By Linda Devonish – Mills, CAE, CPA, CMA, MBA, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Consultant
When conversations and emphasis on diversity practices began over 20 years ago, the acronym D & I, referring to diversity and inclusion, was popular. In recent years, it is not uncommon to see the acronym, I & D to place emphasis on the importance for organizations to develop inclusive environments within workplaces to achieve success with diversity. This need for careful attention to inclusion becomes even more important when examined in the context of work teams.
An inclusive climate within a workplace is considered a prerequisite for inclusion and allows for making use of a wide range of perspectives and ideas that can enrich decision-making processes and boost the performance of diverse work teams. The attention has thus shifted toward from simply achieving diversity to the need to foster inclusive working environments to be appreciative of differences among work colleagues.
Can organizations experience success with developing inclusive environments without inclusive leaders? It may be possible but the outcomes will not be as strong as team leaders being encouraged and trained to become inclusive leaders.
According to a study conducted by the global accounting firm, Deloitte, any leader can be inclusive if they embrace the definition of such a leader.
Inclusive leadership is a style of where leaders seek collaboration and communication with colleagues to carry out effective decision-making and problem-solving in the workplace.
Here are the top three communication styles of an inclusive leader according to a study conducted by the Harvard Business Review:
The most common mistake that some companies make is assigning oversight of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives to an employee in addition to their current responsibilities. A more effective approach is to conduct an internal and/or external search that leads to an appointment of a senior DEI leader that may have the title of Chief Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Officer (CDEIO).
The CDEIO should be:
An external search for the position should be conducted in a similar manner as searches for other senior leadership roles, which may involve retaining an executive search firm to conduct the search. Candidates considered for the role should have some of the following qualifications:
Candidates should be able to demonstrate core values while executing responsibilities affiliated with the role:
Other qualifications may be considered for the position depending on the nature of the organization’s business. Internal candidates can be considered for the position. However, it is important for an internal candidate to obtain the training and resources needed to successfully execute the role as they may not have been in such roles previously in their career.
A Chief Human Resources Officer (CHRO) or Chief People Officer (CPO) is a corporate officer who oversees all aspects of human resources management and industrial relations policies, practices and operations for an organization. One of the CHRO’s chief tasks is to design and carry out a talent strategy, which encompasses recruiting, hiring, developing and retaining employees.
A talent strategy incorporated by a CHRO should result in a diverse pool of talent that can be considered for a leadership pipeline or succession planning. Organizations make the mistake of a CHRO taking on the responsibility of a CDEIO, which usually results in DEI initiatives not being executed at its full potential. The appropriate role for a CHRO with DEI initiatives is to collaborate under the leadership of the CDEIO.
In general, CHRO qualifications, skills and responsibilities that are necessary for success in this role include:
A few members of a branding and marketing team dominate the dialogue during a planning meeting. How can the manager of the team executive traits of inclusive leadership in this situation?
This situation is an example of how any of the team members could step in and execute inclusive leadership to ensure that voices of all of the team members are heard.
It is very important to note that team diversity does not automatically result in an inclusive environment. This means that intended outcomes of HR diversity practices within organizations are not effectively realized by only focusing on the diversity numbers.
Instead, inclusive team leadership is a prerequisite for diverse teams to develop at a team level, an inclusive environment in which different team members are valued for what they bring to work practices.
In summary, each person that is part of a diverse team in a workplace should be encouraged to become an inclusive leader beyond leadership obtained by a CDEIO, CHRO and other senior leaders within an organization.
When company leaders sit down to plan diversity initiatives for executive recruiting, several objections often immediately bubble to the surface.
Some of the objections above may have some merit. For instance, some smaller businesses really do struggle to pull in top candidates. Larger companies like Google or Nike can easily identify and attract diverse talent from all over the world, but a small or medium-sized enterprise not located in a major city may find it much more difficult to capture those candidates’ attention.
That said, board- and executive-level diversity cannot be ignored. Company leaders cannot bury their heads in the sand and try to ride out the trend toward more diversity with minimal effort. Instead, companies have to take practical steps to improve their odds of finding game-changing candidates from diverse backgrounds.
Our hands-on diversity recruiters have deep experience working with private, public, pre-IPO, and non-profit organizations. Clients are typically $50 million in revenue to Fortune 1000’s or have assets between $500 million to $15 billion. Successful placements span the entire C-Suite – CEO, Chief Operating Officer, Chief Financial Officer, and include vice president, general counsel, and other director-level leadership roles.
Discover more about executive diversity search — and find out why Cowen Partners is a leader among the nation’s best diversity and inclusion executive search firms in New York City, Anchorage, Miami, Boston, Denver, Chicago, St. Louis, Las Vegas, Seattle, Dallas, Los Angeles, San Diego, and beyond:
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