Social and economic circumstances in today’s business environment have redefined what it takes to lead and who is considered a leader. These often opposing forces are disrupting organizations at all levels and are challenging the established roles, responsibilities and competencies leaders require.
Empowered by technology, employees have changed the traditional corporate workflow. Now individuals are free to structure their work around their lives rather than the other way around. According to the 2011 “Cisco Connected World Technology Report,” 56 percent of workers feel most productive away from their office. While three out of 10 college students view working remotely as a right rather than a privilege, this newfound freedom may not really be free. Trust is earned, not given. If learning leaders ask managers of mobile workers off the record whether they believe their employees are actually working eight hours a day, they will likely get a few blank stares.
The mobile workforce is just one example of a growing gap between workers’ expectations and organizational requirements, and this impacts leadership and leadership development.
Front-line leaders’ competencies are changing. According to the same Cisco study, cyber-security is another growing gap between younger and older workers. Three out of five young professionals surveyed claimed they do not consider themselves responsible for protecting corporate information and devices. Front-line leaders are caught in the middle of this growing divide and will need skills and support to reconcile the imbalance.
Social media also may have a role in driving a wedge between the manager and his or her team. Though it has not necessarily found a home in corporate boardrooms, social media is influencing how workers think about involvement. Social technologies have given the individual a voice, allowing thoughts and ideas to flow without qualification or restriction. In the traditional workplace, opinions were tapered, but the expectations of social-savvy workers may not be. Front-line leaders will be asked to balance the competing expectations of their teams and the business. Learning leaders have to equip them to meet the challenge, and this is central to the competency discussion moving forward.
Use collaboration to align team expectations and organizational requirements. Coaching and collaboration are key tools to engage social-savvy workers, according to Hallie Janssen, CEO of Anvil Media, a social media marketing firm.
“Leading social-savvy workers is about creating appropriate expectations and establishing boundaries,” she said. “Front-line leaders need to help employees translate their expectations from their online interactions into the workplace.”
Janssen recommends that managers use the collaborative process to help workers understand their span of credibility and get to the right result. “Validation in the social media world occurs through the recognition of peers. A blog post, for example, is validated when it is shared, liked or retweeted.” In social media, interactions and opinions are shaped through the informal peer-review process. Janssen suggests using the same technique at work to engage ideas, validate opinions and vet solutions.
Use focused response to meet market demands. Changing social expectations, however, is not confined to workers; expectations extend to the marketplace as well. Consumers are at home and at work, and they expect immediate, direct and appropriate responses to their needs.
The market is engaged in dialogue. Customers and would-be buyers have infinite opportunity to rate products and services, blog their opinions or seek advice from peers as they engage in the buying process. Consequently, market expectations are growing, and customer-facing teams and their managers must be prepared to respond.
So how do organizations cultivate front-line leaders who can meet expectations? The answer lies in the timing and training, according to Sharon Daniels, CEO of AchieveGlobal, a leadership, sales and service development firm.
“The key for highly effective sales and service associates is to have them uncover and meet customers’ needs at crucial defining moments, the times when a current customer or prospective buyer has the opportunity to judge an organization,” Daniels said. “Activities that lead to successful service outcomes involve both strategy and skills that add value at every defining moment. This takes a focus on leadership.”
Daniels said that front-line leaders should be developed through coaching and training programs that elevate skills from transaction-based client interactions to experience-focused service.
Informal leaders are important. Just as prevailing social forces have expanded the expectations for both worker and customer, the harsh economic realities of scarcity may make them equal. Time will tell whether the worst has passed, but either way it is unlikely that corporate coffers will open anytime soon. Many leaders are just getting comfortable with the new economic reality and starting to understand how it affects the organization and how they need to adapt their business strategy accordingly.
Layers tend to fall off of organization charts during lean times. That affects how work gets done and how teams are managed. For instance, managers will have a greater span of control, and consequently, so do those beneath them. Informal leaders, who lack the title but shoulder the responsibility, spring up to meet the challenge, but they may not be prepared. Since they lead by default rather than selection, informal leaders are often overlooked and don’t receive training and coaching commensurate with their responsibilities. Skills training in business acumen, problem-solving and negotiation as well as learning to work and communicate in a matrix environment are recommended to ensure informal leaders can face, and meet, challenges.
“We should avoid the inevitable trial-by-fire and understand their strengths, weaknesses and career goals before we dump authority on them,” said Maggie Walsh, vice president of leadership practice at The Forum Corp., a learning and strategic business firm.
