It’s here! National Inclusion Week has arrived, and what better way to mark it, than to (post-summer, post-spring pandemic restrictions) post a blog on our thoughts about the year ahead?
For those decision-makers who find themselves thinking late into the night about what they need to focus on in the space of inclusion over the coming months and into next year, we’re here to help you with those sleep-deterring deliberations, as your ‘ghost of inclusion future’.
I’m going to cover my thoughts on what will be most relevant in the next year in five areas. The first:
More haste, less speed (in how we lead)!…
Now more than ever, the expectations of senior leaders are high, and they only stand to get higher. Your people want, no, need a senior leadership presence that can sincerely demonstrate real buy-in, operating with purpose and real motivation. Some of these people are your more junior leadership population, whose team need to see them consistently demonstrate that same level of buy-in. So, this will be about understanding, modelling, and refining how true sponsorship looks and feels.
We expect more in the way of well-led change, and we do so at a more radical pace. As a result, we’ve seen many organisations respond to socio-political advancements and ambiguity hastily, at times to the detriment of longer-term growth. Whilst there’s a need to actively and appropriately acknowledge the significance of what happens around us, we also need to leverage those times to sense check how and what we need to invest in to evolve our state of readiness and maturity. This will make it all-the-more important for our senior leaders to learn how to vulnerably lift ‘taboos’ and approach topics like ‘privilege’ to dig deeper into the experience of their most valuable resource – their people – and invest in innovative, meaningful, pragmatic tools and techniques to create stable and visible talent pathways that will nurture their future, more diverse successors.
To Diversity …and beyond!…
So, how do nurture and invest in these successors? Moreover, how do we engage them and the diverse communities around us, who are crucial to success? Put simply, we give them the means and the power to invest in what we’re doing and where we’re going.
The concept of ‘equity’ has become more of a focal point this year, and rightly so – it’s here to stay. Gradually edging closer to ‘a more diverse workforce’ is falling short of the mark, as is leaning on diversity metrics as a blanket indicator of how inclusive a working environment is in the day-to-day for our employees. Whilst our consistent, well thought through inclusion efforts are a ‘must’ (and push us ever-closer to a state of equality), in order to achieve a fundamental sense of equity and continue to evolve in every ‘deal-breaking’ cultural area, our senior leaders will be increasingly required to demonstrate humility and willingness to venture into some less-chartered territory in breaking down some of the barriers we’ve historically created amidst the rise of our hierarchical structures. Redistributing control, investing in inclusive infrastructures and feedback mechanisms, and consulting as an early stage of problem-solving/decision-making will be what sets apart the industry-leaders from those lagging behind in the coming year or two. Have a look at our report, released earlier this year, in which we explore these areas in more detail – click here.
Experience and last year’s progress suggest that we’ll continue to see focus and investment in activity to support racial equality, particularly in the form of in-house and stakeholder entrepreneurial ventures. We also foresee a continuing focus on dispelling outdated, binary approaches to disability, with more innovative activity to look at the ‘bigger picture’ regarding physical disability and a more nuanced approach to accessibility and empowerment for neurodiverse communities.
Ultimately, it’s never been more relevant to deeply understand the implications of and opportunities related to intersectionality, and, rather than becoming inadvertently exclusive in our inclusion efforts, discovering ongoing opportunities for collaboration, and exponential progress as a result.
With investment in consultation and collaborative working, increasing equity, and the deconstruction of hierarchical constraints, there will undoubtedly be a requirement for increased clarity in roles and responsibilities in order to effectively meet and manage expectations around inclusion. With less rigidity around traditionally remunerated roles and higher voluntary involvement, there will also be a greater need for robust infrastructures to maintain momentum, monitor progress and anticipate the “what next”?
This is where we’ll need to ensure we don’t lose sight of work still to be done around resistance to inclusion (have a listen to our podcast on this topic here), as well as the ongoing role of allies in our planning and growth (we’ve recoded a podcast on this too!).
We’ve supported our clients in their progress this year with the introduction of a new maturity matrix to identify gaps: Areas in which they’re excelling and areas in which progress is at risk. This has proved to be an incredibly worthwhile activity – taking a holistic view of their own ‘bigger picture’ to then create a more consistent approach and better return on investment. When key areas fall by the wayside as a result of the ‘urgent’, all the investment, engagement and objectives can begin to feel like a house of cards. So, taking the time to investigate and proactively plan the ripple effect will pay dividends.
There’s no better example of this than the time we can spend now, adapting and moulding our inclusion plans to align with our approach to agile working in a post-pandemic world. What was once ambiguity thrust upon us can become a well-mapped-out short to long-term future for our cultural dynamics.
Exco and leadership considerations…
At a juncture of profound change and very recent insight into the “art of the possible”, what have we learned? How are we reflecting on it? Are we going to see increasing polarity between those “treading the shallow waters of compliance” and those “sailing the high seas of thought-leadership”? Or are we going to see more wide-spread, sustainable progress in the next 12 months as we implement all the last year has taught us? Who will be the bold organisations that take this step forward with inclusion as a central philosophy to strategy as we enter the post-pandemic world?