Taking Everyone Along in your EDI Approach

By Sara Bell

If you work in or are interested in Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI), you’ll see the value in EDI initiatives that create a more equitable and fair workplace. Unfortunately, as advances are made by some, often backlash erodes the gains for all. I would argue therefore that it’s essential to find, establish and maintain an approach to EDI that takes everyone along, rather than creating dividing lines or feelings of anyone being side-lined.

Specifically, I consider the interconnected nature of multiple, overlapping identities or intersectionality as the key concept driving why it’s now more important than ever to take everyone along. Intersectionality means some people are more likely to experience unique and greater forms of exclusion, discrimination and marginalisation. This term was created because of a legal case which examined how a group of workers who were made redundant ended up worse off, not because they were women and not because they were Black, but because they were Black women. So Diversity initiatives that focus on gender or ethnicity alone are unlikely to create a culture of Inclusion for everyone.

I would like to share some strategies for establishing and maintaining an EDI approach that benefits all employees, avoids dividing lines and feelings of being side-lined, and takes everyone along on the journey.

1. Avoiding Dividing Lines
Diagnose the status of your diverse representation using data to ensure you are talking about the real situation in your organisation. By understanding where there are gaps in representation (e.g., the hiring of disabled employees in mid-level sales, promotion of Black women to senior manager positions in technology, retention and engagement of LGBTQIA+ staff in line management positions in finance), you can be specific and factual about where interventions are needed. Focusing on one aspect only will most likely disenfranchise other employees.

Client Example
I recently worked with a tech organisation that had a hiring target for women in engineering. Many of the line managers were disillusioned with EDI and what felt to them like an equation for EDI with a focus on just hiring women. When we looked at the detailed data, women were clustered in one department and there was a lack of Black men as well as women in line management and leadership. I facilitated a data-led workshop with the extended leadership team, for them to determine the targets for hiring as well as retention. The main focus was a detailed heat-map showing the demographics in each team. By looking at more aspects of Diversity and setting more specific targets for areas of the business, the leaders engaged with the process in a way they would any other business issue. The inclusive workshop process helped to include white male hiring managers in the conversation and they started to look beyond the different aspects of Diversity in hiring, and focused on inclusion of all in the engagement and retention of their people. The data and process engaged and included them and removed the binary male or female hiring focus which had caused a backlash.

2. Include those who are feeling side-lined
Oftentimes white educated men in organisations feel excluded from Equity, Diversity and Inclusion efforts, yet they hold significant influence over the culture and practices in organisations. We have spoken about true allyship and the role of all leaders in creating Inclusion. Along with a focus on diverse representation and inclusive culture, your EDI approach will be more impactful if you are deliberately including the white majority in your organisation (read here about the Global Majority). Reframing narratives and identities can be unsettling, so why would you not support those you are asking to share power, identity and established ways of working? Support those in positions of privilege to do the work to create Inclusion for everyone. Some examples of ways to do this include coaching and training of senior leadership teams as well as facilitated reverse mentoring programmes for leaders to understand the lived experience of others in their company.

3. Take everyone along on the EDI journey
Genuinely taking everyone along recognises that every person and organisation is at a very different starting point. So the action for the EDI approach is to think about how agile, empowered, viral changes can be part of meeting everyone where they are, and encouraging everyone to move in the same direction of Inclusion. In addition to top-down approaches, bring your employee body onboard and empower employees and supervisors to amplify their voice and experience. One way to do this is to create safe or brave spaces for employees to engage in real discussion, for example in employee forums or network groups. Facilitating experience sharing and telling these stories more broadly in the organisation can help others to understand the impact of their language and behaviour on colleagues with different lived experiences, and they will want to act differently rather than being told to.

We have been speaking this year about the EDI journey, how there are phases to maturity that organisations go through to benefit fully from the creative genius of each and every employee. It requires concerted effort from everyone in the organisation to get there. Wherever you are on that journey, I am sure your EDI strategy can take everyone along. You can progress by ensuring you are using data and listening to everyone’s voices where everyone is taking action each day for a more inclusive culture. You know this creates a more positive and productive workplace that benefits all employees, and helps to promote greater equity and fairness in the broader community beyond your business. Taking everyone along is not just the right thing to do, it is also the safest way to ensure that EDI strategies are implemented successfully.