“The ability of an individual to step up and take on the characteristics of a leader is not merely an issue of will and skill; success depends on the commitment of their manager,” she said. “Managers need to coach informal leaders through the process. They need to be clear about expectations, let them know that they don’t have to be perfect, and most importantly guide them through any performance challenges they might encounter.”
In flattened organizational structures, roles and responsibilities tend to overlap as resources are load-balanced and matrix teams emerge. Walsh said communication is the key to avoid duplication of work and the friction that occurs when responsibilities blur.
“Managers must help formal and informal leaders understand how to communicate more effectively in a matrix environment,” she said. “Peers need to know how to contract with colleagues to clearly establish and communicate the alignment of terms, roles and responsibilities, and decision rights. Ambiguity creates friction and so formal, as well as informal, leaders need to invest in communication early and often.”
Commit senior management to efficiency. “When resources and work don’t reconcile, then something has got to give,” said J. LeRoy Ward, executive vice president of product strategy and management at ESI International, a project-focused training organization. Ward said efficient business processes and strong project and portfolio methodology are good places for senior managers to start. “With limited resources, business leaders cannot afford to continue performing the same functions in the same way if they are going to survive in an environment of scarcity,” he said. “They must be able to discern what is core to the needs of the business, what is secondary and what is non-essential, then redesign functional responsibilities and business processes accordingly.”
A focus on efficiency and steady-state processes is important – status quo does not tend to advance the organization. As marketplace complexity grows due to globalization and highly integrated solutions, today’s organizations are increasingly propelled forward by projects. “Research for a new product, development of a game-changing software application or construction of enabling infrastructure all require projects to make them happen, and business leaders have an important role to play,” Ward said.
Project sponsorship and portfolio management are two of the primary functions senior managers fulfill in the process, according to Ward. “As a project sponsor, leaders ensure that their projects are delivering on their stated objectives, and that project management best practices are being utilized from project planning to project closeout. As portfolio managers, senior leaders rank and prioritize projects based on the firm’s objectives and then ensure that resources are allocated accordingly.” Therefore, understanding and utilizing best practices in these areas is a critical competency for senior managers in today’s environment.
The L&D Response
Leaders at all levels are walking a thin line as they struggle to balance employees’ and customers’ growing expectations with the realities of constricted resources. Many of these challenges are not new to the organization, but they are often new to the leaders facing them. Learning and development organizations will play a critical role in supporting all levels of management as roles, responsibilities and competency requirements shift to meet these evolving challenges. L&D leaders need to assess their workforces more often and adapt their learning and development strategies to meet the changing requirements.
Front-line leaders are caught in the middle of competing expectations and need strong business acumen, communication skills and a collaborative mindset to understand organizational goals, communicate effectively with their teams and navigate expectations to reach desired business outcomes. Increasing market demands mean that client-facing teams and their front-line leaders will need to be situationally aware and capable of uncovering and meeting customer needs at the critical points of impact.
Informal leaders perhaps represent the greatest opportunity for L&D engagement. They often go unrecognized and are subjected to trial-by-fire development. Given their neglect and their growing importance in the organization, many will require foundational leadership development, a better understanding of how to communicate in a matrix environment and a broader understanding of the business.
Out of necessity, senior leaders are recommitting themselves to efficiency, and in many cases are revisiting their skill sets. Though leaders at this level tend to have strong business acumen and communication skills, many lack some of the higher-function competencies in process improvement, systems thinking and project and portfolio management. These areas represent a great opportunity for the L&D organization to re-engage with its senior leadership.
[About the Author: Mark Bashrum is vice president of corporate marketing and strategic intelligence at ESI International.]
Whether it’s the world of business, politics or sports, there is no shortage of leadership failures to illustrate the effects of broken trust on a personal and organizational level.
Consider these recent, well-known examples of prominent leaders breaking trust where the damage extended beyond the individuals:
Tony Hayward, former CEO of BP, left the company after his series of trust-eroding gaffes and missteps following the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010. BP received significant public criticism and damage to its brand image as a result of Hayward’s seemingly uncaring response to the environmental disaster.
Jim Tressel, former head football coach at The Ohio State University, resigned under pressure in May 2011 after admitting he knew some of his players had violated NCAA rules but chose not to alert his superiors about the infractions. Between self-imposed penalties and those handed down by the NCAA, Ohio State stands to lose millions of dollars in football revenue.
New York Congressman Anthony Weiner resigned under pressure last year after initially denying, then later admitting, he sent a lewd picture from his Twitter account and engaged in “sexting” with numerous women over a period of years. Weiner’s actions seem to reinforce a growing lack of trust in politicians and their integrity.
