Four Ways to Make Your Company More Inclusive in 2016

January 14, 2016It’s a New Year, and time to put gender diversity and inclusion on the top of your to-do list.  Many companies are already making great progress on this front, and we thought we’d share some of the strategies they’re using to create organizational change.  

Check out the effective and inspirational practices below from role model companies that have made inclusion a priority, and feel free to adapt for your own organization.

Identify and fix small problems before they become more serious issues. Global management consulting firm Strategy&, part of the PwC network, found that despite modest gains in women’s representation and engagement across the firm, women weren’t making much progress at senior levels, and employee engagement scores still revealed differences by gender, with men reporting higher engagement than women. To tackle these issues, the firm used its consulting-based approach, known as Strategic Intuition, to diagnose its barriers. The approach involves taking a problem, stepping back from the way it’s typically conceptualized, stripping it down to its core, and learning from unusual methods. This allows them to identify several barriers—obvious, early-stage issues that, if fixed before they escalate further, could help retain women and ultimately improve their representation at senior levels. The key was focusing on the small improvements that would culminate in large-scale change.

Create a culture in which both women and men can effectively manage their responsibilities at and outside of work. Like many organizations, 2015 Catalyst Award Winner Procter & Gamble (P&G) had flexible work benefit policies in place, but employees were not taking advantage of them. The broad communication strategy, branding, and implementation of P&G’s [email protected] initiative helped drive a significant culture change across all regions in the area of working flexibility. [email protected] provides location and time flexibility, as well as a variety of reduced-hour arrangements and leave benefits, to help create a workplace in which employees can effectively manage their responsibilities and interests both inside and outside of work. Examples go beyond using flextime to meet family and caregiving responsibilities, and include employees finding ways to engage in volunteer activities, sports, and other personal pursuits. Career-path flexibility, including a variety of short-and long-term reduced-hour arrangements, dual-career couple benefits, and leave benefits are essential to P&G’s flexible culture across levels, regions, and functions.

Create a culture where everyone can be a leader.  Global business leader 3M developed an approach to establishing behavioral expectations for organization-wide leadership. Historically, 3M had a set of “leadership attributes” that long served as a framework for communicating and measuring leadership expectations across the company. The move from attributes to behaviors was deliberate, signaling that “leadership” does not belong to a few elite people with “inherent traits,” but rather that all people can and should demonstrate leadership through their actions. The Leadership Behaviors establish not only what is expected, but also how everyone can be a role model and meet those expectations through his or her actions and interactions. In this way, the Leadership Behaviors provide a system for everyone to be successful. 3M recognizes that in a multifaceted, multimarket, multinational organization, the leadership context varies greatly. The Leadership Behaviors therefore had to be relevant in all of 3M’s various industries and across the many countries in which the company operates. This meant that while the company’s Leadership Behaviors are non-negotiable, employees from all over the world were encouraged to apply their individual perspectives and experiences to the roll out of the Leadership Behaviors, to bring them to life in their own ways. The company’s emphasis on cultivating a shared understanding of leadership while enabling nuanced individual and local implementation has significantly contributed to the success of the 3M Leadership Behaviors.

Test assumptions to build trust and strengthen relationships. Seeking to strengthen the efficacy of its programs for developing diverse talent, Goldman Sachs launched the Emerging Leaders Program (ELP) in 2012. ELP is a career-management program designed to enhance the progression and retention of strongly performing black and Latino/Hispanic vice presidents. A core component of ELP is a coaching session led by an external facilitator that focuses on strengthening the relationship between participants and their managers. In advance of this session, participants complete a questionnaire that assesses their workplace experience across several dimensions including opportunities for contribution, sense of recognition, teamwork and inclusion, organizational resources, open communication, and organizational climate. The manager completes the same survey, but does so from the employee’s perspective, answering the questions as she or he believes the direct report would. The facilitator then reviews the survey data, analyzing any gaps between the employee’s experience and the experience the manager perceives the direct report to have. The employee and manager then participate in a coaching dialogue with the facilitator. This discussion is designed to identify and close gaps in perception by improving communication, heightening disclosure, and building on trust. Anecdotal feedback suggests that revealing and exploring these different perceptions provides managers and employees with tools to build authentic relationships with each other. Feedback from both groups shows that ELP provides a platform and tools for transforming potentially difficult conversations into constructive dialogue on the crucial topic of enhancing inclusion and expanding diversity across the talent pipeline and within senior leadership.

The views expressed herein are solely those of the guest blogger and do not necessarily reflect those of Catalyst. Catalyst does not endorse any political candidates. The post and the comments are presented only for the purpose of informing the public.