Australia’s population has grown by 35% in the last 20 years, nearly all of it attributable to immigration. That’s a lot of D to I! Unfortunately just going to market to recruit more women/ people of colour/ people with disabilities/ older people/ LGBTQI+ people isn’t the solution. It is certainly part of the D+I journey, but it’s certainly not the destination. Organisations that just focus on diversity through a recruitment lens will typically have worse business outcomes as they are more likely to suffer increased turnover when these new recruits just don’t stay. Instead focussing on the policies, systems and most importantly the everyday habits that promote inclusion is how organisations create better business outcomes. Teams that have diversity both in terms of gender and ethnicity outperform more homogeneous teams even though diverse teams will feel less comfortable, find meetings and decision making harder, clunkier and not as efficient. It seems counterintuitive then that these are the better performing teams. The reason why is simple. A more diverse team brings different perspectives, different ideas and questions the status quo simply because the status quo isn’t their version of reality. More diverse teams have better social intelligence (less group think, better collaboration etc) and approximately 40% of team performance can be attributed to social intelligence. In the end, this results in outcomes that have been measured time and time again – better creativity, better sales metrics, increased profitability.
This will only happen though in organisations where individuals, regardless of their background, feel included, valued and able to contribute fully. When we are deeply connected with others, we see their success as our success. Indeed, researchers have found that the same part of our brain is activated when this occurs. Just like being a good leader, being inclusive requires a multi-layered daily approach. There are three key strategies to achieve this:
- Ensure all team members have psychological safety
- Remove obstacles to collaboration
- Foster optimal distinctiveness
So what are some practical steps you can implement to boost your inclusivity?
- In video conference meetings, pose questions that require a response from everyone at the same time in the chat function and use real-time polls. If one person needs to be on video, then everyone needs to be on video.
- Use a diverse panel for recruitment. When you interview someone with the right skill set, work ethic and aptitude but you find yourself saying ‘I’m not sure they’re the right cultural fit”, challenge yourself on what you really mean by that.
- Reward for contribution rather than outcome
- Focus on how we are the same, rather than highlighting how we are different. For example, make flexible work practices available for everyone. Have work conversations in places accessible to all of the team, so not in the men’s bathroom or at the bar after work.
- As the leader, speak last in a meeting so you are better able to gather a diverse range of ideas and perspectives rather than team members being swayed by your opinion first.
- Be conscious of micro-aggressions, for example incidents in which someone accidentally (or purposely) makes an offensive statement or asks an insensitive question. Do you ask your female staff who is looking after their kids in the school holidays, but not your male employees? Is it assumed female staff will take notes or grab coffee during a meeting? You need to consider what your actions say about your organisation’s culture, but also equally importantly your inactions. What messages are being sent either intentionally, or unintentionally by your actions and by what you let slide.
- Practice micro-affirmations. Greeting all of your colleagues each day, even those working remotely. Seek out feedback from your team members and take it seriously. Provide helpful feedback, share credit publicly and really pay attention when others are speaking.
D+I is a journey without a final destination, but together we can make it a positive and rewarding expedition for all, not just some and be more rewarded for it.
Written by Lisa Stockwell
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