Take strategic action to reduce the overwhelm and “us & them” diversity divide and reap the business benefits

Alan Joyce, Qantas CEO, has often focused on the important role diversity played in the resurgence of Qantas’s success

Alan Joyce, Qantas CEO, has often focused on the important role diversity played in the resurgence of Qantas’s success

As we reflect on the cause of the increasingly concerning gender and race divide we see playing out across Australian society, I can understand leaders, HR professionals and staff feeling overwhelmed.

Such feelings can lead to leaders questioning the value of investing time and resources to build their people’s understanding of diversity, inclusion and unconscious bias, and how bias can result in unintended disrespect, exclusion and poor decision making. This is not surprising when sexism, racism, ageism and homophobia are part of our everyday society.

What is important is to fight through this feeling of helplessness with the knowledge that by understanding what can be done both individually, and more importantly together, to address structural barriers and systemic issues, things can improve.

Despite the challenges, people are ready to engage with change. My experience is that 95% of people in workplaces are well intentioned, and 80% will seek to understand the issues and will together explore and create new solutions to build a great place to work for everyone.

I think that Matt Langdon recently made a particularly powerful comment on how to break the ‘us and them’ cycle - ‘the opposite of a hero is not a villain, it’s a bystander.’  Research shows that bystander action is the most effective way of combatting sexism, racism and homophobia.

In inclusive teams and workplaces everyone understands their role as culture stewards, and everyone takes action to consciously include, with an understanding that if we don’t, we will unconsciously exclude.

I love working with leaders and staff who as a result of evidence-based D & I education as part of an integrated D & I strategy, shift their role from seeing unconscious bias and exclusion as a HR problem or just someone else’s problem.

It’s so exciting to watch them ‘step in’ to confidently lead culture - displaying curiosity, empathy, suspending judgement, and listening to seek to understand people’s different lived experiences and perspectives. Then, by taking personal action, calling bias, and asking questions to encourage others to shift their thinking to try new actions, behaviours and more inclusive ways of working, they can watch real change happen in front of their eyes.

At the recent AHRI Diversity & Inclusion conference I was inspired to hear CEO Alan Joyce attribute Qantas’s business turn around to taking a strategic D & I lens in their approach to how Qantas does business with staff, customers and the community.

Are you seeing these 3 major challenges in your organisation?

·             People who are well intentioned but don’t know what they don’t know.

·             People with an individual blame and shame, “you’re biased, you’re bad,” approach to the challenge.

·             People feeling fearful of the consequences of speaking up when they see bias and bad behaviour from both peers and leaders.

If you are, my free book could help you get started on your strategic diversity and inclusion journey. Contact me today for a copy and start making change happen in your organisation.

Image via Star Observer