Research states that companies aim for diversity for three reasons: regulatory compliance, ethical standard and or financial expectations. These reasons are of course intertwined and hard to separate one from the other but independent of which has the heaviest weight, gains from diverse workforces are not a numbers game but a behavioral one.
Diversity and inclusion are often used together and represent two sides of a story. Diversity speaks about numbers, inclusion about behaviors. The positive correlation between diversity and financial outcome that independent studies point at, entices companies to launch diversity and inclusion programs. It is not diversity that drives positive financial results but the inclusion of the diversity. Inclusion is difficult to measure, so for the sake of convenience reference is often made to the countable side of the story - diversity. This common practice obscures however the path to successful and sustainable change. Inclusions starts with representation (diversity) but it is defined in relations (behaviors).
This means that representative targets will lead companies to the achievement of regulatory compliance, higher ethical standard or their financial expectations once members of the organization relate to each other in an inclusive manner. This key piece of insight is often left out in correlation analysis between financial success and diversity. And therefore overlooked in action plans and implementation programs. It is not enough to set targets and cable them out. Organization members need time, support and encouragement to establish new relational practices between themselves. Knowing about diversity targets and how they make business sense takes an hour. Acting inclusively takes longer because it implies rethinking what is taken for granted, unearthing silent knowledge and mapping out social power structures in the workplace. And this is where the good intentions risk staying intentions because not everyone is not ready to critically reflect about one own’s privileges or question what has been taken for granted for a long time.
We translate diversity targets to inclusive practices and processes.
However, since stakes are high – the need to be regulatory compliant and act ethically - companies want the change. And this is where Influence People comes in. We translate diversity targets to inclusive practices and processes. We sustain leaders in finding appropriate and necessary actions to transform culture so that individual practices harmonize with the structural processes and vice versa.
In this interplay between individual members of the organization and the social structure of the organization, leaders are important to sustain the cultural transformation towards higher levels of inclusion. Not that leaders’ are the only one with responsibility to make the organization succeed with its diversity targets, just as little as designated DEI/D&I leads are. But leaders need to accommodate for members of the organization to climb the norm ladder from ‘uninterested’ to being able to actively integrating any colleague into meetings, information circles, decision processes and considerations for promotions and recruiting and not letting the organization miss out on awesome talents because of social stigma, or choose the traditional profiles just because of historical privileges.
Camilla Rundberg, PhD in Organization, leadership and gender, Senior Consultant Influence People