Trust or Consequences
Prominent breaches of trust such as these garner the news headlines, yet it’s leaders’ everyday actions that determine the level of trust in organizations. Most employees have experienced broken promises, unfulfilled commitments and leaders withholding information, have been treated unfairly or heard blatant lies and dishonesty in the workplace. Repeated occurrences of these kinds of trust-busting behaviors by leaders foster low-trust environments resulting in employees who are demoralized, afraid to take risks, disengaged, unproductive and ultimately at a higher risk to leave the organization.
According to “Trust Matters: New Links to Employee Retention and Well-Being,” a 2011 Kenexa High Performance Institute WorkTrends report, 50 percent of employees who distrust their senior leaders are seriously considering leaving their organization, compared to 14 percent of those who do trust their leaders. Deloitte’s 2010 “Ethics and Workplace Survey” reports that 48 percent of employed Americans who plan to look for a new job as the economy improves are doing so because of a lack of trust in their employer and a lack of transparent communication from senior leadership.
Distrust in leaders and organizations has health and well-being implications for employees as well. According to the “Trust Matters” report, employees who distrust their leaders are seven times more likely to report they are mentally and physically unwell, and 62 percent of employees who lack trust in their leaders report unreasonable levels of stress compared to 13 percent of those who do trust their leaders.
Trust Improves the Bottom Line
Organizations are increasingly taking proactive steps to build high-trust cultures because it helps improve the bottom line. Lowe’s, the second largest home improvement retailer in the world with more than 1,750 stores in the U.S., Canada and Mexico and nearly 235,000 employees, emphasizes the importance of trust in its leadership development practices and has seen the benefits.
Greg Nell, vice president of learning and development and a 22-year veteran of Lowe’s, said, “My personal experience at Lowe’s, as well as the results from our employee engagement surveys, has shown that when there is a high level of trust and engagement in teams or stores, people costs around accidents, turnover, sick hours and inventory shrink are less, customer satisfaction is higher, and sales and profits are higher. Conversely, in stores or teams that have a lack of trust, the engagement results are lower and the people costs are up.”
Nell’s experience at Lowe’s has been mirrored in several studies and reports that show the benefit of trust in the workplace. Research by the Great Places to Work Institute, publisher of the Fortune 100 Best Companies to Work For list, has shown that between 1997 and 2011, high-trust companies outperformed the Russell 3000 and S&P 500, posting annualized returns of 10.32 percent versus 4.02 percent and 3.71 percent, respectively. Further, those best companies provide four times the returns as market average for comparative low-trust companies and typically experience a 50 percent lower turnover rate.
A Common Language of Trust
For leaders and organizations to realize the benefits of high levels of trust, they should establish a common definition and framework of how to build it. Many people don’t give much thought to intentionally building trust; they just assume it happens over time.Yet the reality is that trust is built or eroded by the use of specific behaviors that people perceive as either trustworthy or untrustworthy. For leaders to be successful in developing high-trust relationships and organizational cultures, they need to focus on using behaviors that align with the four core elements of trust. To represent the four elements in the language of trust, The Ken Blanchard Cos. created the ABCD Trust Model – Able, Believable, Connected and Dependable.
Being able is about demonstrating competence. One way leaders demonstrate their competence is by having the expertise needed to do their jobs. Expertise comes from possessing the right skills, education or credentials to establish credibility with others. Leaders also demonstrate their competence by achieving results. Consistently achieving goals and having a track record of success builds trust with others and inspires confidence in one’s ability. Able leaders are also skilled at facilitating work getting done. They develop credible project plans, systems and processes to help team members accomplish their goals.
A believable leader acts with integrity. Dealing with people honestly by keeping promises, not lying or stretching the truth and not gossiping are ways to demonstrate integrity. Believable leaders also have clear values that have been articulated to their followers, and they behave consistently with those values – they walk the talk. A 2010 Maritz Research survey reported that 11 percent of respondents strongly agreed that their managers showed consistency between their words and actions. Treating people fairly and equitably are also key components to being a believable leader. Being fair doesn’t necessarily mean treating people the same in all circumstances; it means people are treated appropriately and justly based on their own situations.
Showing care and concern for people builds trust and helps to create an engaging work environment. Connectedness with leader and connectedness with colleague are two key factors involved in creating employee work passion, and trust is a necessary ingredient in those relationships. Leaders create a sense of connectedness by openly sharing information about themselves and the organization and trusting employees to use that information responsibly.
