Be bold for change is the campaign theme this year for International Women's Day, so as we take part in the various IWD events today, let's make a bold pledge to keep the spotlight on diversity and inclusion all year round beyond the annual celebrations.
March is always a busy month on the diversity calendar! Between International Women’s Day (IWD) and Harmony Day most of the month is taken up with celebrating gender diversity and then cultural diversity.
But what happens once the diversity events wrap up? Is it back to business as usual? Does diversity & inclusion become a statistic to be sliced and diced for the annual reports?
By April, larger organisations (over 100 employees) have moved into reporting mode and are focused on finalising their Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA) annual reports and Employer of Choice for Gender Equality applications.
If March is events season, April is reporting season! I suspect that this is where some of the diversity fatigue kicks in and we usually see a lull in diversity & inclusion activity in most organisations.
As all diversity practitioners know, measurable progress can be slow to achieve. It takes years of consistent, relentless focus. And that is exactly why there is no time of year when the focus on diversity can be de-prioritised. Best practice diversity strategies are sustainable and impactful because they include a multi-pronged action plan which maintains momentum despite peaks and troughs in the business and HR cycle.
Diversity strategy is so much more than events and programs which is why great diversity strategies are a part of core business strategy, and not a stand alone activity.
Don’t get me wrong; diversity events such as IWD have an important role on the diversity calendar and in your diversity toolkit.
These celebrations create moments in time when people stop to reflect, share stories, learn and hopefully carry forward these insights into every day practice. Great diversity events will contribute to bringing the culture change to life.
But beware, the opposite can also be true. Any employee who attends a diversity event and hears leaders talking about workplace change and doing things better and differently, but then sees things being done the same old way will quite rightly form a cynical view of the organisation’s genuine commitment to improvement. You have to continue to walk the talk after the party is over.
Here are our top tips for developing a highly effective diversity strategy and change plans to keep your diversity momentum going 365 days of the year:
- Think and talk about diversity holistically. It’s terrific to celebrate achievements in gender diversity and cultural diversity and to recognize the unique challenges specific groups of people face in the workforce; but it is important to remember that diversity is about the inclusion of all people however they identify. Most people identify in many different ways and not many people like to be categorized into one box. Diversity is about making the workplace better for everyone.
- Keep the story telling alive. So many great stories are told at events about ordinary people doing extraordinary things. Stories are highly impactful in building your diversity narrative, binding the organisation to the cause and influencing culture change. Keep telling stories across the organization whether it’s via your intranet, webinars, podcasts, newsletters, team meetings. Be creative!
- Seek feedback. Listen and learn. Ask attendees and other employees in your workplace what they valued the most about events they attended and what would they like to see more of to keep the momentum alive. Seek out #ahamoments!
- Reflect and revise. Take #ahamoments from your events and review your diversity strategy and action plan in light of them. What do you need to differently to keep having an even greater impact year on year?
- Make sure other people are engaged. All too often diversity events tend to attract primarily people who identify with the group. For example many women’s events have what feels like 99% women in attendance. Yet diversity events are actually a great opportunity to include everyone and start conversations across your whole work place. Make sure the leadership team knows all about the outcomes from the events, especially if they didn’t attend! Naughty them...
- Consider how you can achieve broader representation at future events. What do you need to do differently to make everyone feel welcome and want to come to diversity events. Perhaps you can introduce a plus-one or buddy approach to event attendance?
- Design other learning opportunities. All humans are different so while the diversity events being held this week were probably very successful they might not have engaged everyone in the same way. You will need to try different types of mediums for communicating the same messages as people have different preferences as to how they like to receive new information and experience different things. Need some help? We can work with you to design a transformation plan that really performs.
- What other education is needed? Where can diversity be added into your existing L&OD programs? Do your induction and leadership programs include diversity skills and behaviours? What other training and education is needed - perhaps an inclusive leadership program, unconscious bias training or cross-cultural awareness would help you to build your diversity momentum faster? Check out our workshop program to find all the education options you need.
- Embed diversity in everything you do. Make sure you bring all the people pieces together. Diversity needs to be integrated across your whole HR rhythm and into the business strategy. When it is, a celebratory event is obviously just one part of a more complex plan for change and achievement of measurable outcomes.
- Ensure you walk the talk 365 days per year. As we said above this is absolutely critical. All your good work will be undone if bad behaviours are allowed to go unchecked after the diversity party is over. People are smart and they will quickly sense if the diversity celebrations were a one day wonder and 364 days per year it’s back to the status quo.
Have your diversity celebrations wrapped up and you’re feeling a little flat? Could your diversity strategy and action plan do with a bit of extra oomph? We discuss the key insights from the WGEA Gender Scorecard report, what they mean for Australian businesses and how you can continue to drive change in 2017.
A Human Agency has talented HR specialists who have personally and successfully worked on implementing and sustaining HR organisational transformation in diversity & inclusion, organisational development, leadership and coaching. Come and talk to us if you think you might need a bit of extra muscle on your team to achieve the outcomes you are looking for. We've worked closely with the WGEA creating tools to help Australian organisations interpret their benchmarking reports and love to work with you too.