Leadership development

Re-setting your inclusion and diversity strategy in 2019

Image: Raw pixel.

Image: Raw pixel.

Let’s invite one another in. Maybe then we can begin to fear less, to make fewer wrong assumptions, to let go of the biases and stereotypes that unnecessarily divide us … There’s grace in being willing to know and hear others. This, for me, is how we become.
— Michelle Obama

The start of the year is a natural time to reflect and reset diversity and inclusion strategies, and we’ve found plenty of inspiration from Michelle Obama’s recently published memoir, Becoming.

While it might not make traditional c-suite reading lists, we think there’s many important personal insights and practical strategies to help make workplaces - and societies - fairer and inclusive.

 Here’s four that particularly resonated for us. 

The surprise people registered to her life story ‘that an urban black girl had vaulted through Ivy League schools and executive jobs and landed in the White House’ made Michelle Obama mindful of a larger obligation, as First Lady, to children in general and girls in particular.  

‘There had been so many times in my life when I’d found myself the only woman of colour – or even the only woman, period – sitting at a conference table or attending a board meeting or mingling at one VIP gathering or another,’ Obama writes. ‘If I was the first at some of these things, I wanted to make sure that in the end I wasn’t the only – that others were coming up behind me.’

It’s an eloquent reminder of the value in paying it forward when we’re the ‘only’ or the ‘first’ or when we notice others who are the ‘only’s’ in our teams, especially in the light of recent McKinsey showing that women who are ‘only’s’ have a significantly worse experience than women who work with other women.

Secondly, Michelle Obama’s gratitude to the people who ‘waved her forward’, who did their best to ‘inoculate me against the slights and indignities I was certain to encounter in the places I was headed – all those environments built primarily for and by people who were neither black nor female’ is testimony to the importance of executive sponsors, allies, and employee networks who support and actively advocate for greater diversity in the firms where we work.

Michelle Obama implemented numerous initiatives in her time at the White House. One less well known was a leadership and mentoring program at the White House for twenty girls from high school around Washington, D.C., pairing each teen with a female mentor. These were girls from a range of backgrounds – girls from military families, a teen mother, a girl who’d lived in a homeless shelter, and girls from immigrant families. It was set up, she says, because she wanted these girls to ‘feel comfortable and confident in any room, sitting at any table, raising their voices inside any group.’ Small program (in political terms at least), big impact.

And this led to our third reflection: what ‘small program, big impact’ can we each lead, or contribute to, in workplaces to make a difference for diversity and inclusion this year?

At the end of the book, Michelle Obama explains the title of the book: ‘…becoming isn’t about arriving somewhere or achieving a certain aim. I see it instead as forward motion, a means of evolving, a way to reach continuously toward a better self’. Her words have the effect of encouraging us all to do better.

In sharing her story, she wants to create space for other voices ‘to widen the pathway for who belongs and why’. Those particular words hit a deep chord, because we regularly hear stories in workplaces of ways in which people feel a lack of belonging because of micro-aggressions, exclusive language, conscious and unconscious biases. The good news is that we also hear, and share, lots of practical examples of inclusive leaders taking pro-active steps to clear the pathway and challenge long-held biases.

The ending is uplifting. She writes: ‘For every door that’s been opened to me, I’ve tried to open my door to others. And here is what I have to say, finally: Let’s invite one another in. Maybe then we can begin to fear less, to make fewer wrong assumptions, to let go of the biases and stereotypes that unnecessarily divide us … There’s grace in being willing to know and hear others. This, for me, is how we become.’

IMG_7384.jpg

So, as we start the year in earnest to guide organisations on their diversity and inclusion journey to create better workplaces, here’s a few questions we’re sharing with clients and among our own team based on these reflections:

·      How can we lift others up, particularly those who are the ‘only’s’ in teams and organisations?

·      How can we better recognise and support the role of sponsors and employee networks that provide strength to diverse talent?

·      What ‘small program, big impact’ can we lead in our workplaces this year to accelerate diversity and inclusion progress?

·      How can we widen the pathway for who belongs and why?

We look forward to opportunities with new and established clients to help progress your organisation’s diversity and inclusion objectives in 2019, and we hope this is the year you make great strides on your journey.

.

Uncovering the real inclusion challenges and opportunities 

Photo by Sezeryadigar/iStock / Getty Images

Photo by Sezeryadigar/iStock / Getty Images

When developing a diversity and inclusion strategy, we can’t stress enough how important it is to listen to the views of employees, leaders and other key stakeholders, particularly on organisational challenges and opportunities. 

Having an independent external vendor conduct this research through a diversity diagnostic not only helps to uncover organisational biases and outdated practices that inhibit progress, but also gives the organisation a path forward to overcome them, based on best practice evidence.

Over the past decade, our team at Diversity Partners has conducted diversity diagnostics and developed strategies with more than 50 organisations, involving thousands of people through interviews and focus groups. That’s taken us to diverse places around Australia and New Zealand – from mine sites, factory floors, creative agency offices, to trading rooms and boardrooms. 

 The goal of the diagnostic is to deliver a clear picture of the inclusion and diversity challenges and opportunities that then inform the D & I strategy. Our diagnostics also help articulate the specific benefits of achieving greater diversity and inclusion for the business, which builds engagement and willingness to take action.

