Despite tons of effort and investment, our progress in creating truly inclusive and diverse organisations remains pretty slow. Whilst there are numerous contributory factors, the ineffectiveness of traditional diversity and inclusion approaches should be acknowledged. It would be really healthy, for leaders and HR alike if some fresh ideas were in play. Here are the traditional approaches that we should stop in my opinion and what we should do differently.

Stop equating consistency with fairness

Whilst an inclusive organisation aims to make people feel the same about their experiences at work (eg: feeling valued, having opportunity, feeling trusted, being listened to, etc), they all have very different needs, wants and preferences to get them to these feelings. Our desire to be fair and to avoid accusations of being discriminatory have led us in HR to apply universal and standardised processes. Unfortunately, they often fail to recognise individual needs and wants and can actually result in us being much less inclusive.

Provide choice, customise and personalise

Customising or personalising our approaches to leading, engaging or communicating is essential if we want to people to feel included and smart companies are waking up to the fact that one size definitely doesn’t fit all.

For example, many companies still see the induction or onboarding period as a process to put people through, a vanilla offering of a week of PowerPoint slides. Onboarding tends to be all about conformity; here’s what we expect, here’s how you need to behave, etc. More inclusive companies see it differently and use it as a time to learn about the new hires and find out how they can best be welcomed and deployed. Wipro use the onboarding process to find out more about the new employee’s unique perspectives and strengths. They ask new joiners to take a problem-solving assessment and share the results with the individual and the line manager. It helps line managers to adapt their style in ways that best help the new employee get up to speed and feel more welcomed. This approach led to 33% greater retention in the first six months.

3M customised their career development programmes based on the different motivations of their employees’ main motivation for working at 3M. Using conjoint analysis, a technique used in consumer market research to determine what people value, they identified a number of clusters which they described as people who are:

“In it for my life”; those motivated by flexible work arrangements

“In it to win it”; those motivated by a fast-paced, highly challenging, risk-taking environment

“In it to experience it”; those motivated by developmental stretch assignments

The clusters provide managers with the ability to tailor programs to various employee needs.

Stop providing diversity statistics that have no impact

Every quarter I would furnish my fellow Board members with a detailed diversity data pack. We would anguish over the lack of women in the leadership pipeline or argue about whether the benchmarks for people with disabilities were sufficiently robust. Rarely though did those spreadsheets lead to meaningful action.

The data and insight that can make a difference in D&I tends to go deeper than just the surface numbers. A look at the ‘why’ as well as the ‘what’ and using a blend of quantitative data, qualitative analysis and specially commissioned insights. For example, when Gap found that it was experiencing stagnating female leadership, it used elements of design thinking, including focus groups, interviews, and collaborative sessions with women employees, to enable current women leaders to better understand how they could support other women coming behind them, clarifying pain and exit points for high-potential women who were considering leaving the company. This led to changes in the way they promoted and retained women leading to a dramatic increase in female leaders. By 2016, women made up 74 percent of Gap Inc.’s workforce and approximately 77 percent of its senior leaders

Stop investing in big D&I programmes

Whilst D&I programmes tend to win the awards, it’s often the small behavioural tweaks that really make the environment more inclusive.

GoDaddy focus their attention on the small things. They describe these as the ‘micro-inequities’ that can prevent an inclusive environment. They recognise that these behaviours are very often unintentional but that they can add up. It’s things like being interrupted in a meeting, or having your idea ignored and but hearing it acknowledged when someone else repeats it. It happens once and you forget about it. It happens several times and you don’t feel as valued. They encouraged leaders and employees to talk about these small behaviours and the negative impact it had on them. The key thing is to keep talking about it – it’s not a programme – it’s lots and lots of conversations – that begin to have an impact.

Stop believing that the business case for D&I will change behaviours

Just telling people that diversity and inclusion is sound business sense and criticising the ones who fail to reach their given targets is unlikely to have much of an impact. Changes in mindsets and behaviours come about through frequent, human interactions that encourage us to understand and empathise with each other’s perspectives. Whilst encouraging conversations has less glamour than a big initiative, this can be hugely powerful.

