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Ian Dodds Consulting’s (IDC) Monthly Best Practice: Aug 2013

Growing the business by building an inclusive culture needs the full engagement of senior leaders to shape and drive the D&I strategy

In recent years, many corporate diversity and inclusion (D&I) practices have come under fire for failing to deliver results. In particular, their efforts on building inclusion have failed. This advice is not difficult to sell. Nonetheless, IDC is working with several forward thinking companies which are embracing D&I as a centrepiece of their culture change efforts and are putting measures in place to ensure its success. This is because they know that building an inclusive culture offers great business growth potential: higher productivity; more creativity and excellence in problem solving; greater responsiveness to customers; improved Employer Brand; enhanced employee wellbeing. Moreover, IDC has the deep organisation and leadership development and behavioural change experience that is needed to make it happen. Research described below by Catalyst, a leading, international non-profit membership organisation concentrating on expanding opportunities for women and business, is highly reinforcing of IDC’s approach involving:

1.    A culture change intervention and not standalone training events.

2.    Gaining leadership buy-in through the intellectual business case for inclusion and the emotional case illustrated by real stories of women and other minority groups experiencing exclusion and unconscious bias in their organisations.

3.    Developing leaders to drive inclusion through their message and example.

4.    Developing internal change agents to develop middle and frontline manager skills in inclusion and interactive effectiveness.

Catalyst surveyed a group of mostly white men to examine the effect of D&I education in their work lives as well as in the work lives of their closest colleagues. Over the course of just four months, they found evidence that carefully designed inclusion learning labs did, in fact, have a transformative effect on the individuals they studied, shifting both their mindsets and behaviours. Not only did colleagues begin to notice these changes; but these belief and behavioural shifts appeared to be having a positive effect on the work climate as well. In ‘Engaging Men: What Change Agents Need to Know’, Catalyst points out that white men often lack awareness of exclusion and unconscious bias and that gaining greater awareness of the experiences of these factors by other groups (the emotional case) is a critical step in enlisting their support for company initiatives to promote workplace equality and inclusion. All participants who were registered for a series of Catalyst Learning Labs were invited to participate in the study. Lab participants were surveyed at three different times. The first survey was completed within a week prior to each participant’s scheduled lab. Each participant received a second survey one month after attending a lab. Participants received the final survey four months after first attending a lab. Catalyst also surveyed colleagues of lab attendees, who were nominated by the lab attendees to provide feedback on participants’ behaviours both prior and subsequent to completing the labs. These third-party observers were surveyed on the same schedule as the lab attendees—within a week prior to their respective colleague’s first lab, one month after their colleague attended a lab, and four months after their colleague had first attended a lab.

These labs focused on developing essential leadership skills (leadership message and example). Participants begin to develop skills related to leading and partnering with colleagues to create more inclusive work environments. These critical leadership competencies help participants become more effective in an increasingly diverse workforce and marketplace. Participants share intense experiences that encourage self-reflection and questioning of personal assumptions and belief systems. They commit to new behaviours and leave having identified and committed to practising new patterns of behaviour.

Catalyst observed that buy-in and verbal support of change efforts is not enough. To succeed at changing the workplace, companies need the full engagement of senior leaders to shape and drive D&I strategies. This is a major emphasis of IDC’s approach. If you want more information about IDC’s approach to growing the business by building an inclusive culture, what we call leveraging the Power of Inclusion, please do contact us.

Dr Ian Dodds,

iandodds@iandoddsconsulting.com, 30 July 2013


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