What words come to mind when we think about inclusivity? Here are some that come to mine:
When one looks at these words, there is a presupposition that typifies them all – that ‘different’ parts have come together to form something new, distinct and unique. In the article entitled; “How is Diversity connected to business strategy?, Part 2”, we had discussed the idea that a core connection between diversity and business strategy is businesses’ strategic need to remain competitive. Competitiveness or the development of a competitive advantage or edge, is all about creating a product backed up by solid intellectual capital – derived from the coming together of different ‘intelligences’ in order to create something new, unique and distinct.
Becoming ’more joined-up’ is the word that we tend to wilfully use to describe greater inclusive working these days. Indeed, being ‘joined-up’ has become even more imperative, for both large and small organisations, more so as changing customer needs continues to drive the kind of skills, expertises and experiences that organisations need in order to meet demand. Being ‘joined-up’ is not just about using IT services to centralise the different systems and processes of an organisation. It is also about creating a culture where working in synergy is understood, both individually and collectively, to be the absolute source of getting the best out of everyone – and as a consequence, creating, developing and sustaining a competitive advantage.
A Director of a large business once said to me during a conversation: “We are very silo-ed Jude, we don’t appear like a ‘joined-up’ organisation to our customers, and it is having a negative impact on staff relationships”. An overview of people data later showed that a key issue the organisation had to manage, was initially ensuring that a ‘shared vision’ existed at Leadership level, one that could be role-modelled further down the ‘chain’ so as to ensure synergy across all areas of the organisation, locally and internationally. An African Proverb goes thus: “If the head is sick, don’t expect the rest of the body to be well!”
Becoming more ‘joined-up’ as a business, or working in an inclusive environment, is not just a behaviour to be learned given the competitive impact it has – as described above, but importantly, is a requisite behaviour that Leadership must demonstrate to ensure a greater ability to achieve strategic business objectives. Otherwise called the concept of ‘Organisational Agility”, ‘inclusivity’ and ‘joined-up’ working are actually all about the ‘capability’, ‘flex-ability’ and consequent ‘elasticity’ an organisation naturally has, to be innovative and able to respond to changing customer need – based on the inter-connectedness of its diverse range of people skills, abilities, experiences, backgrounds and socio-historical contexts.
Indeed, my response to the Director above, upon realising that those tasked with Leadership did not have measurable KPi’s linked to creating inclusive working practices, was to suggest that a reason why the organisation was not ‘joined-up’ was precisely because the Leadership team wasn’t! “If the head is sick, don’t expect the rest of the body to be well!”…
‘Inclusivity’ is a word that, traditionally, has tended to get lost in the politics of ‘equality’, ‘equalitisation’, and ‘equity’ related issues, issues which historically have been connected with the creation of structural and systematic biases that we, unfortunately, as humans are products of. It’s time to let this thinking go and put ‘inclusivity’ at the heart of business. Indeed, it is imperative that we do, so that we are not distracted from unlocking the competitive edge that it brings.
It’s time to think about ‘inclusivity’ differently…
Jude-Martin is Director of Diversity is…a consultancy focused on providing a fresh and innovative approach to diversity through the provision of HR services covering Strategy, Assessment, and Development for ensuring effective people management in the 21st century global business context.