I love the approach that Freddie Mac took to helping overcome the bias towards extroverts that exists in most organisations. They created something the ‘Genius of Opposites’ that involved introverts inviting one of their extrovert colleagues for open and honest discussions about how different work situations felt to each of them.

Bank of America created an approach called Courageous Conversations – group discussions that encourage employees to have open dialogue on topics that are important to them. The goal of these conversations is to promote inclusion, understanding and positive action by creating awareness of employees’ experiences and perspectives

Stop making it difficult for leaders

If diversity and inclusion was easy, we would be doing it. We’re not failing to make progress due to lack of effort, initiatives or even investment. We’re failing to make progress because working with people who are different to us is less comfortable than surrounding ourselves with people who share our backgrounds, our language, our points of reference, even our hobbies. If our brains have to work harder to be more diverse and inclusive, we have to try and make it easier – because human beings will always do what is easiest.

D&I approaches can benefit hugely from the work of behavioural economics or ‘nudges’; tactics that work with the brain’s natural defaults. For example:

Reframing

Several companies are using the technique known as ‘reframing’ to help overcome our natural biases. If an idea or belief is presented in a new way or ‘reframed’, then it can help us shift our behaviour in response to it.

This reframing has been used by Arla Foods to set diversity targets in their senior teams. As Tinna Nielsen explains in ‘Inclusion Nudges’, instead of the traditional targets (eg: a minimum of 30% of the senior team should be female), they set upper limit targets for the homogeneity of the team (eg: max of 70% with the same gender). The rationale being that traditional diversity targets trigger unconscious associations amongst decision makers of …

Women = Women’s Issue = Helping Women = Women Instead of the Most Competent

… whereas a homogeneity target generates associations with business performance improvements and moves diversity from being thought about as a ‘nice to have’ to a ‘need to have’.

Stop believing that unconscious bias training is the answer

Just making us more aware of our unconscious biases is sadly not enough to overcome them! We have to be helped by removing the triggers that mean we automatically respond to them. Consulting firm EY have implemented a number of innovations to try and achieve this. For example, their decision to remove all academic and education details and ban CVs from its trainee application process has proved successful in diversifying the company’s workforce. After the policy was introduced, the number of recruits from state schools jumped by 10 percentage points.

They have also implemented something they call ‘PTR’. This involves leaders checking with each other whether their choice to hire someone is ‘a Preference, a Tradition or a Requirement’, ie: ‘did you pick this person because it’s your personal preference (likeness or sameness), or because the person traditionally in this role has always looked and sounded like this or because they meet the requirements for the future?’ EY say this helps people to think beyond their preferences and consider a broader picture.

Stop relying on human beings to change

Instead of trying to get leaders to be less biased, technology offers the potential to take the human being, with all of our biases out of some of our decision making altogether. Johnson & Johnson, for example are using Textio to help increase the diversity of the candidate pool and remove bias. Textio removes gender bias from job descriptions by detecting words that could influence a specific gender to apply, and altering them to non-gendered words.

Unilever partnered with HireVue to initiate mobile-phone based recorded video interviews, and interview-assessment technology. Artificial-intelligence was able to filter up to 80% of the candidate pool, using data points including facial expressions, body language and keywords, ultimately surfacing those candidates that are most likely to be successful at Unilever. By taking unconscious bias out of the equation Unilever increased their diverse hires by 16%.

The traditional approaches to diversity and inclusion have been well-meaning and have involved significant effort from dedicated team members who are passionate about what they do. But it’s time to recognise that for all our effort, business cases, targets and initiatives, our progress has been woefully slow. Finally we are seeing some innovation in an area of HR which has needed some disruption for some time. These new approaches don’t try to bulldoze over human beings’ natural bias but instead acknowledge them without blame and help leaders to be more inclusive by treating them as human beings.


Whilst of course great diversity and inclusion should lead to action, there is an important stage before that which, if we get it right, can help ensure those actions are more effective. And that is how we frame our intent.

