February 2011 Diversity & Inclusion Best Practice
Driving performance gains from the Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) intervention emphasis being on the white male workforce
Earlier this week I met up with the Diversity Director of one of my clients to discuss the Return on Investment (ROI) from its D&I efforts. This client had set itself ambitious aims to: embrace D&I to foster innovation and talent in the workplace and engage more effectively with customers and partners to provide more advanced business solutions in its worldwide marketplace; shift from a competitive, masculine, task oriented culture to create a more inclusive, collaborative and truly meritocratic environment. The market my client served had a high proportion of women. There was, therefore, a need to connect more effectively both in personal and business transaction terms.
Many organisations put a lot of effort into activities to develop underrepresented groups and can, as a result, neglect the white, male workforce leading to this group feeling excluded and uncommitted to D&I. This Company placed its main intervention emphasis on its majority white male workforce. It targeted this group to ensure that they understood the D&I business case and adopted inclusive attitudes and behaviours.
The intervention involved upfront training sessions for its Executives on unconscious bias. IDC’s theatre producer conducted research to obtain stories of how unconscious bias played out in its workplace and in the interface with the marketplace. He used these to script short drama pieces to illustrate the findings from the research. Two actors portrayed these in workshops delivered to the Executives. Critically, these made the emotional impact necessary to generate the will amongst the Executives to act to drive effort to build a more inclusive and meritocratic culture for everyone, i.e. to fully embrace people across all of the diversity strands. They each committed to regularly talking to their teams about the importance to the success of the business of D&I and challenged everyone to behave inclusively both in internal and external interactions. A key driver was the message that promotion would be dependent upon demonstrating inclusive behaviour.
Additionally, training on how unconscious bias played out at the customer and client interfaces was delivered to the Company’s sales managers. Standalone training is seldom sufficient to drive a change to a more inclusive culture. Consequently, the Diversity Director put in place follow-up activities to reinforce the learning, e.g. participant follow-up discussions with one of the trainers about how they were applying the learning; Action Learning Sets; publicising successes on the Company intranet.
The success of the intervention was measured by conducting a D&I assessment after it and comparing the findings with one carried out beforehand. The annual employee engagement survey was also restructured to enable changes in inclusion to be tracked for each of the diversity strands. Both of these measures demonstrated significant improvements in the extent to which employees from different diversity backgrounds experienced inclusion. Examples of new business being won, that could be related to the intervention, were tracked and some were significant. Finally, the company is now succeeding in recruiting more women graduates, one of its core objectives.
My colleagues and myself would be very pleased to discuss how this approach might benefit your organisation.
Dr Ian Dodds,
25 Jan 2011