An Inclusive Culture in the Workforce

This week’s articles are provided by two authors who came together in Geneva, Switzerland during the International Leadership Association Conference to talk about diversity, equity and inclusion from different perspectives. 

The first article was published in the October 2021 edition of Manage HR, Diversity’s Age-Old Blindspot­ Unarmed in the True Battle for Talent, written by Paul Rupert and Nadia Younes.

The second article first published in the January 22 edition of Corporate Investments is called The Strategist Creating a culture of Inclusion – Being a Good Leader of People by Gamiel Yafai.

Their interview on Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future titled  Workforce Demographics and an Inclusive Culture featuring Nadia Younes, Louise Carvalho, and Gamiel Yafai aired on Tuesday, March 15th, 2022.

 

Diversity’s Age-Old Blindspot Unarmed in the True Battle for Talent

By Paul Rupert, Founder & CEO, Rupert Organizational Design, and Nadia Younes, Board Member, Board of Advisors, The Rejuvi Venture, Inc.

Many organisations tout and publicize their diversity commitment to generational diversity. In most cases, this is code for a myopic focus on Millennials and Gen Z with little to no emphasis on the millions of workers 50 plus working alongside their younger colleagues and still ready to work, learn and grow in their professional lives.

The recent and ongoing pandemic has laid bare the plight of the aging workforce – and pointed out a unique set of problems and opportunities for those DE&I leaders who are far-sighted enough to acknowledge them and build the skills of a truly inclusive and intergenerational workforce.

The 20th century model of childhood/education/ work/ early retirement or death has been disrupted by the longevity of the 21st century. Even with modest fluctuations, today’s workers are outliving yesterday’s assumptions.  Even as more people need money for longer retirements, traditional pensions are inadequate and non-existent in the US and many parts of the world. Modest Social Security + random 401ks are no substitute. Where a variety of pension schemes do exist across Europe and in some other parts of the world, they are increasingly dependent on policies in urgent need of updating to meet the current life expectancy and labour market realities.

The antiquated ” human capital” framework – hire a 20-year­ old, use them for a thirty-year period and replace them – no longer works. In a time where companies are increasingly talking about their commitment to sustainability, ensuring all labour pools can be developed and maximized is the more sustainable approach. Traditional sources of essential labour, including large-scale immigration and replacement level childbirth, are falling short of historical norms across much of the world. This offers a tremendous opportunity to make aging workers less “disposable.” In fact, in the EU, the median age in the workforce is already nearly 45 and rising and across the pond in the US, the Department of Labour projects that 25percent of future new hires will be aging workers.

During the pandemic, a record level of aging workers was laid off. McKinsey estimates that 59 million jobs­ or 26 percent of total employment-are at risk of reductions in hours, pay, furloughs and permanent layoffs. Disproportionately impacted across the EU were both younger and older workers but younger workers are expected to re-enter the workforce quicker. Older workers are likely to face longer-term under or unemployment significantly impacting retirement savings, health and wellbeing. In the US alone, over a million people took “early retirement” – 90 percent of them involuntarily. Headlines scream of the “labour shortages” that threaten the recovery, but there is little effort to recognize, recruit, retrain and retain this pool of experienced and talented aging workers.

Just as millions of veterans of the recent work from home experience are reconsidering the conditions under which they choose to return to work, so it will take some rethinking and redesign to secure and make the best use of these skilled employees.

Now is the time for diversity and inclusion to reflect a commitment to the very diverse or different ways in which people can work and be most productive. Full time at home, home a few days and in the office a few, 4-day weeks, and phased and partial retirement should be on the table for a more personalized and optimal employee experience. As the old “buyer’s market” – with employers setting the terms — saying here’s the job, take it or leave it – ·yields more power to the sellers, the opportunity and necessity of driving changes in employer behaviour is business-critical.

Unfortunately, the diversity field’s forays into questions of an age in the workplace have largely been somewhat shallow dives into so-called intergenerational awareness and often faulty “traits” stereotyping. These are often found not to be entirely accurate within any of the three to four generations currently working together in the workplace. Although aging workers want many of the same things as their younger counterparts –to be appreciated, rewarded, have flexibility and some level of autonomy — they have been seen as the means to advancing younger workers through mentoring and sponsorships – not as a diverse group needing its own special attention or offering its own valuable contributions.

