The way we do business is changing, this whilst our customers and employees are also becoming more diverse.
The development of the knowledge economy means moving away from the ‘norm’ and instead working towards flatter, less hierarchical structures within organisations…
Increased agility and strong leadership are the necessary responses to these changes and also the emerging markets, economic downturn and the cultural change inspired by social media and new ways of communicating.
Change and evolution is great, but with leadership being a key enabler in adapting to these changes, we need to ask ourselves whether the current style of leadership in our organisations is enabling us to evolve or actually acting as a blocker in achieving success.
There are so many books, blogs and conversations around leadership styles. Not only should you find one which works for you and your personality, but also for the period which your organisation finds itself within. In my opinion, you should really explore inclusive leadership if you want to increase agility and resilience in your organisations. Inclusive leadership really drives a modern and progressive organisation towards increased levels of success because at its centre, its heart – it’s all about people.
Research has shown that inclusive leadership has what it takes to create the diversity of background and thought, collaboration, performance and innovation to meet today’s business challenges and support business growth. Yet inclusive leadership remains a rare gem in organisations today. 66% of employees in a recent leadership survey reported that, in their experience, less than half of the managers and leaders in their organisation are great inclusive leaders. There is little formal development or motivation driving inclusive leadership in organisations today. This needs to change. Only a proactive approach will enable inclusive leadership to become more widespread across UK business.
I agree…but what actually is it?!
Inclusion happens when leaders value the differences as well as the commonalities of others. Let’s first hone in on what it means to value someone’s differences.
Essentially this is about valuing a team member’s uniqueness, recognising them for what they bring to the table and helping them to stand out from the crowd. So instead of criticising people for being different or having unusual ideas, you’d support them and appreciate them the way they are. This is a need that we all have – being acknowledged for the unique talents that we possess.
Secondly it is about the act of valuing people’s commonalities.
This is about helping team members fulfil another fundamental need: the need to belong to the group and to not stand out too far from the crowd.
Leaders can help individuals to get this need fulfilled by valuing what they have in common with others and by making team members feel that they fit in and belong to the group. Socialising outside of work, celebrating successes, planning collaboratively and asking each team member for their views and opinions are behaviours that support this need. So in summary, you have to foster feelings of uniqueness AND belongingness if you want to become a successful inclusive leader.
Highly inclusive leaders demonstrate six signature traits—in terms of what they think about and what they do—that are reinforcing and interrelated. Collectively, these six traits represent a powerful capability highly adapted to diversity. Embodiment of these traits enables leaders to operate more effectively within diverse markets, better connect with diverse customers, access a more diverse spectrum of ideas, and enable diverse individuals in the workforce to reach their full potential.
Trait 1: Commitment
Highly inclusive leaders are committed to diversity and inclusion because these objectives align with their personal values and because they believe in the business case.
Trait 2: Courage
Highly inclusive leaders speak up and challenge the status quo, and they are humble about their strengths and weaknesses.
Trait 3: Cognisance of bias
Highly inclusive leaders are mindful of personal and organisational blind spots, and self-regulate to help ensure “fair play.”
Trait 4: Curiosity
Highly inclusive leaders have an open mindset, a desire to understand how others view and experience the world, and a tolerance for ambiguity.
Trait 5: Culturally intelligent
Highly inclusive leaders are confident and effective in cross-cultural interactions.
Trait 6: Collaborative
Highly inclusive leaders empower individuals as well as create and leverage the thinking of diverse groups.
Don’t despair if you fall within the 66% who feel they don’t see these behaviours within their organisation – as these skills can be built into your organisation through your recruitment process, leadership development and also through your values. They can be learned. Its genuinely worth the investment of time, as not only will you be able to respond to the ever changing operating environment, the business case for creating an inclusive workforce speaks for itself:
Diverse teams perform better:
Cognitively diverse teams solve problems faster than teams of cognitively similar people, according to 2017 research published in Harvard Business Review. The researchers noted that, while many organisations might already be cognitively diverse, “people like to fit in, so they are cautious about sticking their necks out. When we have a strong, homogeneous culture, we stifle the natural cognitive diversity in groups through the pressure to conform.”
Meanwhile a 2013 report by Deloitte found that when employees ‘think their organisation is committed to and supportive of diversity, and they feel included’, their ability to innovate increases by 83%.
Diverse teams have also been found to make decisions 60% faster than non-diverse teams. “Unfortunately, non-inclusive decision-making is all too common,” says report author Erik Larson. “All-male teams make about 38% of the decisions in a typical large company, and the gap is even worse among less diverse firms.
Greater innovation and creativity:
Having a workforce comprised of people with different backgrounds, experiences and skills means the ideas generated by these teams won’t be homogeneous – they’ll be innovative and creative. And this can have a significant impact on an organisation’s bottom line; public companies with a diverse executive board have a 95% higher return on equity than those with non-diverse boards, according to a McKinsey study.
It’ll boost your employer brand:
With larger UK organisations required to publicly disclose their gender pay gaps for the first time in April 2018, there is more public awareness than ever of companies’ DEI initiatives (or lack of them).
In a 2017 survey by PwC, 54% of women and 45% of men surveyed said they researched if a company had DEI policies in place when deciding to accept a position with their most recent employer. A further 61% of women and 48% of men said they assessed the diversity of the company’s leadership team when deciding to accept an offer.
So it makes sense that, according to a recent Glassdoor study, more than a third (35%) of hiring decision-makers at UK organisations expect to increase their investment in DEI. More than half (59%) said that a lack of investment in DEI was a barrier to attracting high-quality candidates, while a fifth (20%) said DEI initiatives were among the most significant factors that influenced a candidate’s decision to join an organisation.