How to develop inclusive cultures that increase diversity at senior leadership level

Written by
Lexie Sims, Director of Executive Search & Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Consulting, The Good Board

30 Nov 2020

30 Nov 2020 • by Lexie Sims, Director of Executive Search & Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Consulting, The Good Board

How can you develop an inclusive culture in order to increase diversity at senior leadership team level? Lexie Sims offers her advice.

Understanding and addressing diversity is ever more at the forefront of organisations’ agendas. Some will pay it lip service. Others will embrace it and make it a core element in their approach to appointing purpose-led business leaders to deliver their strategic and commercial goals. The golden question then, is how do organisations need to go about achieving this for sustainable business success?

HR cannot do it alone

First, you need to understand that HR cannot solely be accountable or responsible for building an inclusive environment. HR can spearhead the initiative, but it must have allies and buy-in from senior managers otherwise it will fail. Ensure that they are on board early and given the resources to make this initiative successful.

Base your strategy on facts

Complete, or source a consultant to complete, a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Audit of your organisation. This assures that you have a fact-based foundation to develop your plan in building a more inclusive environment.

Be open and honest

Employees and customers respect honesty. Publish the current state, targets, and action plans of how you plan to meet the objectives with a timeline and communicate updates regularly. It is critical that you are public and transparent in what you are trying to do. If the organisation is not on track to meet the targets, get out in front of it, communicate this, where you have been successful, what targets you may miss and what you are going to do about it – with timelines.

Mentor programmes

Ensure your succession plans and high potential programmes have robust processes that include diversity, equity and inclusion so that you can start to increase diversity from within. As support, ensure that each high potential candidate has a mentor and, in turn, is asked to mentor an employee at a lower level. 

For this to succeed you also need to ensure that all mentors and mentees are trained in how to do so across cultural boundaries of race, ethnicity and gender, helping each candidate climb as well as moving the organisation towards a truly equitable status.  And when an employee is promoted from the succession list to a more senior role, provide a transition coach so that you are securing their success in this role and shoring-up the whole chain.

Build in expectations

For external senior hires, ensure that diversity, equity and inclusion expectations are built into all procurement bids and contracts with external, executive search firms. And don’t forget to look at the executive search firms own inclusion numbers and policies at senior level, that will tell you a lot.  

For in-house recruitment hires, ensure best practice. Train all internal interviewers on inclusive recruitment and ensure preliminary interviews are conducted by two individuals with a final approval interview conducted by a senior officer.

Prepare for success

Ensure that the environment and the appointed candidate are set up for success. It’s all well and good encouraging diversity, of all forms, but if you don’t have the right environment, you are not setting the individual up to succeed. Build a specific and personal on-boarding plan for each senior hire.

Don’t reinvent the wheel

And finally, you don’t have to start from scratch, there are plenty of organisations doing this really well already. Reach out to them.  People love to talk about their successes – invite them to.

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