D&I training consultancy PDT Global has 20 years’ experience in strategy, cultural change and leadership development. Founder and CEO Angela Peacock discusses the importance of creating an environment of inclusion.
Without a culture of inclusion in the workplace, diversity is doomed to fail.
And, creating an inclusive environment requires commitment and embedding processes that enable people to do things differently. Measuring progress is essential to making a difference.
This is what companies who work with D&I training consultancy PDT Global learn. Founder and CEO Angela Peacock is passionate about the need to put inclusion before diversity. In fact, she argues that the tendency to put it the other way around is one of the reasons why D&I has not developed quickly enough.
“Diversity on its own, with no inclusion, will cost you a lot of money and get you involved in a lot of initiatives,” she argues. “There will be a lot of people eating canapés and drinking wine at events, you will spend a fortune on recruitment and attraction initiatives. But, if you don’t create the environment of inclusion much of that will be an expensive waste of time – retention just won’t happen and you will be back to square one.”
PDT Global was set up 20 years ago as a strategic culture change and senior leadership consultancy, operating mainly in the UK. It was around eight or nine years ago that inclusion was incorporated.
As Angela explains: “We were doing a lot of work with the unconscious mind and leadership and how it often to highjack decision-making processes.”
It was a lucky break when a major technology client asked them to lift the bias module they were delivering out and recraft it for an audience looking to create a more diverse environment. Luckily for PDT Global- they also asked them to virtualise the content. Since then, they have worked with organisations around the world. It was “first past the post” with the use of live virtual classroom technology. This enables companies to reach more people and is more cost-effective than flying people around the world to attend training courses.
PDT Global’s offering is based on a combination of research, experience and culture change. Clients are expected to build an inclusive environment over two to three years and measure the impact on diversity numbers. Also, PDT Global places a high value on how inclusion is measured.
As an example of what not to do, Angela recalls the bank that spent £400,000 a year over three years on diversity training. The result was 0.25% more women in their talent pipeline.
“Their material was what a lot of people were using at the time,” she says. “It was all about that if you treat everybody with respect and nicely, and recognise we’re all human beings, it was all going to be okay.
“But it was never going to be okay because, while we are deeply programmed at one level to seek human connection, we are more deeply programmed to work out when that human connection is part of our tribe. And, if you are not part of my tribe, then I am going to either remove privilege from you or give privilege to people who are -whether it’s a group based on their gender, educational, socio-economic etc.
“The reason we’re still talking about D&I is that we don’t have open, frank conversations about what’s going on in the heads of human beings.”
When asked which areas of diversity that organisations find the hardest to deal with, Angela says it varies from country to country. But overall, everyone finds it “awkward” – many companies in the UK have failed to create an environment that women feel comfortable working in. Angela remains sceptical about their abilities to now attract and retain the now critical digital disruptors.
Setting a timeline
Her advice to companies is to “change the culture first and timeline it”. Secondly, where cultural norms are lacking, they need to “tick the box on processes and make people do things differently”. She sees neither of these as soft options.
“Where you have a true culture of acceptance and inclusion, you need fewer rules and regulations because the whole thing happens by itself. To create an environment of inclusion, we need to measure the leaders in the organisation – who are driving it forward and who is holding it back.”
Angela believes that frank conversations involving everyone from the top down are the answer. It’s the approach that she and her team takes with clients. One of the best arguments involves procurement teams who are increasingly favouring buying from suppliers with good diversity numbers.
Turning to D&I heads, Angela has noticed that, in some larger companies, the role is externally focused. While this is good for building the brand, it takes the eye off the internal ball. She notes that D&I practitioners at all levels make more of an impact when they approach D&I as a business issue that includes a strategic plan with dedicated responsibilities.
Making a difference
How should D&I practitioners make a difference? Angela recommends continuing with the diversity aspects practitioners already have and commit to creating an inclusive culture within the two-to-three-year time frame. Also, embrace sending out messages digitally in order to reach more people with increased regularity -and for many, in a way, they now want to learn.
“Work closely with HR on how you can manage performance around inclusion so that it is absolutely tied back to managers’ performance and therefore their accountability,” Angela adds.
“Ensure every single manager, every team leader, can make a clear, granular business case for creating an inclusive environment. Encourage ERG and network groups to be clear on how their events are driving inclusion and so the business imperative. For example, at an event with a leading keynote- have everyone coming along bring someone from the “privileged group” within the organisation. Spreading the word.”
Companies that have been successful in making their workplaces inclusive are those who have embraced it wholeheartedly. Specsavers is one. Says Angela: “They put their foot on the gas of the diversity issues as well. They reached everybody in the organisation with their training, using multiple methodologies. They changed policies and procedures and put nudge technology into most of their processes. And they did it very quickly and have seen their diversity and retention numbers go up.”
And when you get it wrong? “You basically end up with a big bill, and you get diversity fatigue. Nobody will say they’re not supporting diversity and think it’s a waste of time. But they will say the right things, and the toxicity will go under the table. They will judge people that are ‘different’ in a harder way and still privilege the people that make them feel comfortable. You will spend a lot of money on events, announcements and communications then, at the end of two years, say we got it wrong.”
PDT Global includes a mechanism in its training programmes to avoid this. There are stop points for going back to the leaders to see what they’ve taken back into their organisations.
“We measure it and then jump on it if it’s not happening,” says Angela. “It’s all about accountability.”
Hear more from Angela at the DiversityQ D&I Practitioners Summit on December 4.