Recipe for a Corporate Diversity and Inclusion ProgramDiversity & Inclusion, In the Media Thursday, May 31st, 2012
When was the last time you entered the kitchen?
Kitchens are messy, cluttered enclaves of creativity. But a good chef knows how to enter a kitchen and in a short time produce a masterpiece which everyone appreciates. If you’ve never prepared a particular dish it’s hard to create your own unique version, but if you have a recipe, you’re well on your way. Creating a true “diversity and inclusion” program is much the same way.
Outside of North America and Europe, the issues surrounding D&I are unique for each country, or market. But the corporate bench strength that diversity creates is just as strong. It’s just that the paths leading to an inclusive environment are different in each location.
The somewhat sensitive areas such as age, disability, sexual orientation, religion and race usually follow initiatives for gender diversity. For the most part, once a program for gender diversity has been established, other areas can easily be added depending on national and corporate cultures.
We’ll take a quick look at gender diversity.
Research has shown that women leaders are good for business. Companies with the highest representations of women in leadership roles show better financial performance. What companies must do is make the organizational climate more welcoming to women by allowing greater flexibility in the way women are perceived and allowed to act. Organizations do this by implementing programs and policies that support diversity and inclusion, women’s leadership, and work-life integration.
So what’s in our Diversity and Inclusion banquet? Let’s look at what our checklist says:
Communicate the commitment to diversity. The commitment to diversity starts with the CEO and the board of directors. It needs to be obvious and undeniable throughout the organization, starting with the top leadership team and cascading outward and downwards.
The most visible way to begin is by finding placements for women on boards. Norway is meeting a goal set in a 2003 law for 40% of board seats to be held by women. D&I aware CEOs recommend women candidates to their boards of directors and recommend women candidates for other companies’ boards.
Generate diverse candidate shortlists for all positions being filled. Starting with their direct report team, CEOs can demand and insist that selection teams generate gender-diverse candidate nominations, emphasizing that the quest for well-qualified candidates be made a priority. This drive towards bringing diverse people into leadership positions should filter all the way down through middle management, professionals, and the shop floor where the cleaning lady does her job. All are essential components of a successful business.
Measure performance on gender-related issues. Surveys can be designed to measure results at all levels in an organization. They can be a useful tool to provide detailed analyses of outcomes and trends, and CEOs can use them to track the effects of diversity and inclusion initiatives, help them determine annual strategic objectives, and allocate resources for leadership development initiatives.
A qualified and experienced CDO (chief diversity officer) on your team will know how to structure such a survey. But if this is too much to bite off, there are many consultants who can help. It’s important to establish a baseline for D&I before interventions are put in place. Without knowing where you’re starting from, it’s impossible to later know how far you’ve come. Being able to quantify the impact of D&I is a tough but nonetheless important part of your efforts.
Many companies have “D&I” has a separate component on staff performance reviews – with the most senior level staff members having their scorecards published for all staff members to see. What gets measured gets acted upon. Think KPIs and performance metrics.
Sponsor women’s networks and leadership forums. Encourage mentoring and provide opportunities for mentoring relationships to evolve that are based on chemistry and natural affinities between people. Women need to learn more about how other women were successful in achieving their professional goals.
Provide external coaches and internal mentors for high-potential women. Coaching also accelerates the learning process and can be helpful for high-potential women by providing them with more feedback about their performance and how they are perceived within the organization. Sometimes the best mentor is a man, sometimes the best mentor is a woman.
Truly responsible corporations will have a mentor / buddy program for all women though, not just the high-potentials. There are many levels of creating, building, monitoring and super-charging mentor programs. Again, consultants will be willing and able to help you out here if you don’t have the experience.
Hold decision-makers accountable for distributing advantageous assignments. In most organizations there are key jobs and experiences that are critical to one’s future success in leadership roles. Often these are line jobs with profit and loss responsibility; in many companies they are “must haves” for candidates being considered for leadership positions.
Provide external development programs. Sometimes managers learn valuable lessons about leadership from roles they assume outside the workplace. External “stretch” assignments enable leaders to gain experiences not available within the organization. Loaned executives may work with volunteers to manage employee campaigns in businesses, government, and professional companies. These experiences expand women’s networks and give them valuable feedback about their performance. Stretch experiences also include roles requiring public speaking and serving on boards.
Provide internal development programs. Most people don’t understand the ramifications of diversity, and how they may be behaving in unconsciously biased ways that have micro impacts on the lives of others. Inclusion is not an easy concept to understand or act in accordance with. Consultants are in the best position to be able to provide diversity training both to senior leaders as well as those on the shop floor. Diversity training is a new area of workforce management, but one where it’s possible to find plenty of well qualified professionals.
Allow greater work flexibility. Technology now erases the time and distance barriers around the globe and allows speeds of human communication never before experienced by previous generations. While this has had both advantages and disadvantages for individuals, it also permits us to restructure and reevaluate how we work. The measurement of tangible results and the overall value of an employee’s contributions now trumps “face time” at work as a criterion for performance.
Since the 1980s many companies have had flexible work arrangement policies: flextime, telecommuting, reduced/compressed hours, and job sharing. With the never-ending development of new ways to increase productivity through the internet, companies should feel shame if they still require staff to punch a clock. We don’t expect our teams to turn off their blackberries after they leave the office in the evening, and vacations are all taken with a laptop in tow. Nine to five has long been relegated to history.
Women still hold the majority of household responsibility in all societies, and this isn’t going to change anytime soon. Don’t force your top performers onto the “mommy-track”. Not only is it unfair, but it’s not good for business. Graciously allow more work flexibility.
Some of the ideas above may not be too enticing, but this will be the result of habits that are hard to break, not because the ideas are bad. They’re all good sound business decisions, and this is from both the CEO’s perspective as well as the viewpoint of those outside the mainstream of your organization.
For CEOs and their organizations to remain resilient in the face of both technological and social change, it’s essential to have a systemic strategy for managing and motivating an increasingly diverse workforce. Having a better understanding of how to create organizations that flourish in these difficult times benefits management, male and female employees, and all stakeholders.