November 18, 2019
How does an organization evolve from having a diversity and inclusion (D&I) policy to having a fully inclusive company culture—from the top down?
The truth is, partly due to resistance and partly due to a lack of training, most companies are not there yet, says Haywood Spangler, PhD, founder and principal of Work & Think, LLC and an American Management Association facilitator.
During an AMA members-only breakfast briefing at AMA’s New York headquarters in November, Spangler spoke about a recent AMA survey on D&I, which he has written a white paper on. The survey explored employees’ perceptions of their companies’ D&I policies.
Diversity and inclusion in a company can have a direct impact on its bottom line. In the AMA survey, 85% of respondents whose company has a D&I program recognized that the program’s goal is to attract and retain talent. Further, 75% of respondents felt D&I worked to some degree—they believed people of all backgrounds were welcomed in their organizations and that individuals felt appreciated.
However, more than 75% of respondents said they don’t believe or are uncertain that their D&I policies actually translate into professional advancement.
“Just because you have diversity does not mean you have inclusion,” Spangler said.
As Spangler noted, you have equity when individual people feel welcomed, where everyone feels appreciated, and when all employees have an equal shot at moving up the ladder. For D&I to work and become a part of a company’s culture, it must be “baked into” the leadership culture first. It can’t just be legislated, it has to be a mindset change, he said.
“It’s beyond just hiring women and minorities,” one audience member pointed out. “It has to be in the culture of the organization.”
One attendee talked about “inclusion/exclusion,” where you may make it to the C-suite but your ideas are ignored or not taken seriously.
This is a real concern, Spangler said. He mentioned a 2018 University of Michigan study, “One Step Forward, One Step Back,” that shows white male executives react badly when a woman or minority becomes CEO of their company. They are less likely to help their colleagues after this, especially colleagues who are in the same demographic as the new CEO, and are more likely to soon jump ship. They had a lower sense of identification with their company, the researchers found.
Several audience members talked about their D&I programs having to deal with people who are in the majority, which is changing, and who are now resisting cultural changes. “That’s where we are with D&I—we’re actually trying to tackle that resistance,” said Linda Ridley, CEO of Edgar J. Ridley & Associates and an AMA instructor. “It has to be top-down.”
“Changing mindsets is very challenging,” Spangler said. He said that training such as AMA’s course on unconscious bias or other D&I training seminars can help. “Mindset change is where organizations are falling short,” he added.
It affects a corporation’s culture and all employees when the “proverbial glass ceiling” is blocking advancement for some, Spangler told the group. Certain roles within companies are reserved for certain kinds of people. “Why is that?” he asked.