This article is part of Hallo’s new State of Diversity and Inclusion Series which will feature interviews with a wide range of professionals and thought leaders to learn more about the state of D&I, the progress made in 2020, and predictions on the trends that will shape 2021.
The following is an interview we recently had with Binwa Sethi, Senior Consultant, in collaboration with The Leadership Development Group.
How would you describe the current state of diversity and inclusion?
- Heightened awareness of identifying bias in workplace behaviors and talent management practices and processes.
- Organizations putting concerted efforts into training employees and coaching managers on unconscious bias and related topics such as inclusive conversations, inclusive leadership, inclusive hiring.
- The topic of psychological safety and belonging has started to emerge more recently in the workplace.
- More focus on facilitated D&I conversations with employees.
- Emphasis on the role of senior leaders in creating inclusive cultures.
How has COVID-19 impacted diversity and inclusion initiatives?
The global pandemic, remote workforce, and heightened awareness of systemic racial inequities have resulted in massive disruptions and uncertainty in the workplace. As a result, there is a need for creating inclusive initiatives/environments where employees feel valued, supported, and connected. The notion of belonging has emerged in the context of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. These times have highlighted the need for managers interested in employee’s emotional and physical well-being supported by need for flexibility.
What are the most common challenges and roadblocks organizations face when it comes to implementing their diversity and inclusion initiatives?
- Allocation of resources — Like any process of leading through change, organizations need to implement diversity and inclusion initiatives in a way that provides support to people with accountability and empathy. Very often there is a lack of resources in terms of time, effort, and energy to allocate enough resources that will drive cultural change.
- Alignment of DEI priorities — To drive true cultural change, DEI initiatives need to be driven in two areas: DEI practices that drive workplace behaviors and talent management practices. Identifying and aligning on focus areas based on organizational DEI priorities can be a challenge.
- Application of DEI concepts — While organizations are creating foundational knowledge about DEI concepts such as unconscious bias, privilege, covering, and micro messages, application of the DEI concepts continues to be a challenge. Managers need to be better equipped to apply these concepts in their day-to-day interaction with employees.
- Collecting and analyzing data — Organizations need to implement measures that assess the strength of workplace relationships and are geared towards understanding employees’ feelings about their manager, their teams, their senior leaders, and the broader organization. Disaggregating the data informs organizations about potential inequities, captures employee sentiments and insights from the data shapes the focus.
What are 3–5 pieces of advice you have for organizations looking to improve the impact of their D&I strategies?
- Senior leaders modeling inclusive behaviors, for example, when senior leaders share their personal stories about their own diversity, equity, and inclusion journey and are curious to hear other people’s personal narratives.
- Managers demonstrating inclusive behaviors through their interactions with employees in the context of how they are feeling about their work environment.
- Teams behaving in an inclusive way where team members are striving to create an environment that encourages full participation and members feel heard and seen.
What trends will shape D&I in the upcoming year? How can organizations prepare for these changes?
- Creating a psychological safe work environment.
- Fostering belonging at the workplace.
- Managers taking active interest in employee well-being in the workplace.
- Awareness around mental health.
How can organizations prepare for these changes?
To build an adequate pipeline of diverse leaders for the future and ensure diversity and inclusion at all levels, organizations should consider a multidimensional approach which:
- Targeted Assessment & Coaching. Offer individual executive coaching to high potential leaders to enhance their overall leadership capabilities and build the capacity to respond constructively to diversity and inclusion challenges through self-advocacy.
- D&I Coaching for Sponsors. Invest in individual and group ‘sponsorship coaching’ for managers and executive leaders to learn and support one another in sharpening sponsorship efficacy. Being an effective sponsor, in and of itself, requires skill in challenging, stretching, showcasing, and promoting up-and-coming leaders. Be sure to involve the organization’s lead for succession planning in any sponsorship coaching programs to ensure that sponsors can openly discuss their protégés and advocate for their expansion.
- Embed in Onboarding Processes. The traditional approach to leader onboarding and coaching utilizes only the manager in helping with such activities as integrating into the organization, vetting leadership development goals, or tracking overall coaching. By expanding the scope of onboarding to include the sponsor of a diverse high potential, the new leader will have an advocate invested in their career success. In doing so, D & I becomes an embedded value in the culture.
- Embedding Inclusion in the Leadership Development and Talent Management Framework. Be sure to include D&I competencies (aka leadership behaviors that support D & I) in your organization’s talent management processes. Set clear targets for assessing, selecting, developing, and promoting diverse leaders at all levels within the organization. Adopt an approach that requires a shift in mindset and behavior by individuals and augmenting organizational talent management practices, programs, and processes. Build awareness by identifying specific inclusion challenges and opportunities, build alignment on the inclusion priorities, and build action plans that are deployed over time.
- Team Alignment. Help leaders and their teams build a D & I culture and commitment that promotes high potential leaders from underrepresented backgrounds to senior leadership roles. Bring in an experienced facilitator to assist teams in reaching this desired future state through a clear, stepwise approach that includes: individual and team assessment and feedback, enhancing trust and open communication, clarifying roles and responsibilities, creating a shared vision, resolving conflict, developing clarity of decision making, and fostering continued growth and development.
- Elevate the Development of Diverse Leaders. Create a leadership academy focused on high potential diverse executives with the expressed objective of development for inclusion in the next level Integrate a sponsor-protégé component into the program to enhance the protégé’s visibility and consideration for promotion.
- Engage your Organization. Consider enlisting the help of motivational speakers who can talk about the benefits, opportunities, and challenges of building a diverse and inclusive culture for underrepresented leaders across the health system.