Proven Strategies for Diversity and an Inclusive Culture with Maureen Frank CEO and Founder of emberin (Part 2 of 3)
This article is a continuation of our in-depth look at proven strategies for diversity and an inclusive culture. Click here to read, Part One
4: Critical Mass
You’ve got to plan to get to middle management. Again, a mistake I often see organisations make is that they’ll do training, they’ll do bits and pieces, but it’s really with the more senior leaders in the business. If you don’t get to middle management, you’ll never affect real change. Where I see the real problems are in middle management, and certainly that plays out in the research.
With whatever you do, you’ve got to plan right from the start and how are you going to get those messages and learnings down to middle management. I’m a very big believer in setting up your leadership team as your champions in the business, so that those messages and learnings are being cascaded from your leadership team not from external consultants or from the HR team or from anyone else. They’ve got to come right from the top. If you don’t plan to get the middle management engaged, you’re probably unlikely to see a lot of change happening.
5: Understand that Unconscious Training won’t fit it
It’s a really important one because a number of you reading this e-book have asked a few questions, and some of them are around an interest in unconscious bias training. Look, unconscious bias training is of course important in the scheme of things with diversity and inclusion; however, it’s not going to get you any results. Being aware of your biases can actually have the opposite effect. Being aware of biases can actually make things worse for a period of time.
If you think about that intuitively, that makes a lot of sense. There’s research behind that, but effectively, if someone was swimming along merrily and acting quite blindly with regard to their behaviour, and then they’re suddenly aware that they might be doing the wrong thing, most people are good decent human beings, and the thought that they might say or do the wrong thing actually freezes their action. Unless that they are actually empowered with the how to, they’re unlikely to do anything.
Be really careful, unconscious bias is an important cog in the wheel, but you have got to decide to move on very quickly from that to the “how to” of unconscious bias. My attitude on unconscious bias is this, and certainly we have to pick up the pieces from some disasters and unconscious bias. I don’t think it’s helpful to analyse people and give them certificates to tell them that they’re bias. I actually think you can have a very negative impact.
I’ve certainly had people who’ve been very resistant to diversity and inclusion as a result of that. It’s a human nature, if anyone’s told they’re bias, they’re going to be defensive. My attitude is that smart people can get unconscious bias quickly, and you know what? We all have it. Let’s just put a full stop to that and move on.
What’s really important is starting to understand how this plays out in a work environment, how does it play out in the way I run meetings, in the way that I informally mentor people, in the way that I do performance reviews, and who I go for coffee with. It’s those kind of practical things where you start to get results, and that’s moving into how do become an inclusive leader. You need to move from unconscious bias to inclusive leadership really quickly.
6: Focus on the ‘how to’ of Inclusive Leadership
To me, that’s about getting really granular. Over the last 10 years, I’ve probably had 10,000 conversations with leaders across all kinds of industries and backgrounds and all kinds of level, from middle management level to other levels. To me, the questions are very, very practical. Once people get to the point of saying, “I want to make this happen,” you’d be surprised as to what their granular questions are.
I’ve had CEOs say to me, “Maureen, I can’t go for coffee with a young girl. What would people think.” I’ve had a mine site supervisor say to me, “Maureen, can you please explain to me why the ladies need a portal loo near the dragline?” I’ve had board directors say to me, “Maureen, no women applied for these roles.” I think the issues are now granular and practical. It’s about giving leaders solutions but also empowering them to come up with solutions.
As I have mentioned, we’ve been doing a lot of work around inclusive leadership of late, and really giving people an understanding of examples of what people have done and what they need to do and what those behaviours look like, but then challenging them in their day to day right now. What are some things that you can do to start to make this happen? It’s about setting up a project team which has got all different kinds of people, not the usual suspects, but to get something really tangible that they can hang their hat on and start to see whether having an inclusive team actually does start to make a difference.
7: Recognise that this is about Behavioural Change
Ticking boxes has a very limited return on investment. Honestly, the laundry lists that I’ve seen are huge. If you’ve got too many things that you’re focused on, you’re just not going to get there.
There are a number of components that I typically see on those lists which can fit under that “push-pull” strategy. For example, mentoring and sponsorship can fit under the “push” strategy. For example, flexible work and the practicalities of flexible work can fit under the “pull” strategy. Understanding how to manage flexibility as an example is a behaviour of an inclusive leader, but you have got to get focused not on the policy but on the “how to” of flexibility.
The other little tip I have for you is around diversity councils. I’ve established a number of diversity councils and have been the external person sitting on a number of diversity councils. I have seen some huge successes. I have seen some dismal failures. After 10 years, I would recommend that the format that works the best is that the executive team is the diversity council. They’ve got to own their story and that it has to become a line item in their executive meetings on a quarterly basis.
I love the idea of councils which are set up with people who are passionate in the business from all over the business. The problem with that is that you will tend to find that they will come up with the whole heap of really good ideas of things that can be done. The laundry list will be given to HR, and HR will spend the rest of the year trying to investigate those options. You’ll get to the end of 12 months and not a lot will be done, other than some tick-box initiatives.
The other component of that, is really setting up diversity council members as champions. They are not subject matter experts. You don’t necessarily need them to go out and investigate best practice. That really should be the remit of the people who are trained to understand behavioural change, which typically sits in HR. My view is that best practice and the initiatives need to be set by HR. The outcomes that you’re after, the goals need to be set by the executive team. Then people who are passionate, the leaders, need to understand their role as a champion, which is different to someone who’s making recommendations on what needs to be done. A champion is someone who takes action every single day and has new conversations in the business.
Continue through to the third and final, Part Three