The Daily Guardian spoke to Nirmala Menon on the transformation that has taken place in corporate culture post the pandemic.
Menon, one of the leading global pioneers in employee relations, diversity and inclusion, has been listed among the “Top 50 Diversity Professionals” in the Global Diversity List. Prior to her own venture Interweave consulting, she was the Diversity and Employee Relations leader for IBM, India where she gained wide and specific experience in the area of diversity management. Nirmala and her team at Interweave work with several marquee organisations across industries as a one-stop shop for organisational diversity and inclusion solutions. She is associated with various industry bodies like NASSCOM, CII, NHRD, SHRM, etc. in India. She was also a representative in the informal international advisory group of UN Global Compact & the UNIFEM to formulate the Women’s Empowerment Principles.
Q: Has the definition of ‘diversity, equality and inclusion’ changed during the pandemic? What are your thoughts?
A: In principle, the definition has not changed; however, an appreciation of its relevance has improved substantially. Governments, organisations, and even individuals have started to realise that there are huge interdependencies amongst all of us in the global village. Technology has played a vital role in spreading awareness. It has also moved away from addressing the obvious areas of gender and people with disabilities to bringing in conversations around cognitive, generational, regional and mental health issues. Of course, flexible work options are a given in today’s context and managing inclusion in a hybrid workplace is the new challenge to work on.
Q: Since the pandemic has changed the work culture, what changes have been recommended by Interweave Consulting that are needed to be inculcated in the workspace right away? Do these recommending changes differ from industry to industry?
A: As a consulting company, all of Interweaver’s solutions are customized to the specific and unique needs of each organisation. Depending on the goals of the company, its level of readiness for change, resources available and leadership commitment, we recommend a set of actions. We typically consider the context of the industry, the DEI goals, philosophy of the organisation, review its policies, informal practices and suggest varied interventions including virtual/digital solutions to address issues. We have also often helped build internal capability for organisations to continue the journey internally as well.
Q: There are several instances in which we see that the Hybrid model of working has not been favourable for many single women or bachelors. In such cases, what solutions have you provided to the companies?
A: It has affected everyone in different ways. For families, it means adjusting to the new demands for space and attention where adults are working and/or caring for sick relatives and children are attending schools. It has led to serious challenges of being overworked and poor physical and mental morale. For a bachelor, it is about loneliness. We have, therefore, worked with companies on mental health awareness programs and solutions, also helping managers and encouraging increased engagement with all employees including single folks.
Q: What have been the biggest challenges and achievements of Interweave Consulting, so far?
A: Interweave was set up at a time when India was still new to the value of DEI and helping the market appreciate its value and build awareness was a challenge. As we helped set the value proposition, it became about what areas we needed to focus on and how to strategize and build a roadmap for transformation. Over the last 2 years due to the pandemic, awareness and interest in the space have grown around the world and in India and it has been all about the new normal, taking consulting, and workshops in the hybrid/remote working, adapting, envisioning and building new solutions in the digital environment.
Q: What makes Interweave Consulting different from other consulting organisations?
A: Interweave Consulting prides itself on being at the cutting edge of the DEI (Diversity, Equity and Inclusion) evolution in India. Letting the market lead its services, Interweave has evolved from just a base of a couple of offerings in its early days to a one-stop shop today with a suite of offerings including customised consulting, audits, interactive workshops, innovative e-learning and art and theatre solutions.