Career Skills Development: Inclusive Leadership - A Noble Ambition and a Business Imperative
By Cindy Powell, Bespoke Management and Technology Services LLC

It’s not necessary to be a political pundit or even an avid newshound to have noticed that conflicts can exist when people of diverse backgrounds, lifestyles and beliefs find themselves sharing common cities, neighborhoods, schools and workplaces.   Anyone who watches even a small amount of cable news, or reads a few headlines from their favorite daily newspaper, could easily be discouraged by the seemingly enormous divide.   With so much negative news to consume, it is encouraging to know that many companies and business leaders have recognized the need to develop and implement strategies that make their workplaces welcoming of people from all backgrounds.   Companies who purposefully practice inclusive leadership understand that a diverse workforce is a noble ambition, and it is also a business imperative.

Several large organizations with highly familiar brands, such as IKEA, Merck, Bank of America and MasterCard have received international recognition for designing and implementing business strategies that are both value-driven and business-driven.  By making inclusive leadership a strategic objective, they have taken an approach that not only encourages diversity in recruitment, hiring and talent retention, but also includes on-going initiatives designed to routinely tap into the creativity and innovation that emerges when people with unique insights work together.

The Harvard Business Review conducted and published research based on interviews with executives of the aforementioned companies, as well as another 20 companies with similar reputations and inclusion programs.  There were some common practices shared by each of the participants. 

  • In order to gauge success, it is important to design metrics to measure diversity and inclusion through both monitoring of hard data such as cultural, gender, and generational demographics across all levels of the organization, as well as to gather and study more subjective evidence through employee surveys.  When possible, measure the information gathered against similar information from other companies and strive to be the best.
  • When defining performance objectives and incentives, include mandates that will hold managers accountable.   It is important that managers not only trickle down the objectives, so that their staff are also invested, but they should be encouraged to actively participate and to lead by example.  Some great ways to accomplish this is to take on mentoring roles and to sponsor events that help to bring the workforce together in social or team building activities.
  • Accept and encourage work life balance benefits that provide flexibility such as work day schedule variances and holiday choices.  Embrace remote working opportunities when possible and encourage job sharing and buddy systems to help alleviate the stress when personal and family situations require long term leave.
  • Provide leadership development opportunities and become a role model to all talent across your organization, being especially mindful of nurturing the career aspirations of groups who are under-represented at various levels and roles within your organization.

The Career Skills Development Committee has incorporated sessions about diversity and inclusion at the annual conference for the past several years.  The 2017 IASA Annual Education Conference and Business Show carries-on this tradition.   Please join us in Orlando as we learn about Inclusive Leadership through a session lead by Travelers executive Fred Colon, Chief Diversity & Inclusion Officer.   In this session we will learn how Travelers, a forward thinking insurance icon, embraces an inclusive leadership approach that deliberately attracts, retains, engages and develops talent from all cultures and backgrounds while creating a work environment where all employees are valued and appreciated.