Using Inclusive Change Management in a Crisis: Q&A
No doubt the pandemic has forced your organization to shift gears rapidly. Some leaders are managing remote teams for the first time. Some employees are adjusting to remote work, and nearly all are dealing with other personal and professional challenges. Regardless of scope, organizations are confronting change across the board.
To effectively lead organizational change, inclusive change management is key. Here, Catalyst’s Vice President of Consulting Services, Audrey Taylor, explains what this management strategy entails and how leaders can model it in these times of uncertainty.
Q: What is inclusive change management? Why is it important now?
Audrey Taylor: When an organization undergoes an important transition or change, leaders using this management strategy broaden the decision-making process by reaching out to multiple people who reflect the diverse makeup of the company.
From my own experience, I’ve seen the pandemic bring a new sense of urgency to organizations’ diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives. Inclusion is critical when you’re trying to create new ways of working and maintaining productivity across your workforce—whether that’s individuals already experienced in remote work, or couples suddenly forced to share “office space” in the home, or working parents without daycare support, or frontline workers fighting to protect their own health while delivering essential services. In this new reality, failing to recognize and manage the diversity of your workforce is going to result in real risks to business continuity, your employer brand, and your organization’s ability to settle into the new normal once this crisis is over.
Have you seen strong examples of this management strategy in action?
Taylor: A great example is one of this year’s Catalyst Award winners, Deloitte. As part of their commitment to be an employer of choice for women, they adopted comprehensive flex work policies for everyone—not only women. Employees can leverage nine different types of flex work now. With this type of strategic focus on how work gets done, organizations can get a jump on the future of work, which is only going to be accelerated as a result of this crisis. One of the greatest benefits of committing to a DEI strategy is that a DEI strategy is a change strategy. A robust inclusion effort can yield huge benefits in change readiness.
What are the most important takeaways for leaders who need to make big changes during this crisis?
Taylor: I have three recommendations.
- You should think of inclusion as an important business continuity enabler. The current situation is a great example—companies that already provided flexible and remote work options to their employees were almost certainly able to adjust more quickly and effectively to local, state, and national shutdowns and other public health responses to the crisis.
- As a leader, you should proactively seek input from a diverse set of people in your organization. Who will be affected by this change? Some of the most valuable feedback may come from people resistant to change. Ask yourself, “What might they know that I don’t”? Fight the urge to rely solely on your most “trusted” advisors to get change right.
- Audit your own leadership approach to ensure you’re leading inclusively. Our report, Getting Real About Inclusive Leadership, has great practical advice on the behaviors you should be exhibiting as you lead your organization through change in these uncertain times.