Why leaders need to support their HRD’s & D&I colleagues if they want to achieve their D&I agendas
Organisations should be aware that if they fail to execute their D&I strategies successfully, they may not only fail to achieve their D&I ambitions but may lose support and commitment from their people. Then ‘diversity fatigue’ can creep in. No one wins.
Business leaders expect too much and aren’t paying attention
D&I significantly overlaps some very gnarly business issues that most business leaders struggle with themselves. The long list includes – culture & change, innovation, talent selection, progression & promotion, leadership development, graduate and fast track programmes. Creating that significant change requires some pretty deft skills. It also requires bold and new decision-making too, particularly when attracting different and interesting sorts of talent.
Many don’t feel they can take risks around diversity & inclusion
As an enabling function, HR supports and responds to business priorities. If they don’t feel they have permission and support, it’s unlikely that the outcomes will be satisfactory for anyone. Recruiting diverse talent, who may be different from a company’s historical notions of talent requires change. Centrally, change in attitudes from leaders who may have deeply held ideas and beliefs about what talent is and have achieved a certain level of success by doing things in a particular way.
Avoiding risk can undermine success
Below is an example that highlights how by trying to avoid perceived risky and interesting recruitment decisions can backfire on the business.
Someone in an early years talent acquisition role told me they found an interesting candidate. Let’s call the candidate Akeem, who has Somalian heritage, went to a so-called 2nd tier university and is a bit of a tech whizz. Akeem is somewhat different from the organisation’s current cultural ‘fit’. If that person in HR has not explicitly been told: “Please bring in different sorts of talent and don’t worry if they don’t all work out we know it’s a work-in-progress” how likely are they to put Akeem forward for assessment? Not very.
Everyone loses out.
Let’s say they put the candidate forward anyways but then Akeem doesn’t work out, for a range of issues too complex to capture here. Our HR professional might find themselves in a difficult work situation, having to justify themselves and making it harder to take interesting choices next time. Put in juxtaposition against the privately educated white middle-class male Oxbridge graduate called Hugo, who was recruited, but also didn’t work out, then everyone would just be disappointed and with no blowback. Safe but not what the business necessarily needs.
A D&I specialist in response to the above put it like this… “white middle-class people find challenging white middle-class people just plain challenging BUT a challenging socially or ethnically diverse person can be too intimidating for some businesses”.
The talent is there, it’s whether you are willing to look for it
Sometimes, it’s not even the lack of cultural fit of a candidate but about placating the insecurities of management! How many talented people simply didn’t make the interview stage because they had an unpronounceable name?
Communication can be key
I’ve been in a room where a business leader implied to the head of D&I that the reason that diverse talent wasn’t coming through was due to HR’s processes. To which, the Head of D&I rightly responded that they were only providing candidates to the brief provided by that same business leader.
Clearly, it was a light-bulb moment for everyone. The Business Leader heard the feedback, took ownership, started conversations about the change required and shortly after, diverse talent started getting hired. Sorted.
Trust and Support is vital
Forward-thinking businesses, if they are going to change, need business leaders to genuinely support their D&I and HR professionals to make interesting, bold D&I decisions without fear of repercussions.
Could you imagine a top flight, all white professional football team anymore? Of course not. You wouldn’t want the same style players on your team, would you? And yet that is what happens in many businesses – lots of similar style people, who fit in, but then only offer similar, but limited new ideas, value and experiences.
Arrival Education has been working with diverse talent and forward-thinking businesses for over 13 years. If you think your business would benefit from external expertise on changing attitudes, creating talent pipelines or developing inclusive cultures, get in touch with our Co-Founder Daniel Snell via Linkedin, firstname.lastname@example.org or complete this form.
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