Leaders also build trust by having a people-first mentality and building rapport with those they lead. Taking an interest in people as individuals and not just as nameless workers shows that leaders value and respect their team members. Recognition is a vital component of being a connected leader, and praising and rewarding employees’ contributions and their work builds trust and goodwill.
Being dependable and reliable is the fourth element that builds trust. One of the quickest ways to erode trust is by not following through on commitments. Conversely, leaders who do what they say they’re going to do earn a reputation as being consistent and trustworthy. Maintaining reliability requires leaders to be organized so that they are able to follow through on commitments, be on time for appointments and meetings, and get back to people in a timely fashion. Dependable leaders also hold themselves and others accountable for following through on commitments and taking responsibility for their work outcomes.
By using the ABCD Trust Model, leaders can focus on the behaviors that build trust, and by sharing this model with those they lead, create a common framework and language to discuss trust issues in the workplace.
Rebuilding Damaged Trust
Despite their best intentions, there will be times when leaders break trust with those they lead. Although trust can take a long time to build and just a moment to destroy, there is hope for recovery if the parties involved are willing to put in the time and effort necessary to restore a healthy level of trust to the relationship. Leaders can follow this five-step process to rebuild broken trust:
The success of the 12-step recovery process shows that the first thing that has to be done is acknowledge that a problem exists. Depending on its severity, a breach of trust can have difficult and emotional consequences that many leaders would rather avoid. Yet to begin the rebuilding process, leaders must acknowledge a situation exists and needs to be addressed.
Second, leaders have to admit their part in causing the breach of trust. They need to own up to their actions and take responsibility for whatever harm was caused. This is a crucial step that leaders shouldn’t overlook. Refusing to admit mistakes reflects negatively on a leader’s believability and can let a mistake in judgment turn into an indictment of character.
The next step in repairing damaged trust is for leaders to apologize for their role in the situation. A good apology incorporates steps one and two – acknowledging the mistake and admitting involvement – and expresses regret for the harm caused and assurances that the offense won’t be repeated. The apology needs to be motivated by sincerity and remorse, not be contrived or forced. Avoid making excuses, shifting blame or using qualifying statements that detract from the apology.
The fourth step is to assess which elements of the ABCD Trust Model were violated and create an action plan to improve in those areas. In their assessment, it’s important for leaders to narrow down the specific behaviors that cause the breach of trust. Repairing a breach of trust can seem like a daunting task, but if leaders identify the specific behaviors at the root of the issue, they can create a manageable and realistic plan to move forward.
The final step in the trust rebuilding process is to agree on an action plan with the offended party on what will be done differently moving forward to help rebuild trust. This step is an ongoing process of evaluating the consistency of the leader’s behavior and its alignment with the action plan.
Leaders can afford many kinds of mistakes, but the one thing they can’t afford to lose is trust. The ability to build and sustain high levels of personal and organizational trust is a defining and critical competency for today’s leaders. By using behaviors that align with the four core elements of trust – able, believable, connected and dependable – leaders can effectively build trust and lead their teams to higher levels of productivity,engagement and success.
[About the Author: Randy Conley is the trust practice leader at The Ken Blanchard Cos., a leadership training organization.]
In the world of coffee houses and cafes, size matters. I can order my morning cup of java in about eight sizes, ranging from a single shot to a super large, foam-topped jug. Buyers get to select the size of their cups based on a range of factors, like what’s available, their daily rituals or how their stomachs handle the first tastes of the day. Some will order a medium-sized drink knowing they will follow up with another one after 20 minutes of sipping.
But in the world of learning, most of our cups have been one size. Learning professionals deal with a set of administrative realities, which have led to:
1. One-hour webinars:
Regardless of the content richness, 60 minutes fits the schedule neatly.
2. Two five-day residential courses:
If learners have to travel to a training destination, might as well add another day to leverage the transit costs and time.
3. Default e-learning module lengths:
Companies typically offer 15 minute e-learning segments, five to 13 minutes for a user-created video and 60 minutes for a regulatory offering.
4. Books of a certain length:
Length traditions even extend to the book world, where publishers want 130 to 280 pages of content to justify the production and retail price, even when a 35-page book would deliver higher impact.
We see these length defaults in large and small organizations. They are reinforced by our instructional designers, managers and even the regulatory agencies that drive much of our compliance-related learning. Learners have come to expect these default rituals as well.