How has your organisation managed to bring everyone along?

Discouraging Bias, Encouraging Inclusion

By Rina Goldenberg Lynch

In my first blog of this month, I spoke about starting to build a foundation for a company-wide culture that reaps the benefits of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI).  I also posited that, once you get to this coveted stage of the journey, you won’t need to invest as much in EDI resources as previously, because EDI at this stage is becoming a part of everyday business.

There are, however, a couple of EDI interventions that need to be continued on a long-term basis.  Luckily, they are not cost-intensive and, with time, become part of the usual checks and balances included in the running of organisations.

Bias Monitors
We know that being human also means being biased.  Acknowledging this is the first step to making more meritocratic decisions, free of (or at least less burdened with) bias.  The obvious challenge with bias is of course that most of it is unconscious.   So, subconsciously, we assume an idea is not worth listening to or that someone is less capable, even though we have no evidence to support this. Without thinking, we ask the usual suspects to serve coffee at a meeting or take notes. We make jokes or share sweeping generalisations about entire cultures without realising the impact on others.

A Bias Monitor can help us keep bias at bay.  A bias monitor is a volunteer (or someone who is asked to be one) who takes the role – usually in meetings – of drawing attention to bias, as and when it arises.  When the bias monitor sees or hears an assumption or rash judgment or a statement that conveys a hidden bias, they draw attention to it by simply stating what they see.  In this way, everyone becomes more aware of biases, and the team can work together in  addressing them.  Having a dedicated bias monitor also takes the pressure off those who tend to experience bias – usually members of an underrepresented group at work – and makes it easier for everyone to take the comments more seriously, seeing them in a neutral, well-intentioned light.

Appreciation Monitors
Just as we want to minimise biased behaviour in the workplace, we also want to encourage inclusive behaviour.  Statements such as ‘Please challenge my viewpoint’, ‘What do others think?’ or ‘Isn’t this what you were trying to say before as well, Joanne?’ are all examples of behaviours that aim to include others’ views and perspectives.  These types of behaviours may go unnoticed, so it is helpful to have an Appreciation Monitor who looks out for them and points them out, so that others might copy them.  In a similar way to the Bias Monitor, the Appreciation Monitor keeps their eyes and ears open for inclusive behaviours and draws attention to them as and when they appear.

Continuing to remind ourselves of what bias looks like and what inclusion feels like reinforces a culture that’s mindful of EDI long after we have stopped thinking about it.  Monitors ensure that EDI doesn’t dissipate and that organisations that have invested time and resources into creating a strong EDI foundation maintain the value and rewards of their investments.  After all, we are all human, and sliding back to familiar territory can be easier than we think.

Our Top Six Articles in Six Months!

By Suzanne Bird

Why do you read our newsletters? Is it for our practical tips for leaders trying to make workplaces more inclusive? For our insights into Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI)? For our guest blogs based on case studies, research or lived experience? Hopefully you enjoy our newsletters for all of these things!

We aim to help you build your EDI know-how by providing interesting insights or useful information. This is why we include a new article each week, linked to a monthly EDI theme or based on a guest blogger’s unique perspective.

In the first six months of 2023, the six most-read blogs in our newsletters covered a wide range of content, from practical EDI advice to more personal reflections on experiencing bias and a hard-hitting report on the career realities faced by women after having a baby. Here’s a summary of those top six newsletters.  We hope you enjoy the look back, as we move into the second half of the year.

Hitting the target
In May, Rina  posed the question whether EDI targets are a good or a bad thing – and described how to set good targets that are truly effective. Rina suggested that setting targets can be helpful, but only if they are linked to an impactful initiative, providing a useful measure with which to gauge the success of EDI efforts. This is why Rina recommended setting impactful Diversity targets that resonate with the business and are linked to purposeful action.

