HR and the importance of Diversity & Inclusion
Paul Richards, Founder, Better Decisions.
Working with many great HR professionals over the years, I know that it’s an important but tough role. You have to oversee talent acquisition and retention, engagement, motivation, performance and well-being. And all of this occurs in a rapidly changing environment with an ever-growing compliance burden.
An important area that increases the complexity of all of these issues is Diversity & Inclusion. How we think about this subject will influence the colleagues that we hire, the culture that we bring them into and the processes that govern how they grow and progress. This will ultimately impact both their success and well-being. Given wider debates in society it can also impact how our companies and management are perceived.
However, D&I is a complex issue to get right. Who should we listen to when we set policies and practices? How do we balance the need for short-term action with long-term success? How can we create greater engagement and reduce any potential resistance?
There are no easy answers to these questions, but in our upcoming session, we’ll tackle these issues from a different perspective, human behaviour.
My expertise is in the art and science of decision-making. I help boards, committees and teams understand how human nature can skew our perspectives and choices and what we can do about it. As someone with a strong interest in D&I, I’ve also been involved in several initiatives over the years. This has been both in the context of thinking about the evidence base and how things can work operationally.
As someone who has been a strategic leader and who thinks about human behaviour, it has struck me that whilst our current approaches to D&I have brought forward positive change, they might benefit from diverse perspectives on issues that aren’t universally discussed.
At the Surrey & Sussex HR Forum event on the 21st June, Mitesh Sheth and I will tackle the following areas:
Thinking clearly about D&I
For any people issue, if we want to make lasting and effective change, we need to be able to think clearly about it. What factors might skew our thinking about D&I?
Knowledge of D&I – advocates and evidence
How do we know what we know about D&I? Often the evidence that we use comes from advocates. Whilst that can bring tremendous energy and consistency of message, advocates will often bring an explicit or implicit view to the table. This may skew how we approach things – as an example, we’ll discuss how advocates and academics have different perspectives to the ‘business case’ for D&I.
Groupthink around D&I issues – is this a problem?
We’ve all heard about the problems of groupthink and it’s often a rationale for diversity initiatives. However, D&I initiatives often attract people with strong and consistent views of the problems to be tackled, what causes these problems and how they can be solved. Does this create groupthink and if so how can we broaden the discussion so that we get the most effective solutions?
The ‘Spiral of Silence’ – what aren’t we hearing?
Elisabeth Noelle-Neumann’s ‘Spiral of Silence’ theory posits that individuals tend to remain silent or withhold their opinions on controversial topics when they perceive their views to be in the minority, due to a fear of social isolation or reprisal. D&I is likely to provoke ‘spiral of silence’ challenges. How can we understand and manage them?
Strategy and metrics
If we want to create effective change in any area then we need to think effectively about it.
Strategy – beginning with the end in mind.
What is our long-term endgame, and why and when is it achievable? There is value in moving beyond, ‘it just needs to be better than now’ to surfacing important strategic questions such as, ‘What would we expect the long-term outcome to be in a free and fair world?’ Although we won’t always be able to get clear answers, asking good questions can aid our ability to think strategically.
Metrics – “What gets measured gets managed”
Metrics are important for understanding progress, but when we have a strong focus on numbers, it can incentivise behaviour that may cause issues for all parties, e.g. when hiring or promoting colleagues.
Understanding and framing outcome measures
Every year, we have to talk about important numbers. How we do this can impact both their understanding and how people react to them. How can we understand and use the power of framing to talk more effectively about long-term outcome measures, e.g. GPGs?
Getting people to change
Any workplace initiative, including D&I, stands a better chance of success when there is broad-based support. What does psychology tell us about the best way to get people on board and avoid backlash?
What do people value?
A longstanding debate that will inform our long-term strategy is whether we are aiming for some form of equality of opportunity, or whether we are looking to equalise outcomes. What is it that humans want – equality or fairness?
Working with the grain of human nature – humans are tribal creatures
Most people want to be good and be seen as good. How can we best leverage this to create good D&I outcomes? The pros and cons of focusing on differences vs. similarities and voluntary versus compelled behaviour.
Often when I sit down and discuss the behaviour with people, they will say something along the lines of, “Well, I’m not an expert on human behaviour, but…” They will then proceed to make an insightful point that chimes with the scientific evidence. You may be holding a key to unlocking some of the problems.
Whether you’ve got questions or answers, I’d love to hear your perspective on the 21st June in Guildford.
Request your FREE space at this event being hosted by The Surrey & Sussex HR Forum.