3 best practice strategies to drive diversity & inclusion leadership

3 best diversity inclusion strategies

HR leaders need to look at diversity and inclusion from both the recruitment and succession planning perspectives to ensure the lifecycle of diversity leadership continues and grows, writes Purnima Nandy

Organisations across industries and geographies are waking up to include diversity and inclusion in their strategic plans as an answer to becoming more employee-friendly and competitive in the market. So, what is diversity and inclusion? Diversity can be understood as acknowledging individual differences and the unique blend of knowledge, skills and perspectives people bring to the workplace.

Diversity is identified as surface level and deep level diverse. Surface level diversity can include characteristics such as cultural background and ethnicity, age, gender and disability, for example, while deep-level diversity is understood by sexual orientation, religious beliefs, language and education to name a few. An inclusive culture is one where everyone feels valued and respected and is able to fully contribute.

However, being recognised as a diverse and inclusive workplace is more than just hiring diverse employees; it is about in the truest sense making them feel a part of the organisation without constantly being identified as different.

“This diversity fatigue in organisational leadership is a huge gap in truly incorporating diversity and inclusion into the organisation’s culture and DNA”

Below are a few best practices followed by organisations to ensure the success of their diversity and inclusion strategy:

  1. Recruiting a diversity and inclusion manager: Many organisations today have a separate department for diversity and inclusion often under HR leadership to handle challenges and issues of a diverse workforce. The role of a diversity and inclusion manager is broadly to iron out conflict and keep the heterogenous workforce motivated and to ensure that the organisational culture and environment is positive and engaged.
  2. Diversity goals in the team lead’s performance appraisal: Other than the business and team management goals, team leads and managers are assessed on how they are managing diversity in their teams. Diversity goals could include having projects to include a diverse team member, putting together team building activities or arranging for training sessions to upskill diverse team members and give them a fair playing field.
  3. Diversity and inclusion policy: Most organisations have put a diversity and inclusion policy into place to formalise this decision and to also protect and empower the diverse employees. Putting a policy into place gives all employees certain guidelines on what the organisation vision and goals regarding diversity are.

Despite the above strategies, diversity and inclusion is still at its nascent stages in most organisations where it is merely a recruitment decision. When diverse employees are asked for their feedback, employee surveys highlight that they still face the glass ceiling in their careers and inclusion is still at a policy level. So where is the gap?

Research shows that despite organisations having a diverse workforce, their leadership profile is still traditional which is male, white and 45 years of age. This diversity fatigue in organisational leadership is a huge gap in truly incorporating diversity and inclusion into the organisation’s culture and DNA.

“Diversity and Inclusion is not just a strategy or a campaign or a day we celebrate at the office; it is the very DNA of organisational culture and impacts the people and the business deeply”

What are the benefits of diversity leadership in organisations?

  1. Diverse leaders will not only bring about a change in thought and mindset in the way organisations function but also understand the challenges and roadblocks that diverse employees face in a real way.
  2. Seeing diverse leaders at the helm of the organisation will motivate the other diverse employees as they will find the leaders more relatable and it will also show that the organisation takes diversity seriously.
  3. Diverse leaders demonstrate more cultural intelligence, emotional intelligence and traits like empathy, resilience and control which will benefit team and people management overall.
  4. Diverse leaders think differently from traditional leaders due to their different backgrounds and journeys hence they will be able to bring about innovative thinking and new perspectives to the business.
  5. With workplaces constantly changing and georgraphical boundaries shrinking, the skills, knowledge and behaviours demanded at the workplace are also constantly evolving; leadership needs to also adapt to these changes hence having the traditional body of leaders will only stagnate thinking and organisational growth.

Diversity and Inclusion is not just a strategy or a campaign or a day we celebrate at the office; it is the very DNA of organisational culture and impacts the people and the business deeply. As HR leaders, we need to look at incorporating diversity and inclusion not just as a recruitment decision but as a succession planning decision as well to ensure the lifecycle of diversity leadership continues and grows.

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