The following is a guest post by Management Leadership for Tomorrow’s (MLT) Director of Partnerships Anthony Mitchell. MLT is a partner of Goodwill Industries International.
Leaders working to create diverse and inclusive workplaces must make the connection between diversity initiatives, cultural differences and their organization’s business goals. Effective business cases set the context for diversity and identify organizational challenges that must be addressed in order to create change. Building inclusive workplace cultures requires far more than a strong business case, the “right” program, or even the most sophisticated assessment tools or metrics.
To create high-performing work cultures, business leaders must pay attention to the people side— how employees connect to company values, its social impact on the broader community, the workplace role models employees are exposed to, and employees’ willingness and ability to participate in culture change efforts.
Change is happening all around us. The world is evolving in ways that compel organizations to constantly reevaluate how business is done and how to ensure their diverse employee and consumer base are connected to the business. Being a good corporate citizen overall and not one focused solely on profits or maximizing shareholder value is now expected.
Significant shifts in the demographic composition of the labor force, the speed of innovation, technology, as well as human rights and corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives present challenges and opportunities for organizations to develop impactful change, diversity, and inclusion agendas. These are now inspiring times for cross-cultural collaboration and strategic actions focused on embracing differences and leveraging inclusion. Forward-thinking companies are building innovative and data-driven strategies and leveraging their organization’s identity, successes, relationships, and processes to cultivate inclusive workplaces that factor in changing societal trends.
At the same time, change is difficult. Setbacks, unfair expectations, and resistance are commonplace. Managing these setbacks can confuse or dishearten those who spearhead even the most sophisticated and promising inclusion initiatives. Leaders, champions and employees across cultures must be able to manage the excitement as well as the difficulties, doubts and disappointments
This is why culture matters in driving organizational change. Societal cultural norms, values and perceptions often affect how organizations get things done. This also includes how behaviors are interpreted. Broader society norms and values can also govern change strategies and approaches. Society informs the ways in which the need for change is experienced, leaders communicate change visions and progress, organizations experience resistance, and people react emotionally to change. All shed light on the successes and challenges reflected in the change process.
The diversity and inclusion space continues to expand and evolve. This presents an exciting opportunity for those willing to dig in and create change!