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

Building an inclusive culture offers big performance benefits and increases the senior representation of women and other underrepresented groups

I was asked recently at a women’s networking meeting: ‘What was the best means of increasing the representation of women, and others, in senior management’? Extensive experience from the work that IDC has carried out has demonstrated that this is achieved much more successfully as part of a sustained strategic intervention to build a more inclusive culture than principally putting effort into developing women or BAMEs, etc. This is also supported by research: ‘Best Practices or Best Guesses - Assessing the Efficacy of Corporate Affirmative Action and Diversity Policies’ (Dobbin, Kalev & Kelly, American Sociological Review, 2006, VOL. 71). The highly effective 5 stage process IDC has developed for doing this involves:

1.      Gaining the leadership team’s intellectual and emotional commitment to both the need to put strategic effort into building an inclusive culture and the business case for doing so. The intellectual business case includes:

        The generation of a greater talent pool, including an increase in the proportion of underrepresented groups in senior management;

        A reduction in recruitment costs through improved retention;

        The raising of employee motivation and productivity and the enhancement of the Employer Brand;

        Enhanced and more innovative problem solving;

        The generation of new ideas and better products and services for customers.


The emotional case for inclusion generates the leadership will to act and is done by quotes collected from diversity and inclusion (D&I) diagnostic interviews, or focus groups, or from researching stories of how unconscious bias and exclusion plays out in the organisation. The quotes are presented along with the data from the interviews and the stories in the form of short, around 10 minute, drama scenarios using 2 actors.


2.      Give a body the task of formulating and leading the implementation of a D&I strategy to build a high performance, inclusive culture, once the leadership team’s commitment has been gained. This might be: a senior manager; a D&I task force; a D&I Council. This D&I change steering body:

        Evaluates and interprets the data from the D&I diagnostic;

        Identifies the key issues that need to be addressed;

        Formulates a strategic plan of action;

        Generates the D&I business case for taking action.


3.      This change steering body then initiates and drives the strategic D&I Action Plan. Although   we have many variants for doing this; it tends to include the following:

a.      An awareness raising workshop for senior managers about:

 The D&I business case.

 The D&I strategic Action plan and the senior managers’ role in delivering it.

 Unconscious bias and inclusion and exclusion.

 Gender and cross-cultural differences.

 The actions that the senior managers need to take to drive the change to a more inclusive culture.

b.      A line management communication across the organisation of the business case for building an inclusive culture and the strategic D&I Action Plan.

c.       Line managers being required to incorporate actions into their business plans to support and reinforce the delivery of the organisation’s strategic D&I Action Plan.

d.      Task groups to examine and offer recommendations on key improvement issues, e.g.   changes to the talent management practices to ensure that they are inclusive; how D&I can enhance the organisation’s responsiveness to diverse customer/client needs.

e.      The setting up of a mentoring programme1 for high potentials ensuring that this is well populated by women and other underrepresented high potentials.


1IDC recommends Mentoring Circles; see IDC Best Practice Blog of May 2009.

4.      Build sustainability into the change process by:

a.      The leadership team becoming exemplars in inclusive leadership behaviour; 80% to 90% of people’s behaviour in any organisation is influenced by that of the leaders (Prof Ed Schein, emeritus professor at the MIT Sloan School of Management). Feedback and coaching is a powerful means of enabling them to achieve this.

b.      Training internal D&I change agents to:

        Support  the delivery of the strategic D&I Action Plan;

        Coach middle managers in the skills needed in helping their team members identify their individual talents and develop them through ‘in the moment’ coaching;

        Interactive behaviour effectiveness.


5.      The D&I change steering body needs to overview the D&I Action Plan implementation on an ongoing basis by:

        Monitoring progress and outcomes;

        Ensuring that any barriers to progress are identified and addressed;

        Gathering and publicising success stories.


Dr Ian Dodds,

30 Apr 2013,






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