In the era of greater longevity, it is critical to abolish the outdated “sell-by date” of 50+ and in the time of extended work, to strengthen ongoing training and development for all workers –  both young and old. With many organizations investing in retraining and upskilling the talent, the over 50 are the least likely, according to the Centre for Ageing Better research, to receive any off-the­ job investment in their professional development. A truly diverse and disruption-ready workforce will include enhanced contributors from employees in their twenties into their sixties and seventies. They will work all sorts of schedules over their work-life, with reduced schedules for caregiving responsibilities or to pursue higher education and periods of full-time work with the option of reducing as part of a phasing to retirement. In the post-pandemic world, truly listening to the way people want to work matters especially if companies want their employees to stay engaged and continue to drive the business results they need for a full recovery and future growth. In this virtuous cycle, diversity drives greater flexibility and flexibility drives greater diversity.

Considering the recent re-examination of flexible work driven by the massive – and largely successful – work from home experiment, the time is ripe for finally tackling one of the most promising and under-utilized flexible arrangements: phased retirement. The old full-time-in-the-office model of employment may be losing its luster to the younger workforce, but it does not serve to attract and retain older workers who have been shown to trade valuable knowledge sharing and mentoring for the opportunity to work longer and ease into retirement.

Although there are limited examples of successful phased retirement programs and their many benefits, many myths exist about the challenges of designing and implementing such initiatives. As practitioners who have developed long­ lasting programs in this space, we are well aware that there are real and rare challenges that do not arise with flextime or work from home efforts. Like any worthwhile project, they benefit from the expertise and experience of others. Given the coming labour market scarcities and the need to maximize the talent of all age groups, the question is not whether to pursue phased retirement – but when. We think the far-sighted DE&! leader will seize this opportunity now.

“In the era of greater longevity, it is critical to abolish the outdated sell-by dateof SO+ and in the time of next ended work, to strengthen ongoing training and development for all workers – both young and old”

 

About the Authors

Nadia Younes has extensive cross-industry and geographical experience leading efforts in DEI. Employee Experience and Work-Life/Wellbeing in global multinational companies headquartered in Switzerland, the US, Canada, Australia and the UK. Global organizations where she has led these efforts include, Wells Fargo, Amgen, Novartis, Rio Tinto, International Monetary Fund and Zurich Insurance. She has also consulted with over 100 other multinational and non-profit organizations and helped introduce the next generation of measurement of gender equality that includes intersectionality with race and other dimensions of diversity.

Paul Rupert is the Founder and CEO of Rupert Organizational Design. His firm has pioneered flexible and mutually beneficial ways of working for over four decades. With more than 100 major clients we have created solutions ranging from superior employee attraction and engagement, key staff retention, knowledge transfer through phased retirements, flexible supports over the employee life cycle and inclusion strategies that move beyond bias awareness to building mutually respectful environments.

 

Here is Gamiel Yafai’s article, The Strategist Creating a culture of Inclusion – Being a good leader of people.

For decades, leaders have said that their people are their greatest asset, yet recent history shows us that we do not value these assets as much as we say or think we do! We only have to look at the inequalities that still exist in workplaces due to a person’s gender, race, disability, religion or belief, sexual orientation, caste or social mobility, to see that we not only still have a long way to go.

But that we are missing out on huge amounts of human potential and productivity due to the inequalities that still exist that stifle people’s diversity of creativity, thinking and innovation.

Over the last couple of years, we have seen so much enforced global change due to Brexit, Covid and the Black Lives Matter campaign: all of which will have long-lasting effects in the global workplace. Probably the most significant development in terms of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion within my experience, is seeing Diversity, Equity and Inclusion move up the strategic agenda. I am having more conversations with senior leaders /CEOs and can feel a shift from explaining why Diversity, Equity and Inclusion is a global imperative for any business, to explaining how to ‘do’ it.

So, in other words, out of my 21 years in this business, I feel I as if I spent 19 of those years spending most of my time explaining to senior leaders why Diversity, Equity and Inclusion is important.

This has changed in the last 2 years as I am now spending most of my time supporting clients with what they should be doing and how they should be doing it in terms of best practice. I often heard that their businesses are performing well and my response was is always: but how much better can you be when you tap into the potential that exists in each one of your people?

Even though there is now a greater understanding of the terms Diversity and Inclusion, it is less so when it comes to Equity. In fact, we welcome that there is a global shift in terminology from Diversity, Equality and Inclusion to Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.

Equality means treating people the same or giving everyone the same level of support or opportunities; Equity means recognising that each person has different circumstances and allocating the appropriate resources and opportunities needed to create an equal playing field. Equity is the more appropriate and ambitious goal.

Over the years I have watched with great interest and sometimes disbelief at how we as business leaders are oblivious to the needs of our people: whilst we consider our employees to be our biggest assets, yet we know very little about them.

Over the last 21 years we have conducted research for 36 national and international clients into the reality of working for their organisations from a minority perspective i.e., gender, disability, ethnicity and sexual orientation. A defining similarity of each client organisation is that despite multiple cultures existing within the workforce.

