Thursday, 14 November 2013

Are you heroic? The 5 point plan to embed diversity.

A Hero in mythology often have close but challenging relationships with the gods.  In order to embed diversity we need to be heroic by being close to the business and challenging the behaviour. 

So how do we do it? Here are the 5 key areas we need business to be heroic at: 

  1. It’s not what you do, it’s how you do it. 
Training is not enough.  We need to embed equality into as many relevant courses as possible.  It’s possible to embed it into presentation skills, communication skills, emotional intelligence courses, interviewing skills, career management, dealing with difficult people and many more.  Just like the need to embed the company values into ways of work, we need to embed equality not keep it separate.  We need to align training with appraisals, Key performance indicators and bonuses. Lip service doesn’t work, costs money and doesn’t get results. 

     2. Discuss bias and unconscious bias to reduce it’s impact.
Senior leaders need to understand we are all biased.  They need to take the Implicit Association tests to understand their unconscious biases more honestly.  If we accept it we can change it. 

     3. Get Leadership buy in to model best behaviour in the business 
Leaders need to show and demonstrate their buy in to diversity by talking about it and demonstrating it.  Each leader will do this in different ways.  They need to know about the scientific evidence eg we are more likely to make stereotypical judgements when under pressure; if we actively tell ourselves not to be biased before making decisions we are likely to act accordingly. 

Leaders need to mentor and be an advocate for more women.  They need to seek out opportunities to do this.  They need to be heroic in how they lead the equality agenda and their networking strategy. 

      4. Know your equality numbers 
Businesses are quite reluctant to share their equality numbers.  Why is this?  It is only with transparency that we can get clarity.  Only with clarity can we measure change. There are many companies and academics keen to help crunch the numbers confidentially. Only by identifying the business blockages are can we clear them! 

      5. Support the home agenda. 
Flexible working has a bad name with our male colleagues.  It is synonymous with being side-lined.  Some are trying to change it by putting forward the business case for flexibility eg moving to a 24 hour business culture therefore the need for agile working.  

Whatever we call it we have to align the business culture with the culture of the next generation and the needs of parents.  

The next generation want a culture they can flourish in, where they can have a family or pursue other interests outside of work.  If businesses don’t offer it, the next generation will search elsewhere. And women and men, will keep leaving their senior roles until this is addressed. 

So in business we need to be heroic because 
We need to embed the policy not just write it.  
We need to show behaviour not just talk about it. 
We need to know the numbers not guess them. 
We need to own our bias not ignore it. 
We need to understand flexibility not sideline flexibility. 

Why do this? Because more women at the top mean an increase in financial return, organisational health and innovative leadership decisions. That’s a quest worth fighting for.