By Shalini Ramakrishnan, Director of Product Marketing

Before we get into the topic, let’s look at a few statistics:

  • Diverse and inclusive corporations are 35% more likely to outperform their competitors. (McKinsey)
  • They are 70% more likely to capture new markets. (HBR)
  • Their teams are 87% better at decision-making. (People Management)
  • These teams generate 19% higher revenue. (BCG)

These numbers indicate that having a diverse and inclusive workforce is beneficial to any company. Especially where it matters, i.e., performance. These companies seem to perform better, generate higher revenue, and can understand the demands of newer markets. But the real impact runs even deeper. If one assesses the very makeup of the modern-day workforce, you’ll understand what we mean. Whichever country you’re in, there’s an increase of minorities equipped with degrees who are entering the workforce. There are more diverse workforce free of gender and race, than ever before, playing pivotal roles in their companies. But although so much progress is being made, it will take a significant amount of time to undo the practices and mindsets of old.

DE&I programs are uprooting old mindsets by removing subconscious biases while hiring, such as race or ethnicity-based biases, sexism, and other archaic prejudices. Instead, it replaces them with more useful and modern philosophies and tools, making way for a huge number of benefits. 

DE&I improves Employee Productivity and Performance

Research shows that employees are 60% as productive as they could be in their workplace. Some of the factors that contribute to this are: lack of sense of belonging, workplace stress, lack of recognition, and toxic workplace behavior. 

Studies show that work-related stress affects minorities in particular. There are many reasons for this, such as different levels of education attained and poor treatment by management. A good DE&I program would help sensitize both management and employees, and help them learn how to interact with employees in a more inclusive way. It would also help minority employees feel more comfortable in their environment and more included and accepted, leading to a boost in employee productivity by almost a 40%!

DE&I helps identify, attract and retain Top Talent

DE&I initiatives help in creating authentic connections with existing employees, who can then recommend other qualified individuals to fill vacant positions. Such recommendations help find the right fit, both in terms of skills and organizational culture. It’s also helpful in retaining employees. Employees who feel they are undervalued, treated poorly, and have fewer growth opportunities are the most likely to leave a company. In the US, numerous studies show that white males are more likely to get a promotion than their colored and/or female counterparts. Therefore, a DE&I program will help build long-lasting bonds among employees, and help management understand their needs better while aiding in breaking the glass ceiling for many.

DE&I improves and maintains better Employee Engagement

If you want your employees to be engaged, they must feel like they’re a part of the organization well and truly. Engaged employees perform better, are more likely to stay longer, and are ready to contribute to the companies they work in. Engaged employees are the backbone of a blooming company culture. Great company culture is essential in attracting the top-most talent in any industry. 

DE&I programs co-function with a robust  Peer Coaching system

The above can only be achieved if your DE&I program is combined with peer coaching. Issues about ethnicity, gender, race, religion, or any other controversial topic are extremely sensitive leaving a lot of room for misunderstandings. It’s only through peer coaching – where one establishes trust, takes time and makes effort to understand others’ dreams and challenges, and acts as a support system – that DE&I initiatives can make a real and tangible impact.

With Peer Coaching, employees assess themselves and others, which helps the company understand what measures need to be taken to elevate certain employees while creating a culture of feedback. Since it helps confront biases on a more humane level and is less mechanical than having a boss talking down to subordinates, Peer coaching is bound to bring in long-term behavioral changes. 

Another benefit of peer coaching is its model of establishing track results-based performance metrics hence giving the organizations a  realistic way to assess learner’s performance and engagement. There is also engagement analytics that can be used to track employee growth hence making it a better way to assess the results of your initiatives with tangible data. Most importantly, peer coaching builds a culture of diversity, equity, and inclusion that every organization needs to evolve from simply being an office, into a second family for every employee. That’s the real impact.

If you’re ready to transform your office into a safe space for every employee by breaking through the past and empowering the future workforce, let’s connect to discuss how our AI-enabled peer coaching platform can help you!

