APS: Diversity – Why Leadership Matters in Moving from Talk to Action!

Intuitively we probably all know that diversity is a good thing. It is a current hot topic and most organisations are at least talking about what they currently do and don’t do.

According to the Great British Diversity Experiment, diversity can contribute to more creativity and improve job satisfaction, while dramatically increasing the possibility of new connections between experiences, perspectives, and insights that can lead to distinctive, powerful and new creative ideas. Ideas develop via meritocracy, rather than quick buy-in from the dominant cultural voice.

McKinsey found that there is a direct, linear relationship between increased ethnic diversity in senior-executive positions and financial performance. Companies in the top quartile of ethnic diversity were 35% more likely to outperform others in industry; likewise, those in the top quartile of gender diversity were 15% more likely to outperform respective industry medians.

On that evidence alone we should ensure more diversity, shouldn’t we?

However, even companies that want to foster diversity and inclusion don’t always get it right. They sometimes focus on bringing in a diverse workforce at entry-level positions, then expect the effects to permeate around the organisation and flow upwards. Trisha Howard from WorldatWork points out that organisations sometimes rely on informal systems of identifying and promoting potential leaders, which can feed into unconscious biases or set standards that maintain the status quo. These informal arrangements can influence who participates in the high-profile projects and assignments that often lead to promotion.

So what’s the connection to leadership? It’s obvious in some ways: Leadership involves empowering and inspiring others, ensuring change, and in today’s fast-changing world, enabling an agile organisation capable of reacting swiftly. Leaders need to support diversity and help maximise its benefits. A rethink is required though. Personality is important! Diversity includes changing attitudes, often starting with our own. For senior leaders who are successful, might they be stuck in behaviour patterns that have helped them be successful and therefore be less willing to change? Could they inadvertently be bringing their own biases and have these filtering through the organisation?

As new leaders join the organisation how are they assessed?  Hogan, the psychometric testing company, provides personality assessments grounded in more than 30 years of validated research. As an industry leader, Hogan became the first to demonstrate personality’s impact on organisational success, pioneering the use of personality assessment to improve workplace performance. Hogan provides some insights into the implications of leaders’ qualities:

  • Tradition is the scale that is concerned with valuing history and convention
  • Security measures an individual’s interest in stability, predictability, structure, and order.

Above average scores on these may indicate a desire to maintain what is in place and stick to the way things are done.

By comparison:

  • Commerce measures the degree to which an individual values business activity, money and the bottom line. A high score here may provide the impetus to change in order to increase the success and profitability of the organisation.
  • Sociability and affiliation provide insights on the desire to build networks and alliances, and the enjoyment of interacting with others. This could be critical as a growing and changing network is likely to provide the desire and ability to access new tribes!

Leaders are critical to action relating to diversity. They set goals and direction. Their selection and development will underpin several areas relating to diversity and inclusion. How authentic and transparent they are will have a strong influence over the engagement of those around them. As role models, they will have their behaviours copied, thus multiplying their impact. Investing the time and resources to assess and develop them makes good business sense.

For more information from APS, please visit their website: https://www.advancedpeoplestrategies.co.uk/

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