One of the key gaps in managing inclusion efforts is the need to give people a compelling reason to change. People often only change when the pain of staying where they are becomes more painful than the pain of change. This is a common phenomenon in change management, yet DEI initiatives are often managed separately from other organizational change processes.
Organizations should apply the same principles and strategies in other change initiatives to manage inclusion, like a change process. This includes providing individuals with the tools they need to process change effectively. Just as changes are nicely packaged and individuals are given clear instructions on adapting, the same approach should be taken with DEI initiatives. By equipping individuals with the necessary tools and resources, they can navigate and adapt to any changes that come their way, fostering a resilient and adaptable workforce.
Additionally, managing diversity as a change process requires investing in the systems and structures that support inclusive organizational cultures. This means changing the way business is done, not just providing training on DEI topics. For example, if an organization wants managers to respect people’s pronouns, they should start by capturing pronouns when individuals join the organization. If bias reduction in the hiring process is a goal, managers should be provided with tools such as redacted resumes and panels of interviewers to minimize bias. By changing the systems and processes, organizations can create an environment that supports and reinforces inclusive practices.
The Role of Middle Managers
Middle managers, in particular, play a crucial role in driving inclusion within their teams. However, they need to understand what’s in it for them and how they can benefit from investing in this work. By participating in Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) or encouraging their employees to join ERGs, middle managers can gain valuable insights and perspectives, enhancing their own leadership skills. It is important to address the fear and uncertainty surrounding inclusion efforts, as managers may have learned their management style from previous managers who may not have embraced inclusive practices. To facilitate a paradigm shift in leadership styles, organizations must provide middle managers with the necessary tools and training to become inclusive leaders.
21st Century Inclusive Leadership
Inclusive leadership in the 21st century requires focusing on previously undervalued “soft” skills. Skills such as psychological safety, emotional intelligence, and creating environments where individuals feel valued, seen, heard, and connected are essential for inclusive leadership. These skills may be counterintuitive to many leaders shaped by previous management styles. However, by recognizing the importance of these skills and providing training and support, organizations can empower leaders to create inclusive environments that retain diverse talent and drive organizational success.
Managing inclusion like a change process involves engaging middle managers and providing them with the necessary tools, resources, and support. By integrating inclusion efforts into the change management process, organizations can foster a resilient and adaptable workforce, change systems and structures to support inclusivity and empower middle managers to become agents of change. Inclusive leadership in the 21st century requires focusing on not soft skills but power skills, and a paradigm shift in leadership styles. By investing in inclusive culture development and providing training and support, organizations can create a culture of inclusivity that benefits both individuals and the organization.
Interested in learning more about what’s next in Inclusive Leadership? Sign up now to learn more about the Equity Leadership Institute, a collaboration between The Equity Equation and Maslow Center for Executive Leadership.