Following on from this, another highly popular blog from Rina proposed three practical actions that move the needle on EDI and help organisations to hit those targets. It will come as no surprise to you that action number 1 is all about understanding and communicating the business case for EDI, but it’s worth reading on to understand how to tackle this – and the remaining actions!  As Rina suggests, addressing EDI like any other business challenge will yield effective change, but only if the business benefits of greater Diversity are understood and EDI is not treated as an add-on to ‘real’ business issues.

Practical pointers
Employee Resource Groups (ERGs), also known as staff networks, can make a real difference to EDI in organisations and provide vital support for people who aren’t in the dominant group in the workplace. Not all ERGs have the impact they set out to achieve, however, and they can only succeed in this if they function well. In April, EDI consultant Inge Woudstra wrote a guest blog offering five valuable tips to help ERGs get off to a good start – with a clear vision and realistic objectives – and to ensure they continue to thrive and have a positive impact.

Lived experiences
In March, guest blogger Jessica Heagren shared some deeply concerning data with us in her blog about Careers After Babies: The Uncomfortable Truth.  This was the title of a survey conducted last summer with almost a thousand women, prompted in part by Jess’s own experience of how difficult it is to maintain a senior role whilst being a mother of small children. One snapshot of data is that 85% of the surveyed mothers left the full-time workforce within 3 years of having their first child. Jess contends that we cannot keep allowing women to have to abandon their careers, and offers some suggestions for employers wishing to do better by working parents, including signing up to the Careers After Babies accreditation. This blog contains some truly dispiriting statistics, but it also carries a sense of hope for the future of mothers in the workplace and is well worth a second read.

‘Where are you really from?’ This is a question that EDI Consultant Joyce Osei has often been asked, and in her experience as a Black woman, it is rarely a simple question and is often, as she puts it, ‘fully-loaded’. In this blog, Joyce explores the possible reasons why people feel the need to ask this question, and offers three suggestions to consider for a better approach to learning more about someone without putting your curiosity above the level of comfort of another person.

FAQs
Earlier in the year, Rina dedicated one blog to providing a taste of the most frequently asked questions we receive about our approach to working with an organisation. These questions range from the straightforward ‘How can you help us?’ to more nuanced questions about how we see the difference between consulting and training, and how we can measure a client’s progress in building a more equitable, diverse and inclusive workplace. These questions are naturally focused on the support we offer to organisations, but Rina signs off by saying that our job is to get clients to a place where they don’t need us anymore: ‘However we help you, our aim is to partner with you for as long as you need us and to help you progress successfully without the need for further external intervention.’

I hope you’ve enjoyed this round-up of our most-read blogs so far this year. We value your readership and hope that our blogs inspire and enlighten you.  To keep us on the right course, please take a moment to respond to our survey where you can let us know what type of content you prefer.

How to make the most of a team’s collective intelligence

By Sara Bell

You are almost certainly aware how much effort has been spent on Equity, Diversity and Inclusion initiatives in recent years. And yet many organisations still struggle with overcoming the barriers and biases that prevent them from truly benefitting from their most valuable asset: their people. With the right approach, however, obstacles can be overcome and the benefits of Diversity can be fully realised.

Addressing the barriers outside the team
There’s no point in denying it: bias is real and needs to be addressed head-on. This means revisiting policies and practices to ensure all stakeholders are catered for.  Many policies and practices inadvertently exclude certain groups, such as hiring requirements that favour a specific degree or experience which is not obtainable by many.  By broadening the criteria and considering a wider range of qualifications, for instance, organisations can increase the pool of candidates and ensure a more diverse workforce. And if a business can remove these barriers and then embrace the wide-ranging perspectives of a diverse workforce, that will bring enormous benefits to the business.

Making the most of a team’s collective intelligence
Perhaps the most exciting benefit of the removal of organisational barriers, is the opportunity it creates to harness the benefits of increased creativity and innovation in the organisation. By bringing together individuals with different backgrounds and perspectives, organisations can tap into a wider range of ideas and solutions. This can lead to new products, services and processes that better meet the needs of a diverse customer base and create a competitive advantage.  But not without first exposing the biases and barriers that creep into the decisions made at meetings, for instance.  One way to do so is with our Inclusive Meetings methodology, that encourages clients to run meetings, make decisions, and design new practices that amplify previously quiet voices in a way that draws everyone in.