We often add a survey to the qualitative information we collect. That ensures we’re capturing the voices of as many people as possible. As part of the diagnostic, we identify any structural barriers through a thorough analysis of talent management data and policies.

It’s a robust process, conducted sensitively and confidentially. And it gives organisations the type of robust data and evidence they would typically use to approach any major strategic decision. 

The diversity diagnostic is a robust process, conducted sensitively and confidentially. And it gives organisations the type of robust data and evidence they would typically use to approach any major strategic decision.
— Dr Katie Spearritt

At the moment, our team is working with a large global resources company to help align their diversity goals with the strategic objectives of the Australian operations and recommend a way forward for the next years.

This substantive diagnostic has reminded us that it’s not only the outcome of the research that’s valuable, but the process of getting there. The people participating in interviews and focus groups have consistently said how much they value the opportunity to share their views of cultural and structural barriers, and the type of inclusive work environment they want to work in. 

 Approaching diversity and inclusion as a core strategic issue from the start – through a diversity diagnostic - helps set the framework for a carefully-crafted strategy with appropriate metrics and governance. 

We’ve undertaken diagnostics and co-developed inclusion and diversity strategies for organisations such as Anglo American Metallurgical Coal, Bendigo & Adelaide Bank, BHP, the Bureau of Meteorology, Commonwealth Bank, Computershare, ExxonMobil, Golder Associates, Lander & Rogers, Maddocks, ME Bank, Rio Tinto, Suncorp, Telstra Super, Transpower NZ, QSuper, Unity Water, and state government departments.

 Here’s a selection of feedback on the value of that diagnostic work.

Diversity Partners undertook thorough research to identify ways Telstra Super could accelerate our diversity and inclusion progress and achieve the associated benefits for our people and members. In the two years since this initial diagnostic, we’ve implemented a range of their recommendations, including the review of key people policies and practices such as recruitment, flexible work, gender pay analysis and unconscious bias training and implemented a number of awareness raising initiatives.

Our commitment to diversity and inclusion has resulted in an improved employee experience and an environment that genuinely supports the requirement for our people to flourish at work. We appreciated the rigour and objectivity of their feedback and recommendations to help set and refresh our course and value our ongoing partnership with the DP team.’
— Janet Brown, EGM People and Culture, Telstra Super:
The Bureau of Meteorology has taken great steps forward this year to build a more diverse and inclusive culture, and recently launched our first Gender Equality Plan. We started our journey by engaging Diversity Partners to research challenges and opportunities for us.

Their research was extremely thorough, drawing on inputs from hundreds of team members and a range of data points relating to recruitment, retention, flexibility usage, and promotion. From this, we worked with Diversity Partners to develop a comprehensive action plan.
— Dr Sue Barrell, former Chief Scientist, Bureau of Meteorology
Diversity Partners has worked in complete partnership with us from day one. They guided us every step of the way through the diagnostic and benchmarking process and delivered a high quality strategy.
— Paul Lundy, Chief of People & Transformation, Super

Getting diversity on the radar

If there’s one website most of us rely on daily, it’s the Bureau of Meteorology. The Bureau provides information, forecasts, services and research relating to weather, climate and water to Australians everywhere.

The Bureau has a proud history – it has been in operation for more than 100 years - and today employs around 1,600 staff to deliver these essential services.

Historically, the Bureau has been a male-dominated organisation. During the 1970s and 1980s, historian David Day observed the Bureau aspired to ‘strict impartiality’ between male and female applicants. But few women held leadership positions, and proposals for women to take on observer roles at weather stations were met with resistance.  

Fast forward to 2018 and a concerted effort to progress gender equality and diversity, led by the CEO and executive team, has seen some impressive steps forward.

This follows an extensive diagnostic process Diversity Partners led for the Bureau at the beginning of 2017. Through interviews, focus groups, and data analysis, we identified ways to accelerate progress towards gender equality. 

We talked to people at all levels across all states, and reviewed pipelines for hiring and succession to come up with key actions – some immediate, some longer-term.  We then worked closely with key stakeholders to develop the Bureau’s Gender Equality Plan, launched in October 2017, and Diversity & Inclusion Commitment. 

Since then, as part of an implementation phase, the Bureau has held workshops for leaders and provided resources for hiring managers to recruit fairly and objectively. It's now closer to that ‘strict impartiality’ in hiring and promotion processes, as awareness of. unconscious bias is much higher.

The results are encouraging. At the beginning of 2017, as we began the diagnostic process, the gender composition of the Bureau’s workforce was 30% females. It’s now 34%.

The percentage of women in senior leadership (SES and EL2U) increased from 28% (as at June 2017) to 31% (June 2018) and the percentage of women in STEM is up from 26% to 28%.

The Bureau’s Diversity & Inclusion Statement is a key component of the Gender Equality Action Plan and is now visibly displayed in head office and regional offices throughout the country.

‘The Bureau strives to be the model of an inclusive culture where diversity of thought and background is valued. This provides better outcomes for our people, customers and the Australian community.’

