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News18 » Tech
4-min read

Here's What Microsoft India Can Teach Startups About Diversity And Inclusion at Work

Microsoft India HR Director Ira Gupta in an exclusive interaction with Debashis Sarkar of News18.com talks about the importance of creating a diverse and inclusive environment to attract and retain talented employees.

Debashis Sarkar | News18.com@SarkDeb

Updated:May 1, 2017, 2:30 PM IST
Here's What Microsoft India Can Teach Startups About Diversity And Inclusion at Work
(Photo for representation, image: REUTERS/Charles Platiau)

For most startups in India, the need for adopting an effective HR strategy to attract and retain talented employees has taken the backseat in the run to grab eyeballs of both investors and target consumers. After the initial adrenaline rush is over, apart from the founding members, very few employees tend to stick on.

For employees working at startups, it seems jumping from one “big revolutionary dream” workplace to another within a short time period is the new norm to sustain work pleasure. A casual talk with most employees working at a startups will easily reveal that very little is done to recruit, retain, and nurture diverse talent – women, differently-abled people and people from different age groups.

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Microsoft India HR Director Ira Gupta in an exclusive interaction with Debashis Sarkar of News18.com talks about the importance of creating a diverse and inclusive environment to attract and retain talented employees. Microsoft started its operations in India in 1990. The software giant has its footprints across 10 cities in the country and has a workforce of over 7,000 employees. Here are excerpts…

Q: How important is “diversity and inclusion” at workplace for Microsoft India?

The diversity of our employees is a matter of pride for us. We believe that each person is diverse. Be it age, experience, thinking, capabilities, demographic, etc. What we aim to do is bring all of the creativity that comes from this diversity to the workplace.

Creating an inclusive environment helps attract and retain talented employees as well as support their professional and personal advancement, which results in more innovative products and solutions for our customers.

Q: What is Microsoft doing to drive “diversity and inclusion” at its offices across India?

Microsoft’s culture is transforming to be one that is founded in a growth mindset across three areas - customer-obsession, diversity and inclusiveness. Being a balanced and inclusive workforce has never been a greater priority for us.

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We actively implement practices and programs to ensure people from diverse backgrounds, genders and abilities are successful. We have several programs and initiatives aimed at recruiting, retaining, and nurturing diverse talent – women, differently-abled people and people from all generations.

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Q: Microsoft India recently hosted its signature annual diversity and inclusion conference called Confluence. Can you explain what is it exactly?

It focuses on expanding inclusive practices, exploring opportunities and understanding challenges faced by different employee groups and to building a work culture that helps overcome biases. Confluence started as a conference for women employees ten years ago. The key focus are on three pillars of diversity – gender, generational and abilities.

Q: What happens at the Confluence conference? Provide some details on the sessions and activities.

Confluence is a day-long conference. This year, the event was a culmination of Confluence Week which started on April 17 and saw participation from 1000 plus employees across all Microsoft offices in India. Some of the sessions at Confluence 2017 were:

Generational diversity track:

Listen Deeply Workshop: Through an interesting ‘reconstruct-the-story’ format, explore the role of listening deeply, empathy, verbal and non-verbal language in effectively collaborating with colleagues from different generations.

Multigenerational Lab: Understand and bust stereotypes and myths associated with different generations through an interactive and fun learning session. It aims to help better manage self and interacting with others in a generationally diverse team.

Abilities track:

Disable the biases: A simulation-based workshop helps participants to experience the world of those with physical and cognitive impairments, and understand what constitutes an inclusive work environment. Designed and facilitated by experts from the ACE social foundation, this session deals with the misconceptions around hiring and working with people with disability.

Gender diversity track:

Gender intelligence program: This interactive session brings alive workplace issues faced due to gender differences. Step outside your comfort zones and prepare yourself to handle gender bias issues better in your careers. Especially relevant to executives and managers, but open to everyone. This program is designed on the H3 model - head, heart and hand – and focuses on an individual’s role in creating a gender-balanced ecosystem. Pivoted on brain science and the research of award winning author John Gray (Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus).

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Q: Microsoft has another platform called Codess to encourage gender diversity in the field of engineering. Can you share more information about it.

Codess (A female developer who can create magic with code) serves as a platform for women coders to share personal and professional experiences as well as network and learn from each other. It was introduced in India in 2016.

This year, Codess served as a platform for women coders bringing together 2000 women participants from 41 colleges. The program culminated after a week-long series of competitions on March 8 on the occasion of International Women’s Day.

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| Edited by: Debashis Sarkar
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