“When we listen and celebrate what is both common and different, we become wiser, more inclusive, and better as an organisation.” – Pat Wadors.
Everything that starts at the top must come down.
As clichéd as this phrase is, it cannot be more true. All behaviour that starts at the top surely filters its way down and, ultimately, influences the behaviour of the rest of the organisation. Whether your organisation is structured like a pyramid or is flat in nature, with collective leadership at the forefront, the behaviour of the most influential individuals will be mimicked by those around them. If there is going to be mimicry, it might as well be a positive.
For any diversity projects and initiatives to be successful and sustainable, they need to be led by dedicated and thoughtful leaders at the top.
Why should you care about inclusion as a leader?
McKinsey conducted a series of studies investigating the business case for diversity. Their latest reports show a strong correlation between diversity on executive teams and the likelihood of financial business success. Additionally, they found that companies with diverse employees are more likely to have a competitive financial advantage. Companies that invest time in inclusion and diversity are in a far better position to create teams that are adaptive, effective and productive.
Understanding the positive influence that inclusion can have on an organisation, leaders need to step up and drive inclusion in their organisations. Throwing together a mixture of individuals who differ in terms of their thinking styles and personal backgrounds will guarantee a diverse team. However, it is the actions of the leader that ensure that these diverse individuals work effectively and embrace each other’s differences.
We need inclusive leadership. This is achieved when all team members feel that they are treated fairly and respectfully, valued while experiencing feelings of belonging and are confident in themselves and what they have to offer.
Harvard Business Review research indicates that inclusive leaders are 17% more likely to report high performance in their team, 20% more likely to say they make decisions of a high-quality and 29% more likely to report their team experiences high levels of collaboration.
McKinsey identified the five opportunities that arise from creating a diverse and inclusive culture:
Opportunity 1: Winning the talent war
- Organisations that prioritise inclusion and diversity do so in a focused, data-driven way, monitoring their people data to ensure that diverse top talent is engaged and retained.
- Remote working could present advantages such as an increase in flexibility, which may play a significant role in attracting and retaining talent that enjoys flexibility, such as working mothers, dual-career couples and single parents.
Opportunity 2: Enhanced decision-making
- The world we work in requires problem-solving skills and adaptability to constant change, competition and disruption in the external environment. With this constant need to be on your toes, inclusion and diversity offer multiple perspectives that boost the odds of coming up with creative solutions.
- Businesses that prioritise diversity create an environment where employees can be their authentic selves, allowing them to feel empowered. These employees will be more inclined to participate and contribute to their organisation.
- Additional research highlights that diverse teams focus more intently on the facts and process them more intently and carefully as each individual brings a specific focus to each situation. This allows for employees to safely scrutinise each team member’s actions to ensure that all perform at the desired level.
Opportunity 3: Increased customer insight and innovation
- Research indicates that diverse teams are more innovative and more inclined to anticipate shifts in customer needs and consumption patterns. This will enhance the organisation’s competitive advantage.
- A recent study found that businesses led by culturally diverse leaders are more likely to create new products than businesses with more homogenous leadership teams.
Opportunity 4: Drives employee motivation and satisfaction
- McKinsey’s found that companies committed to creating a diverse workplace are about 75% more likely to have leaders who are highly supportive of cultivating good teamwork in the organisation.
- Organisations need to ensure that, in focusing on inclusion and diversity, all employees feel equally valued. This is important for employee motivation during normal working circumstances and especially during times of uncertainty, such as the COVID-19 pandemic. Think about practical ways your organisation can ensure employee satisfaction based on the needs of the different demographics of employees you employ.
Opportunity 5: Enhanced global company reputation and license to operate
- Organisations that are focused on creating and maintaining inclusion and diversity are likely to gain support beyond the organisation and, hence, from society.
If these organisational opportunities for embracing and actively implementing successful diversity and inclusion have not convinced you, remember that for every action, there is a reaction. Let your actions be positive and sing the rhythm of acceptance and inclusion. We all have the basic need to belong. Let your organisation be that to your employees.
For more information on diversity and inclusion, read more in our other articles: Why enhancing the cognitive diversity of your team is a good idea and An active focus on diversity will always serve you well.
By Nadia Daniel