Our intent for D&I is about focusing on our ambitions and of course, our strategy. But it’s also about how we position diversity and inclusion within the organisation. It’s about the language we use. It’s about who we think our activities need to apply to. It’s about what drives us to be more inclusive.

It can’t be about compliance

If your starting points are that D&I is about altruism or targeting minority group representation or about covering your back legally – then no matter how progressive you try to be with your activities – your approach to Diversity and Inclusion will end up being the responsibility of well-meaning and hardworking D&I enthusiasts, rather than your leaders. It will sound like you are doing this to be compliant rather than it being integral to your business success. And you will end up with a narrower and less impactful approach as a result.

Setting the right intent from the outset can transform your D&I outcomes. And it’s worth spending a bit of time to look at how other companies are doing it a bit differently.

So, what does progressive D&I intent look like? I want to share some recent examples from some companies who I think have nailed it.

A touch of humility

First up, it starts from an honest perspective of where you currently are. A touch of humility goes a long way to create more trust that your leaders genuinely want to change things and create a more diverse or inclusive organisation. There are a couple of examples of this that I particularly like. There’s AT&T’s real time dashboard about the composition of their workforce. Under a heading of ‘Everyone is part of the story’ they provide total transparency on the make-up of both their workforce and their leadership. In addition, they don’t boast about any particular successes, they just put it out there for you to make up your own mind.

The ad agency Ogilvy had an incredibly honest response to BLM in June last year when they published this letter from the senior team. It’s unusual for senior execs to acknowledge failure, but it gives their future intentions so much more credibility.

Connecting D&I to business success isn’t anything new, but often, when you read a D&I statement it just doesn’t ring true. Better D&I intent creates an inextricable link between D&I and business or product success, not that it’s just the right thing to do, or worse, altruistic. I really like the simple and effective approach taken by Apple and Netflix (‘It takes diversity of thought, culture, background and perspective to create a truly global storytelling platform’) where they both make explicit statements about inclusion of different backgrounds and their ability to create successful products. There are no mealy-mouthed words about it ‘making good business sense’. They talk about how they can’t have success without it.

Human to human

Sometimes great D&I intent is less tangible but when you see it, you just feel better about that company because of the way that intent is phrased. Gusto and Cisco both include statements in their job descriptions that are written in very human language rather than the legalese or the uncomfortable wording of companies trying too hard to get it right. They’re written person to person, are easy to read and use words that you can immediately relate to and understand. Like you were chatting to a mate in a bar.

Our customers come from all walks of life and so do we. We hire great people from a wide variety of backgrounds, not just because it’s the right thing to do, but because it makes our company stronger.  
Day to day, we focus on the give and take. We give our best, we give our egos a break and we give of ourselves. We take difference to heart. Because without diversity of thought and a commitment to equality for all, there is no moving forward. So, you have colorful hair? Don’t care. Tattoos? Show off your ink. Pop culture geek? Many of us are. Passion for technology and world changing? Be you, with us!  

Everyone not targets

Finally, all great D&I statements of intent tend to avoid focusing on long lists of different minority groups and talk about creating a sense of belonging for EVERYONE. One of the best examples of this is Accenture’s video ‘Inclusion Starts with I’. Yes, it does highlight inequity and bias, but it also says that ‘It’s about you. It’s about me. It’s about all of us’. The film also gets the tone just right – and I can’t watch it without getting teary – so it taps into our feelings as much as our logic.

Maybe you and your leaders could take a fresh look at how you express your intent for Diversity and Inclusion through addressing these questions:

If you can’t answer positively to any of these, maybe it’s time to develop a fresh statement of intent for your D&I?

Despite tons of effort and investment our progress in creating truly inclusive and diverse organisations remains pretty slow. Whilst there are numerous contributory factors, the role of HR and our diversity and inclusion approaches definitely need to take some responsibility. In the first part of this blog I looked at why these approaches aren’t working. What I want to do in this one is share some of the great stuff that is happening – and that is actually making a difference.