How does this work, exactly?  Let me share a concrete example:

Over the past year, I have been working with a multi-national executive leadership team to support them in having a different type of conversation when they meet. Previously, the most noticeable voices at meetings were of those speaking in their native tongue, taking up the majority of the talking time, at meetings with an informal business agenda.  So the first thing we did is to suggest that a formal agenda structure helps make the business meeting more accessible to those who are not native speakers, as everyone can prepare for it in advance and anticipate what’s coming up.

Throughout the workshops, we practised speaking in turn, as part of a Round, where members had equal speaking times during which there were no interruptions. The most immediate feedback from the team on this was how nice it was to hear such a variety of different voices and perspectives. Over time the true magic of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion had set in: as the team continued to actively listen for different perspectives, challenges and solutions, the elephant in the room finally surfaced.  Once people felt able to contribute openly and authentically, knowing that their perspective was going to be valued, they admitted that their current team dynamic didn’t serve the purpose of their team.  It then became clear that they had to work together differently to solve the complex challenges facing them as a team and as a company. They realised that the way they had become used to working together was one of the biggest obstacles to delivering on their strategy.

What made the difference in the approach suggested by us was how they started to value each other’s diverse experiences and perspectives.  By being open to learning and acknowledging the need to create an inclusive team environment, the team is now able to capitalise on its full collective intelligence for the success of the business.  The quieter voices – generally the women on the team – who now trusted that their contribution was welcomed and going to be heard without interruption, were able to speak freely about the strategic imperative for product innovation.  What I realised then (as I had with other clients) was that our inclusive meetings methodology liberated thinking and encouraged attention.  The team now trust this different way of leading.

The way this and other teams had managed to change how they work together is living proof that diverse teams in an inclusive environment are more likely to identify and address blind spots, leading to better decision-making and problem-solving for their clients.

In conclusion, eliminating Equity, Diversity and Inclusion barriers and biases requires a proactive and intentional approach. By creating a culture of inclusion and embracing diversity, organisations can tap into the full range of talent and ideas. This in turn leads to increased creativity and innovation, better decision-making and a more competitive edge, which is surely a reason no business leader can resist in the current financial climate?

A coach with a clipboard talking to his team on a field

Five tips for creating a compelling EDI Narrative

By Rina Goldenberg Lynch

The success of your Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) strategy depends to a large extent on how successful the leadership is in engaging the staff population. This will depend greatly on the narrative leaders embrace when talking about the benefits that EDI offer to your company.  It’s worth thinking carefully about precisely what that message should entail and how it might land with employees.

To ensure your EDI strategy is relatable to every person, I offer you the following five tips:

1.  Start with Why

  • Start your communication by explaining why EDI is important to your company. What is the opportunity that the company is seeking to achieve with its EDI strategy?  This is the high-level narrative that might be set out in the EDI strategy or on the website. This high-level overview sets the tone for a more detailed discussion.
  • Continue by explaining why EDI is important to your specific department or group. For this communication to be effective, the high-level narrative needs to be adapted, with examples that they can directly relate to.   Are you perhaps a sales team that needs to reflect and understand the different types of customers you have so that they can feel heard and understood? Or maybe you’re the IT team looking after the rest of the organisation, so EDI helps you not only to understand the needs of your in-house clients but to come up with solutions for the different scenarios in which IT is utilised. Or maybe you run the premises security department, so EDI could make it easier to get a sense for the varied situations that might cause security breaches and how to pre-empt and/or address them.  Whatever the team, there will be a specific benefit that EDI affords you. If you don’t yet know exactly what that might be, it is a good idea to spend some time thinking about it and even asking the team to think about this together; another option is to ask peers or your EDI team.

2.  Provide the right incentive
Motivate your team using both a ‘carrot’ (explaining how EDI helps us improve what we do and how it will help us hit our targets) and a ‘stick’ (what will happen if we do nothing).

