It’s been an interesting year for gender equality. From #MeToo and #TimesUp, to Frances McDormand’s speech at this year’s Oscars, the voices that demand for diversity & inclusivity are getting louder than ever.
March 8 is International Women’s Day and at METAGNOSIS we are motivated by this year’s theme of #BalanceforBetter. As a team of women CM experts, we are pleased to showcase our thought leadership blog exploring why Change Management and Diversity & Inclusivity are interchangeable in building progress, for all, in the workplace.
At METAGNOSIS we see Change Management (CM) processes and Diversity & Inclusivity (D&I) progress as fostering healthy dialogue, practices, policies and leadership in response to organisational challenges. D&I and CM are both inextricably linked to business goals.
We understand it is difficult to discuss tension-filled D&I topics, such as human rights, racially-motivated biases, or gender inequalities. When tackling D&I efforts, an organisation should deal with their own individual issues rather than replicating initiatives from other organisations. Given the challenges related to D&I, constructive dialogue – the starting point for any CM process – is essential to gaining understanding, building relationships, addressing problems, and seizing opportunities to create positive change in how people and functions work together.
A good starting point is to define Diversity as the hardware – the gender, race, sexual orientation, gender identity, age etc., and Inclusivity as the software – the environment that encourages every person to bring his or her whole self to work and creates opportunities for all employees to realise their potential. Ultimately, the combination of Diversity + Inclusivity = Belonging. That is, the extent to which employees feel comfortable being their authentic selves in the organisation.
Change Management is a systematic approach to dealing with the transition or transformation of an organization’s goals, processes or technologies. To be effective, the change management process must take into consideration how an adjustment or replacement will impact processes, systems and employees within the organisation
Scenario #1: Supporting D&I through CM
Because the challenges facing D&I progress are multifaceted, so too will be the solutions.
D&I efforts should consider a CM methodology that incorporates systems, processes, people, and a long-term investment for sustainable results. The CM methodology should also assess where people are with respect to D&I progress in various levels, functions, and locations. Are they:
- active change agents, willing and able to get involved
- active supporters
- on the fence and want to learn more
- active resisters
A methodology to frame D&I progress could include one of the many popular CM processes currently being implemented, for example ADKAR, KOTTER, and ACT Models. These processes offer D&I a plan for implementing change and consider factors such as communication, training, rewards, and recognition; and identifying change agents and sponsors.
A common D&I challenge for CM experts is to direct their D&I efforts to the human resource (HR). This is valuable and laudable because the HR functions are at the core of any organisation. HR allows for a relevant and inclusive mix of differences – across all level of the organisations – thereby cultivating an inclusive work environment to promote engagement and results. But it does not make sense to restrict or allocate all the value of D&I efforts to HR.
Multiple factors contribute to the current state of inequity in the workplace. Hidden bias can affect even seemingly open-minded employees. Additionally, organisational constraints such as underfunding of the D&I function, silos, and lack of rewards or recognition for D&I can impede progress. Many organisations view D&I as a series of one-off HR initiatives and not part of an overall change management strategy.
The goal should be to show how D&I efforts can serve a variety of functions. For example, some marketing teams are collaborating to better understand diverse market segments and build relationships, customer experiences and a brand in unfamiliar markets. To improve results with multicultural customers, some sales and customer support functions are progressively employing D&I and CM competencies as one.
Scenario #2: Supporting CM through D&I
Organisations need to make the most of their diverse mix of employees, and there is also critical business value in understanding the diversity among customers, investors, suppliers and other stakeholders.
D&I efforts have the capacity to contribute to CM through such vital business results as innovation, profit, global growth etc. However, when these efforts are not broadly applied, an organisation’s inability to successfully deliver its value proposition – not showing how D&I efforts benefit the entire organisation.
A good D&I starting point is a listening tour – a close cousin of awareness or stakeholder engagement. It can engage stakeholders from across the value chain to learn about key priorities of leaders in all branches of the organisation. This is also a good starting point for a CM process because it finds out what is important for functions beyond HR – IT, sustainability, finance, government relations, security, mergers & acquisitions among others – with “foundational” questions such as:
- Why the function exists?
- What are their primary activities/ tasks?
- Who does the function serve?
- What is the function’s guiding principles?
- What does the function’s vision of success look like?
- What are the short, medium- and long-term goals?
- Does the function see D&I reporting as relevant to the organisation?
An example of a typical D&I question that could be used to support CM is: Can D&I and Function X’s goals enhance the way an organisation collaborates across the workforce and with customers globally, remotely, virtually, and cross-culturally?
Ultimately, D&I efforts and CM processes need to be nurtured as assets aligned with an organisation’s brand and capturing who they are today. D&I efforts can also be the reference for employees, current and future, customers, and investors and a milestone in a change management journey – a more diverse workforce, an inclusive culture and a more resilient tomorrow.
We all have the ability and opportunity to change the culture around us, and being D&I and CM champions in the workplace, big or small.
Ready to take the plunge? To find out how you can #BalanceforBetter at www.internationalwomensday.com.
METAGNOSIS can help work with your organisation to identify and tailor a change and transformation management approach that is applicable to Diversity & Inclusivity – in a practical way – and aligns with your individual business model. Please contact us to discuss your organisation’s needs.
The author, Isobel O’Connell, is a METAGNOSIS Associate and is also a subject matter expert on sustainability management, strategy, innovation and reporting.