While diversity will remain a priority, I strongly believe that one day we won’t need diversity “programs.” Gone will be the days of sitting in those mechanical trainings and new approaches will blossom. Inclusion will be infused in organizational fabrics so separate programs will not be necessary. Unfortunately, this is as far off as a second diverse US president. But there are steps that we can take to move in the right direction today. This is why I developed “Influencing for Women of Color,” an inclusive talent development offering. I wrote about why I developed it in Part 1. This post will focus on the how: 1) how it was received, and 2) tips about how to infuse inclusion in your talent programs. It goes beyond numbers, quotas and all the other ways we usually check the box.
The whole idea around inclusive talent development is that we should be mindful that all of our talent programs are built around inclusive values. You probably already consider people with disabilities or people that speak other languages in your leadership development program designs, for example. Your organization may translate training or use both video and audio options to speak to these audiences. But, does your organization make the same considerations when it comes to people of color, women, LGBTQ+ or other underrepresented groups? Probably not.
As discussed in Part I, much of the literature or examples you may use in a topic like, for example, leadership development, does not represent diverse perspectives. Yes, it’s a billion dollar industry but many programs remain exclusionary. How can your organization offer more inclusive programs? Some key steps you can take to build inclusive talent development programs:
- Evaluate your current programs. Before doing anything, evaluate the effectiveness of your current leadership programs, especially the effectiveness and visibility for underrepresented groups. Are underrepresented employees being promoted? Are they leaving your organization more often? Collecting data may be difficult due to small sample sizes so you may have to run some focus groups.
- Don’t exclusively depend on “separate but equal” programs but don’t eliminate them either. The session was well received because it allowed a “separate but equal” forum. The women in the group talked more freely because of it. But, while useful in moderation, having all “separate but equal” programs will not help you meet your talent goals. Allow participants to transfer their learning in environments they are actually working in.
- Embed coaching into your talent programs. Most leadership programs do not invest in external coaches. Usually this is due to limited budgets or the desire to want “manager coaches” to mentor talent. While this a perfectly fine option in some situations, if you truly want to be inclusive, offer diverse external coaching options. Allow for underrepresented employees to select a coach that meets their needs. This is where the true magic happens.
- Use literature from diverse authors. I walked in an executive’s office the other day and all of the leadership books on the shelf were written by men. I get it. Underrepresented groups are often boxed out of leadership literature. If you want to reference inclusive sources, you have to be proactive. Try to source at least 30% of your literature from underrepresented groups. There’s more coming out all the time so it won’t be difficult.
These are a few tips just to help you get started, but first, you have to change your thinking. That piece can often be the hardest.