Happy New Year! I hope you had a great break with family and friends. We did. And now it’s time to shift gears into a more active mode. In 2024, we want to help our clients become more diverse and more inclusive by focusing on changing behaviours and shifting mindsets. Why?
Changing Behaviours, Shifting Mindsets
We know that, in order to reap the full rewards of Diversity, we need to operate in an environment that sees Diversity as a virtue rather than a potential threat. This means developing a profound understanding of the value that Diversity offers to teams, and to individuals. This also means becoming aware of and being able to remove the obstacles that stand in our way of seeing these valuable contributions.
We believe that the simplest and quickest path to gain the outlook that allows us to reap these rewards is to mechanically shift small yet pervasive behaviours. Doing so will normalise the way we do and see things and, in turn, will change the way we see things. Let me explain in more detail.
Seeing Diversity as a Virtue
No matter how often people recite the full benefits that Diversity brings to our teams on the whole, it remains a very difficult concept to implement. Here is an example:
People these days are well able to list the benefits of having a more diverse team. We are very good at understanding that diverse teams help reflect our customer base, make us more creative, raise levels of engagement and are more attractive to prospective talent. (By the way, If you’re still struggling to make this business case in your organisation, we have several solutions to offer.)
The challenge materialises at the implementation stage, when we have to decide between two candidates, for instance – one who resembles the rest of the team, and one who doesn’t. We know that we like to hire in our own image, so it is often the case that team members resemble each other, offering little true Diversity. But even when we know this and consider ourselves as avid supporters of Diversity (having previously recited the list of benefits so well), we often struggle to choose the other candidate – the one who is nothing like us or the rest of the team.
Instead, we convince ourselves that we’re going for the ‘best candidate’ and that unfortunately, the candidate who is ‘different’ is not ‘it’. We tell ourselves stories to justify our decision to side with the candidate we really want – the one who is more like us than not – e.g., that they will be a better fit for the team, or have more experience, or will get along better with the clients they will look after, or that they were more enthusiastic about the job. In other words, when it comes to making a genuine call in favour of Diversity, we fail to see its true virtues and err on the side of caution.
Of course, if we had a different mindset, a mindset that clearly saw the benefit of hiring someone who is different – for the sake of the different perspective, for the sake of the clients who are also different, for the sake of the future value to the team and the organisation – it would help us redefine who we believe to be the ‘better’ candidate.
First Behaviours, Then Mindsets
Unfortunately, changing mindsets is difficult. It’s hard to change one’s mindset without special interventions, like ‘inclusion nudges’, for instance. These are specific behaviours that are dictated as part of a specific process: for instance, when hiring, a requirement to justify to someone significantly more senior why the ‘other’ candidate was not chosen. This nudge would force the hiring manager to more thoroughly review the candidates’ skills and compare them to the requirements of the job. This exercise might also require looking at the team as a whole to see what skills or indeed perspectives are missing, and what additional attributes would enhance the team’s performance. Is a person who is much like the rest going to do that? Would a box of fancy grey pencils benefit from the same type of pencil, or might it be better to add a colour pencil, even if it is less fancy than the rest?
Behaviour nudges like this make it more likely that our inclination to do the same as we’ve always done is reduced. Repeating this nudge over time will lead to a change in behaviour and eventually, once some of the benefits of having added more colour to our pencil box are realised, this change in behaviour will also contribute to a shift in mindsets.
Over the past 10 years of our work at Voice At The Table, we have observed that it is the small, consistent changes in behaviours that lead to the creation of more inclusive cultures, one team at a time. So in the next few issues, leading up to our client event in early February, I will share some of these observations with you so that you too can benefit from our team’s aggregate experience from the last decade. Stay tuned!