A carrot approach will start with those benefits referenced above, but you can also provide other incentives, like monthly recognition or even prizes.  Some companies incorporate rewards for people who are proactively helping achieve targets or other EDI-related ambitions.  The most common reward is for managers who succeed in expanding the diversity of their teams; others can include cash for the introduction of suitable candidates with a diverse background or identity (i.e. different from the one dominant in the team), or for identifying a bias in a process and offering sensible solutions to address it.

A stick approach might be equally as familiar.  This is when people are discouraged from  unwanted behaviour, such as harassment or microaggressions, by clarifying that this is unacceptable in the workplace and will not be tolerated. Another one is to ask the team what they think would happen if they didn’t embrace the company’s EDI ambitions – how much of a future would they have in the organisation as a team, and even as an organisation, if others also took no action?

This approach of providing an incentive to help on the one hand, and a reason not to get in the way on the other, will relate to most parts of the EDI journey and thus will have the broadest appeal.

3. State Your Ask
Once you’ve set the scene for the importance of EDI to your organisation and team and provided suitable motivation, it’s time to be specific about your ask: what do you want each person to do?  A good general example of this is this statement made by the Chair of PWC a few years ago:

Are there people who just feel like they got cheated? Yes there are.  And what I say to those people is ‘I’m asking you to respect what we are trying to do.  I’m asking you to respect our colleagues. I’m asking you to have compassion.  And if you don’t agree, that’s OK.  You don’t have to agree with me.  But I do need you to live our values.’ 

A more specific ask can be requesting that each person attends offered training on the subject (if they haven’t yet) and brings their learning into team meetings where the topics might be discussed for 10-15 minutes.  For those who have been actively engaged in EDI, this might be an invitation to help observe unwanted behaviours and call out what might be hidden assumptions and judgment as and when they occur, in the spirit of the entire team learning to address them.  For those who have lived experience of bias or discrimination, perhaps some of them may wish to share it with the wider team, so that everyone can become more aware of the struggles of a few.

4.  Caveat Emptor: Buyer Beware 
If you’re introducing a change into a homogenous team, expect there to be friction.  It’s important to acknowledge in your messaging that push-back, mistakes and even paralysis (i.e. the feeling that you can’t say or do anything anymore that won’t be ‘misinterpreted’) are all part of the process.  Mistakes are a great way to learn, so as long as people are trying, it is OK to misstep and learn from it.  Be clear about the type of supportive environment you wish to create so the team can grow and evolve together on this journey. Explain that you’re all in the same boat and, while some are sitting at the stern and others the bow, the boat will be advancing through uncharted waters together, with a captain that is but a few steps ahead of everyone else.  Make it clear that you are available to your team if they have questions or worries about the changes taking place and invite them to speak to you individually. Explain how you envisage the team handling the inevitable mistakes, how you will be learning together and how you will support each other as you practise new skills and form new habits.

5. Staying the Course
While it is expected that people will misstep as they’re learning together, it is also important to formalise expectations, so that you can address any non-compliance with the company’s EDI ambitions.  So to complete the message, consider how you could enforce non-compliance informally or formally if it becomes obstructive.  What is a reasonable time period for learning, after which you will expect people to have made strides forward and have fewer missteps?  What will you do if you notice people aren’t making the necessary effort?  When will you take stock of the progress you’ve made and adjust the course of your journey? You may wish to involve the rest of the team to come up with answers to these questions.  The more people agree the boundaries, the easier they will be to enforce.

In summary, saying the right thing to the rest of the employee population will help you deliver on your EDI strategy.  Crafting this message will take a bit of thinking time.  But to paraphrase one of Nancy Kline’s most powerful quotes, the quality of everything we do depends on the quality of the thinking we do first.  So it’s worth investing a few minutes to articulate this message in writing and to practise delivering it, so it lands exactly as intended every time you deliver it.

What will your EDI message look like?

