4 Practical Leadership Methods To Drive Diversity & Inclusion

4 Practical Methods for Leadership to Drive Diversity & Inclusion

22 January 2021

In this series, we explore strategies that will elevate your organisation’s diversity and inclusion position. Here we’ll gain an insight into the practical methods senior leaders can use to drive forward D&I policies.

In our last article, we demonstrated the type of strategies senior leaders could adopt to help drive more robust and effective diversity and inclusion policies. We put forward approaches that can be taken to inspire change within an organisation from the top down. In this article we look at how these strategies can be applied in a practical manner, so you can take your D&I policies to the next level.

Provide ongoing training

Training your employees is a vital to ensure D&I permeates throughout the organisation. The most important aspect of good D&I training is to make sure staff understand the benefits. It should be considered as an opportunity for all staff to develop professionally and contribute to the wider goals of the organisation. It’s also important to remember training is not only one-off sessions, but an ongoing process comprised of multiple facets.

Your company D&I training could start small, with sharing lectures and videos about the topic, and helping employees learn what these terms mean in the context of a working environment. You could do a monthly report included in the newsletter updating staff on what they need to know about the company’s current D&I position. It could involve holding small seminars which open conversations between management and their employees to understand their thoughts and feelings on the topic.

It’s also vital to train your leaders in the organisation to act as the ambassadors of diversity and inclusion. Management plays a crucial role in shaping company values, and C-level leadership is currently one of the least diverse areas of work. '’The Economist surveyed employees from various organisations and found that 63 percent felt it is the role of C-suite and senior management to improve the [diversity and inclusion] situation. Dianne Campbell, vice president of global diversity and inclusion at American Express in Washington, D.C, has said that “It’s the experience that the leader is creating that is going to make or break your D&I initiatives.”1

Appoint a D&I Officer

Having a designated diversity and inclusion officer within your organisation is a hugely progressive step towards implementing transformative D&I policies. Their responsibility is to work closely with HR to ensure that the working environment and organisational culture is positive and engaged. They are involved in planning the training of the staff to ensure the values are understood throughout. D&I Officers can also lead task forces and employee resource groups (ERG) to involve more employees in conceiving company initiatives.

As a D&I Officer, they will have an oversight over all the policies implemented to grow D&I in an organisation, and report to leaders on how they can improve their contributions. ‘’Companies that have diversity managers report seeing 7-18% more diversity in management within five years, making them 87% better at making decisions, have higher profits, and a 19% increase in revenue.’’ 2

Run effective meetings

A simple and occasionally overlooked step an organisation can take is to hold more effective meetings. It’s important to encourage contributions from all attendees, so to do this, make sure they are prepared well for the meeting, by sharing questions to be discussed in advance. This can be especially helpful to workers who speak English as a second language, or for introverted employees who function better when they are given time to process information before reacting to it.

As a leader, recognising others’ contributions is also integral. Make sure someone is given credit for the idea they put forward, especially when it is brought up again later in the conversation. Not doing so can give employees a sense of isolation, and make them less likely to share potentially important contributions further down the line.

The style of communication in a meeting should also be considered. To create a more inclusive and open meeting, don’t assume you know more than others, and be wary of accidently using patronising tones. Assume a level of knowledge and ask occasionally to ensure everyone is up to speed with where the discussions are at. It’s also important to mediate and promote debate healthily. If colleagues interrupt each other call attention to it and give them both a chance to speak, to ensure everyone's voice is heard and no one feels excluded.

Review your recruitment processes

The recruitment process is the first point of call when renovating an organisation’s D&I policy. It should be reviewed by company leaders and HR to ask whether it reflects the company’s D&I position. The recruitment process is often subject to unconscious bias and is something an HR department needs to focus on removing in order to receive a diverse range of potential applicants.

As a leader, get involved with your HR teams' transition to more D&I-considerate methods. Ensure they have the support and resources they need, and that management is prepared for the changes that will help them build teams based on these more inclusive recruitment principles. As with training, updating recruitment is a process rather than an overnight transformation. Review with your HR team what is working and what isn’t and continue to refine the process until it is delivering the results you want.