Same, Same but Different

Anyone who’s spent any time in South East Asia will know this refrain, common among shopkeepers who are trying to sell you something. But it can also apply to Inclusion in organisations. I believe that whilst an inclusive organisation aims to make people feel the same about their experiences at work (eg: being valued, having opportunity, being trusted, being listened to, etc), they all have very different needs, wants and preferences to get them to these feelings. Our desire to be fair and to avoid accusations of being discriminatory have led us in HR to apply universal and standardised processes. Unfortunately, they often fail to recognise individual needs and wants and can actually result in us being much less inclusive.

Customising or personalising our approaches to leading, engaging or communicating is essential if we want to people to feel included and smart companies are waking up to the fact that one size definitely doesn’t fit all.

For example, many companies still see the induction or onboarding period as a process to put people through, a vanilla offering of a week of PowerPoint slides. Onboarding tends to be all about conformity; here’s what we expect, here’s how you need to behave, etc. More inclusive companies see it differently and use it as a time to learn about the new hires and find out how they can best be welcomed and deployed. Wipro use the onboarding process to find out more about the new employee’s unique perspectives and strengths. They ask new joiners to take a problem-solving assessment and share the results with the individual and the line manager. It helps line managers to adapt their style in ways that best help the new employee get up to speed and feel more welcomed. This approach led to 33% greater retention in the first six months.

3M customised their career development programmes based on the different motivations of their employees’ main motivation for working at 3M. Using conjoint analysis, a technique used in consumer market research to determine what people value, they identified a number of clusters which they described as people who are:

“In it for my life”; those motivated by flexible work arrangements

“In it to win it”; those motivated by a fast-paced, highly challenging, risk-taking environment

“In it to experience it”; those motivated by developmental stretch assignments

The clusters provide managers with the ability to tailor programs to various employee needs.

The US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) needed to transition a workforce of 11,000 to a new technology platform. Instead of the typical mandatory training programmes, they instead focused on what would motivate an employee to learn the new system. Through “voice of the learner” interviews, ICE developed several typical personas and used these insights to design a differentiated approach, creating a range of options to engage with the content. Curious agents had the opportunity to volunteer for “beta testing” and experiment with the application before release—which then offered a peer support network for later adopters, making it easy for less-enthusiastic users to access on the spot support. By understanding the range of employee preferences, ICE was able to offer a range of experiences and help employees in ways that met their needs.

Go Deeper with Data

Every quarter I would furnish my fellow Board members with a detailed diversity data pack. We would anguish over the lack of women in the leadership pipeline or argue about whether the benchmarks for people with disabilities were sufficiently robust. Rarely though did those spreadsheets lead to meaningful action.

The data and insight that can make a difference in D&I tends to go deeper than just the surface numbers. They look at the ‘why’ as well as the ‘what’ and use a blend of quantitative data, qualitative analysis and specially commissioned insights. For example, when Gap found that it was experiencing stagnating female leadership, it used elements of design thinking, including focus groups, interviews, and collaborative sessions with women employees, to enable current women leaders to better understand how they could support other women coming behind them, clarifying pain and exit points for high-potential women who were considering leaving the company. This led to changes in the way they promoted and retained women leading to a dramatic increase in female leaders. By 2016, women made up 74 percent of Gap Inc.’s workforce and approximately 77 percent of its senior leaders

GoDaddy used data in a couple of different ways. Firstly, whilst their pay equality numbers looked pretty good at first glance, they examined the ‘why’ behind them and identified that many women were hitting the top of their pay grade but not progressing any further into the most senior levels of management. What looked like a good statistic was actually a problem. To work out why this was they commissioned some analysis of years of performance and talent reviews. What became apparent was that the language used to describe similar attributes in men and women was very different. ‘Dynamic’ qualities in male managers became ‘tendency to be aggressive’ in their female counterparts. Furthermore, leaders tended to assess males on the basis of their skills and females on their ‘style’ of leadership. They realised that what they had to tackle was the mindset and perception of the assessing leaders rather than pay equality.

