When it comes to creating a more inclusive culture, there is no silver bullet or easy wins. We need fresh thinking if we are to continue making headway, which is why it was great to see so many members attend our first forum of the year, featuring Deloitte’s latest research on ‘the D&I Revolution: 8 Powerful Truths spanning leadership, measurement and narrative’.
Our presenter was Juliet Bourke, an author and prolific speaker who leads Deloitte Australia's Diversity and Inclusion Consulting practice and co-leads the Leadership practice. Participants were given an opportunity to delve deeper into two of the truths from Deloitte’s research, and elected to explore ‘middle managers matter’ and ‘rewire the system to rewire behaviours’.
Here are some takeaway points from the standing-room only event:
Middle managers make a difference
In many organisations, middle managers aren’t given enough time to fully explore D&I. They are often at risk of being treated as a single entity, with no acknowledgement of their personal experiences. The reality is that middle managers – who are often still progressing in their career – are varied in their receptiveness to D&I initiatives, ranging from supportive and committed to opposed, unaware, anxious or fatigued.
While tackling change from the top is important, Juliet says we need to pay more attention to middle managers, ensuring everyone is aware of the tensions involved in implementing an inclusive culture, acknowledging anxieties, and assuring that it’s ok to make mistakes.
Engage stakeholders in multiple ways
Engaging people in D&I thinking may require different conversations and approaches. Juliet suggested a few:
Encourage middle managers to be role models and shine a light on them, not just the execs and senior leaders
Then again, some middle managers may not feel comfortable as a ‘poster child’, so consider how to encourage inclusive behaviours instead
Immersive experiences can be effective. Get people out of their comfort zones by putting people in another environment (e.g. a different business unit or employee resource group)
Don’t be afraid to put D&I in performance measures. You may sometimes need to make hard calls regarding individuals who do not support an inclusive culture.
Take a positive approach
Juliet believes the benefits of positive psychology go a long way towards creating a more inclusive culture in the workplace. While we naturally veer towards negative measures, little has been written about micro-affirmations of fairness: small acts that encourage compassion and equality, and help people in the workplace feel valued and accepted.
Recognising and rewarding those who lead inclusive behaviours can also amplify attitudes and help improve the overall culture.
Change your language or narrative
Juliet advises placing more emphasis on inclusion than diversity, with ‘inclusion’ meaning fair treatment, empowerment, psychological safety, respect and the value of belonging. If inclusion is too hard to interpret, collaboration is another user-friendly word to use for business managers, and a good starting point to move towards D&I.
It’s also worth challenging senior leaders to have different conversations about inclusion, as they tend to end up with a single narrative (e.g. ‘I was convinced because of … ‘).
Rewire the system to rewire the behaviours
Define the micro-moments that matter when it comes to implementing D&I behaviours – moments that have high level of impact and high discretion. One example in the recruitment stage is when CVs are culled. In many cases, the final point is a manager who has high impact (if it doesn’t pass their screen, it doesn’t get through) and high discretion (it’s down to one person, who can be a single point of failure).
Once these moments are identified, put in place a ‘nudge’ against similarity attraction bias. For example, if you are falling into bias without thinking because you are looking at CVs when you are most tired (cognitive depletion), the nudge could be a reminder, or reading the CV when you are fresher. Then measure if the nudge has an impact on D&I.
Thank you to Deloitte for hosting our forum.