In this series, we explore strategies that will elevate your organisation’s diversity and inclusion position. Here we take a look at methods senior leaders can adopt to drive forward powerful D&I initiatives.
''Data shows that companies with ethnically diverse executive teams are 70% more likely to capture new markets than their less-diverse peers and generate 38% more in revenue from innovative products and services.''1 Organisations are continuing to wake up to the profound effects implementing effective D&I strategies can have, supported by a wealth of data collected over the past two decades.
Strong leadership in D&I is still the spark that helps illuminate good D&I positions. How, as a senior leader in an organisation, can you be a driving force to help make these positive changes? Good strategies are always led from the top down, and the way a leader behaves will permeate through the rest of the organisation and reflect in your company culture. Here we take a look at four powerful strategies you can adopt to drive and inspire D&I in your organisation.
Inspire through visibility
Visibility is arguably the most important asset for a leader to uphold when driving D&I change. You are responsible for setting the tone of the initiatives, and to inspire employees to uphold the same values you espouse. The age-old adage of leading by example is more important here than ever. Being serious about D&I initiatives means ensuring it becomes part of the main agenda for team and leadership meetings. Making it a personal priority will demonstrate to all stakeholders that it’s a matter to be taken seriously, and others will follow suit.
On a practical level, this could involve holding weekly seminars on the issue, or contributing pieces to a monthly newsletter that clearly communicate the steps you are taking to ensure your organisation is setting, and working towards, its diversity and inclusion goals. You must promote these initiatives and take them from being ideas on paper to an evolving, integral part of your company culture.
Set goals to work towards
To breathe life into the values of an organisation's D&I culture, a leader must set goals to work towards. They should reflect when building teams and recruitment processes, growing markets and understanding customers, and enhancing team performance to drive innovation. What gets measured within an organisation, can get analysed and improved on with greater ease.
You should also not be afraid to tie the financial goals of your organisation to your D&I strategies. Whilst D&I initiatives should be introduced for their greater societal and organisational benefits, their successful implementation will yield better financial results.
Evaluate your goals. Understand how your efforts to increase D&I in your organisation are working and figure out the ways in which they are not. Which aspects are receiving a lot of attention? What’s missing that you had hoped to see more of? Are you hearing about a lack of resources? Are your employees searching for more ways to help but aren’t sure how? Use the data you collect to show you in the direction your D&I efforts need to go.
Importantly, it’s also vital to share these D&I goals clearly within the organisation. As well as leaders visibly implementing these values, all stakeholders should also understand and have access to them in order to promote them fully.
Preparation is imperative
D&I is a long-term strategy and should be treated that way. Great preparation therefore is imperative. This requires not only preparing yourself to set out D&I targets but ensuring your employees and other senior leadership are prepared to work towards these goals. Training your managers to increase their leadership competence and understanding of the D&I initiatives is a great way to ensure you can take them company wide, and not confine the goals to a small group within the organisation.
As a leader you should avoid making reactionary decisions, as its less likely to help you achieve your D&I goals. Get together with your other leadership teams and discuss strategies and approaches to formulate a coherent path forward, evaluating goals along the way. Workplaces where D&I thrive don’t emerge overnight, they take time to nurture, and grow from an idea into a vital aspect of company culture.
Leading by example to drive D&I requires empathy. By demonstrating humility and empathy, you’ll encourage feedback from your employees. Listening to you employees concerns, hopes and ideas, shows that you take their perspectives seriously - a cornerstone of every successful inclusion strategy. Building this personal connection will make it easier to implement shared decisions, and as a result, for people to get behind and believe in them.
A strategy for ensuring you can hear more voices within your organisation, is to establish a diverse personal advisory board (PAD). This group, or taskforce can help collect feedback and ideas from a larger body of employees and be trusted to give direct information back to you as a leader. It can be a chance to evaluate your own performance as a leader, and how your actions to implement a powerful D&I strategy are perceived.
Empathy can be cultivated by getting a taste of more aspects and perspectives within your company. Sit in on meetings within different departments that you may not usually go to in order to understand how these teams operate. Expanding your horizons and trying to disrupt preconceived ideas you may have had will not only help you become more empathetic, but make it clearly visible for your employees to see you are approachable and are serious about inclusivity.