It’s the small things

Whilst D&I programmes tend to win the awards, it’s often the small behavioural tweaks that really make the environment more inclusive.

Back to GoDaddy – they focused their attention on the small things too. They describe these as the ‘micro-inequities’ that can prevent an inclusive environment. They recognise that these behaviours are very often unintentional but that they can add up. It’s things like being interrupted in a meeting, or having your idea ignored and but hearing it acknowledged when someone else repeats it. It happens once and you forget about it. It happens several times and you don’t feel as valued. They encouraged leaders and employees to talk about these small behaviours and the negative impact it had on them. The key thing is to keep talking about it – it’s not a programme – it’s lots and lots of conversations – that begin to have an impact.

Amplitude, an analytics company also focused on small things to help shift the culture. For example, they reviewed their internal and external presentations to include more female stylised icons. They changed the timing of internal social events to make them more convenient for employees with small children. They changed the names of their meeting rooms to ensure more female representation – and they even provided t-shirts that were designed for women as well as the standard male shaped ones! Will these tiny changes make an organisation more diverse? No. Will they help to erode the ‘maleness’ of many workplaces? Yes.

Focus on the conversation

Just telling people that diversity and inclusion is sound business sense and criticising the ones who fail to reach their given targets is unlikely to have much of an impact. Changes in mindsets and behaviours come about through frequent, human interactions that encourage us to understand and empathise with each other’s perspectives. Whilst encouraging conversations has less glamour than a big D&I programme, this can be hugely powerful.

I love the approach that Freddie Mac took to helping overcome the bias towards extroverts that exists in most organisations. They created something the ‘Genius of Opposites’ that involved introverts inviting one of their extrovert colleagues for open and honest discussions about how different work situations felt to each of them.

Bank of America created an approach called Courageous Conversations – group discussions that encourage employees to have open dialogue on topics that are important to them. The goal of these conversations is to promote inclusion, understanding and positive action by creating awareness of employees’ experiences and perspectives

Making it easier

If diversity and inclusion was easy, we would be doing it. We’re not failing to make progress due to lack of effort, initiatives or even investment. We’re failing to make progress because working with people who are different to us is less comfortable than surrounding ourselves with people who share our backgrounds, our language, our points of reference, even our hobbies. If our brains have to work harder to be more diverse and inclusive, we have to try and make it easier – because human beings will always do what is easiest.

D&I approaches can benefit hugely from the work of behavioural economics or ‘nudges’; tactics that work with the brain’s natural defaults. For example:

Reframing

Several companies are using the technique known as ‘reframing’ to help overcome our natural biases. If an idea or belief is presented in a new way or ‘reframed’, then it can help us shift our behaviour in response to it.

This reframing has been used by Arla Foods to set diversity targets in their senior teams. As Tinna Nielsen explains in ‘Inclusion Nudges’ (p165), instead of the traditional targets (eg: a minimum of 30% of the senior team should be female), they set upper limit targets for the homogeneity of the team (eg: max of 70% with the same gender). The rationale being that traditional diversity targets trigger unconscious associations amongst decision makers of …

Women = Women’s Issue = Helping Women = Women Instead of the Most Competent

… whereas a homogeneity target generates associations with business performance improvements and moves diversity from being thought about as a ‘nice to have’ to a ‘need to have’.

Another example from ‘Inclusion Nudges’ of this reframing is the approach taken at Nestle (p145) to assessments around promotion-readiness. Instead of the traditional approach where line managers have to identify who is ready for a promotion (based on their inherent bias), they reframe it and say ‘Everyone is ready now’. Line managers then have to argue ‘why not’ if they don’t believe they are in fact ready. Nestle said this led to more objective evaluations and more transparency around potential bias which can then be discussed and challenged.

