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Understanding what areas of diversity and inclusion already work in your business culture

This month, I want to consider why it matters to use appreciative enquiry techniques in diversity and inclusion strategic analysis. IDC never flinches from telling its clients what the barriers are to their diversity and inclusion efforts; nor from offering best practice advice on how to address them. However, we would be failing our clients if we did not also find out what was helping their diversity and inclusion efforts. These are the factors employees perceive to be present when diversity and inclusion is working at its very best for them.

A client for which IDC is carrying out global diversity analysis asked why we wanted to find out what factors its employees thought were helping its diversity and inclusion efforts.

It is important to find out these factors, even if the occasions where diversity and inclusion is working are brief and very infrequent. The technical change management name for this is appreciative inquiry (AI), and the approach was developed by Prof. David Cooperrider at Case Western University.

It matters to carrying out this thorough strategic diversity and inclusion analysis for several reasons:

  • The occasions when employees perceive that diversity and inclusion is working at its very best, no matter how limited in scope and duration, provide insight into the factors that need to become part of the way things are done in the future.
  • AI provides clues about what is currently present in the culture and work environment that companies can build on to overcome the barriers that exist to becoming high-performing diversity and inclusion organisations.
  • Many organisations make the mistake of seeing diversity and inclusion as being only concerned with what is different between people, and not seeing it as also being about what is similar between people.

    In our experience, using an AI approach in diversity and inclusion analysis provides the best information about what people experience in their workplace that is similar. For example, in one client, employees across different affinity groupings, e.g. women, men, ethnic minorities and different generations, often told us that things worked at their best when people were friendly and supportive. Being friendly and supportive was a characteristic of this client's work environment. It provided a cultural driver to build on in order to address the stereotyping that their ethnic minority employees experienced, and the lack of value and respect that their women perceived to be given to their views in what was an extremely male-oriented culture.
  • AI requires people to look at the positives, and this is often enlightening and encouraging for employees who are much more used to focusing on the negatives.

For these reasons, in the many strategic diversity analyses that IDC undertakes for its clients, we always encourage our clients to let us find what their employees consider to be the AI factors as well as the problems.


 Related articles:

Gaining the top and bottom line improvements offered from effective diversity policies

The critical success factors for an effective diversity intervention

Take an honest look at your business culture from a diversity perspective

Is your organisation really a 'meritocracy'?

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