By Madhukar Govindaraju , Founder & CEO

Having a diverse workforce is essential in today’s corporate environment. But it’s not as easy as just deciding to make inclusive hires. A Forbes study indicated that a majority of corporate diversity programs haven’t yielded desired results. Around 75% of conventional diversity and inclusion programs have been failing consistently. Thus, it’s essential one must also carefully plan and execute a good DEA program. But how? How do we fight our subconscious biases? How can we create a plan that suits everyone? 

Possibly, there are two major problems with current DEI programs.

Problem 1: They are inauthentic

An article in the Economist stated that 12 of the most terrifying words in the English language are “I’m from Human Resources, and I’m here to organize a diversity workshop.”!!

Jokes aside, the statement points towards a general distrust of HR diversity initiatives. According to a study in the Harvard Business Review, companies struggle mainly with finding out what the inclusivity problems are. They found that managers are pushed by a fondness for taking action and finding solutions without understanding the actual issues. Their DEI programs are usually reactionary measures introduced after a specific incident or event. That comes across as inauthentic. 

They forget to engage their employees in effective two-way communication. They don’t take the necessary steps to educate the relevant people on measures being undertaken by the organization. To make genuine programs that will create a long-lasting impact on the learners, initiatives must center themselves around thorough research. While this may take time and resources to conduct in the short term, it will save the organization money, time, and energy in the long run. Evidence suggests that organizations constantly invest heavily in diversity training but with little results. 

Problem 2: They create a sense of inferiority

Normally, learners feel that they’re being lectured to. Studies show that ‘training’ and ‘coaching’ are terms that employees don’t like. They imply mandatory and remedial programs, which rob learners of a sense of freedom and instill a feeling of failure on some level. Instead, programs must make employees feel they are being presented an opportunity to grow with equity. Programs must focus on teaching behavioral and critical skills which will nurture inclusion and collaboration. It’s time for organizations to create a holistic approach that doesn’t make learners feel like they’re being spoken down to.

Why 75% of conventional diversity and inclusion programs have been failing consistently? 

Let’s take a look at some of the major DEI obstacles – 

Unconscious Bias

Many companies want to make DEI training voluntary exercises, and not compulsory programs. Doing so has shown improvement in employee participation in such programs. Consecutively, as per a study, there was an increase of 9 to 13% in black and Hispanic men and Asian-American men and women in top management roles. One factor to consider is that there are more benefits of such training for those who already show advanced skill competencies. Employees with low-skill competencies may feel alienated, as they may not be suitable to give training. In such a case, individuals with high competency levels will evolve into role models for other organizational members. If low-skill employees fail to evaluate competency in diversity, they will grow into accepting their errors. 

Gender Bias

A huge majority of men accept that teams with a healthy representation of women can perform better. But there is a lack of awareness amongst one-third of men. They are unresponsive to the challenges faced by women leaders. 28% don’t agree that women are more prone to difficulties when it comes to top management roles, despite having equal skills and qualifications.

Racial Biases

A surprising number of people aren’t aware that they have racial and ethnic biases. These are the people most resistant to DEI programs based on racial discrimination. There has to be a shift in this mindset, and the responsibility for such lies on leaders and managers. They must raise awareness by using psychologically protected spaces to create safe listening experiences. That will increase empathy as well. 

Manager-focused Training 

Most organizations have diversity training programs for their managers. But that’s very counterproductive. It breeds resentment and reflects poor diversity. It is important to have consistent leadership support for employing minorities. It has to be followed through with a plan to ensure inclusivity in key decision-making promotions and promotions to executive levels. 

Peer Coaching – The Magic Bullet 

The sure-shot way to overcome these two challenges in the form of peer coaching. Yes, I’d mentioned that employees don’t like the word ‘coaching’ – but ‘peer coaching’ is different. The processes themselves vary greatly, despite the two being used interchangeably. Conventional coaching creates a one-way mode of communication, from coach to learner. But peer coaching is a process where everyone involved learns and grows. It’s mutually beneficial, confidential, and structured. The process helps identify and measure skill gaps without making anyone feel uncomfortable. 

