If we want to create truly sustainable change and a culture of involvement and responsibility throughout our organisations, then we need to examine our every action to ensure that it supports our objectives. Sustainable change requires total commitment, not just rhetoric.

Sadly, this isn’t always the case – as a recent survey from recruitment firm Adecco has shown. The report identified that almost half of UK workers see diversity schemes in their organisations are mere PR stunts. However, the organisations stress that they are serious about changing things and the business case for investment in diversity is certainly clear – ensuring ways to develop British talent from any and every background makes sense. So what is stopping individuals engaging with the policies?

Does this just apply to Diversity Policies, or do they feel the same about other policies too? It appears that they do, so why?  

If you want change, creating a new policy is only one small part of what needs to happen. The most crucial step is that the leaders who are championing the change and voicing support for it actually demonstrate through their behaviour a consistent alignment to the principles of this new way.

Policies and the logic behind them may well be taken on at a head level throughout an organisation. There may be little argument with the thinking. However, if we want a culture to change and therefore the behaviours of every individual involved, then that has to happen at a much more fundamental level – at heart level.

So let’s imagine that you and your leadership team have just launched a new policy on diversity in the workplace. You have a team meeting a few days later and continue to behave as you always have – by expressing your opinions and the value of your experience, listening to those who are always verbal, not noticing that the quieter members of your team don’t seem to get a chance to share their views. You make it clear when you disagree with someone’s point of view, cutting them off before they finish with reasons why it won’t work. All this, whilst your PA sits invisibly in the corner making notes of what goes on, with nobody interested in his or her observations at all. The message from this is that I am only interested if your thinking is in line with mine and you speak up assertively!

How does that fit with diversity?

Surely diversity means embracing difference, not for the sake of it, but because achieving outstanding results means challenging our thinking, including outside perspectives, accepting feedback, understanding why others feel a particular course may be more effective and encouraging people to take risks. For me, diversity is not just about making headlines, it means thinking inclusively in every moment. This applies whether we are running a team meeting, discussing a holiday with our families or organising a community group activity.

The Adecco research highlights one particular area where the organisation’s head says ‘left’, but the organisation’s heart goes ‘right’. To build sustainable and positive change, there needs to be leadership that is prepared to live and breathe that change, by demonstrating commitment to the entire workforce with both actions and words.

Emma Littmoden
Partner at The Living Leader
Leadership for Life – click here to visit our website