Imagine if learners received a notice about a nine-minute webinar at 3 p.m. today. They would probably have a few immediate reactions:
a) “Can’t be that important if we are only spending nine minutes.”
b) “Why would they bother to gather us for only nine minutes?”
c) “Oh, no. They might be selling the company, and this will be a short shocker.”
But these same learners are deeply engaged in selecting their food sizes. They know how to pick a size that fits their real needs in that moment or to plan on taking the remainder home as leftovers for another round of consumption. Why not provide the same options for learning?
What if an organization rolled out a new process and offered learners a sizing menu?
1. Give me a venti module:
This would be the grand and deep tour of the content. It would be of longer length and would have detailed procedures, a rich framework overview and multiple levels of context to reflect its use in the workplace.
2. Can I have a grande lesson?
This would be a smaller version of the venti and would rely more on what the learner already knows or on other learning assets.
3. A shot of content, please:
The learner gets a strong and short shot of information, procedure and reference. Think of this as a just-in-time performance support element. The shot might be used as a stand-alone asset for a new learner or as a review component for an experienced worker.
4. Foam that module with user content:
Sometimes the worker knows the information but really needs to understand it from the perspective of others using it in actual work situations. We might take a small shot of content and foam it with video content from many different workers in diverse work settings.
I am not suggesting that we use the exact language of a coffee house or restaurant, but as learning professionals, we might start to devise some fresh and agile language to describe the size and depth of each content module. The language of learning choices should start K-12 education, continue to higher education and be leveraged in multiple workplaces.
Sizing content should start with education content managers and regulators. It should reflect organizationally assigned content but also deeply enable the learner to be actively and effectively engaged in the learning process.
[About the Author: Elliott Masie is the chairman and CLO of The Masie Center’s Learning Consortium.]
In a time and state that has been named the “knowledge economy,” “the LinkedIn economy” and “free agent nation,” the need to know our people – our greatest asset – is at an all-time high, yet from a capability standpoint, we’re at nearly an all-time low.
We, as organizations of all shapes and sizes, know more about assets such as iPads, smartphones and other miscellaneous machinery than we do about our people.
The time has come to make the case to every executive in your company that in 2012 we must invest the time to get to know our people better than other assets in the organization.
We are recovering from one of the lowest points in the global economy. Graduation rates continue to plummet, boomers continue to get older and retire, and the skills of the workforce are mismatched compared to what the economy needs to grow and thrive, not just remain flat.
So where are these skills? How will you find them in the future? What organizations around the world have these people with these skills?
The answers to these questions will give organizations around the globe a major competitive advantage during the next decade. The only way to find, “follow,” “like,” stalk and steal these people is to get them from your competition.
Of course, there will still be a huge need to monitor talent graduating from various educational institutions ranging from high schools through advanced post-secondary schools, but truly experienced talent with the skills needed to offer a competitive advantage boost will come from your competition.
Not long ago, the holy grail to finding or attracting – instead of stealing – your competitors’ talent was to somehow get a hold of the employee directory from that firm. This had all of the names, phone numbers and emails of the people employed by that organization, and let the cold calling, postcard mailing and gorilla marketing begin.
In today’s technology-enabled world, a simple Google search or journey to LinkedIn will tell us all about our competition’s workforce, including tenure, skills and what they want to be when they grow up. Another few clicks over to Glassdoor.com will tell us about our competitors’ weaknesses when it comes to retaining talent.
In a world of transparency, your competition knows more about your workforce than you do, and you have the same ability to know more about their workforce than they do.
It seems backwards, but that needs to be our rallying cry: The only way for an organization to gain competitive advantage with its talent is to understand it. To understand it, we must have a central, global repository of its skills that rivals that of LinkedIn and use that amazing wealth of knowledge to move, manage and cultivate our talent before the competition comes knocking. And that knock is no longer a threat, it’s a guarantee.
Today and for the rest of our lives, we will be in a war for skills. Most organizations have the weapons in their core HR or talent management systems to fight in this war. But they have no idea how to use their weapons, nor do they have the ammunition to compete. The time is now to change that.
Talent leaders must realize that without knowledge of their people and their talents, our jobs as HR professionals will disappear – just like our organizations will. Take it from organizations such as Circuit City, Kodak and Blockbuster. Because of their inability to innovate or to find new skills they needed, these companies have become irrelevant, disappeared or are in need of major retooling to survive.
We can’t wait for IT to come up with the golden answer. It is time for those in HR and talent management functions to take ownership and prepare for a long, lengthy and vicious war for skills.
Only the informed and intelligent will survive, and the big and strong will fall, resting on the laurels of the past.