Peer coaching also helps create realistic benchmarks. Using these, one can quantify the success of each measure. Peer coaching mitigates the negative impact of learning and development programs. 

  • Using a comprehensive framework, peer coaching helps in changing behaviors through skill exchange. It can address all the DEI goals. Organizations that used peer coaching were more successful at navigating change when compared to competitors. 
  • Peer coaching helps create awareness and eliminate subconscious biases on gender. It helps create a culture of inclusion for women where they are systematically and actively included in succession plans. Peer coaching can be supplemented with women’s leadership development programs to build conviction.
  • To tackle the racial biases, the solid antiracist organizational culture and top leaders’ behavioral changes need to be guided by peer coaching. All these aspects together can help in augmenting individual attitudes and institutional policies.    
  • Peer coaching initiatives can be molded to be effective for different levels of organizational leadership. It can help leaders assess both personal biases and general biases that hinder inclusivity implementation. Inclusive work cultures empower employees with opportunities and the space to present contradicting views. They also encourage questioning deep-rooted mindsets without a threat to their sense of relevance. Peer coaching helps break hierarchical barriers. It enables teams with cultural or other generic differences to collaborate on projects that proliferate cross-cultural competence.

Robust peer coaching initiatives are effective methods for enabling diversity and inclusion. Both external and internal intervention coaching delivers forward-thinking inclusion tools that combat discriminatory behaviors. 

Download this whitepaper on ‘Why Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Should Be A Business Imperative’ – it discusses in detail the deficiency in diversity and inclusion efforts, how a shift in mindset can reshape the future of the workplace, and how comprehensive and discerning coaching programs are critical in creating a cornerstone for a collective understanding of DE&I.

By Madhukar Govindaraju, Founder & CEO

Women belong in all places where decisions are being made” – Ruth Bader Ginsberg aka, Notorious RBG.

Ruth Bader Ginsberg’s crusade for equal rights is known to everyone. Throughout her career, she focused on making those in positions of power become aware of the challenges that were unique to the women workforce. It was her strategy to help men in power see the differences in opportunity and treatment meted out to women, just because they were, well, women.

The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009 was an outcome of her fierce dissent amongst many other such path-breaking acts that paved the way for equality for women. It is now the responsibility of corporate organizations to take this movement a step further and provide women the support they need to become prolific leaders like Ginsberg. 

If we look at the leadership gender gap, it shows us that while it still might be a man’s world, forward-thinking organizations now know that we need both men and women to succeed. 

There are several reasons for this gender gap – reasons such as inexperience, family responsibilities, or . But given that we are now in the 21st century, companies need to find a way to deal with these obstacles. 

Without delving into the controversy of the underrepresentation of women in leadership roles, let’s instead look at how to fix this gender imbalance. 

There is enough evidence to show that women not only do well in leadership roles but thrive in them. A report from Associated Press and Equilar, among the 25 highest-paid CEOs, five of them were women. 

Some of the largest and most successful enterprises have had women steering the ship – from IBM’s Virginia Rometty to PepsiCo’s Indra Nooyi to Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg to Mary Barra of General Motors, you just have to cast a cursory glance at the Forbes world’s most powerful women list to see that the ‘so-called’ reasons to keep deserving female candidates  away from the C-suite are quite honestly, baseless. 

Now that cracks in the glass ceiling are getting deeper, it is about time for organizations to realize that fixing the gender imbalance is not only the right thing to do, it is also important for organizational success.

The business case for promoting gender diversity

Yes, there is a business case for leaning in towards gender diversity. 

Research from McKinsey discovered that promoting gender diversity leads to better business results and that gender-diverse companies perform better financially. 

Organizations with women in 30% of leadership roles are 12 times more likely to be top-performing companies. 

 

Joanna Barsh, co-chair of the International Council on Women’s Business Leadership’s Leadership Working Group and author of ‘How Remarkable Women Lead’ further shows that it is now becoming important for an organization’s leadership to match its customer base. Given that women make up a substantial chunk of the customer base in almost every industry, having more women representation is just good old common sense.