Make it harder to be biased

Just making us more aware of our unconscious biases is sadly not enough to overcome them! We have to be helped by removing the triggers that mean we automatically respond to them. Consulting firm EY have implemented a number of innovations to try and achieve this. For example, their decision to remove all academic and education details and ban CVs from its trainee application process has proved successful in diversifying the company’s workforce. After the policy was introduced, the number of recruits from state schools jumped by 10 percentage points.

They have also implemented something they call ‘PTR’. This involves leaders checking with each other whether their choice to hire someone is ‘a Preference, a Tradition or a Requirement’, ie: ‘did you pick this person because it’s your personal preference (likeness or sameness), or because the person traditionally in this role has always looked and sounded like this or because they meet the requirements for the future?’ EY say this helps people to think beyond their preferences and consider a broader picture.

Use Tech to eliminate bias

Instead of trying to get leaders to be less biased, technology offers the potential to take the human being, with all of our biases out of some of our decision making altogether. Johnson & Johnson, for example are using Textio to help increase the diversity of the candidate pool and remove bias. Textio removes gender bias from job descriptions by detecting words that could influence a specific gender to apply, and altering them to non-gendered words.

Unilever partnered with HireVue to initiate mobile-phone based recorded video interviews, and interview-assessment technology. Artificial-intelligence was able to filter up to 80% of the candidate pool, using data points including facial expressions, body language and keywords, ultimately surfacing those candidates that are most likely to be successful at Unilever. By taking unconscious bias out of the equation Unilever increased their diverse hires by 16%.

The traditional approaches to diversity and inclusion have been well-meaning and have involved significant effort from dedicated team members who are passionate about what they do. But it’s time to recognise that for all our effort, business cases, targets and initiatives, our progress has been woefully slow. Finally we are seeing some innovation in an area of HR which has needed some disruption for some time. These new approaches don’t try to bulldoze over human beings’ natural bias but instead acknowledge them without blame and help leaders to be more inclusive by treating them as human beings.

The Disruptive HR Club!

Why not take a look at the Disruptive HR Club – a global online network for people who want something different from HR.

 

Click here to find out more

After four years of running Disruptive HR, meeting hundreds of HR professionals, 50+ articles and two books – I have finally got around to writing about disrupting Diversity and Inclusion! This negligence on my part doesn’t stem from a belief that D&I is fine as it is and doesn’t need disrupting – sadly, far from it – it’s just that all our research into innovative practice didn’t really result in anything that exciting.

But I can’t put it off any longer, mainly because I’m in danger of running out of HR areas to write about! And the good news is that, actually, if you can find your way past the ‘best in class’ awards for running yet another hi-po programme for diverse candidates or mandatory unconscious bias training for leaders – there are some really interesting approaches out there. And even better, they are working!

This D&I blog is two parts. This first one will look at what we’re doing today and why it isn’t working and will suggest some new approaches. The second blog, which will be out shortly, will delve a bit deeper into these new approaches and will provide some concrete examples of them in action.

The approaches we use today aren’t having much of an impact

So, why do traditional approaches to D&I rarely have much of an impact? There is a great book (one of the few great D&I books I reckon) by Tinna Nielsen and Lisa Kepinski called Inclusion Nudges. They reflect on the fact that, despite huge investment and lots of effort, truly diverse and inclusive companies remain few and far between. They list the typical D&I efforts that are adopted by the majority of organisations. I recognised my disappointing efforts in all of them!

First we have the Compliance approach, where D&I is driven by the numbers. We set our leaders targets for increasing numbers of X, Y or Z and have them send us their action plans of how they plan to get there.

There’s nothing wrong with having some numbers to aim for or to measure yourself against. The problem comes when the numbers become our only focus, to the exclusion of our real purpose;  to increase the true diversity and inclusiveness in our organisations. I can recall having a full blown row with my board about whether the ‘people with disability’ stats we were using for benchmarking were robust enough. The debate was all about the numbers and completely missed the fact that we all knew we had an issue and what should we do about it. With a Compliance approach we rightly hold people accountable – but we also create a more punitive culture which can drive leaders to some short-term choices that aren’t really building a more diverse company. A leader once told me “I don’t really care who gets the role as long as they’re not white”, so he could avoid another ‘telling off’ when his D&I stats were reported.