[About the Author: Jason Averbook is the CEO of Knowledge Infusion.]
“I am a new CDO, an army of one – what can I do to extend my reach across a large geographic area?”
“I have inherited my organization’s D&I process, and I want to upgrade our current approach and put my own stamp on things.”
“I have been working our D&I approach for years … it is time to take it to the next level.”
“We don’t have a CDO. We run things with volunteers. What do we do to create a solid foundation that moves us forward?”
Each of these situations is different, yet many similarities exist. While there is never a one-size-fits-all in discussions of diversity and inclusion (D&I), there are some fundamental questions to be asked in each situation and a process to address the answers.
If one believes that form follows function, a strategic diversity infrastructure shape should be primarily based on its intended purpose. Then, the diversity executive can begin with the end in mind by asking and answering questions to guide the infrastructure building process. An effective and business-relevant D&I structure can be created by following five essential steps. They include situation, strategy, structure, skills and knowledge and sustainability.
Factor One: Situation
First, decide on the infrastructure functionality or determine what problem the organization is trying to solve. “Understanding the culture and situation is critical prior to building the strategy and structure,” said Steven Larson, diversity and inclusion strategy consultant at financial services company Wells Fargo. “Two important questions for understanding the situation are, what is the driver for doing this work and why now? In other words, what is the core of the organization’s commitment?”
Instead, practitioners often follow a “build it and they will come” philosophy as the D&I plan and process is constructed. While sometimes more expedient, that approach is not sustainable; it does not garner the same serious attention given to other business problems.
The following questions help to determine what the organization is trying to solve as it relates to the workforce, workplace and marketplace from a D&I perspective.
a) What are my organization’s top strategic priorities? Where are the intersections between those priorities and diversity and inclusion?
b) Is my organization anticipating any major changes, such as mergers or adding new product lines?
c) What is my organization’s vision, mission and values?
d) Where are we in our D&I maturity? Are we in a start-up phase? Just beginning to create and implement tactics and gain momentum? Are we in peak performance demonstrated through continual attainment of goals? Are we in slippage – with organizational diversity fatigue resulting in reduced resources and interest? Do we feel that at this time the efforts are dormant or non-existent? Are we seeing the need for rejuvenation and restructuring?
e) What does our assessment data tell us about representation numbers, our ability to attract, retain, develop and engage talent and customers? Is that data cut across demographic groups?
f) What is the history – the good, the bad and the ugly – of D&I in our organization?
g) What are our key stakeholders saying, feeling, thinking, fearing and hoping to achieve through the D&I process?
With these answers the chief diversity officer can determine the overarching strategic framework needed.
Factor Two: Strategy
Often organizations utilize a checklist of activities piecemealed together to form a plan. The plan should be built around the organization’s strategic priorities.
Practitioners often say, “there has to be more to D&I than food, fun and flags,” meaning activities that create excitement and visibility don’t always move the organization forward. However, creating an overarching strategic framework does not have to be ominous.
Strategies should be purposefully broad and linked and aligned with the organization’s strategic priorities, not the D&I mission. Note: efforts to increase communication, community involvement and training are not strategies. They are activities.
Joe Santana, senior director of diversity for electronics and engineering company Siemens USA, said his company manages diversity “by reviewing policies, practices and procedures to drive an inclusive and high-performance workplace culture.” This broad-level strategy allows for specific, measurable tactics under each strategy. Further, D&I strategies should not change from year to year unless there is a major shift in organizational priorities. However, the tactical aspects of the plan change frequently to meet individual business unit, region or product line needs.
Fernando Serpa, director, global diversity and inclusion for energy and efficiency company Johnson Controls, said diversity and inclusion need to be embedded into the business strategy like safety or quality. “If diversity and inclusion is seen as a stand-alone initiative, it is not going to have the traction and sustainability you need to make it succeed. We review all of our business goals and pull out those that have a diversity component, such as tapping into new markets, innovation and customer satisfaction. We then align the diversity strategy to mirror our business goals so that going forward everything we do in diversity is tied to moving the business forward.”
Neddy Perez, vice president, global diversity and inclusion at industrial company Ingersoll Rand, agreed. “D&I needs to be aligned with your business priorities, otherwise it will not carry any weight within the organization with business leaders. If you link it to sales leads, improved operational efficiency and profit generation, your efforts will be taken more seriously. If the focus is only on branding, for example, you will not be as successful in driving real organizational change.”
With a strategic framework in place, the CDO must determine how to execute the tactical elements of the plan and engage the entire organization, especially if there is only one leader in the office of diversity.
