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The following blog is provided by Carrie Spell-Hansson. It is a companion to her interview on Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future titled Diversity Training Then and Now: What Has Changed? that aired on March 31st, 2020. This interview was part of the 12-week series from the International Leadership Association.
We can all agree that technology has made the world appear smaller. Managing diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) remains a significant challenge for many organizations. To succeed in today’s environment, organizations must commit to developing an inclusive culture.
Increasingly, companies are working with and managing people who are spread out not only within countries but also across borders and oceans. Managers are managing people from more diverse geographies, cultures, demographics, and backgrounds than ever before. People from a variety of backgrounds must work together— one-on-one and in teams—across locations that may or may not be formally linked.
Organizational leaders need additional skills to manage this changing, diverse workplace. Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion experts have the task of teaching the inclusive leadership/management skills needed in today’s multicultural work environment. Our job is to prepare leaders and managers to value differences among employees, external clients, and customers so that everyone is treated with dignity and respect.
In an article in SAGE Open, Patrick & Kumar define diversity as “a set of conscious practices that involve understanding and appreciating interdependence of humanity, cultures, and the natural environment; practicing mutual respect for qualities and experiences that are different from our own; … recognizing that personal, cultural, and institutionalized discrimination creates and sustains privileges for some while creating and sustaining disadvantages for others; and building alliances across differences so that we can work together to eradicate all forms of discrimination.”
Building a diverse workforce along with an equitable and inclusive culture requires real change and implementation of proven best practices. From my years of experience and research I’ve learned that organizations whose DEI efforts has achieved the greatest impact have all found that the initial three best practices are:
- Leadership commitment– Many organizations have relegated the task to HR or newly developed roles and/or departments entitled Chief Diversity Officer or manager. Chances are they are qualified to create great DEI programs for the organization. I have found in most organizations without senior leadership support lasting change will not happen. Through the commitment of the leadership, organizations can give those departments assigned to the task the backing to ensure DEI initiatives rise to the level of priority needed to affect change.
- Establish a solid foundation around the commitment and importance of DEI – Leadership must develop a clear position on DEI. DEI commitment requires communication and is an organization-wide change initiative. A clearly defined position is essential. Many organizations have established diversity committees and/or task forces to move the DEI vision forward. These groups represent all facets of the organization including senior leadership. One of the many tasks they may be chargedwith is to develop the organization’s diversity statement.
- Metrics for success– The most effective way to help move an organization forward and provide a measurable, long-term impact is centered around what I call the Three A’s: “Analysis—Assessment—Action.” Here’s a look at each element:
- Analysis. This stage isn’t just about asking questions. It’s about asking the right questions. The initial goal is to capture the issues, concerns, and barriers currently existing within the organization and use that knowledge to develop a strategic diversity plan to address them. The plan should outline the specific steps necessary to reach the agreed-upon organizational goals.
- Assessment. Generally, an organizational climate study, cultural audits, self-assessments, and one-on-one, and group interviews are beneficial in capturing the existing climate. Both quantitative and qualitative measures of the D&I climate should be used.
- Action. Based on the analysis and assessment, the organization decides the appropriate proven best practices to implement. Some examples include:
- Conduct organization-wide training tailored to each level—that is, leadership team, managers, and employees. When possible, separate the groups so that each feels free to open up and discuss relevant issues.
- Provide data to help leaders and managers see the correlation between DEI and productivity and employee engagement
- Develop a consistent operational definition of diversity and inclusion.
- As part of the organization-wide training, include a discussion of perceptions and how our perceptions unconsciously shape how we treat and respond to others.
- Illustrate the positive impact of cultural differences, an area that is commonly overlooked.
- Acknowledge differences, define what the differences are, and leverage those differences within the organization.
Achieving a high-performing, inclusive organization is a journey. The DEI expert and the leadership team must develop milestones and target dates to assess where they are (actual) with where they want to be (projected). With that information, they can develop SMART goals for reaching the desired destination.
Check out the companion interview and past episodes of Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future, via iTunes, Google Play, TuneIn, Stitcher, Spotify and iHeartRADIO. Stay up-to-date on new shows airing by following the Innovative Leadership Institute LinkedIn.
About the Author
Carrie Spell-Hansson is the executive director and founder of The Folke Institute for Transformative Learning and an expert in diversity and inclusion. TFI provides training and development, coaching, and research in diversity and inclusion, communication, cross-cultural and gender competencies, and leadership and management development both domestically and internationally. She is a sought-after speaker and a top-rated facilitator of communications, management, and leadership courses for American Management Association. She draws on her extensive years of experience in the field, using both professional and personal insights in her dynamic workshops and presentations. Spell-Hansson has been the subject matter expert on D&I for several organizations, including AMA.
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