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4 Questions to Improve Diversity in Your Organization

July 30, 2014

What is your organization doing about inclusion and diversity?  No matter what your response, there is definitely more to consider in this era of immigration, gender pay equity, cultural awareness, and corporate citizenship.  Too often, inclusion is a small part of the conversations that companies must have about environmental footprints, international business, corporate images, company culture, and employee engagement.

What would happen if you considered the role of inclusion as a “key part of your systems thinking?”   When you review success with inclusion in team dynamics, leadership, and employee engagement, how would your organization score? Does your corporate culture need an environmental scan to review the attitudes and assumptions about age, gender, developmental differences, race, sexual orientation, employee success, and team development?

What are the questions that the OD and HR agent should ask and contribute to the leadership dialogue to offer a new lens on inclusion and diversity?  Consider the questions and ideas offered here to expand the dialogue:

1. What are the policies and actions that create a strong public profile about your work globally and nationally?  Do these policies also support the historical diversity matters, such as promotion of historically-excluded groups in the US?
• A good strategy for systemic review of historical issues, such as bias that supports wage discrimination toward women and People of Color, is to create a new level of transparency in your leadership’s discussion and decision making.
• Consider supporting your succession planning and promotion through creating an advocacy program for candidates for leadership and key assignments.  This critical consideration is a delicate review of how covert assumptions continue to hamper various groups within your corporate culture. How would targeted groups honestly rate their satisfaction with their roles and opportunities within the company?

2. What are the connections your organization makes between environmental commitments, diversity policies, and your company’s global corporate image?  What are the policies and actions that clarify the company’s reputation as an entity that is trustworthy in its public statements about valuing their employee’s lives and contributions?

• How can whole system thinking underscore the value and the impact of inclusion as part of your strategic planning?
• What additional competencies must leaders have to create and expand the inclusion and diversity mission?  A good review of competencies can be found in discussion blogs by Rosa Whitaker.

3. What should you do to “integrate historically-excluded groups” into the corporate mainstream in authentic assignments, putting diverse group members in visible roles across the organization both locally and in global markets?

• Understanding how systemic behavior and thinking is woven into the organizations “corporate cultural behavior” offers a different pathway to change.
• Knowing that in every level of the organization exclusive behaviors and policies are embedded helps uncover resistance to change that undermines diversity.

4. What happens in your organization when various diversity topics surface?

• How does the culture manage competing areas of need or emphasis?
• What happens to the initiatives for promotion of People of Color when global citizenship and advancement becomes an area of focus?
• How does inclusion of international employees challenge or integrate with the needs of US nationals in the advancement and promotion of women, older employees, people who are gay, transgendered, lesbian, or developmentally different?

Consider making inclusion and diversity a core thread in the discussions and HR profiles that you are building for your company’s future.  This will shift the assumptions and attitudes about what should be present in a diversity initiative.

• The conversation about the importance of the lives and experiences of employees could guide the advocacy and corporate citizenship in the communities that do business with your organization.

Organizations that use inclusion as part of their strategic planning link the best thinking from many areas of the organization to their future and create a higher impact for success and change.  The corporate cultures across the organization become influential areas of change for inclusion.  The reputation of the organization grows across all areas of its corporate influence!

As the company acknowledges the unwritten behaviors that sabotage efforts for employee diversity programs, companies discover the entrenched behaviors that continue to inhibit change in other areas.  Many of the covert attitudes that hinder inclusion also hinder leadership in other areas. Linking inclusive behaviors and leadership competencies with other vital management functions develops new insight about diversity and leadership.  Systemic insights assure that inclusion will not be ignored.

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About The Author

Cathy L. Royal, PhD, is the owner and senior consultant in the Royal Consulting Group ([email protected]). She is a System and Organization Development scholar/practitioner, coach and educator with specialties in organization development, education, leadership, diversity, and Appreciative Inquiry (AI). She presented her work on Affirmative Identity, Gender, and Appreciative Inquiry at the 2009 AI World Summit on peace and social sustainability. Royal developed the Quadrant Behavior Theory (QBT) ©, a dynamic theory that supports inclusion and social justice. She served as the Dean of Community Affairs and Multicultural Development at Phillips Academy, Andover MA. She is a member of the OD Network, a Ken Benne Scholar and member Emeritus for the Institute for Applied Behavioral Science (NTL). She has been honored by the US Congress for her work in gender and equality. She serves as an adjunct faculty member at Colorado Technical University in the Doctor of Management program. Dr. Royal’s most recent publications are Appreciative Inquiry as an Organization Development and Diversity Process in The NTL Handbook of Organization Development and Change (2nd ed, 2014) and she was one of the editors of the Handbook for Strategic HR. She is the President of the Zonta Club of Prince George’s County (Zonta.org)

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