Seeing EDI as a business opportunity

By Rina Goldenberg Lynch

This month we’re moving on to Stage 4 of the Diversity Journey Roadmap: Seeing Diversity as an opportunity. This is where we find ourselves once we understand that looking at Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) as a problem to solve is an inactive way to motivate behaviour change, but that looking at EDI as an opportunity to improve our business is a more active and more effective approach to bring about change.

Last week, I ran an EDI workshop for a senior leadership team where I referenced the need for EDI to be a business imperative. One of the leaders challenged this by saying that, so long as we look at EDI as a box to tick on a KPI chart, i.e., doing it because the business requires it, we: will not get the behaviour change that is needed.  This kind of change must come from the heart, the leader continued. If we’re not motivated from within, we will not be able to achieve the transformation we’re after.

EDI as a Business Imperative
The disconnect between my statement and what the leader heard was that he interpreted my words ‘business imperative’ as something that we do just because someone higher up says we must.  It is a dashboard exercise, to which most people are not wedded but feel compelled to execute.

What I mean with the words ‘business imperative’ is treating EDI like a business requirement necessary to improve the business.  Think about health and safety in the workplace, for example.  First introduced in the UK to protect working children and, later,  miners,  health and safety became a business imperative to protect employees – and employers – and thus the business.  It is something that is taken very seriously by employers and has, as a result, made business a better place for everyone.

If leaders were to think about EDI in similar ways – something that is a business necessity – it would be easier to implement some of the required changes.

EDI allows businesses to grow and thrive
But of course EDI is more than just a business requirement.  Thinking of it as an opportunity means using the benefit of Diversity – the creativity, innovation, ability to address complex business problems – to improve business solutions.  EDI allows people to better relate to their customers, suppliers and other stakeholders, thereby improving the product or service being provided by the organisation.  Take the Empathy Suit, for example: a suit that inhibits physical movement so that the person wearing it might experience what it’s like to move around like an elderly person.  Born out of an experiment conducted by a group of diverse thinkers, the suit has been used to develop new products and services, and more recently, to train future doctors to understand what it’s like to live with physical impairment.

An inclusive work environment also makes it more likely that employees feel motivated and engaged in performing their daily routines.  An inclusive work environment is a psychologically-safe work environment and as Google’s Project Aristotle showed, psychological safety was the biggest factor in enhancing team performance, thus saving cost and improving delivery – another way in which EDI benefits the business.

EDI must come from the heart
It’s true that one of the main reasons people care about EDI is that it’s the right thing to do.  Treating others with respect, kindness and understanding is something we also wish for ourselves.  Call it harmony, karma or simply ‘what goes around, comes around’,  but we all understand that if we want to be treated a certain way, we must treat others in the same way.

So why isn’t this enough of a motivator?  Because, when it comes to making business choices, it is often too  difficult to do the ‘right thing’.  And that’s assuming we actually know what the right thing is.  Here’s an example: most would agree that women deserve the same opportunities as men, but when it comes to choosing between candidates, it feels wrong to choose a woman over a man simply because ‘it’s the right thing to do’ – and maybe it isn’t even the right thing to do!  EDI becomes more difficult to execute if we are simply motivated by our moral compass or desire to pave the way for our daughters, nieces or friends. In fact, doing the right thing is what Stage 3 is about: fixing a problem of inequality.   While doing the right thing is a noble aspiration, as behaviour scientists know, it doesn’t bring about the much needed change in behaviour.

To make a real difference with Equity, Diversity and Inclusion, we need to be convinced of the benefits that we will derive from it.  And that is what I mean by seeing EDI as a business opportunity.

Do you see it this way?

 

Setting Diversity Targets: The Good, the Bad and the Impactful

By Rina Goldenberg Lynch

Targets are controversial.  Those in favour of them often say what gets measured gets done, while others might say that setting targets skirts the issue of creating greater diversity and inclusion by focusing on the numbers rather than inclusive leadership, inclusive behaviours and genuinely impactful initiatives.

We agree with all of the above.

Confused? Let me explain.