Screenshot 2018-08-29 10.14.45.png

The statement has four key commitments:

·       developing and promoting an equitable, respectful and inclusive workplace culture where our people are engaged, are valued for their uniqueness and feel they belong; 

·       bringing together people with different backgrounds and ways of thinking, which helps drive better decision-making, innovation and overall performance; 

·       ensuring we recruit from the broadest talent pool, reflective of our customers and the communities with which we work; and 

·       supporting the use of flexible work arrangements at all levels to enable our people to balance their personal and professional commitments. 

The Bureau of Meteorology's progress shows what can be achieved when a comprehensive and rigorous approach is taken, involving everyone from senior leaders and front-line employees. It shows the value of setting metrics and conducting regular reviews. 

And it highlights the importance of connecting diversity and inclusion efforts to the values, services and customers of one of Australia’s most important organisations.

 

Source: David Day, The Weather Watchers: 100 Years of the Bureau of Meteorology, 2007.

Gender bias in everyday interactions

We often share examples - in our blogs and leader workshops -  of how unconscious bias and gender stereotypes impact recruitment choices and general business decisions. In this blog, we take a look at the impact on meeting interactions, through an example that will be familiar to many of us.

When there's only one woman in a meeting, it's not uncommon to hear a male leader say, 'I'd better not say something crass here because (insert woman's name) is in the room.' Sometimes a leader will apologise to the woman for swearing. 

We know leaders generally mean well when they make these comments. They've probably heard it themselves many times in their careers and consider it nothing more than light-hearted banter.

But the comments can have a negative impact, because the person singled out feels uncomfortable, not part of the in-group. And it reinforces the stereotype that men and women are different and should interact in certain ways. Those stereotypes actually perpetuate gender inequality in the workplace.

We were recently asked by a female leader how best to respond in these situations, and suggested she might try saying something like this after the meeting:

"I know you mean well, but it’s uncomfortable for me when you single me out with the comment ‘I don’t want to say something crass because (insert name's) here’. It reinforces stereotypes about how men and women should interact, and that's not helpful for gender equality at work. I’d prefer we use language that's respectful of each other, and that'll help all of us work better together."

Each time we sensitively make someone aware of unconscious bias and gender stereotyping, we’re taking a step forward for diversity.

This is along the lines of the golden rules of giving feedback effectively: ‘When you … I feel … I’d prefer … the impact is …’

Some people will think this is political correctness taken to extremes, but eliminating everyday sexism is a commitment by male business leaders of some of our biggest organisations in Australia.

"We have to get better at responding to behaviour that is unhelpful and excludes people," their recent report 'We Set the Tone' says. "And we need to own what we say and take full responsibility for the consequences of our words and conduct. The same goes for our silence and inaction."

There's many outstanding recommendations in the report from the Male Champions of Change. One really resonated when we shared it recently with the LinkedIn community: reframe a discussion when an employee or candidate is assessed as ‘too’ anything – ‘too bossy’, ‘too soft’. ‘too emotional’.

It's not easy, but each time we sensitively make someone aware of unconscious bias and gender stereotyping, we’re taking a step forward for diversity and gender equality in particular.

We'd love to hear other ideas or ways to frame these types of conversations. 

Photo: Getty Images

Photo: Getty Images

Choosing a credible partner to support your diversity and inclusion goals

Many companies now recognise that progressing their diversity and inclusion goals may require specialist support along the way. But how do you choose a credible external partner?

It helps if you can first articulate what you're trying to achieve, and why that's important to your organisation. For example, are you wanting to encourage diversity of thought to lift innovation? Is gender-balanced and culturally diverse leadership important to reflect your customers?

We recognise that identifying those objectives is not always straightforward either, and engaging a consultancy can help at this early stage.

We know you want to be confident about the quality, credibility, and experience of the consultancy you choose as your D & I partner, so we've put together some questions you might like to ask prospective consulting firms to get the best outcome from your investment.

Some are about experience in developing strategies and embedding inclusion; others are about approaches to leadership development.

Questions to ask potential partners - developing strategies and embedding inclusion

1. What skills and experience does your consultancy offer to support diversity, foster inclusion and reduce bias in organisational cultures?

2. What is your consultancy’s evidence-based knowledge of the business case for diversity and inclusion and global best-practice, particularly relating to creating strategic linkages with business strategy and objectives?

3. What practical experience do your consultants have in embedding strategic programs of work for diversity and inclusion across a range of organisation types and sizes? 

4. What’s your experience in identifying diversity challenges and organisational biases? What analytical methodologies do you use? 

5. How do you go about developing a customised strategy to progress diversity and inclusion?

6. What are the types of diversity and inclusion-related cultural challenges and opportunities you typically identify? Does this differ across industries and what have the impacts of your previously recommended client strategies been for their business?

7. What’s your experience in navigating organisational resistance to diversity and inclusion efforts?

8. What tools do you offer to build the capability of leaders in making diversity and inclusion part of the overall business culture and how do you know these work? 

Questions to ask potential partners - leadership development

Helping leaders to build awareness and skills to lead inclusively and challenging bias requires facilitators who are experienced in dealing sensitively with the range of issues usually raised in discussions about diversity and inclusion in companies. It's important that, along with a passion or interest in the topic, facilitators have skills to lead meaningful conversations and encourage participants  to reflect on their responses and behaviours in real time.

