Change and its role in Diversity and Inclusion
16th April 2019
Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) has, at last, garnered the attention of those that occupy the executive canteen, but all isn’t as it should be. When approached on the subject of D&I and their views on the need to expand the focus, the response typically bases itself on their perception that ‘they’re fine’ and
It’s really a question with two aspects to the answer. The first aspect relates to the levels of discomfort we face when challenged
A great example of the best of intents yet weakest of outcomes was seen in 2015 when Leslie Miley, the only black Twitter executive at the time, resigned over the poor response by the organisation to the diversity issue. Twitter had made some positive statements on its goal of being seen as an advocate of black and Hispanic recruitment with new policies, posters, campaigns and other positive actions. So why did Leslie Miley resign from Twitter in protest at the lack of progress? His concerns
The second aspect expands upon the unconscious bias issues and focuses on our reluctance to change our surroundings, expectations or goals unless we see an obvious personal advantage.
Change brings with it a fear of the unknown, without enough detail we can develop trust issues, fear over the impact of change in the future as change takes hold. Ultimately, we hold
There are undoubtedly active resistors to change brought about by cultural and religious views when it comes to LGBTI inclusion. Those that hold evangelical or even extremist views may consider what’s happening to be a ‘sin’ or ‘immoral’ and a direct challenge to their understanding of life and the comfort the workplace offers them. Having to work with an openly gay colleague for example, may result in open hostility or active resistance. It’s important to understand where and when this resistance to change is taking place and act accordingly. Those changes may be as wide-ranging as educational programs, redeployment or, in the worst-case scenario, possible dismissal.
D&I and its implementation are a dynamic in the change in an organisations culture and should be approached in an appropriate manner. It’s important to communicate not only the what and when, but also the why’s. Change in an organisation perceived to be outwardly
When looking at your D&I processes and changes it’s critical to let the incumbent staff know that change is positive, it doesn’t mean that only minorities will be hired or promoted and that there are real benefits to change at the cultural, operational and even the financial levels. Don’t assume that staff ‘get it’ and don’t ignore the influences of organisational, team and individual ‘comfort zones’. Those zones need to be moved and/ or widened, this shouldn’t be avoided but change needs to be undertaken in an empathetic and clear manner.
For D&I to succeed in any organisation it must be treated as organisational and cultural change and not just as a set of policies, procedures and posters. Yes, expect results, even some early ones but remember that change is not a quick process and cultural change is measured in quarters and years rather than weeks and months. Be practical and sell it as a company-wide challenge and not a problem, encourage others to take the lead on initiatives, break down the barriers by inviting what might be perceived as minority groups into the organisation to share their stories, challenges and to show that they’re just like us. Finally, be willing to change your own views as you go on the journey yourself. Listen, look and adapt your viewpoints and approaches, enjoy the ride, the end-point is fascinating and enlightening.