Then there’s the Charismatic Personality approach where an area of diversity is tied to the championship by one individual.

It’s great of course when you have a leader who cares passionately about a particular issue. Their status and their energy can shine a light on a cause, and you seem suddenly to be able to move mountains after years of being ignored! The downside is when they move on (or find another cause …) and you realise that the organisation has reverted to relative indifference.

There’s the Fix The Difference approach which is pretty common. Our focus is all about helping the minority rather than engaging with the majority and changing implicit norms.

We have our programmes designed to help minority groups stand out, get promoted, be better leaders, communicate more effectively – but the organisational culture is often off limits. As a lone senior female on male-dominated boards, I always found this approach problematic and slightly patronising. “Learn to be like us and you’ll get on” seemed to be the underpinning philosophy rather than the people who had the power seeing any reason to change.

Next up is the Shaming and Finger Wagging approach where leaders and colleagues who don’t behave in the right ways or use the right language are placed in the spotlight to encourage them to change.

Now I’m not for one moment suggesting that discriminatory or offending behaviour shouldn’t be called out. But I do feel that the key to becoming more diverse and inclusive is the ability to discuss openly and honestly. Anything that discourages that open discussion or leads people to be disingenuous for fear of saying the wrong thing is a problem.

Finally, perhaps the most common D&I approach of all; the Busy Bees approach where we flood our organisations with numerous initiatives and programmes.

No D&I team that I have ever worked with was short of ideas or energy! But a lot of this energy gets diluted through the multiplicity of activity. Not only can this be confusing and exhausting but often these programmes are seeking short term results and are superficial rather than a long-term programme to achieve genuine cultural change.

The new approaches to D&I

So, if these tried and tested approaches are failing to deliver, what does work? What we’re seeing are a number of pioneering organisations who are genuinely trying to do D&I in different ways. In Part two of this series we’ll look at some specific examples but to finish off this one, here is a summary of the new trends we’re seeing in D&I.

1. Same, Same but Different

 This might sound counter-intuitive but smart companies understand that a truly inclusive organisation is not one that treats everybody in the same way, but instead uses data and insights about people’s differences to help them customise their approaches to communications, engagement, development and leadership, etc to ensure their particular needs, wants and preferences are accommodated.

2. Small tweaks not big programmes.

We’re seeing companies beginning to reject the big diversity programmes in favour of getting to the small behavioural nudges which add up to a real cultural change. Whilst this approach may not make as much noise as a big initiative, it has a much more sustained impact and can help leaders engage much more easily.

3. Focus on the conversation.

We know that change doesn’t happen simply because people are presented with a sound business case, given a bunch of targets and told to get on with it. If that was the case we would be delighted with our D&I progress. Instead, organisations are starting to invest more in helping people to have conversations which enable greater understanding, increase empathy and provide a safe environment to explore how it might be different. Again, less of a fanfare but powerful.

4. Make it Easier

If you lead a team of people, then you know that avoiding unconscious bias and engaging with people who are different to you can be much less comfortable than having a team of like-minded colleagues with whom you share background, class, culture, and even hobbies. Our brains are wired to gravitate to what is easiest and so if we are going to get leaders to behave in new ways which are more uncomfortable for them and make their brains work harder, then we have to find ways that make it easier for them. Companies are starting to realise that just sending people on an unconscious bias training programme is unlikely to make any difference – not because they are bad human beings but because they are normal human beings! We’re seeing some really innovative practices that make it easier for leaders to do the right and different thing. Use of technology, small interventions to traditional processes such as the interview and timely challenges from HR can do just that.

So, maybe time for HR to take a good hard look at what we’re doing to drive a more diverse and inclusive organisation and question its efficacy. There’s evidence that these new approaches can drive real change and in part two we’ll look at some real-life examples.

The Disruptive HR Club!

Why not take a look at the Disruptive HR Club – a global online network for people who want something different from HR.

 

Click here to find out more