Are managers equipped to manage diverse teams?

Are managers equipped to manage diverse teams?

With diversity equity and inclusion (DEI) being in the spotlight we spend a lot of time discussing how we can be more inclusive and ensure that diversity and inclusive behaviour are on the right levels in the organization. While a lot of attention has been dedicated to attracting new talent, I am thinking: do we dedicate sufficient attention to ensure the retainment of it?

Thanks to the capabilities of technology the world feels really small. We can work from whichever location or time zone. Our team members represent different nationalities, cultures and beliefs. We are getting proud of knowing that we all have biases and start being more conscious in our interactions with others. Yet, do we ensure that all professionals in management roles are up to speed with their knowledge and behaviour?

Nowadays it’s not sufficient to be a good work assigner in order to succeed in manager role. On the top of being a coach, a psychologist, a communication master one needs to be a DEI expert, which is great! After all, in today’s world they need to manage different genders, cultures and religions. They need to use correct pronouns and have relevant knowledge on different cultures, religions, customs and behaviour aspects in order to respectfully manage their teams. This all sounds very reasonable and simple except that in some organization DEI is considered to be an additional activity next to the manager’s BAU (business as usual), not a part of it. For this reason very often managers find themselves in needing to make a challenging choice on what is more important (a) to take care of BAU or (b) to invest more time in educating oneself on DEI topics.

While being a DEI Aly I frequently engage in conversations with colleagues on how much time they dedicate to educate themselves on DEI topics in order to create more inclusive environment. Very often I hear the following: “for me this whole education thing = additional work. And when I have my plate full I am very conscious in deciding where to invest my limited time”.  Indeed, the workload is one thing that never goes away… At the same time I believe we could find 5 or 10 minutes a day to do some micro training/education and keep learning something new.

Hence the question is: how do we make sure that our managers are well educated and equipped with DEI knowledge? How can we make sure managers walk the organization’s talk? Because if we are successful in attracting diverse resources but are not very good at retaining them we are destined to the work of Sisyphus.

Education. It is important that we not only equip our managers with relevant training but also make it clear that it is an essential task in order to perform their role. In other words it must be clear that DEI is a part of manager’s BAU responsibilities. Every manager should be a DEI ally for their team.

Practice. Learning is worthless without practice hence put your learnings in practice. In her article Five Ways To Become A More Inclusive LeaderKelly Lockwood Primus shares some great and simple ideas. My take on it is that simplicity is the key. We do not need to do something complicated or difficult, no, it’s all about being conscious and respectful.

Alignment. It could be beneficial to create a space where managers could share their success/challenge stories with each other. Where they could discuss align and get support if needed. Let it be a space for group discussions or regular catch-ups. The smaller the group the more chance for everyone to have a word.

Accountability. It is important that people don’t just tick the training box but take it seriously as a part of their role. One of the ideas is to include DEI in goal setting & appraisal process. This way it would be more difficult for this topic to slip under the table.

In conclusion, to be an inclusive manager is a task which requires extra dedication from everyone also a support from organization. Clear communication about the importance of DEI, everyone’s role in it as well as accountability and responsibility for it helps to ensure right level to attention and effort from each individual. Including this topic into regular personal development conversations allows everyone to feel involved and contribute to this important topic.

"Being your true self is the highway to success".

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