You might have someone in the company who's passionate about safety, but that doesn't automatically make them an effective facilitator to influence leadership mindsets and behaviours. It's the same for diversity and inclusion. 

Along with a passion or interest in the topic, it's important facilitators have skills to lead meaningful conversations and encourage participants to reflect on their responses and behaviours in real time.

Along with a passion or interest in the topic, it's important facilitators have skills to lead meaningful conversations and encourage participants to reflect on their responses and behaviours in real time.

Some questions you might like to ask potential partners are:

1. How do you apply adult learning concepts in the design and delivery of your workshops?

2. What learning outcomes do you aim for in your workshops and how do you know you’ve achieved this?

3. How do you facilitate open and meaningful conversations about diversity, particularly with participants who may be resistant to the concepts being discussed?

4. How do you handle questions that may be sensitive for some in the group? Can you give examples of when this has occurred and what your response has been?

5. How do you recommend organisations cement learnings beyond the workshop?

6. What tools do you use to coach leaders to build inclusive leadership capability?

If you'd like more information about the types of services provided by Diversity Partners, please contact us at info@diversitypartners.com.au or call our office on 1800 571 999.

Building our team capability - welcoming Grazia Pecoraro

We talk a lot about building leader capability with our clients, and over the past year we've been building our own team capability and diversity of background.

Grazia Pecoraro joined Diversity Partners last year, bringing years of corporate experience in leading diversity and inclusion initiatives, a background in communications, and plenty of energy to the job.

Grazia Pecoraro

Grazia Pecoraro

Based in Sydney, Grazia has already delivered a range of solutions to help our clients achieve diversity progress.

As well as working across the broad diversity and inclusion agenda, Grazia’s specialties are in strategy development, implementation of flexible working practices, and initiatives to support people with disability.

We asked Grazia a few questions about her background and commitment to diversity and inclusion.

What led you to work in the diversity and inclusion space?

Growing up in South Africa during the height of the Apartheid era and living with a sight impairment of being legally blind without my glasses, has heightened my awareness of difference, identity and inclusion (and left me with a life-long quirk of referring to traffic lights as ‘robots’!). My background is in Communications, Reputation Management and Public Relations and I started out my career working for clients such as Apple, Microsoft, IBM and Cisco in South Africa and Australia.

FIve years after working in Westpac Group as an Internal Communications Manager, I volunteered for the then-new ABLE Employee Action Group that champions inclusion for people with disability. That was almost six years ago and I can truly say that every day I learn something new in this space as there are so many intersecting facets relating to human behaviour, change and beliefs.

 

What are you most enjoying about working with the DP team?

Being part of the Diversity Partners team has allowed me to get a broader diversity of experience - our clients span multiple industries, sectors and range in size.

I’ve already worked on projects for clients in emergency services, environment support, infrastructure, marketing, pharmaceutical, healthcare and energy. It’s fantastic to access a ‘hive mind’ of consultants with a range of experiences and thinking styles, so our clients get the best outcomes possible.

Joining a consultancy with an outstanding reputation, excellent practices and a number of innovative inclusion products has meant that I can focus on what I’m passionate about – delivering meaningful diversity outcomes to a broad range of organisations so that collectively, we shape and change Australia for the better.

 

What were some of the highlights of your career at Westpac?

There were many standout moments but for me these are the ones I reflect on most often:

·      Winning Gail Kelly’s Westpac CEO Award in 2010 for my work in championing sustainability and environmental initiatives in our business including bringing Keep Cups into all internal cafes.

·      Being selected as a Jawun business mentoring participant and spending 5 weeks supporting Aboriginal communities in Cape York.

·      Accepting the 2016 Australian Human Rights Award on behalf of Westpac for the leading-edge, ‘intuitively inclusive and accessible’ design of the new Barangaroo Campus in Sydney.

·      Winning the 2013 Australian Government’s National Disability Award for programs such as the Breaking Down the Barriers training I’d developed with Westpac’s ABLE Employee Action Group.

·      Rolling out programs of work to support the bank's aspirational target of having 50% of women in leadership by 2017.

 

If you’d like to speak with us about ways we can help your organization progress diversity, please contact us at info@diversitypartners.com.au and we’ll organise a call with you. 

Flexing your approach to flexible work arrangements

Three factors distinguish leading workplaces committed to supporting flexible work practices.

Many companies are working hard to normalise flexible working, as more and more Australians use technology to work in an agile and innovative way. Telstra, PwC, Origin Energy, and ANZ among others promote ‘all roles flex’ to shake long-held assumptions that jobs need to be full-time and based at an office or company site.

11.jpg

Numerous research studies show a markedly positive impact on productivity and employee engagement when companies offer flexible work arrangements. An IBM Survey of 675 CIOs and IT managers of large enterprises across multiple industries in Australia, China, India, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States found that on average, those taking action to create a more flexible workplace reported 20%+ improvements in productivity and cost saving.

Employees are more likely to recommend their company as a place to work when they work in companies where flexible work practices are widely used.

For companies that are developing or refreshing their approach to flexible work arrangements, we've found a few key principles make a big difference to acceptance and utilisation of flexibility among the hundreds of client firms we've supported on their diversity journey. 

