Diversity Eggs

Could Diversity Be Done Differently?

This month I attended the ODN Europe conference whose theme was OD in Action: Influence & Impact.   One of the most fascinating Open Space sessions was about Diversity and Inclusion and whether and how D&I could be approached from an OD/Change perspective.


I DO believe that Diversity is about changing the way we lead and do business; it’s about culture change. Diversity is not a philosophy or theology. It’s not a CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) issue. It’s not a human resource initiative.   It’s a business issue.  Therefore, changes must be made to business processes including how we attract, develop & retain talent. Changes must be made within the Leadership team. Indeed, organisational culture change must take place.


The first thing an organisation needs to do is to review its business processes. Especially those used to attract, develop and retain talent. For instance, many organisations have adopted a strengths-based recruitment process. CAPP (Centre for Application of Positive Psychology) has gathered data on the ways in which a strengths-based approach to recruitment and assessment ensures a diverse range of applicants and recruits. Their research has found that focusing on strengths instead of experience, ensures that candidates from socially and demographically diverse backgrounds are not disadvantaged on the basis of not having had the same amount and type of education & experience.

It also ensures gender balance. Their data suggests that there are no significant differences between the strengths of males and females. Using a strength-based interview process means that organisations aren’t focusing on hiring based on stereotypically masculine competencies or values. This is one example of a process that could be improved to drive greater diversity.


The second thing an organisation needs to do is to it train Leaders & Managers on leader practice that make the biggest difference between success and failure in implementing high magnitude change as outlined in the book, Sustaining Change: Leadership that Works by Rowland & Higgs. To implement strategies that drive greater inclusion leaders must change ‘hearts and minds’. In particular, male, middle managers are the linchpin. By learning change leadership practices, these leaders can be real advocates for change and help their teams co-create a different future state.


The final thing an organisation needs to do is introduce a culture where everyone can bring their wholeness to work. This is a concept espoused by Frederick Laloux, author of Reinventing Organisations.


Laloux says “Historically, organisations have always been places where people showed up wearing a mask… people often feel they have to shut out part of who they are when they dress for work in the morning…They require us to show a masculine resolve, to display determination and strength, and to hide doubts and vulnerability.”


Laloux then goes on to explain that teal organisations have developed a consistent set of practices that let their people “bring all of who they are to work” – including the “emotional, intuitive and spiritual parts of ourselves.”


In recent years, research from the field of positive psychology provides scientific proof that being able to use our unique strengths brings benefits. The research shows that employees who use their strengths have higher levels of energy and vitality, experience less stress, are more resilient, are more likely to achieve their goal, and perform better at work. So Inclusion – valuing individual strengths – drives performance. Especially when you throw away the job descriptions & role profiles and let teams design how to deliver results based on individual and team strengths.


Practices & Processes. Leadership. Organisational Culture. All three things need to be addressed.

All three levers must be pulled in order to affect change. Building a truly inclusive culture is a large-scale change and requires a systemic approach to Diversity & Inclusion.


Want to have a huge impact on productivity and levels of happiness?  Re-frame D&I from a Talent Programme to a Change Programme.


Michelle Brailsford is a Diversity & Inclusion expert and, with other members of The Change Maker Group, can support your change programmes. Subscribe for more insight, ideas and inspiration on making change happen…


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