We think that setting targets can be tremendously helpful if we use them as a measure of our progress to become more inclusive.  In other words, when targets are linked to an impactful initiative, they provide a useful measure by which we can gauge the success of our EDI efforts. But we also know that there is little or no value in setting targets without attaching them to a purposeful set of actions designed to improve Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion.

How to set impactful Diversity targets
Read on for some suggestions for setting sensible, realistic targets that measure how inclusive your organisation is becoming. These are targets set on a big Diversity dimension, such as female graduate candidates or the percentage of women at leadership level.  They are the targets that you would encounter most often in company’s press releases about their commitment to Diversity and Inclusion.

To set these targets in a meaningful way requires some due diligence, which might begin with the two questions below. What is required then is identifying which specific initiatives to put in place, with appropriate and achievable targets.

1. Which is the most underrepresented group in your company?

This might be women if you are in a STEM environment.  It might, however, be ethnicity if you are in the Third or Public Sectors.

Identifying the biggest underrepresented group in your organisation can also be a useful exercise in understanding your target market. How different are your clients, customers, or users from your employee population? Where is this gap the biggest?

Alternatively, if you are looking at growing your market share, you may wish to look beyond the representation of your current customers to those you wish to attract. What is the biggest gap between the representation of the additional market opportunity and your employee population?

2. Where in your career ladder is the underrepresented group missing or dropping off?

Once you’ve identified which underrepresented group you wish to attract or retain, it’s time to identify where the biggest hole is for this group in your employee life cycle.  Is it in attracting candidates from this group?  Perhaps it’s in the actual hiring process?  Or are you managing quite well in hiring people from the underrepresented group, but failing to keep them over a certain period of time? Or is your company unable to progress them beyond a certain level?

Finding the process that creates the biggest obstacle to building the desired level of representation will help you identify the right measures to turn things around.

3. Employ impactful measures to address the challenge. 

As stated above, targets are most impactful when they measure the success of a specific initiative.  So, having identified the specific challenge you face, it is time to develop an initiative that addresses it.  Here are two examples of companies who generated their own ideas and solutions to their individual challenges:

One client, having identified that they were unsuccessful at attracting female engineering graduates to their company, started partnering with women’s engineering networks at several learning institutions.  They started sending female representatives to university fairs and sending ambassadors to talk about their company’s efforts to improve the representation of female graduates, clearly stating their reasons for doing so.  It worked.

Another client, having recognised that women were not being promoted beyond a certain level of seniority, introduced a sponsorship programme which pairs many of its senior leaders with emerging female leaders to ensure they get the visibility and opportunities that might typically be reserved (inadvertently) for male colleagues. This has also been highly effective.

4. Identify the right target.

Once the specific measure is instituted, care must be taken to set realistic expectations for the impact the measure will have. By what percentage does the company expect the targeted underrepresented group to grow in the identified area? (This will depend on the usual percentage of the target group in the identified area, as well as the impact of external market forces.) What is the usual percentage of female graduates in your pool? What is the sector average for this measure? What is the lowest and the highest percentage of this range?

Having taken the answers to all these questions into account, it becomes easier to set a more realistic target to measure the success of the relevant initiative. Even then, targets may need to be periodically revisited – based on their success or failure – and adjusted accordingly.

When it comes to setting big targets, doing a bit of thinking and planning in advance will always yield more meaningful results.

There are, of course, other types of targets to consider, including so called ‘no more than’ targets for specific teams where, instead of identifying a target percentage for a specific type of person (for instance, women), the emphasis shifts to having no more than a certain percentage of a specific type of person (for instance, men).

Finally, you will also want to consider how widely to set the targets. Is one common target appropriate for the entire company globally, region by region, office by office or even department by department? We know that, although average figures might make certain targets look favourable, when looking more closely, Diversity might not have really been achieved in areas where it would be more difficult (e.g., technical vs administrative, front office vs back office).

Whatever you decide to do about targets, following Nancy Kline’s advice (included above as our quote for the week) will ensure successful implementation.

Is Fixing the Diversity Deficit the Right Approach to EDI?