Three principles can be readily applied across different industries and types of workplaces:

1. ‘Flexibility’ is defined broadly.

It extends to how, when, and where employees work. Arrangements include formal options such as job-sharing or part-time work, changes to start and finish times. Arrangements also include informal, ad-hoc flexibility - usually the most requested type of flexibility - to meet short term needs, and most of these are agreed verbally or via email between the employee and their manager.

2. Decisions are made on a case-by-case basis taking into consideration the needs of the business, the team, and any potential impact to clients/customers.

Some roles, by the inherent nature of their tasks, lend themselves to less flexibility. That said, leading firms encourage managers to carefully consider all requests as part of a ‘can-do’ flexibility mind-set, and provide ‘reasonable business grounds’ for any requests declined. In a number of companies, managers who intend to decline requests have to seek approval from Human Resources – an ‘if not, why not’ measure that challenges traditional (albeit surprisingly resilient) assumptions that flexibility is ‘too complicated’ or will ‘set a precedent where everyone will want it’.

3. Decisions are ‘reason neutral’.

This important principle recognises employees have different needs at different times in their lives. Some need flexibility to juggle caring responsibilities, others may want flexibility to pursue a hobby or additional study, for example.

The ‘reason-neutral’ approach also tackles the prevailing bias that flexibility is okay for working mothers, but less so for fathers. While the percentage of fathers using flexible working hours to look after young children has nearly doubled to 30 per cent since 1996), men are twice as likely as women to have requests for flexible hours rejected. A Bain & Co/Chief Executive Women study of more than 1,000 employees across Australian workplaces last year found approximately 60% of men are working, have or want to work flexibly, but there’s still a lack of senior support.

 

There are many other principles adopted by leading firms outline in our ‘Guiding Principles for effective flexible work practices’. Please email us if you’d like a copy.

Diversity Partners has developed comprehensive toolkits that cover guiding principles, tip sheets, and a four-step framework guiding managers and employees through the process of applying for, and reviewing, flexible work arrangements. We draw on best practices, and customise the toolkits to your business.

We also facilitate 'Making Flexibility Work for Everyone' workshops to help organisations entrench flexible working successfully. We'd love to hear from you if you'd like to talk through your organisation's flexibility strategy, education or policies.

 

 

 

 

Intentionally inclusive: everyday actions to create more respectful and inclusive workplaces

Being an inclusive leader requires us to understand, and fundamentally challenge, the biases and privileges entrenched in dominant Anglo male work cultures that the #MeToo phenomenon has begun to uncover.
 

The #MeToo movement has shocked many by highlighting that making harassment illegal, and having policies and training, has not actually made workplaces free from harassment, let alone genuinely inclusive. 

It turns out that introducing anti-discrimination and anti-harassment policies is much easier than challenging established practices. As we hear increasing allegations of ‘boys club’ work cultures and ‘lecherous’ behaviour by public figures, we often find that people have known about the behaviour for a long time, but haven’t felt able to challenge it.

Catherine A. McKinnon wrote in the New York Times last week of women alleging sexual harassment, over decades of her research, that ‘even when she was believed, nothing he did to her mattered as much as what would be done to him if his actions against her were taken seriously’. The women’s starting inequality made it hard for them to push for action and change. But, she says, right now, ‘power is paying attention’.

‘Perhaps it takes a moment like this’, as Australian journalist David Leser says, ‘for men to truly wake up.’

In workplaces, it has to be leaders – men and women – who drive greater inclusion. Beyond policy statements, it is a bigger and more challenging goal to create a psychologically safe, inclusive work environment.

How do you make your organisation a place where all employees feel they belong, can speak up about inappropriate behaviour they experience or observe, and feel valued for their unique talents and perspectives?

It doesn’t happen by accident, or through goodwill alone. Being an inclusive leader requires us to understand, and fundamentally challenge, the biases and privileges entrenched in dominant Anglo male work cultures that the #MeToo phenomenon has begun to uncover.

It’s up to all of us to challenge inappropriate behaviour and take action.

Leaders must intentionally choose to be inclusive in how they behave and the decisions they make. If we’re not consciously inclusive, as former Australian Sex Discrimination Commissioner Elizabeth Broderick said, it’s likely we’re unconsciously or unintentionally excluding people.

This matters to organisations because diversity of people, background, opinions and ideas is proven to deliver better decisions and generate breakthrough insights. It’s why so many organisations are actively committing to being more diverse and inclusive.

But it is a challenge. The reality is that all of us can find it demanding to include diverse thinking approaches, or people of different gender or from different backgrounds, in our work activities. 

When people come from differing backgrounds, or put forward a different perspective to ours, it’s often uncomfortable. We naturally gravitate to people who are like us (called affinity bias), and we like to have our views confirmed rather than challenged (confirmation bias). 

In organisations, this plays out in a few well-worn habits. We follow what’s been called the ‘usual suspects bias’ to automatically hire or promote people who are like us, because we feel comfortable with them and trust them to get the job done. Groupthink is generated.

We wind up with ‘mirror-tocracies’, far from the meritocracies we all want, where the best skills and ideas flourish. And we can have workplaces where ‘lad cultures’, ‘pervy’ behaviours, dismissive comments, unconscious bias, and outdated stereotypes prevail.

