We have thought long and hard about the challenges involved in creating a diverse and inclusive workplace. It is not an easy ‘fix’ – if it was, businesses would have succeeded by now.

These are what we see as the key challenges:

We are operating from a place of unconscious incompetence
We literally don’t know that there is another way. What we see happening around us is what we know, and it is difficult to grasp an alternative way of doing things, let alone the benefits that might bring. Despite strong research (research done by McKinsey), the business case remains largely intuitive and conceptual.

The human brain wants to fit in
The human brain is wired for survival – meaning that it likes certainty and to feel like it fits in. Growing up, we learn that compliance makes us safe and that belonging feels good. The shift to a diverse and inclusive workplace is going to require vulnerability, swimming against the tide and a comfort in being around people that are ‘not like us’. The other side of this coin is that those who don’t feel like they ‘fit in’ experience imposter syndrome and operate from a place of ‘not enough’ – meaning they often play small. We can help people recognise and move beyond their imposter syndrome, at the same time creating cultures which are less likely to give rise to this phenomenon.

Unconscious bias
The human brain is also wired to categorise and to stereotype. It is a universal human trait that helps us to make sense of the world. Unfortunately, that skill comes with a less useful by-product – that of unconscious bias. We, unconsciously, hold stereotypes about groups of people that may make it harder for those groups to succeed in the workplace. We may also internalise stereotypes about the groups to which we ourselves belong.

Fear of conflict
Most people have an aversion to conflict and certainly would prefer to be surrounded by people who agree, rather than disagree, with them.  Getting a more diverse range of opinions in the room is going to mean greater disagreement. Period. We need to show people that conflict doesn’t need to be feared, that it can be a place of personal growth and give them the tools and skills to have difficult, challenging conversations.

The ability and knowledge of how to build diverse and inclusive teams
We like to be right, and the current leadership model, whilst shifting, is still in the ‘all knowing leader’ paradigm. Often, we don’t have the resilience to align rather than agree and we are not aware of our greater role in the system. Asking for help is seen as a weakness, whereas it could in fact mean listening to other people’s valid, different and possibly more useful opinions. Diverse teams need a skilled leader to harness them otherwise homogeneity is probably preferable. Such leaders let go of ‘coerce and control’, understand our interconnectedness and know how to align teams on a common purpose. It is a volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous world and team leaders need support in being able to deal with that, when they have been taught to look for certainty.

We are too busy
This is a two-fold challenge. Often teams feel like the D&I agenda is going to be resource intensive within teams that are already stretched to breaking point, (we would argue that it requires shifting your ‘being’ rather than a series of time intensive initiatives and that operating from the current place is more time ineffective). Alongside this, when we are operating at full pelt, we neglect to access our intuition and we ignore our emotional needs. We need to listen to both to move forwards – as individuals and as teams. When systems ignore their pain, it is stressful and this makes us less socially intelligent, empathic and creative. We are functioning from our limbic brain, we waste human capital and stress shuts down our neural pathways.

We value certain ways of thinking
Culturally, we value the left brain over the right brain. We value reason, judgement, cause and effect… and yet what could be possible if we valued feelings, relationships, intuition and creativity? Some experience shame at being ‘differently brained’, again dampening their productivity.

We have developed a suite of products to support businesses in creating a more diverse and inclusive workplace. 
DOWNLOAD OUR D&I TOOLKIT
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