Barsha goes on to state that gender diverse teams also come up with better solutions especially for “non-linear, complex problems”. Solving these problems need diversity of thought, backgrounds, skillset, and experience.

Business case aside, women leaders can be a huge benefit since they bring a growth mindset, are hugely participative in getting more thoughts and ideas, and in bringing positive emotions to the workplace.

The silver bullet to fix the gender imbalance

It is apparent that gender diversity efforts are not a zero-sum game but end up benefiting all employees. It is about time that we move away from ‘second-generation gender bias’.

While there are many solutions to fix the gender diversity gap, focusing on learning and development initiatives is an important step in the right direction. 

Women leadership development programs have to now become bolder and more tailored to help women navigate the corporate landscape and equip them with the tools, knowledge, and skills they need to create an impact and have greater influence across the organization. 

What should these innovative programs include?

Firstly, women leadership development programs have to be a continuous process. These programs have to be designed to drive a shift in behaviors. 

Hence, coaching becomes a critical tool for enablement.

  • Leadership programs have to now move away from its myopic worldview and understand that just like women bring specific skill sets to the table, they also have certain specific challenges to navigate. The objective of coaching, hence, cannot be to make women leaders more like their male counterparts. Instead, it has to focus on how women can leverage their unique skills such as empathy to develop their own leadership style and implement a personal leadership strategy.
  • Organizations also have to open up networking opportunities for women leaders as this helps them advance their careers. Coaching can help women build this network and develop connections to create opportunities for broader exposure and authentic engagement by eliminating self-imposed restrictions.
  • Organizations have to assume the responsibility of identifying their high-potential women employees and then employ data-backed guidance to help them overcome leadership challenges. Leveraging tests such as Behavioral Assessment tests or 16 Personality Factor self-evaluation to identify strengths and weaknesses can help in closing the skills gap and assist in building authentic leadership.
  • Coaching programs also need the technology push to connect high performing women employees with the right mentors who will help them navigate women-specific challenges. For example, some women might need greater help in managing organizational complexities than their male counterparts owing to the years of social conditioning. This very conditioning might prohibit them from asking questions for the fear of being perceived as weak. A good coach will help such women employees with the right tools to manage perceptions while establishing credibility and their individual leadership styles without sacrificing their inherent femininity.
  • Women leadership development programs have to also become hyper-focused on monitoring and measuring coaching progress and ensure that they have the right tools to provide timely nudges. An AI-enabled coaching platform can come to the rescue and help to deliver personalized, contextual, and relevant nudges to address skill gaps and unique learning abilities.
  • Leadership programs for women also need to become analytics-driven and should employ actionable insights from rich analytics on skills development, performance, engagement, and more. These engagement insights can be used to further fine-tune women leadership programs and make them contextual, relevant, and consequently more impactful for the women workforce. This also helps in building women leaders who are better prepared for their current and future responsibilities.
  • Social conditioning helped men remain unaware of the plight of women in the workforce. It was people like Ruth Bader Ginsberg who helped them see that inequality and discrimination existed. In the same way, social conditioning can also influence many women leaders. It is important to get the guidance and coaching to see which of these influencers are self-serving and which need to go to thrive in the corporate world. Coaching is the most effective way to help women make more intentional choices about their leadership careers. This includes taking the agency to control their careers, building authenticity to discover their leadership styles, strengthening professional connections to grow professional relationships, and increasing self-awareness and clarity. 

Most importantly these programs have to help women leaders develop a sense of wholeness that many women struggle with – the battle to seek roles beyond work or to unite different life roles into a single integrated whole. 

Coaching can help women realize and internalize that it is justified to value multiple roles and accept a broader definition of success – one that helps them let go of the idea that work and success come from equitable distribution of time between work and their other roles. Instead, wholeness helps women set priorities and value all their commitments while letting go of roles, obligations, thoughts, and mindsets that no longer serve them.

While it might be a man’s world as sung by James Brown in 1966, today we concur more and sing along loudly with Beyonce when she says, “Who run the world? Girls”.

Connect with us to see how an AI-enabled coaching platform can help your organization fix gender imbalance and give your women leadership program the makeover it needs.