All these organisations have an explicit over-arching culture experienced by the homogenous group of senior management. Through the prism of this over-arching culture senior management see things very positively and is often shielded from the experience of those different to them. There is a hidden or shadow culture that exists which defines the way individuals in the minority experience the culture of the organisation, which disempowers them from bringing their best selves to work.

What do we mean by their best selves or authentic selves? It is the understanding that everyone should be able to be fully themselves at work. Furthermore, it is important that managers and senior management understand that it is not just those people who are in the minority who experience many unseen barriers to bringing their authentic/best selves to work.

We are all different. We come from different cultural backgrounds and have different faiths, traditions, and values. We have different life and work experiences, different levels of education, knowledge and skills that we have gathered throughout our lifetimes. Yet when we get into the workplace there is an expectation that we leave a great deal of that knowledge and experience at the door of our organisation.

We are expected to conform to a culture where career, progression and development are in the hands of a manager who may not have the knowledge, skills or experience to maximise your potential. We are either held back because of our diversity or because our way of thinking is different from that of our managers or leaders. We may have to mask who we really are in order to survive in the workplace.

We have seen evidence that employees are increasingly more aware and able to challenge, and this will grow. We have seen the rise of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Councils in schools, where children and young people discuss the lack of equality in the curriculum and what they can expect from their future employers.

We are also seeing signs of a revolution in employment where employees are challenging their employers: a global client recently received 200 letters from disgruntled female staff members for not addressing gender equality. Much research shows that people leave managers not organisations. In the following LinkedIn article https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/ employees-dont-leave-companiesmanagers-brigette-hyacinth/ Brigette Hyacith quotes Gallup research that shows that “75% of workers who voluntarily left their jobs did so because of their bosses and not the position itself”. Last year we conducted 55 interactive webinars for 30 different national and global organisations, speaking to around 3500 participants. One of the questions we asked was ‘how much of your authentic self are you able to bring to work’. In some cases less than 30% of participants felt that they were able to bring more than 70% of their authentic selves to the workplace. So, what does this mean for businesses? It means that your employees are unable to maximise their full potential and reach new levels of productivity and which impacts on profitability and brand identity. Diversity, Equity and Inclusion are no longer just a good thing to do. The drive for organisations to be more diverse and inclusive is driven by the business, the moral and the social case.

The outcomes of being more diverse and inclusive include the following: healthy employee turnover; strong employer brand; high creativity and innovation; high adaptability/agility; high trust and morale; high engagement and positive employee wellbeing. There is another growing trend that says that businesses need to prioritise the three Ps of PLANET, PEOPLE Then PROFIT.

Human assets are fundamental to our whole business. We need to have a systemic approach to creating a workplace that is conducive to the needs of every employee. I hear businesses talk about introducing Diversity initiatives such as training programme, reverse mentoring or unconscious bias training with the hope of delivering major change through one or two interventions. However, these are just plasters that cover up some of the cracks. My advice is always not to focus on what others are doing but to find out where they are at on their own Diversity, Equity and Inclusion journey. Once you know where you are, you can start to create an action plan to move you from where you are to where you want to be on a good Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Maturity Matrix. The Global Centre for Inclusion which is a great place to start as they provide a FREE Global Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Benchmark (GDEIB) Tool and a Maturity Matrix that can be accessed from the following website https:// centreforglobalinclusion.org/ which you can use locally, nationally or globally.

To extract maximum value for a company in terms of its employee value proposition, productivity and profitability you need excellent leaders who champion Equity, Diversity and inclusivity from the top. In the past leaders were expected to have all the answers but now we know that putting inclusion at the forefront allows leaders to gain the full benefit from the diversity of their workforce. Inclusive leaders focus on culture, relationships and decision making at each level of the organisation and counteract any negative effects of unconscious bias as much as possible, therefore increasing capability and capacity. Inclusive leadership is not so much a destination but rather a continuous journey that is demonstrated by behaviour.

We should encourage accountability and responsibility in all as we champion Equity, Diversity and Inclusion. It is not what we do for ourselves, but what we do for others that makes us a good leader of people.

About the Author

Gamiel Yafai based in England, more than an engaging, passionate, seasoned Diversity & Inclusion Strategist and CEO of Diversity Marketplace a Global Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Consultancy. He is the proud recipient of the Global Diversity Leadership Award presented by the Global HRD Congress 2017 and the author of ‘Demystifying Diversity’ and ‘Yemen Proud’. Gamiel works with some of the world’s largest employers to design and implement Diversity and Inclusion Culture Change strategies and action plans, to both, attract new talent from diverse backgrounds and to support existing talent reach their potential through focusing on positive action and Inclusivity.

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