By Rina Goldenberg Lynch

Stage 3 of the Diversity Journey Roadmap© is where leaders recognise a lack of Diversity, see that it is a problem for the organisation and want to ‘fix it’. This is a positive step forward from just appearing to be doing something about it, as in the previous ‘Window Dressing’ stage of the journey, but there are also pitfalls in this stage.

It’s not easy to create genuine change, or to be an ally, especially if you don’t know how to go about it without appearing patronising. This is because leaders’ actions can be prone to missteps and misinterpretation if they are taken without a real understanding of how it feels to be excluded, undervalued or misunderstood in your workplace because you are different from those in its dominant group. It is reasonably straightforward to understand that a workplace should allow everyone to thrive and meet their potential, as nicely summarised in this quote from the CIPD:

‘Promoting and delivering EDI in the workplace is an essential aspect of good people management. To reap the benefits of EDI, it’s about creating working environments and cultures where every individual can feel safe, a sense of belonging and is empowered to achieve their full potential.’
CIPD
 
Needless to say, it’s much harder to achieve these Diversity goals than it is to describe them.
 
The first problem with fixing the problem
Leaders setting out to increase inclusion in their workplace are always well-intentioned, but they can inadvertently become ‘knights in shining armour’ without realising that this means they are approaching Diversity from an angle that is difficult to ‘sell’. ‘Fixing’ Diversity is a noble aspiration – after all, we all want to do the right thing and work in an environment that is reflective of society at large, in a workplace that is fair and respectful to all. But if this remains the main motivation for diversifying the workplace, it may fail to deliver the desired result.  This is because, when it comes down to making business decisions, decision makers will prioritise what they believe is a more important business result to their desire to be inclusive. Here’s an example of what I mean: Imagine you’re hiring to fill a role on your team.  Your team is made up of five men and one woman, and you’re keen to hire another woman to improve the gender split in the team.  You’ve instructed HR accordingly and they have provided a roster of capable candidates including men and women.  Interviews are progressing well and you’re down to 2 final candidates, both of whom are experienced enough to do the job.  One is a man and the other is a woman.  The interview panel is instructed to think about the gender balance on your team, but they also observe that the male candidate is an internal candidate who knows a few of the team members already and is better networked with some of the clients.  So, although gender balance is an important aspect of the hiring decision, you’re now faced with a male candidate who is marginally better suited to the job than the female candidate.  And, while you’re keen to fix the Diversity problem, you don’t want that to be the overarching factor of your hiring decisions, so you go for who you perceive to be the better candidate – the better fit for the team and the job, i.e. the man.
 
This is not a made up scenario.  Leaders and managers struggle with these kinds of choices almost every day.  Do we do what we believe will deliver the better business outcome or do we fix our Diversity problem?  Inevitably, the business result trumps the need to fix Diversity.
 
But only because we see Diversity as a problem, not an opportunity.  Were the question to be framed differently, e.g. which result will be better for business in the longer term,  this would require weighing up two different business opportunities instead of an opportunity on the one hand and a fix to a societal problem on the other.  In other words, if you’re out to fix the Diversity problem, chances are you’re not going to do it.
 
The second problem with fixing the problem

All this is before we even take into account that people of different demographic backgrounds don’t want or need to be ‘fixed’.  They are not the ‘damsel in distress’ of fairy tales waiting to be rescued.  People from underrepresented backgrounds are just as brilliant, clever and capable  – and just as fallible, human and ambitious – as everyone else. They don’t want favours from others; they don’t want a high-handed version of what might be perceived as ‘White Saviourism’  from those in the dominant groups within their workplace; what they want is recognition that they add just as much (if not more) value as others.  And they want an equitable opportunity to prove it, to be given a chance to progress and develop, perhaps  through taking on a big project to build their experience, to help them be promoted into a leadership role.

Aiming to ‘fix it’ might be a step in the right direction, but it is a step early on the Diversity Journey Roadmap©.  Recognising there is a problem to be solved is a good start. What makes it even better is to understand how the business and all its people will benefit from improved Equity, Diversity and Inclusion. Once the benefits are clear, it’s easier to get buy-in and bring genuine impact to your workplace’s Diversity strategy.