Enabling True Diversity (Series 4)

To counteract this, Deloitte’s Inclusion Model talks about facilitating: 1) Fairness and Respect 2) Valued and Belonging 3) Safe and Open 4) Empowered and Growing. But this is not the language of business. Talking about ‘belonging’ and ‘safety’ in a corporate setting might also make us feel uncomfortable, albeit in a different way. However, talk about it we must. “Belonging is a feeling of psychological safety which allows people to be their best selves at work”. Without it, individual performance is likely to be impacted and as a result so too the company’s bottom line. This is very much the language of business.

As we have seen, people are very much at the heart of the diversity problem. Therefore people have to be the solution: changing individual behaviour to drive sustained organisational transformation. This needs to come from top down with the CEO and Senior Executives championing change.

To support this vision, key influencers and people managers need to be equipped with a clear understanding of the benefits of diversity and how to uncover and appraise their own unconscious bias. Tackling this head-on requires sensitivity, in order to create a setting where it feels safe to be honest about deeply held personal beliefs and ideas. Recognising them is the first step in being able to challenge and then ultimately change them. For this real “people expertise” is needed.

From here, these individuals can be used as sponsors to create more inclusive networks. They can experience reverse mentoring to drive understanding and promote change.

However, diversity training must go beyond an awareness of difference, in order to foster a true sense of belonging. Enhancing manager’s people-skills can help facilitate team members to have a more positive appreciation of self, even when this is different from the people around them. Managers therefore must understand how to value and capitalise upon their team’s differences to drive innovation. Skills necessary for this include: 1) active listening, 2) effective communication 3) advanced self-awareness of ‘me as a manager’ 4) understanding the connection between thoughts, emotions and behaviour and how this impacts performance – and how to manage them both personally and within their teams 5) being able to inspire loyalty and exceptional performance.

But still this is not enough. Most of the literature and the diversity training available focuses on managers.  However, as Adia Harvey Wingfield questions in her article, Being Black – but Not Too Black in the Workplace, “Do diversity and inclusion initiatives take into consideration how minorities placed in those environments feel? How can policies create not just more equitable hiring processes, but address the emotional toll of being a (racial) minority in a professional work setting?”

This gap offers an opportunity for more direct support. For example, the maternity transition workshops I facilitate, offer an effective group learning model offering support, making participants feel valued, thus ensuring better retention post leave. These can offer a space where experiences can be talked about and enable key behaviours necessary for progression: 1) Reinforcing positive self-identification; 2) Building confidence and self-esteem; 3) Improving communication, assertiveness and negotiation; 4) Creating networks. They also allow support to be tailored as an individual’s experience within their organisation will be unique. Businesses need to understand their own context in order to tackle it head on and groups such as these can provide valuable insight.


The Co-Think Approach to Diversity & Inclusion:

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