Factor Three: Structure
Many diversity organizations are built thinking about the functional areas of diversity and inclusion as opposed to the desired results. Either approach might produce a similar conclusion, but a structure focus demonstrates business savvy and a sophisticated understanding of organizational development.
Structure includes diversity councils, employee resource groups (ERGs), also known as business resource groups, as well as the office of diversity. “All parts of the infrastructure should be structured as the company is structured with governance and accountability so their energies and efforts are focused to contribute business value,” said Larson of Wells Fargo.
Almost most organizations have councils and ERGs, these two pieces of the D&I infrastructure are different in purpose and function. Diversity councils are groups of employees or leaders selected according to specific criteria. They are chartered and organized to create or implement the tactical elements of the D&I strategic plan across the organization’s footprint. They can be formed to represent regions, business lines and divisions. The tactics they implement are built flexibly to meet specific needs in alignment with D&I strategies. Many times councils accomplish visible activities, but their efforts don’t necessarily work to substantially move the business forward. They are often separate from the other council groups and may be working from tactical activity templates. This approach will not garner the same results as a tightly chartered group focused on accomplishing overarching business strategies.
ERGs are also linked to the overarching strategies and to the councils’ efforts. These groups help to implement agreed-upon tactics for specific constituency groups and move the business forward. Organizations cannot afford ERGs that only work on their constituencies’ behalf. Johnson Controls’ Serpa said his company asked its ERGs to show their business value internally and externally. For instance, the Hispanic Affinity Network is developing a relocation toolkit and manual for Latinos moving to the Milwaukee area, where the company is headquartered. “If a new employee is given that extra attention, made to feel welcome and included as soon as they arrive, that will have a positive effect on their retention and engagement as well as how they speak of Johnson Controls to their friends and colleagues outside of the company,” he said.
These two groups comprise the “feet on the street” for diversity and inclusion. They are the vocal advocates and champions, the people who make things better for employees, customers and the organization. When joined to each other, they should then be connected to an overarching steering committee and tied to the ultimate process owner, the organization’s president or CEO.
The overarching council charter should include the organizational chart for D&I to ensure alignment. Often charters are no more than a page of guiding principles and do not detail the operating guidelines for each part of the infrastructure. Thorough charters take time to create and should be approved up the chain of command, be shared with each member and be present at each meeting. The charter should indicate the membership process, how to terminate members, roles and responsibilities for each aspect of the infrastructure, group leadership, the history of D&I work and details on specific linkages to the business, including vision, purpose and mission.
Asma Sage, adviser for the Engineering, Operations and Technology Diversity and Inclusion Council (EO&T) for Boeing’s IT infrastructure, said her experience leading an enterprise D&I council taught her that establishing a solid infrastructure is vital to effectively develop, implement, execute and maintain a sustainable D&I strategy.
“Developing an effective D&I infrastructure has enabled Boeing’s Engineering, Operations and Technology D&I Council to strategically integrate our objectives and priorities with those of the business; enabling the council to move from purely tactical projects to a strategic plan with prioritized, focused objectives. As a result, the EO&T D&I Council’s vision, mission, objectives, strategies and tactics have all been aligned to the expectations of our Boeing EO&T leaders, and are now focused on advancing employee engagement, inclusion, productivity and business performance.”
Once the infrastructure has been created, the fourth success factor comes into play: skills and knowledge.
Once the infrastructure is in place and members are selected, council and ERG members have been known to say, “I just became part of the council and was invited to this meeting. I really don’t know why or what I am supposed to do.” Skilling up council and ERG members is critical to their success and to the overall success of the D&I infrastructure and process. Otherwise, passionate, eager, willing workers are ill-equipped to implement the tactical elements of the plan for which they have been “hired,” and gaps discovered in the situation phase cannot be closed.
Factor Four: Skills and Knowledge
Skills and knowledge for ERG and council members – like any other position within an organization – can’t be a check-it-off-the-list, one-and-done event. Not only do new members need an orientation, they need to understand D&I from a personal, interpersonal and organizational change perspective. A specific job description should be in place and included within the charter, and participants’ performance should be gauged; they should be coached and rewarded. CDOs, council or ERG chairmen, or a subcommittee chairman can encourage, inspire and gauge members’ performance. In the best-case scenario, the council/ERG members’ efforts are part of their job performance evaluation. This practice keeps the communication flowing between members and their supervisor.
