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Case Studies

    Engaging employees when building a vision of a diverse organisation

    The boss and management team of a large, badly-performing civil service department developed their vision of what they wanted the office to be like in two years. They saw it becoming a high performing office by operating more inclusively towards its customers and its staff. The management team wanted to build a culture and work environment where every customer and employee would feel valued, respected and understood.

    With the help of an artist they drew a picture of their vision of a high performing office. The picture looked down on the office, as if from a helicopter, and showed a journey from the present to two years into the future. Part of the picture showed the present office where managers were not recognising the differences between people and not turning each person's unique talents into performance. The office's staff were not offering differentiated services to their diverse customers and were generally demotivated and uncreative.

    The picture also showed the journey the office would have to take to become a more diverse business. It showed the obstacles that would have to be overcome during the journey and the end of the journey showed the office in two years, where highly motivated staff were meeting the needs of their diverse customers and had pride in the great reputation the office had gained both with its local communities and its own head office.

    The management team used the picture to discuss their 'vision' with their staff. Employees were asked what changes they thought should be included in the business plan to deliver the vision, and what barriers they envisaged.

    The management team listened to their staff and included their recommendations in the business plan. Within two years the office had become one of the highest performing offices in that civil service department. In fact, a national Sunday newspaper published an article about the office and the journalist, who had spent two weeks there, wrote "I don't think I have ever been in an office with a stronger sense of purpose, contentment, candour, coherence or vigour".

    You don't have to create an actual picture, but it can help to stimulate dialogue with your staff about the potential benefits from becoming a more diverse business, and what needs to change to achieve that goal.

    You must communicate to your staff what diversity holds in store - what the company will be like with diverse employees, served by diverse suppliers, and meeting the needs of diverse customers or clients - and the business benefits that these changes will deliver.

    Examining the patterns of exclusion and inclusion that exist for different diversity groups in your organisation

    A bank decided that it could grow its business by better meeting the needs of its non-traditional customers, including ethnic minorities, women, gays and lesbians.

    To determine what actions to take, the company checked how well it was already doing by holding affinity focus groups, i.e. focus groups of women, African-Caribbean staff, Asian staff, gays, lesbians, and white staff.

    Each focus group was led by skilled IDC facilitators who mirrored the identity of the participants of their group. Focus group members were asked to explain what they felt helped them to participate in and succeed in the company, as well as what hindered them.

    The company's executives were shocked to learn that everyone except white male employees experienced patterns of everyday behaviour that made them feel excluded and demotivated, lowering their self-esteem.

    As a result of feedback from the focus groups, the company set-up of employee networks and formally included their establishment in its business plan. It created networks for BME (black and minority ethnic) individuals, women and LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) employees. These offered advice on how it could build a more inclusive organisational culture, and how it could serve its non-traditional customers better.

    Dealing with hidden biases

    Under-achievement of its recruitment targets for black, minority ethnic (BME) staff resulted in a City employer realising that its competency-based recruitment processes tended to disadvantage people from socially deprived communities.

    People from socially deprived backgrounds are often less familiar with sophisticated recruitment methods, and are not as comfortable with the process as white, middle-class people. Also, they can sometimes lack the confidence and self-esteem to present their achievements and abilities positively.

    The employer used an agency to access these communities and recruit individuals with potential on temporary contracts. The temporary recruits often succeeded in getting permanent positions, especially if they received ongoing support during the initial stages from a job advisor, coach, or mentor.

    The two key drivers of change: leadership and engagement

    A newly appointed CEO of a global chemical company needed to turn round a business which was losing customers and money. He launched a campaign called 'Fighting for the Customer'. The emphasis was on the individual 'customer' rather than 'customers', to recognise the diversity of its existing and potential customers, as well as their differing needs.

    The 'Fighting for the Customer' campaign and its underpinning business plan were communicated face-to-face to large meetings of employees around the world by the directors and other top management. These were followed up with a video of personal accounts from some of the business' key customers, both from the UK and overseas, of problems they had experienced in the past, and how they welcomed the 'Fighting for the Customer' campaign.

    Team leaders across the company briefed their teams, in their own words, on the progress made each month in implementing the campaign, giving local examples. This helped to reinforce the key messages of the campaign and energised people by emphasising, and providing stories about, the progress that was being made. These regular communications also kept problems visible and ensured that they were addressed.

    The board also involved the workforce in identifying what needed to be done to 'fight' for every existing customer, as well as for new ones. Many employees had been perturbed by the lack of customised service the factory had offered to its customers and welcomed the opportunity to change this. Over three thousand improvement suggestions were obtained and this involvement from employees resulted in them being highly committed to 'Fighting for the Customer'.

    The campaign's engagement of its employees helped the company to better tailor its products and services to the needs of its different market segments, including important overseas customers. This was very much a result of local employees knowing about local service needs and problems and being innovative in generating solutions.

    In increasing employees' involvement in the business, pride in their work grew, as well as confidence that their jobs were less at risk, because the business was growing and becoming more profitable.

    Within three years the business had turned round its performance and its levels of customer service had improved so significantly that it had become a preferred supplier to most of its key accounts.

    Overcoming resistance to change by engaging staff

    The director of a large office in a financial services organisation wanted to ensure that the delivery of its business improvement plan was owned by its staff. To do this he set up a staff task group to inform the senior management team what training and support employees would need to have the capability, and to feel confident about being able to deliver the office's ambitious change plans.

    They were empowered to seek expert advice from across the company and from outside and encouraged to visit a diverse sample of customers, to get to know the staff and to understand what to do differently to have good supplier relationships with them.

    The changes that were needed to raise the performance of the firm and become a more reliable supplier became understood by the task team and they recommended a series of short workshops to help its workforce have the skills to deliver the change plan.

    They also recommended teach-ins from some of their major customers on their service and quality needs. This gained the support and confidence of employees, because their colleagues had been so fully involved in advising on the implementation of the business improvement plan. The associated changes were implemented smoothly as a result.

    Changing the culture by identifying key leadership behaviours that will act as change drivers

    The director of a software provider was concerned that the cultural differences between the company and their partner organisations were a barrier to delivering its business plan.

    The director and his team identified the leadership behaviours that they needed to set an example in to encourage more collaborative working across the operation. The management team members were coached by Ian Dodds Consulting on the practice of these behaviours. They also received survey feedback from their staff and the providers on the extent to which they were practising the behaviours.

    Over a period of 12 months, the leadership behaviour scores for each manager from the survey feedback improved by between 12 percent and 25 percent. This was sufficient to be visible to the staff and was a major contributor to the organisation developing a more inclusive and collaborative culture which benefited its delivery performance.

    Influencing management behaviour through the senior leadership model

    The CEO of a Local Authority insisted that 'managing individuality', i.e. recognising each persons unique talents and helping them turn those into performance, should be one of the key behaviours that its senior managers needed to set a positive example in to their staff.

    The CEO and his directors committed themselves to practising this and the other key behaviours that they had 'pinpointed'. The directors' direct reports also had to follow their example.

    Each direct report was assigned a coach to help them develop the skills required to manage the 'individuality' of the people in the firm's diverse workforce. This practice became the norm and leadership ratings in the annual staff survey increased by nearly sixty percent.

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