Leaders and managers can play a critical role in creating inclusive work cultures. As a leader in the organization, you have direct connections to more junior-level employees, are instrumental in the shaping of careers, provide crucial connections to other leaders in the organization and therefore are central to an organization’s ability to effectively institute change. Below you will find a few tips for helping you be a positive driver of change.
Recognize and Acknowledge All Employees – People feel valued when their ideas are considered and they are treated with respect. Seek input in different ways and from all team members. Also, be aware of some of those classic examples where ideas presented by women or other marginalized employees are ignored while similar ideas presented by white male co-workers are given far more consideration. As a manager, make sure you give equal consideration to all ideas, regardless of who is presenting them.
Talk About Diversity and Inclusion with Peers – Create a safe space where you can openly discuss the patterns that may need to change in the organization. Work to help others in the organization understand the power dynamics at play and how those systemic structures, norms, and processes may favor certain differences over others. Have open and honest dialogue around the impact and how you can lead change in the organization.
Call Out Bias – While it takes risk and managerial courage to call out non-inclusive behavior in others, as a manager it is your responsibility to do so. Leaders are not only responsible for their own actions but also for guiding the actions and behaviors of others in the organization – including peers and in some cases higher-ups.
Guide Employees Along Their Career Journey – Often marginalized employees are less likely to take risks, apply for promotions or be recognized for their skills and potential. As a manager: encourage your employees, particularly women and other marginalized employees, to explore career mobility opportunities, advocate on behalf of your employees, praise your employees in front of others and provide career coaching.
Mentor Someone Different than Yourself – This does not need to be limited to a formal mentoring program. Think about the way you mentor individuals every day- is there diversity among the employees you have chosen to support?
Provide Equal Opportunity for Development to all Individuals – Make sure every member on your team has access to development – that opportunities are not reserved for just a select few. Development does not need to come in the form of formal training or assignments. You can do this through informal coaching, setting up informal peer groups or simply offering constructive feedback on a regular basis.
Provide Challenging and Stretch Assignments – People are motivated when they are challenged by new opportunities. Opportunities are not limited to promotions. Suggest an employee be included on a task force or participate in an employee resource group meeting or event, have an employee present at a management meeting or a conference. There are lots of low-cost or no-cost ways to challenge employees and provide development.
Spearhead and Support Diversity Initiatives – As a manager in the organization, be aware of training programs, leadership development and succession planning programs offered by the organization and make sure there is diverse representation in all these programs. Also consider spearheading programs such as mentoring, sponsorship, and career pathing specifically geared toward underrepresented employee groups.