Too often the diversity and inclusion process comes and goes with passing CDOs, CEOs or after an unfortunate situation, which is why sustainability is the fifth and final factor necessary for strategic D&I success. “The key test for a successful diversity strategy is how embedded is it in the corporate culture and will it survive as a business practice if the diversity officer leaves the company,” Serpa said.
Factor Five: Sustainability
The goal for each D&I process is to reach and sustain peak performance by closing the gaps identified during the situation step and by continuing to identify and close gaps as the organization grows and business changes. Often sustainability focuses on a strategic, comprehensive communication plan, an accountability and measurement plan and ongoing education as the D&I process matures. Without a tracking and measurement process, nothing will last, and success in today’s sharply focused, budget-restricted workplace is doubtful.
Perez offered three tips to sustain D&I work. “Identify what system changes need to happen; find out who are the informal leaders and engage them; and identify and engage two to three senior leaders in the process who can become strong advocates.”
The aforementioned process was presented linearly for ease of explanation, but it is not lock-stepped. The components are often worked on simultaneously.
By adhering to the adage that form follows function and by following each of the five factors for D&I success, the D&I process can mature, reach peak performance and be a strategic lever with which to accomplish organizational results.
[Linda H. Stokes is president and CEO of PRISM International Inc., a global diversity and inclusion consulting and training firm.]
Perhaps we need a new word. Roget’s Thesaurus provides the following synonyms for leadership: authority, command, control, direction, domination, foresight, guidance, power, pre-eminence and primacy. This presumes a leader is someone out in front, with all the answers in hand and perhaps trailed by a cadre of willing followers.
But being a leader today is more complex. Not only are the business challenges daunting, but the increasing diversity of the workforce makes building a cohesive organization difficult.
There are four things you need to do to lead today’s diverse workforce successfully:
Withhold judgment – don’t jump to conclusions.
Legitimize diverse perspectives.
Surface differences and establish clear and effective group norms.
Frame and deliver messages in ways that are meaningful to each individual.
To appreciate requires a willingness to withhold judgment. What seems to be an illogical interpretation or odd behavior to you may seem normal to another. Everyone’s initial reaction reflects a particular bias or lens, shaped by each individual’s background and experience.
Acknowledging there is no reason any individual’s perspective should automatically be given primary significance gives you the ability to fairly hear and evaluate multiple points of view.
Second, leaders must publicly acknowledge the legitimacy and benefits of alternate views. This often requires teaching: helping others discover that colleagues see issues differently and becoming comfortable with differences. As a leader, facilitate group discussions of how a situation looks and create a context in which it is acceptable – preferably desirable – for people to express different views.
Third, leaders must arbitrate the inevitable behavioral differences that will arise. Again, in a group, ask employees to share perspectives on how things might be done, acknowledge the validity of various views and establish ground rules or norms for use in your particular circumstance. To the extent possible, make these rules situation-specific. Rather than pronouncing one view right or wrong, conclude that in this situation, the group will follow this course of action.
For example, areas for discussion may include:
1. How individuals view time and place:
Older employees began their careers when work was the time spent in the office. In contrast, younger workers tend to view work as something you do anywhere, any time, and find set work hours a throwback to another era. In your circumstance, does it matter whether people are working in the office or somewhere else? Does everybody have to work the same hours to accomplish the tasks?
2. How colleagues communicate:
Some are accustomed to brief texts, while others may be uncomfortable with digital communication and even feel offended by a lack of face-to-face interaction. What method of communication will your group use for what purpose? What response time is expected under which circumstance?
3. How we sync up and organize:
Older employees typically are planners and schedulers, while many younger colleagues are coordinators. Neither approach is perfect for every situation. What requires a plan and schedule? What can be coordinated in real-time?
Fourth, you may need to adapt your communication using language that resonates with members’ differing values and preferences. Consider how the U.S. Army has delivered the same message – “Join the Army” – to successive generations.
With traditionalists, whose values include respect for authority and a desire to affiliate with institutions, it used a powerful, finger-pointing image and the command: “Uncle Sam Wants You.” In contrast, the idealistic boomers, self-occupied and bent on personal growth, would never have responded well to this approach; the Army switched the message to “Be All You Can Be.” The self-reliant members of Generation X were asked to join “An Army of One.” And today, to reach a generation of family-centric Y’s, the Army is speaking directly to parents with the message, “You Made Them Strong; We’ll Make Them Army Strong.”
Source = [About the Author: Tamara J. Erickson is the author of What’s Next, Gen X? Keeping Up, Moving Ahead, and Getting the Career You Want.]
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