Taking intentional actions to make your work environment more diverse and inclusive goes well beyond avoiding potentially costly harassment complaints. 

 

It’s up to all of us to challenge inappropriate behaviour and take action.

For those in leadership roles, here's some ways to practice intentionally inclusive leadership.

·     Invite feedback from peers and team members about your behaviours, so you know if people are feeling consistently included, and so you can adjust if you need to before problems potentially escalate.

·     Recognise personal biases that may impact your decision-making (remember we all have biases).

·     Make a positive effort to learn more about the experiences of people not in the ‘in-group’.

·     Actively seek out diverse views in your meetings – explicitly invite different perspectives, including from people who are usually quiet.

·     Consider where and when team meetings and social events are held, to avoid inadvertently excluding some people. For example, instead of always having team drinks in the evening, mix it up with some morning teas during the week.

·     Challenge stereotypical comments, assumptions, and language. If a woman manager is called ‘aggressive’, is that about her behaviour, or about someone thinking she should be warmer or softer because she is a woman?

·     Ask explicitly for diversity on recruitment shortlists, speaking panel representations, and in succession planning. 

·     Notice and call it out if some people are given nicknames but others aren’t. It’s an everyday way to make some people feel in and others excluded.

·     Provide flexible work options, using changing technologies, to give a more diverse team opportunities to be involved.

·     Talk with your teams about the proven benefits of diversity and an inclusive work culture (some organisations start meetings by highlighting positive examples).

For organisations, it’s also fundamental to refresh recruitment, promotion and other talent management practices that have typically privileged dominant Anglo male cultures in Australia.

Taking intentional actions to make your work environment more diverse and inclusive goes well beyond avoiding potentially costly harassment complaints. Numerous studies show the benefits include better decision-making, higher employee engagement, more innovation, and better financial performance.

What business leader wouldn’t want to achieve that?

New year, new thinking - accelerating progress on diversity

To accelerate diversity and inclusion progress in Australia and New Zealand in 2018, we think it’s important to focus on how your organisation is leveraging diversity of thinking approaches and diversity of background to improve decision-making and organisational performance.

In a recent interview, Dr Katie Spearritt spoke about ways to reduce unconscious biases in decision-making, so we gain the benefits of diversity of thought and background.

Q: Are business leaders getting more serious about diversity of thought?

We’re seeing a growing interest to apply the research on cognitive diversity in the workplace. For example, a CEO of an industry superannuation fund contacted us to explore how bias might be getting in the way of effective decision-making on his team. His team was gender balanced and culturally diverse, and he appreciated the different perspectives that brought.

The CEO wanted to go further, to identify the team's preferred thinking approaches so they could consciously bring different perspectives to decision-making as they launched new products and expanded their market.

Photo: Getty Images

Photo: Getty Images

We’re also seeing more and more focus on the importance of diversity of thought for ethical decision-making and corporate governance. 

Groupthink and confirmation bias have contributed to some big ethical failures in history. That’s why one global resources organisation we’ve worked with explicitly advises its leaders to ‘hear from the quietest person in the room’.

 

Q: Can you share some practical things that leaders can do to encourage different thinking approaches?

Before making a key decision in a meeting, we encourage teams to reflect if they’ve considered a range of different thinking approaches and credible alternatives, as well as unconscious biases that might impact their decision-making.

This usually means consciously slowing down our thinking. ‘Slow thinking’ is a recognised strategy to build inclusive leadership capability, and helps us avoid the error-prone biased decisions that can come from automatic ‘fast thinking’.

Director of St James Ethics Centre, Dr Simon Longstaff, has said ‘the greatest pressure on modern leaders is the absence of time to stop and think’. That’s something we hear time and time again, and it can be helpful for leaders to remember we all have a choice to call a ‘time out’, however brief it might be.

While seeking feedback from others is essential, some leaders go further by appointing a ‘devil’s advocate’ in meetings to normalise challenge. It’s important to rotate the devil’s advocate too.

One CEO we know routinely tells colleagues that ‘you have an obligation to disagree with me’ to reduce confirmation and sunflower bias.

It’s also important to think about basic things such as where you hold meetings and who gets invited. Decision making experts emphasise the importance of hearing from people who are ‘cognitively peripheral’ – who have information that is not generally known – rather than having discussions with people who share similar knowledge. 

As you make a key decision, ask the team if they’ve considered a range of different thinking approaches and credible alternatives, as well as unconscious biases that might impact their decision-making.

That’s why we suggest using different communication channels to receive input on a project or idea. Some team members will probably be more comfortable providing an alternative view in a follow up email or direct phone call rather than in a team meeting.

HR leaders can track employee perceptions of opportunities to contribute to decision-making and speak up through annual or pulse engagement surveys – that’s a valuable contribution to business success.

Q: Do experts on diversity always get it right?

If only! For a start, we’re human so we’re prone to biases just as anyone else is.

Adapting to different thinking and learning styles is challenging for us too.

Recently a client asked us to facilitate a workshop for senior leaders in a range of locations around the world. We were reticent, as our preference is face-to-face learning to build conversations. But we decided to give it a go, asking one of our team members used to working in virtual global operating environments to help us re-design content.

