Of all the actions that learning officers can take, one stands out as being imperative and significantly impactful to every organization — equipping frontline managers to be consciously inclusive.
A year after the advent of the #MeToo outpouring, we’ve learned more about the prevalence of sexism and harassment in the workplace, but it’s not been followed by a behavioral sea change to a more equitable work environment. While making work environments fully inclusive is complex and requires concerted organizational strategy on many fronts, the most overlooked strategy is to positively enlist and engage managers to individually drive and be accountable for equity.
The approach that most companies take is to tell managers what they do wrong and what they should not do rather than teach them the behaviors that create inclusive environments and equitable opportunities for all. Companies’ efforts continue to focus on sexual harassment and unconscious bias training when the data shows that these types of initiatives usually don’t result in positive behavioral change. Instead, they often lead to frustration and resentment among managers.
Becoming aware of negative behaviors does not lead to a change in behavior. Changes in behavior occur when people have the desire and motivation and when they perceive a potential reward from a new way of acting.
The opportunity for chief learning officers is to explore with managers the benefits that will accrue for the managers from a diverse and inclusive work environment, including the ability to:
- Source and attract more talent during a historically low period of unemployment.
- Reduce turnover among high-potential women and minorities, which stabilizes their team and leads to higher productivity.
- Be seen by senior and executive management as a strategic leader who is capable of recognizing key talent and managing a diverse team. Managers who have these types of competencies are the ones who are rewarded with more responsibility, promotions and increase in compensation.
There are four types of behaviors inclusive leaders take that are required to lead in the fourth industrial revolution.
ELIMINATE. Inclusive managers stop behaviors and workplace practices that negatively impact women and minorities. They know how to put an end to inappropriate comments, sexual harassment or misconduct. They look and adjust common workplace interactions like meetings to create a productive environment where all genders want to work.
EXPAND. Inclusive managers interact with women in intentional and impactful ways. They expand where and how they recruit women and minorities to increase the number and quality of applicants. They are advocates and sponsors of underrepresented employees, not just mentors or supportive colleagues. They give women the same type of direct performance-based feedback and challenging assignments offered to men.
ENCOURAGE. Inclusive managers know that they need to consistently support and prompt women to take advantage of high-impact opportunities. They recognize women’s efforts as well their results and don’t take women’s self-deprecating assessments at face value.
ENGAGE. Inclusive managers participate in or lead initiatives that support women and an inclusive workplace. They acknowledge, remember and make every effort to accommodate their teammates’ life and family demands. They equally distribute work-keeping tasks, like taking notes at a meeting, among the men and women on their team instead of asking or letting women take on more than their fair share.
Organizations will only excel in the fourth industrial revolution if they have inclusive work environments. Learning leaders are uniquely positioned to develop managers into inclusive leaders if they change their approach from shaming, blaming and telling them what’s wrong and what not to do, to guiding them to build competencies on the actions they can take to attract, retain and advance diverse, remarkable talent.
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