Ali Shalfrooshan, Occupational Psychologist and Head of International Assessment R&D at PSI Services, a workforce solutions provider, says reflecting on George Floyd’s death can help organisations think about what inclusion practices to implement to change their business and wider society.
Reflecting on Floyd’s death – the impact on businesses
It has now been a year since George Floyd’s death. A truly significant event in a year filled with world-changing challenges. Like any anniversary, it provides us with an opportunity to reflect and take stock.
At times it feels like society obeys Newton’s third law of motion, as every action seems to elicit an equal and opposite reaction. The event not only highlighted the inequity in society but also the disparity in people’s views. With the fallout potentially exacerbating those differences. Over the last year politics, social media, and the streets themselves have become the battleground for debate.
However, throughout history, no progress made by society has happened without friction and the good news is that the event has impacted the world. The topic of equity, diversity, and inclusion (D&I) has never been discussed so openly. It has led many to question what they can do, and it has inspired many organisations to examine the issue of fairness more broadly. The inevitable not-so-good news with something as complicated as this is that there is still a lot to do in terms of action.
Complex thoughts and feelings
Anecdotally from my own experience, I have never seen as many organisations take the topic of D&I more seriously. With many wanting to tackle the issue head-on. However, despite most people openly advocating the concept of inclusion and fairness, the reality is that some employee’s true thoughts on the matter are much more complicated.
These slightly more complex thoughts and feelings still exist despite many people believing it is the morally right thing to do – and the research evidence showing that D&I has far-reaching business benefits including increased profitability, productivity, and innovation.
Consequently, if an organisation is keen to make their culture more inclusive, they need to recognise the size of the challenge that they are taking on. This is not to intimidate anyone but to be realistic about the effort needed to tackle this issue successfully.
The importance of leadership commitment
There are numerous ways to address D&I including via structural changes, decision making, and HR processes such as hiring, promotion, and performance appraisal. But those changes need leadership support to be successful. In fact, researchers have identified leadership commitment as one of the key contributors to the success of any change initiative.
Tasking leaders with specific D&I goals should be key to driving results. Despite this, according to a PwC benchmarking survey, only 26% of global organisations surveyed have adopted this practice. Even though 76% of organisations say that D&I is a stated value or priority area. Therefore, for any change to be made, it is particularly important for organisations to have leaders that are true advocates and believers in inclusion and diversity.
What is inclusion?
So what do we mean by inclusion? Inclusion is about equal access and enabling everyone to be treated with respect and in a fair manner. The thing that is sometimes lost on some leaders who are less comfortable with the topic, is that it is about including everyone and not a specific group.
Whatever your ethnicity, age, gender, perspective, if you are the majority or minority group, in an inclusive organisation you are treated fairly. Which is something we all, as humans, desire.
The ABC model of inclusion
The ABC model of inclusion provides a useful framework to help leaders and employees support and advocate an inclusive culture. This model accounts for the fact that all of us are on our own ‘inclusion journey’ and that we all may be at different stages.
The goal is to create an organisation of allies, who are keen to promote and advocate inclusion. So that everyone in all their uniqueness can be treated fairly and work together effectively.
Appreciate – inclusion is the antecedent of change
Allyship begins with an individual’s awareness and appreciation of the issues and experiences of others. This stage is reflective of an individual’s growth in awareness. It may involve an initial step of accepting that equity in society is something worth striving for. Individuals in this phase are identifying the challenges of creating an inclusive environment and becoming open to learning about their need to act.
Build – an inclusive climate by behavioural change
This second stage moves from an individual gaining awareness and becoming open to addressing the challenges of inclusivity, to directly building an inclusive environment. Individuals in this phase are helping to build an inclusive, fair and equitable climate by their actions. They are proactively building relationships with others, gathering diverse perspectives, empathising, actively listening, and communicating transparently.
Champion – change by acting as a catalyst for others
The last phase of allyship is one of advocacy. Individuals at this stage take their behavioural commitment to another level. They tend to look for opportunities to affect change formally and informally. To be successful at this stage, individuals need to be courageous, action-oriented, composed, and willing to commit.
The big picture
A year on from George Floyd, organisations and leaders need to reflect on what happened. And remind themselves of the big picture and the positive impact they can have to both society and the success of their business.
It is not one change that is going to make the difference. It is a whole suite of changes. Starting with leaders that act as allies, appreciate the challenge, and are willing to build an inclusive culture and champion the change they would like to see in the world. This will ensure the foundations for organisational change are possible.
By focusing on our own behaviour and what we can do to make things better, we can use this sad world event to inspire us to improve.
Ali Shalfrooshan is an award-winning business psychologist with a true passion to help organisations improve performance through their people.