We ended up with some new tools and our client reach has now extended from Melbourne to Mongolia!


 

Contact Diversity Partners at info@diversitypartners.com.au or phone us on 1800 571 999 if you'd like to talk through ways to progress diversity and inclusion in your firm this year.

To read the original interview with Peoplecorp Recruitment Specialists, please see: http://www.peoplecorp.com.au/hr-spotlight/interview-dr-katie-spearritt-ceo-diversity-partners/

Diversity contributes to better ethical practices

Ethics

Leading and sustaining a successful and ethical business can be a complex game. For some, this can be all the more (seemingly) complex when you bring together people with different backgrounds and perspectives.

However, we now know that well-managed diverse teams lead to greater business benefits, innovation and creativity.

Where some are still connecting the dots is in understanding the positive impact of diverse teams and inclusive behaviours on ethical decision-making and corporate governance. 

Several studies have shown that diversity on boards and in teams brings fresh thinking, increased focus on problem solving, and greater transparency.

As companies plan leadership curriculums for 2018, we think a significant focus on the value of diversity (of background and thinking approaches) in ethical decision-making and problem-solving is warranted.

dynamics make a difference

 It's important for leaders to understand the value of diversity (of background and thinking approaches) in ethical decision-making.    

 It's important for leaders to understand the value of diversity (of background and thinking approaches) in ethical decision-making. 

 

People with different backgrounds bring new information, but what really counts is the dynamics of diverse teams when making decisions.

In a seminal article published in Scientific American, Professor Katherine Phillips from Columbia Business School writes that 'interacting with individuals who are different forces group members to prepare better, to anticipate alternative viewpoints and to expect that reaching consensus will take effort'.

'When we hear dissent from someone who is different to us, it provokes more thought than when it comes from someone who looks like us,' she says.

It's these behavioural dynamics that drive ethical successes and failures, argues Dennis Gentilin, author of The Origins of Ethical Failures and publicly named ‘whistleblower’ in the FX trading scandal that rocked the National Australia Bank in 2004.

Speaking with us at Diversity Partners, Gentilin says 'we need to surround ourselves with diverse opinions to keep ourselves accountable to our standards and values because we can all fall short.'

‘If we surround ourselves with challenging views and create an environment where others feel they can ‘speak up’ then we avoid going down the slippery slope of ethical failure,’ according to Gentilin.

Unfortunately, sometimes it takes a crisis for organisations to fully understand and appreciate the contribution of good diversity and inclusion practices to ethical resilience.

In 2011, one year after the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, I joined a global facilitation team for BP’s newly formed Diversity & Inclusion Academy. As a result of this crisis, and following a range of independent studies on the situation, it became clear that decision-making biases (particularly confirmation bias) and the lack of a safety ‘speak up’ culture were among contributing factors to the disaster.

BP subsequently focused on leadership education so that all employees act with greater awareness of core values such as safety, respect and courage, and have awareness and skills to challenge unconscious biases.

Tips to encourage diverse thinking approaches and perspectives

Although we’re all susceptible to forces that make us ignore risks, leaders at all levels of an organisation can take steps that will encourage diversity of thought and potentially reduce ethical risk.

Here's a few tips to get started...

            1. Develop your awareness of cognitive biases. Psychologists and behavioural economists have highlighted many biases that impair our ability to make objective and effective decisions. We all have biases, but we’re often not aware of them playing out in our minds.

Unconscious bias training gives leaders an opportunity to understand how easily our decisions are impacted at work by affinity bias (our natural tendency to gravitate towards ‘people like us’), confirmation bias (our tendency to seek out information that confirms our beliefs and ignore conflicting evidence), and groupthink (where pressure for unanimity overwhelms realistic appraisal of alternative courses of action).

            2. Give teams explicit permission to disagree with you. While seeking feedback from others is essential, some leaders go further by appointing a ‘devil’s advocate’ in meetings to encourage multiple perspectives and normalise challenge. One CEO we know routinely tells colleagues that ‘you have an obligation to disagree with me’.

            3. Engage team members from outside of your regular circle. Inclusive leaders make a concerted effort to understand the experiences of people who are not part of their tight-knit ‘in-group’ and who may feel (unintentionally) excluded from some key decisions.

Simple things such as where you hold meetings and who gets invited to them can make a difference.

Decision making experts emphasise the importance of hearing from people who are ‘cognitively peripheral’ – who have information that is not generally known – rather than having discussions disproportionately influenced by people who are ‘cognitively central’ – who have knowledge that is shared by many members of the group.

Or, as one global organisation advises its leaders, every group needs to ‘hear from the quietest person in the room’.


An earlier version of this article appeared in Leadership Matters, the newsletter of the Institute of Managers and Leaders for Australia and New Zealand in 2016.

If you'd like more information about this topic, or any other resources to help progress diversity and inclusion in your firm, please email us at info@diversitypartners.com.au.

 

New e-Learning solution helps leaders create more inclusive workplaces and challenge unconscious bias

Diversity Partners is thrilled to offer a new eLearning program, Creating Value Through Diversity and Inclusion, in partnership with Learning Seat, an award winning eLearning solution provider to businesses across Asia Pacific.

The program helps leaders optimise the benefits of diversity of talent and ideas, and challenge unconscious biases in the workplace.

