Diversity and inclusion begins as an idea and then morphs into structural change with quantifiable results. But for the seed to blossom, it must be planted with care and attention, and tended to regularly: we cannot expect an organization to snap their figures and score perfect on the diversity and inclusion card. Cultural change is a necessary part of this process; a company must first seriously value and consider diversity and inclusion, understand how it can benefit their employees, and then begin the process of change. Long-term thinking is vital at this stage, as the ultimate consideration for the company must not be optics, but holistic, top-to-bottom change that is honest, begins with accountability, and ends with action.
Think of your company’s culture as the parameters with which you would like your company to grow. All decision making will flow naturally from this culture, as its leaders and team members all align with its value system. Creating this involves thinking about values, the future, and the steps needed to take that vision. It is valuable to assess the current climate of your company and ask how it is holding your organization back from its goals. Assessing your leaders is a crucial part of this stage. We often think of culture as the atmosphere, in that it is vital for everything a company needs. However, rather than thinking of it only as a faceless mass, it is important to realize that the individual leaders of your company are a vital part of this culture. Cultural change begins at the individual level and that starts at the top. Leaders must believe in the change, hold themselves accountable, and alter their day-to-day behaviours, mentality, and beliefs.
As leaders, assess with this in mind: what are the five top values of our organization? Are we reaching them? What is the identifiable gap? Are there transparent methods in place to articulate these values to employees? And most importantly, how do I play a role? By beginning this assessment at the top, leaders will show their seriousness and belief in cultural change and are presented with the opportunity to lead by example. A leader holding themselves accountable is a powerful tool. This means seeking input from others—such as experts—accepting responsibility for current conditions, volunteering to lead the charge for cultural change, and never avoiding responsibility.
Executive leaders begin the process of cultural change by showing support; vocally, but most importantly, by changing behaviour. This can be in several ways, such as:
- participating in training exercises,
- practicing transparency with employees,
- and rising to all changes by taking responsibility.
A leader who can humble themselves and is open to learn is an asset for any organization, as it shows flexibility, emotional intelligence, and a willingness to improve. True diversity and inclusion is a process that we are all part of—none of us are perfect, and a true measure of accountability is our ability to be honest.
Other useful reading on diversity, inclusion and culture from: