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 Shalini Ramakrishnan, Director of Product Marketing

Human beings, by our very nature, are cooperative individuals. We also constantly strive to become the best versions of ourselves. When you combine these two traits, it’s easy to see why a concept like peer coaching is beneficial for so many people. It gives co-workers a chance to work together towards self-development. This makes it a good foundation for many productive business processes. 

Let’s explore the top reasons why now is the right time for organizations to adopt peer coaching:

 

Peer coaching combats a lack of trust in peers outside the function and/or an over-reliance on familiar faces

We, humans, are susceptible to a phenomenon called tribalism. Simply put, this is what creates that strong feeling of loyalty towards one’s tribe or social group. While this is useful for building bonds within one’s function, this is also what creates distrust or feelings of unease towards those we feel are not a part of our tribe or group. Since peer coaching brings individuals from different functions together, it helps eliminate this tribalism within the company. It helps foster trust and bonhomie amongst different processes. 

Peer coaching co-creates shared goals and priorities and reinforces them with metrics and accountability

Making a time-bound schedule with goals for oneself is easy, but when you have a partner co-creating one with you – more reliability gets added to the mix. While it’s true that there are many people out there who can be accountable to themselves, most others would prefer a partner to keep them in check. Peer coaching is exactly that – it’s a way to have someone you trust to help you reach your goals, without compromising on your normal daily work. 

Peer coaching helps create forums that build competence and interpersonal trust that establish the value of group goals

Do you know what a trust fall is? It’s a game that many children play as well, albeit the trust-building benefits may not be their motivation. A trust fall is when a person deliberately falls, believing someone from their group will catch them. Similarly, one’s peer coaching partner is expected to catch them when they fall off their schedule or goals. Now, can your partner catch you if they don’t know the rules of the exercise? The trust fall has the same end, no matter who plays it. That’s why one would prefer a partner who has experienced a structured peer coaching session before to help guide them. Peer coaching creates a platform where all the different partners or groups can create peer-coaching goals, both personal and organizational, along with rules and guidelines.

Peer coaching helps break down employee clusters of like-minded teammates

Another tendency of ours is to build an echo chamber around us. This is when everyone just agrees with each other when a conflicting or difficult matter is being discussed. In an echo chamber, everyone has the same opinions. While it is comforting and helps avoid conflict, it’s toxic behavior that hampers growth. This leads to group-think and even groupism, which can lead to creative rot. If no one is challenging each other, then why would anyone push for innovation? Peer coaching helps diversify such groups.

Peer coaching combats distrust or competition amongst team members

Franklin D. Roosevelt once said that competition is useful up to a certain point, but cooperation is what we must strive for today. What he meant was that competition, while an agent of action in many, has destructive tendencies. Especially when it’s between members of the same team. But peer coaching fosters understanding and builds mutual goals. This creates a cooperative and collaborative environment, which creates trust and promotes healthy and creative work.

Peer coaching helps teams focus on outcomes from a customer and stakeholder perspective

As peer coaching involves more than one person, it’s easier for those involved to start thinking from outside their perspective. This helps in considering situations from the POV of a customer or even an internal stakeholder. This is because the team goals that are created are ultimately beneficial for the company’s most important relationships. Every action becomes more meaningful and has the interests of the customer in mind.

Peer coaching helps everyone to get transparent about workloads and competing priorities collectively

Sometimes, it’s tough to stay on routine but employees feel obligated to put their best face forward. This can lead to creating unrealistic goals for themselves or being dishonest about how much they’ve completed. As peer coaching creates a safe space, it’s much easier for employees to be honest about their workload. They can then create a new schedule to reach their goals. This is much better than waiting for everything to snowball at the last minute and doing substandard work.

Peer coaching helps reconfigure, re-optimize your pitfalls, strengths, and spikes in the workforce behavior and skill landscape

The best part of this process is the feedback loop. This is what encourages honest feedback and constructive comments from one employee to another. It helps refine plans and ideas, as well as skill sets and choice of tools. Peer coaching keeps each process fresh and constantly updating itself, thus ensuring no team is left with outdated skills or plans that simply don’t grow along with changing situations. This also helps create a safe space to evaluate and grow from failures.

Peer coaching helps craft tangible “measures of success” and quantified impact across your Learning and Development budgets

This process requires interactions and actions whose success and effectiveness are measured by benchmarks. The success or failure of these can be viewed by those responsible for creating learning and development programs. This is much better than paying exorbitant amounts on sessions and coaches who may not have any impact whatsoever. It’s more reliable as it’s been tried and tested. It’s also easier to break down the processes and assign a cost of training to each section.

Peer coaching helps combat the lack of norms/policies to guide WFH/remote work

Although WFH/remote working isn’t a new practice, many companies are unprepared for a framework to help navigate through this structure. But peer coaching creates an environment where norms and policies can be created collaboratively. This is because those on the same team will be in constant touch with each other. They will share the challenges they’re facing and brainstorm a possible solution together. Collaboration such as this will help create the foundation for a formal framework.

These are the reasons why it’s time to embrace peer coaching in your working place. Get in touch with us and take this step to make your office a more collaborative place.