Is your Diversity & Inclusion Vision in the right hands?

ByJoanne Lockwood

Is your Diversity & Inclusion Vision in the right hands?

Super Chicken
Super-Chicken Photo credit to JD Hancock via Flickr

You do have a Vision for Diversity and Inclusion in your organisation, right? Ok well, possibly not!

There’s a plethora of value statements, visions and goals out there nowadays, some seem empty and most probably feel irrelevant, a corporate idea forced in by HR in order to appease the board or because someone heard its a good idea that everyone else is doing. There is often very little buy in, communication, or in fact any long term strategy or goals.

The business demands a “quick fix” with some eLearning or an hour long “Intro to Unconscious Bias” training session. No wonder we are not making much of an in road, there is no vision.

What is a Diversity and Inclusion Vision?

Actually, a Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) Vision is at the core of ‘who’ your organisation is, part of your “brand” and it acts as a tangible message and thread which runs throught the heart of an organisation to all staff and customers and stakeholders. It defines the relationship between your people, your organisation and the ethics you stand for.

Your organisation is probably no different to many that are still getting to grips with what this means to them. They are working out their “why”, their “vision” and their “strategy”, that’s good. Getting out of the starting blocks is well and truly on the agenda for most.

Organisations are starting to “know what they don’t know”. The first stage is to develop a vision of “what does great look like”. The next important stage is to agree how the diversity initiatives are going to be measured before rolling them out. How will you know if you are making progress otherwise?

Test these ideas, communicate them, and ensure that all “nooks and crannies” of an organisation are on the same page.  Most importantly of all is, to understand that this is a journey, things change, new ideas crop up and life moves on, so “Diversity and Inclusion isn’t just for Christmas, it’s for Life”.

What does great look like to you?

Take a look at the work CultureAmp have done in this regard with their 6 Ways to Foster Belonging in the Workplace whitepaper.

Do you know where to start?

Many more organisations don’t yet know what they don’t know. In organisations such as these, D&I isn’t even a consideration or thought.  We can but hope that market pressures, employee engagement initiatives and commercial realities will eventually turn the tide.

So why do I question whether D&I is in the right hands? – Well, I recently attended a D&I briefing hosted by a local HR Recruitment Agency. They brought in a “D&I specialist” to deliver a training session titled “Genuine and Effective Inclusion”, where the concept of the “Super-Chicken” (see Margaret Heffernan’s TED Talk) was raised. The Super-Chicken is someone who pecks at their peers and juniors killing off any competition.  I suspect the analogy was focused around Gender, but one could easily apply it to all groups and characteristics.

Is this concept visible in your own workplace culture?

The Super-Chicken analogy in itself was okay as a concept, – we have seen ‘Queen Bee Syndrome’, and the ‘Crabs in a Bucket’ mentality before so this really wasn’t much different – Except, and this is the point, it implies that a peck is actually a microaggression.  The constant chipping away at someone, destroying their self-belief and self-esteem affects not a person’s time in their current role, but is something they will carry with them, often for the rest of their career.

That feeling of “you’ll never be good enough round here”

You may wonder where I am going with this story, so let I’ll get to the point…

The summary of the session was focused on three takeaways – Respect, Compromise, and Resilience.

In this context; Compromise was sold as the need for all members of a team to respect each other, no #MeToo, princes or princesses here please. Resilience in that everyone needs to realise it’s not all about them and must “grow up” in order to fit in to the team. Compromise was not going crying to HR or making a fuss if they don’t like the banter, the office humour or if they feel someone is bullying or chipping away at them – in other words “suck it up”.

Is there hope?

What hope do we have if then, if message is – if you are less privileged or less typical, you shouldn’t make a fuss lest it disrupts everyone else, if (heaven forbid) you might want to raise a concern, so you should ‘grow a pair’ and get over it.”?It seems to me as though a reminder of Kimberlé Crenshaw’s concept of intersectionality is needed to explain how privilege, power and bias leads to compounded oppressions, isms and phobias.

Does this sound like your organisation?

For me the icing on the cake was an example of a pregnant Solicitor taking their entitled maternity leave.  The senior partner decided to cover this work himself rather than looking for locum or agency support during this time.  At the 6 months period, the proud mum decided to extend her time off, as is her right, to the full year.  The senior partner decided to struggle on without support.  At the end of the year mum chose, as was within her rights, to leave her position and focus on her family. This person’s choice was cited as an example of selfishness and lack of thought for the team – by exercising her right as a parent and mother.

What do you think?

You make your own mind up – should this mum have to consider their employer?  Maybe if the Practice had better policies, faciltated flexible working, organised keep-in-touch days and genuinely cared about their employee over the course of their time off then, maybe, just maybe everyone would have been happy and this poor senior partner wouldn’t have chosen to blame others for his choices of taking on the case load himself (possibly to minimise costs).

At these D&I Awareness seminars, how often do we see someone simply “chucking up a slide” with  Vernā Myers’s now ubiquitous quote “Diversity is being invited to the party; inclusion is being asked to dance”.  Yes, that is a start, but we don’t include the important element which is belonging, that is where we “get to choose the music”.  Getting a diverse group of people into a room isn’t going to deliver Inclusion and Belonging if there is no culture, ethos and vision running as threads throughout an organisation.

Are you doing enough?

My own ethos when it comes to D&I is “Listen”, “Educate”, “Respect” and “Advocate” – Listen to people and create a culture of engagement and belonging; Educate oneself and those in the business, do not treat people like human encyclopaedias that you can take off the shelf and flick through when you are too lazy to do your own research or as a shortcut to filling L&D gaps; Respect people’s identities and needs; Advocate, and be an ally for everyone, even if they are not in the room – this means making sure everyone is represented, has a voice and is considered, be they less abled, from different ethnicities and faiths, vegetarian, allergen sensitive, neurodiverse , a Parent, LGBT or simply just; “not like me”.

What can you do now?

You decide – is a transactional D&I advisor someone you would engage with? – Are they are rooted in the Command-and-Control Management style of the past? Is your D&I Strategy in the right hands? – Are we treating people like “Xs” instead of valuing, nurturing and empowering them as “Ys”? (see Douglas McGregor’s X & Y theory).

Is that who you have in your organisation?

You need to be able to get into your stretch zone, be comfortable with feeling uncomfortable, and embrace a “growth mindset” in order to bring real change and to be able to challenge others around their inclusion credentials and ethos!

So let me leave you with three things to remember before rushing in;

  • Build your vision and goals
  • Determine your metrics and measurements
  • Communicate and Embed

Can you see change happening?

Call me to contiune the conversation on how I can help you build a Transformational and Engaging D&I Strategy and Vision.

[Words: 1416]

© Joanne Lockwood, 2019 – SEE Change Happen
All views are my own, not to be reproduced in full or part or without prior permission, full accreditation and referencing. Super-Chicken Image:]

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