The Inclusive Leadership Dinner: Key Learnings

On Wednesday, September 28th, we held The Inclusive Leadership Dinner we discussed what makes a truly inclusive leader.

It was a great opportunity for us to discuss practical tools and guidance for enabling inclusive leadership, work together on some of the challenges we face and of course celebrate and showcase some of the incredible work being done to ensure our organizations are driving  meaningful, long-term inclusion. 

Some of the themes discussed included culture-fit vs culture-add hiring processes, mitigating bias as an organization and ensuring that inclusion and belonging are threaded throughout businesses via strong processes, talent development programs and inclusive leadership.

Making Inclusive Leadership a Reality

The group discussed the practicalities around creating a workplace culture of inclusive leaders, focusing on whether this could be achieved through initiatives and inclusive leadership trainings or if this required a mindset change on an individual level.

While the group agreed that individual leaders must recognize the importance of inclusive leadership and work on self-confidence and compassion to drive change, the responsibility to enable leaders lies with an organization’s senior leadership team. Senior leaders in business must be prepared to equip employees across the business through trainings, providing incentives and rewards, and invest their time in creating an eco-system that fosters and encourages an inclusive leadership style.

The group then shared practical resources and best practice from some of the critical work they’ve done to help embed an inclusive leadership-style approach within their teams. Some discussed the importance of defining what these behaviors look like and being vocal about the outcomes for managers who adopt and drive more efficient teams through modelling inclusive leadership.

Some in the group also emphasized the importance of focusing on transformation that sits at the intersection of people, systems and processes and ensuring that this is refined, or redefined if necessary, to allow for a collective smooth transition into inclusivity across the business. Similarly, this applies to the full operational landscape, from business practice to marketing and product development, and ensuring that leaders across different functions all have the same opportunity to upskill and learn how to become more inclusive in a way that is practical and specific to their roles and teams.

The Challenges of Remote Working

The group discussed some of the challenges surrounding remote working and whether biases at play may be providing some with advantage over others. Proximity bias in particular has been viewed as a major obstacle to progression for those who don’t benefit from some of the perceived in-person working advantages.

Some in the group discussed this particular challenge for Black employees, who have reported that they prefer to work from home as it’s lessened the frequency of microaggressions and discrimination that they would otherwise face more often. This signals that work still needs to be done to ensure that Black employees in particular are able to thrive in the workplace, and inclusive leadership is a vital step in shaping teams and organizations where they are able to thrive and do so freely of discrimination.

The group surmised that there are pros and cons to remote and in-office working, however different lived experiences dictate between one choice or another, and where hybridity may not be possible, how can organizations promote, retain and develop their staff equitably?

In terms of hybrid working the group discussed some of its challenges, especially in ensuring that it works for everyone. They were in agreement that we must view remote, hybrid and office working as a flexible option and one underpinned by choice, where possible, to ensure that employees feel comfortable and able to achieve regardless of their preferred working environment. Inclusivity ultimately requires options, and investing in technology and equipment to ensure that everyone can thrive and effectively contribute to their teams and the business at large is key.

The Future of DEI

the perspective of ESG, the group were keen to discuss best practice and the practical methods in ensuring that DEI is still an important focus for businesses, rather than viewing it as simply an add-on or subset of wider organizational strategy.

The conversations leaned largely on culture, rather creating and enabling workplace cultures, that held senior leaders accountable for change. This can be done through empowering employees to challenge and help shape the DEI agendas, so that they don’t just feel included but are included through the process of redefining a business’ overall culture, policy and strategy.

We must ensure that Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) are central to conversations around DEI and are working collaboratively and intersectionally so that all employees are represented and their needs vocalized when necessary. This also ensures that the burden for driving change doesn’t rely on one individual, who is usually a minority, and that the work is shared equitably, increasing both the buy-in of the broader employee base and alleviating the burnout that this burden could cause.

A key question was discerning DEI as a critical business function, rather than something that is seemingly viewed as philanthropic or an add-on. The group agreed that the business case is therefore important to establish (e.g., the positive effects of increased representation on growth and innovation, inclusive cultures leading to better employee retention) and present to those across C-Suites and Boards who are tasked with leading the overall success of the business. By treating DEI as a critical function, organizations are more likely to mobilize and allocate resources to achieve inclusion.

As a final point, the group agreed that the next vital frontier in DEI was socioeconomic mobility and that businesses must work to ensure those who may not have an Ivy league education or been offered the ability to network are provided with access to further their careers.

Continuing the Conversation

Our appreciation goes to everyone who attended and contributed to this forum on Inclusive Leadership.

Audeliss has been supporting organizations with diversifying senior leadership for over 11 years, and through our sister-company INvolve, with creating inclusive and effective work cultures where all talent can thrive.

If you would like to talk to us about turning your own DEI ambitions for change into reality, please just get in touch.