Most business leaders would say they are committed to equality, diversity and inclusion, but would their employees agree?
Many organisations will ensure they meet their legal responsibilities regarding discrimination laws, but if their approach to fostering an inclusive culture is characterised by ad-hoc interventions and initiatives, rather than a shift in mindset and behaviours, then there is likely to be a disconnect between leaders and their people as to how they are performing in this area.
This disparity between the good intentions of leaders and the everyday experiences of their employees is known as the inclusion perception gap.
Wondering if your organisation has an inclusion perception gap? Here’s how it may have occurred:
- Not asking the right questions
Business leaders are generally no longer asking “why?” they should place such importance on ED&I strategies, but they are neglecting to ask “how?”. This rudimentary change is the start of moving inclusion policies away from being simple tick-box exercises to vehicles for actual change.
- Poor communication
Discovering the “how” relies on communication across all levels of a business. It’s important to put in place processes to engage employees, not just at the implementation stage of inclusion initiatives, but continuously, so you can measure whether they have been effective or not.
- Lack of diversity in the C-suite
Even with the best intentions, business leaders can be out of touch with people further down the organisation, especially if they come from similar backgrounds and haven’t been exposed to the lived experiences of those from other groups. A lack of diversity at the top can allow biases to go unchecked.
- Failing to understand intersectionality
The issues of ED&I play out differently for everyone. Awareness of intersectionality tells us that those who are members of multiple protected groups under discrimination law have different experiences from those who fall into just one or none. Ignoring intersectionality can only lead to ineffective policies.
- Underestimating generational expectations
Perception gaps may arise from a difference in expectations between generations, for example, what an older, more experienced CEO may deem to be “enough” at a strategic level may not hit the bar with a younger, more expectant workforce.
- It’s uncomfortable work
Investigating whether your ED&I strategies are really working or not may uncover some uncomfortable truths, which can put leaders off asking the important questions. It can be confronting to discover that discrimination, harassment and bullying are taking place, that people are concerned that they’re not paid fairly or are worried about speaking up. It can also be shocking to hear from their employees that their efforts appear unauthentic. Equally, it’s uncomfortable for leaders to recognise and confront their own inherent biases and misconceptions.
If any of these points sound familiar, there are ways you can narrow the perception gap and be on your way to creating an inclusive culture that helps everyone feel like they belong. Look out for my next blog when I’ll be explaining more.
At Tell Jane, we work with forward-thinking and progressive organisations across the UK to design, develop and deliver effective diversity and inclusion strategies that drive lasting and sustainable change. Get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org to find out more.
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