Managing Diversity: 3 Tips for Proactive Organizations
The unprecedented events of the last few years have disrupted our workplaces and fundamentally changed how we work. The pressure is even higher for today’s leaders and managers to equip themselves with tools and skills to manage diverse teams and organizations and set themselves – and the teams they lead – up for success.
When we think of diversity, we often think about representation in the workforce among people from different races, ethnicities, national origins, religions, abilities, and gender expressions. We should also consider other aspects of what makes our teams diverse such as age, formal educational experience, and socioeconomic backgrounds, to name just a few. Hybrid work, post-pandemic relocation, and teams made up of people across multiple generations require managers to be agile and responsive to make sure that everyone on their teams feels valued and included. They must foster a sense of belonging.
Here are some things to think about when looking at your teams and consider how you can create an environment where everyone has the opportunity to bring their “best selves” to work:
Invest in getting to know your team. A leader’s initial perception of who someone is probably differs from who they actually are. Everyone comes to work, and participates within their teams, as an intersection of different personas and personalities. Employees also bring a variety of lived experiences with them that influence how they work, the lens through which they view activities and interactions, and how they communicate.
Investing the time to understand how people on your team “tick” is important to understand how to bring out the best in them. This is especially important in a hybrid work environment, where you might not work synchronously every day. But the richness of your team can only be uncovered by investing the effort in getting to know them as individuals, so that you can be more responsive and supportive to their professional needs and personal challenges.
Do the ways in which we manage diversity change in a hybrid work environment? My colleague, Asha Palmer, SVP of Compliance Solutions at Skillsoft, recently chatted with Beth Egan, an executive coach, and Catherine Razzano, head of global legal compliance at TikTok, to get their thoughts.
Whileimplicit bias is a thing, it doesn’t have to be your thing. Our brains make shortcuts based on lived experiences and learned associations. Sometimes, these ideas elicit automatic and unintentional biases that impact how we treat others – both in positive and negative ways. It is critical to recognize that everyone has implicit bias and to take action to minimize the effect of those implicit biases on how we interact with and get to know our teams.
Maybe you have a positive bias of warm feelings toward someone who shares your alma mater, or a negative bias against someone who may not have a college degree or who worked for a particular company. Even more dangerous is the potential to make hiring decisions based on negative associations with specific names.
Slowing down, being deliberate, and focusing on the true individual – and not the false perception – will yield dividends for both you and your relationship with the people on your teams. Remember: learning about diversity is an ongoing endeavor. It doesn’t start and stop with bias training once per year. It happens every day, and it takes work.
Our team recently had the privilege of learning from Marlo Thomas Watson, a diversity coach, as part of our 15-minute webinar series, Coaching Corner. Watson talked about how your organization might use coaching to help individuals address unconscious bias in the workplace.
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Understand that the world is changing, and not everyone is on board yet. Technology is constantly changing, and one of the best examples of that is ChatGPT and generative AI (GenAI). There are so many possibilities for the technology. Yet, there are many concerns as well.
Check out some of Skillsoft’s recent writing on the topic:
- 5 Concerns About Using GenAI at Work
- Here’s How to Use AI Ethically
- 4 Best Practices for Combatting Bias in GenAI
Shortly after President Joe Biden signed a landmark Executive Order on Artificial Intelligence, I had the pleasure of listening to Dr. Joy Buolamwini, founder of the Algorithmic Justice League and best-selling author, discuss her thoughts about the implications for AI in everyday society during an interview. Dr. Buolamwini described the general reaction to AI as being caught between “fear and fascination,” and it’s highly likely that people on your team fall somewhere along that spectrum.
Lean into education to help your teams understand the benefits, limitations, and guardrails associated with implementing AI tools and technologies so that they feel like part of the process and that they have learning opportunities available to address their fears and explore their fascination.
Being a better leader and manager is an ongoing journey, and continuous education, introspection, and application are key to evolving your leadership and management style as the world of work evolves around us.