain employees that come from underrepresented groups since they feel alienated in the workplace.
In a recent study by the Achievers Workforce Institute, 45 percent of the respondents reported that they had increased productivity when they felt a higher sense of belonging within their workplace, and 40 percent of the respondents opined that they don't want to change their workplace. Today, while services sectors like banking, IT, and finance are experiencing more gender diversity and acceptance for people with different sexual orientations, nationalities, and cultures, the manufacturing sector is still lagging behind in this regard globally. As a result, inclusive leadership in the manufacturing industry is one of the most critical aspects business leaders must address in the current business era.
Throw some light on the challenges faced by manufacturing leaders in fostering diversity and inclusion within their organizations?
The primary challenge that we are witnessing in the manufacturing space is the lack of awareness regarding the importance and business impact of diversity, equity, and inclusion at the top management levels. Since the main purpose of any private entity is to generate profit for its stakeholders, it is important to demonstrate the business impact when you are allotting resources to encourage diversity, equity, and inclusion across your organization. Many companies that have dedicated teams and resources for this have been able to raise awareness throughout their company and create effective policies that support this vision. However, most companies still lack a proper understanding of the benefits of encouraging these aspects at the workplace and are skeptical about making investments in this regard. This has been one of the most important challenges in encouraging diversity and inclusion within an organization.
What is the impact of inclusive leadership on driving innovation within a manufacturing organization?
Inclusive leadership in the B2C segment allows a deeper insight into the consumer groups whose specific needs are generally ignored or brought under a broad umbrella. For instance, recognizing the multiple social segments of gender or sexual orientation allows companies to customize their offerings to more focus groups, allowing them to develop a strong USP for themselves within the market. In terms of the B2B segment, inclusive leadership is having a significant impact more on the employees. It enables the company to attract a wider talent group, retain talent, improve productivity, achieve proper work-life balance, and, most importantly, have a social impact by helping people from various underrepresented groups find gainful employment.
Leaders who are able to embrace an inclusive approach make better team leaders. They can not only attract better talent but are also able to engage with them more effectively and help them achieve both their personal and overall organizational objectives. When employees feel recognized instead of discriminated against or marginalized, they develop a sense of belonging and have much greater motivation to put in their efforts towards achieving the organization's goals. As a result, the productivity of an employee who has a higher sense of belonging to the company is greater than that of the rest of the employees.
Tell us about a few strategies manufacturing leaders can employ to ensure equal opportunities for career growth among all employees?
Since there is a lack of awareness regarding these aspects among manufacturing businesses at the executive level, it all starts with the vision. For this reason, it is important for manufacturing industry leaders to have a closer look at this topic of DEIB and understand how these factors will affect their particular businesses. A gap analysis of where they are vs where they want to be would be vital. Based on this assessment, they can then develop their organizational vision, formulate a proper roadmap, and bring in the necessary resources. Organizations often follow a top-down approach, wherein the top leadership must be the sponsors and lead by example. This means that if you want to create an inclusive workplace, you must first have an inclusive leadership team.