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Six ways to fast-track diversity and inclusion in a time of change

Diversity and inclusion

Head of Diversity and Inclusion for M&G and previous Head of Global Diversity and Inclusion at Barclays PLC, Mark McLane has led conversations at board level around diversity and inclusion for over 20 years. Throughout his career, he has played a key role in transforming the mindsets and cultures of multinational organisations, and in the latest everywoman Leadership webinar he discusses how we can fast-track D&I awareness and action – in ourselves and in our organisations – during this time of change, and beyond.

 

Deliver to the ‘full organisation’

With the effect that the pandemic and lockdown has had on everyone, inclusion and making sure that colleagues feel connected and part of the organisation are more important than ever. At M&G, as we went to a remote working environment, we began to work to make sure the colleagues knew what resources were available. The question was how we could transition our in-person resources to be virtual and what the platform for the future of work might look like. Now, that the pandemic has broken the paradigm of, ‘you can't do that job remotely’, I feel the responsibility within the D&I world to help our organisations grow that platform around wellbeing and inclusion. We need to ask whether we are getting the most out of the technology and do colleagues have what they need to be successful? From a diversity standpoint, we also need to ask what the needs are of each cohort, including those working at home with children and those who are alone and might be in danger of burnout, for example. So, again, the significance of work around inclusion right now is to be able to deliver to the full organisation.

 

Make specific asks of senior leaders

Most senior leaders tend to think that being a part of programming and delivery is for everyone else in the organisation. They tend to stand on the sidelines because they don't want to insert themselves - I see this phenomenon in resource groups or diversity networks, where they’re really waiting for bit of an invitation. So, I've been taking a strategic approach to the work, asking senior leaders to be involved in a way that's purposeful. We need to know specifically what we are asking senior leaders and why and then give them the direction. But we also have to give them the opportunity to say, ‘my personal passion is this part of the work’, whether that’s being an LGBT ally or a mentor in cultural awareness. That becomes the partnership. I have yet to be turned down by a senior leader; most have been waiting to be asked - and in turn, their ask is; please be specific about what you want me to do. Then they’ll ringfence that time and they will show up. But it has to be planned out. In any organisation, regardless of how large or small, having a game plan and asking leaders to be involved is what drives accountability.

 

Be the ally you’re looking for

I would give this advice to everyone. We are always looking for role models, allies and sponsors, but someone is also always looking at us.  So, are we representing ourselves as a role model or an ally in the way that we're looking for someone else to support us? I also tell everyone that I don't mean that senior leaders should do everything about diversity and inclusion, but I need them all to do something. So, this goes back to my earlier point about getting leaders involved. I tell them to pick something and stick with it. I also tell them that everyone notices if they don’t show up.

 

If you don’t know, ask – and listen

We have to speak up about D&I issues, but I do think we have to listen too. And speaking up might come in the form of a question to our colleagues, asking, ‘How can I support you?’. The first thing I did in the wake of the #BlackLivesMatter protests was talk to the leadership of our cultural awareness network, and I asked, ‘What does support look like?  What's the conversation you're having as a community?’ This is a catalyst moment for us all to not only recognise the barriers that exist, but then to hold on to that momentum and push it forward. We've been working with our colleagues to start to actively have this dialogue internally at M&G, asking ‘What's next?’. If you're concerned about saying the wrong thing, I would say that’s your starting point: Just ask. You build respect and trust in a partnership if you're willing to be vulnerable and ask the questions: ‘What should I be saying and how do you want me to be a part of this?’

 

Use strategy to get engagement at all levels

I try to push the engagement level by level in the organisation, and it's twofold. Firstly. it's having a strategic approach to D&I and knowing what it is you're trying to achieve and how you're going to measure that. And that starts not just with the board, but with the Executive Committee and their buy-in to the strategy and what they're going to hold themselves accountable to. At M&G we announced our diversity inclusion strategy in January, and it included enterprise-level impact measures, one of them being 40 per cent women in leadership metric at both the executive committee and director levels. We also included a goal of 20 per cent ethnic diversity at that same level of senior leadership, direct reports and an inclusion index into our employee opinion survey – as well as having measurements around brand impact. So now, taking those measures, I've broken them down by each executive team number, so they understand what their contribution to our diversity metrics are, what their baseline inclusion metric is - and they’re signed up to a year-on-year Improvement over the next five years.

 

Work to evolve from successful to significant

The idea of moving from being successful to significant came from a businesswoman I met while on a leadership odyssey with Barclays to Africa to really understand our African business. She asked us what we were doing, and we said the trip was really about our values and behaviours and understanding who we are as an organisation. She replied, so you’re starting to understand moving from being successful to significant. And as I've become more senior in my career over time, I’ve recognised that opportunity. I'm asked many times, ‘How do you know you're making an impact?’, because we love to measure everything – and we have demographics, an opinion survey and an inclusion index and these are important. But when a colleague stops me and says “thank you” for the work we're doing with the business around mental health and wellbeing, I think about the individuals who had a significant impact on me and how that has changed what I do in my work today. And for me, that's really the significance of the work. It's the impact it's having on my individual colleagues, and hopefully the culture of the organisation in which I work.

 

Our everywomanLeadership Series’ episode with Mark McLane is available to watch on demand now.