It’s designed for managers and leaders across all industry sectors in Australia.

Diversity Partners and Learning Seat have built an eLearning solution:   Creating Value through Diversity and Inclusion

Diversity Partners and Learning Seat have built an eLearning solution: Creating Value through Diversity and Inclusion

The program complements our popular face-to-workshops for executives and senior leaders, and is an effective way to reach large audiences across multiple locations.  It's also an opportunity to refresh the key learnings covered in our workshops - especially when managers are about to recruit, review performance or decide on annual promotions/partnerships.

The program consists of three learning bites, which can be purchased separately or together as a bundle.

Learning bite one explores the value of diversity of background (such as culture and gender) and diversity of thinking approaches, and the characteristics of an inclusive work culture.

The second learning bite builds awareness of unconscious bias, a key barrier to diversity progress in organisations. In the workplace, unconscious biases can impact our recruiting choices, how we allocate work, and key business decisions.

The eLearning solution is an effective way to reach large audiences of leaders across multiple locations.

The third learning bite includes practical strategies for tackling unconscious bias and creating a more inclusive and high-performing team culture.

On completing the learning bites in the bundle, learners should be able to confidently reflect upon – and challenge – their own thinking, decision-making processes and leadership approaches to create more inclusive workplaces.

The training is optimised for smartphone delivery and responsive across all devices – allowing users to complete their training on the go, any time.

You can find out more about the course here, with the option to sign up for a free trial.

Learning objectives

Learning Bite 1 – Understanding Diversity and Inclusion

·     Define what diversity means, and the characteristics of an inclusive work culture

·     Identify the benefits of workplace diversity and inclusion

Learning Bite 2 – Understanding and Challenging Unconscious Bias

·    Identify examples of unconscious bias in a workplace setting

·    Recognise unconscious bias occurring in a workplace setting

Learning Bite 3 – Strategies for Tackling Unconscious Bias

·    Identify different strategies for tackling unconscious bias in a workplace setting

·    List actions that you can take to become a more inclusive leader

Target audience

The content contained in this bundle is suitable for managers and leaders across all industries and sectors.

Contact us to find our more at info@diversitypartners.com.au, or go directly to the Learning Seat website link.

 

Our partner, Learning Seat, is an award-winning eLearning company based in Melbourne, Australia. Today more than 500 companies rely on Learning Seat to manage their online training and compliance, to over 700,000 learners.

 

 

 

 

 

When seemingly small things mean so much: inclusive leadership actions

Many of us have probably experienced a thoughtless action at work such as not being introduced in a meeting, being left off an email distribution list, or others taking credit for our work.

By itself, this might seem inconsequential.

But when this happens consistently over time - like a leaky tap - it can leave those on the receiving end feeling isolated and excluded.

It was Professor Mary Rowe of Massachusetts Institute of Technology who coined the term ‘micro-inequities’ in the 1970s to describe small and often unintentional unfairnesses toward those who are perceived as different.

Micro-inequities are often the result of unconscious bias or not understanding cultural differences. They're subtle but erode confidence, explains Australian scientist Dr Jill Rathborne on micro-inequities in the male-dominated world of science for example. 

We all need to be aware, consciously, of these on a day-to-day basis if we’re to create inclusive workplaces of the future.

The good news is that there are many relatively simple things we can do to reduce unconscious bias and micro-inequities. Mary Rowe called these ‘micro-affirmations’: ‘tiny acts of opening doors to opportunity, gestures of inclusion and caring, and graceful acts of listening’.

It might seem obvious, but the impact of these inclusive actions on individuals and team cultures in our workplaces can be very significant. They help everyone feel a greater sense of belonging and reduce unconscious bias.

We all need to be aware, consciously, of micro-inequities on a day-to-day basis if we’re to create inclusive workplaces of the future.

Here's ten inclusive actions (drawing on research and discussions in our leadership workshops) that can make a positive difference to everyday interactions, meetings, and decision-making.

Inclusive interactions

1.    Acknowledge people when you pass them in the office, especially those not part of your ‘in-group’.

2.    Ask for permission before calling someone by a nickname (and think about who has a nickname and who doesn’t).

3.    Ask for the correct pronunciation of an unfamiliar name – make an effort to get it right.

4.    Be mindful that small talk at the start of a meeting may leave some feeling excluded - make an effort to invite everyone into the conversation.

Inclusive meetings

5.    Introduce all people in a meeting with equal level of acknowledgement.

6.    In your team meetings, appoint a devil’s advocate (and make sure to rotate this role) to reduce groupthink.

7.    Be especially attentive to virtual team members who dial into meetings.

8.    Consider when and where a meeting should be held and who is invited, to maximise diversity of thought and perspective.

Inclusive decision-making

9.    Next time you’re making a key decision, actively seek out multiple perspectives (especially those different to your own) to avoid confirmation and sunflower bias.

10.    Use different communication channels to receive input on a project or idea - some team members will be more comfortable providing a follow up email or direct phone call rather than speaking out in a team meeting.

These tips, and many others, are explored in our Inclusive Leadership: Challenging Unconscious Bias workshop for leaders and employees. We'd love to share more with you - please contact us for a chat.

34.jpg