A world where diversity is never mentioned…
Imagine a world where diversity is so established within the business that there was no longer any need to include diversity objectives anywhere in the business plan, recruitment strategy nor mission statement.
I recently had the great pleasure of hosting the board offsite of an incredibly forward looking and innovative housing and care Association in Wales. The theme was ambition, looking to drive the sights of the organisation further than the next few years and define what amazing could really look like through the eyes of their clients and their staff.
The ambition set by the association was that a highly diverse employee and leadership team would no longer be defined as an ambition because it had become so much a reality in the organisation that it did not require a special mention. This was just one of the very thought provoking and inspiring ambitions which the board came up with.
From what to how…
The D word seems to come up in every article, blog and company mission statement these days and for very good reason. Gallons of ink has been split on the value and indeed necessity of attracting people from diverse backgrounds for me not to need to go over the why of diversity. The question which seems to be causing more of an issue is the how.
However much focus the D issue is getting, it remains elusive for many firms and sectors. Thomson Reuters recently reported reductions in percentages of female employees and managers, at the very same time that percentages of females on the boards of these organisations increased from 10.3% to 16.8%! So, what are the practical steps we can take to ensure we maintain a straight- line improvement in diversity at all levels within our organisations?
Raise awareness.Unconscious Bias affects us all. How we see other people is deeply rooted in our upbringing and life experiences. As such, we can never overcome our biases completely but becoming aware of them is a first step towards recognising times when we will be at risk of making decisions based on a biased view. Provide unconscious bias training to your organisation and ensure this includes some practical workshop sessions which enable your teams to see how it plays out in their environments. Self-awareness is the first, critical step towards increasing, maintaining and leveraging diverse teams.
Sell yourselves better. The standard rationale for poor diversity is the absence of diverse candidates applying. Invariably, a closer look at the job spec and application process shows a language and tone that those already in the team are comfortable with and would respond positively to. Words such as “aggressive”, “winning” and I even once saw “thrusting” are highly unlikely to enthuse someone who is driven by making a difference or creating great results from highly collaborative environments rather than winning. And yet, these skill sets are quite possibly exactly what are missing to create a better performing team and enhanced client focus. Check the language you are using and ask someone from outside the existing team to sense check it.
Build pipeline proactively. How can you ensure that diversity is maintained across the different levels of your organisation and that you don’t lose talent as the individuals progress through their careers? A few practical pointers;
a. Track your diversity across all levels. This will enable you to pinpoint at what levels you lose diversity and question why?
b. Appoint mentors. Coaches (internal or external) are a great and very necessary support to staff who are challenged most by their differences to the rest of the team. However, internal mentors are specifically responsible for ensuring that their mentees develop their profiles within the organisation and are given stretch opportunities which can further their careers.
c. Pay close attention to theimpact of any restructureswithin the organisation on diversity. When the going gets tough and you have to let people go, ensure you have your bias antenna fully activated. It is often when internal politics are at their peak, that we are most comforted by people who look and think like us.