Contemporary corporate culture in Australia presents managers with many different demands. Of increasing relevance is the challenge to ensure we foster inclusion and contribution from an increasingly diverse workforce.
How are successful organisations tackling this challenge and what can managers and leaders do to make a difference?
To look into this, Australian corporate learning and development specialists, Team Management Systems (TMS), recently hosted a series of forums, assembling leading practitioners in the field of diversity and inclusion (D&I). TMS recognises that organisations must identify a discernible performance improvement from the collaboration teams comprising diverse individuals.
Seven major themes of diversity and inclusion
In distilling the outcomes and content from the forums, TMS identified several key issues and recurring themes that emerged.
- Organisations must understand and work with differences
Diverse thinking and different perspectives are needed if organisations are to solve some of today’s most challenging and complex problems of the future. Establishing common ground is a crucial factor in this process – once we achieve this, we can improve connections exponentially. We can build our understanding of diverse perspectives by using different lenses and feedback tools.
- A focus on the individual is essential
Every individual needs to feel included and valued, which requires acknowledging the whole person and all that they bring to their workplace.
- A top-down approach is needed if these initiatives are to succeed
Senior leaders need to personify diversity, which means doing more than just endorsing a policy. All levels of the organisation need to be involved, with passionate advocates developing and implementing the plans across the broader organisation.
- Increased self-awareness is central to addressing unconscious bias
Organisations have many initiatives to improve performance, all of which require dedication and resources. Nevertheless, self-awareness and emotional intelligence training is critical to helping people understand each other and communicate more effectively. A key insight is that leaders’ competencies need to be developed to create greater self-awareness so that conflict can be addressed constructively.
- Notions like intersectionality also need to be considered
When we look at multiple elements of diversity in combination – e.g. ethnicity, gender and age – we need to be mindful of the compounding impact on an individual’s experience and identity. Our programmes work best when we consider how complex attitudes towards diversity can impact all areas of an employee’s life.
- D&I programmes need to foster compassion in corporate life
We must think about the personal impacts beyond policy and initiative, by encouraging a culture of compassion to develop within organisations. There is no place in any corporate culture for ignorance or discrimination. At the same time, we need to be sensitive to lifestyle factors and how they can impact on some of our more significant initiatives.
- D&I initiatives cannot be tokenistic and must deliver a performance gain
Inclusion programmes should work at the grass-roots level and be designed to empower people genuinely. Skills training in areas like hosting effective meetings can encourage people to call-out non-inclusive language and behaviour, which helps to create safe, supportive workspaces.
There is plenty of evidence that organisations with diverse leadership have recorded impressive returns and, without assuming causality, we have to ask, ‘why wouldn’t you foster diversity?’ It’s possible to see a change in the bottom line when people are hired who look, think and make decisions like your customer base.
Diversity and inclusion – moving forward
As the Australian workforce recognises the importance of creating inclusive teams, this topic becomes ever more relevant for managers and leaders. The Institute of Managers and Leaders Australia and New Zealand has a suite of diagnostic and development tools designed to improve the ability, of your leaders, to better communicate with a wide range of unique individuals. Thus addressing the unconscious bias issue through improving self-awareness. If you would like to like to know more about the range of People Analytics tools available, please call 1300 362 631, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit managersandleaders.com.au/people-analytics.