Enabling a diverse and inclusive career proposition
A commitment to achieving a more diverse, equitable and inclusive workplace often features in an organisation’s career proposition, but what needs to happen to turn this rhetoric into reality?
In this virtual roundtable we returned to one of the three themes of our Careers of Tomorrow research; releasing the potential of a more diverse workforce. Dr Sylvana Storey was our provocateur as we took a deeper dive into what’s required to ensure career development achieves a more diverse, equitable and inclusive culture.
Dr Storey challenged our group of senior HR professionals to recognise what it takes to shift the dial from policy, to dialogue, action and impact, starting at the top of their organisations.
David North said that this topic has been moving up the business agenda for some time and that the events of this year, particularly the Black Lives Matter campaign, have added greater impetus and urgency. The discussion began with people sharing one organisational action that has positively impacted diversity and inclusion:
- Making a Director-level appointment to drive D&I forward
- Establishing clear divisional targets and implementation plans
- Recognising that separate strategies for Diversity and Inclusion need to go hand in hand
- Empowering all employees to reflect and propose ideas for change
- Offering organisation-wide access to assignment opportunities and development resources
- Unconscious bias training to educate and raise personal awareness
‘We’ve extended the scope of our D&I efforts beyond a traditional focus on gender, to encompass race, disability, and neurodiversity’.
Dr Storey shared her frustration that organisations have been talking about D&I issues for a long time but, apart from improvements in the career progression of white women, the pace of change has been very slow. She attributed this to a lack of joined-up strategic planning, and an over-focus on process at the expense of tackling underlying cultural barriers; e.g. the natural inclination to recruit people like ourselves.
Other obstacles included: a lack of visible commitment at CEO level; the lack of sustained effort over time; setting targets without a related accountability framework; and a reluctance to tackle emotional reactions to the idea of levelling the playing field.
‘The more senior the leader, the more significant the impact of their behaviour’.
Sylvana said that, while it may seem counter to the ‘spirit of the times’, it is essential organisations first answer the question, why are we adopting a D&I strategy? She advocated an authentic conversation at senior level, involving consideration of the external business benefits, and the internal challenges given your starting point.
Once your rationale is clear, Dr Storey recommended a holistic approach, a change plan that weaves together three threads:
- Structure: reviewing policies, processes, capabilities and roles
- Cognition: understanding how we innovate, problem-solve, reason and make decisions, including awareness of common cognitive biases and errors
- Behaviour: changing the way we engage with each other: e.g. what it takes to be an inclusive leader
Turning to measurement, she advised rooting measures in science by collecting evidence via quantitative and qualitative data. It’s important to appraise the data in relation to what you measure, how you measure and how you read the data. And then, to apply these data insights to context.
Sylvana presented her ‘DEI Equation’; a useful way of defining these connected issues:
Diversity is a stat
Equity is an act
Inclusion is an impact
In conclusion, Dr Storey encouraged us to have the courage to be more challenging of our cultures, and the role that senior leaders must play.
David North returned to the connection between career propositions and D&I. He shared where our Career Strategy and Support model drives changes to leadership, culture and opportunities that support the broader D&I agenda.
‘Equal access to career building experiences, development resources and progression opportunities are a litmus test of an inclusive culture’.
What practical actions did participants takeaway to help close the rhetoric—reality gap?
- Understand others’ experience better; e.g. how might minority groups perceive wording in job adverts?
- Spend more time exploring our D&I values on our leadership development programmes
- Develop the ‘glue’ of a coherent, leader-driven strategy to integrate various D&I activities
- Pay more attention to cognitive and behavioural dimensions within our change plan
- Focus on shifting the culture, as well as supporting individuals
- Examine how we currently identify potential; recognising subjectivity and bias
- Supplement unconscious bias training with more immersive development experiences that put people in others’ shoes
- Ensure an accountability framework is in place
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