Category Archives: Diversity Training

Unconscious bias training – What difference did it really make?

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I regularly deliver unconscious bias workshops and keynote addresses.  It’s an engaging subject that has relevance for all of us.  Unconscious and conscious biases are prevalent in our private, public and professional lives, revealed through our perceptions, beliefs, behaviours and decision-making processes.

Recently I created two podcasts to share with listeners some of the benefits that past clients have observed and experienced, both personally and organisationally.

Unconscious Bias for Property Fund Managers

The Benefits of Unconscious Bias Training

Following up with clients over staggered periods of time to discover the long-term effects and outcomes training has for participants is one of the aspects that I most enjoy about what I do.  I am a big believer in feedback, in using it constructively in ways that will enhance and improve our programs, and provide ongoing learning opportunities.

Bridging the cultural gap

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Watch Tom speaking at the Australian Human Resource Institute Conference 2015 ‘Bridging the cultural gap’.

Meeting the Challenges of Cultural Diversity

Last week I was a panelist for the discussion “Building Cultural Capability Networks” to further explore findings from Cracking the Cultural Ceiling: Future Proofing Your Business in the Asian Century research. The Diversity Council of Australia surveyed over 300 leaders and emerging leaders from Asian cultural backgrounds working in Australia.

One of the challenges that I came away with was a longstanding challenge – how do we get organisations to pay greater attention to cultural diversity in Australia?   There are many compelling reasons to support greater diversity within our organisations, and yet while our diverse workforce continues to expand, we continue to inadequately support it.

Although countries such as Australia (and many other countries around the world) are highly multicultural societies, I believe that part of the cultural diversity apathy that exists in the Australian workplace is in part due to a lack of awareness, education and biases.

Some of the breakthroughs that I believe are needed to overcome these persistent institutional cultural barriers are:

  • Organisations need to review, educate and revise their current practices, strategies and objectives in terms of employee hiring, promotion, mentoring and leadership models; including succession planning to promote cultural diversity.
  • Double sponsorship should be promoted. Companies such as IKEA have a sponsorship/mentorship program that requires two people to be responsible for hiring decisions and sharing the development responsibilities for that individual.
  • Leaders and recruitment staff need greater education around unconscious and conscious cultural biases and the complexities of cultural identity i.e. alternative leadership models and communication styles. They need greater awareness of their own biases and should be made more accountable for their decisions and actions.
  • Improved understanding and appreciation of the value that cultural diversity brings to organisations and the ‘know how’ and skills to actually leverage these differences.
  • Senior Leaders must demonstrate their commitments to cultural diversity programs by truly getting behind them by modelling them through their actions and behaviours.

I urge you to read the Cracking the Cultural Ceiling: Future Proofing Your Business in the Asian Century.

Diversity and Inclusion From an Asian Perspective

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Earlier this year I contributed to and reviewed a research paper – Examining Diversity & Inclusion From an Asian Perspective. The study was conducted by Community Business, a Hong Kong based organisation. The countries included in this study were Hong Kong, Singapore, India, Japan and China.

A previous study was a precursor to this paper. One of the findings was that diversity and inclusion in Asia are often considered western concepts that are sometimes at odds with local cultural norms and have little local relevance in the Asian context.

The purpose of this study was to:

  • Explore how relevant the concepts of diversity and inclusion are in Asia;
  • Uncover key diversity and inclusion dynamics at play in the different Asian markets;
  • Provide some recommendations for organisations to adapt their diversity and inclusion approaches that resonate locally.

This a very insightful paper that contains some really strong data and recommendations to support companies in their D & I strategies and approaches within the Asian context.

There were many interesting discussions in this paper, particularly the question “Is D & I a western construct.” The findings were that the majority of respondents agreed that it is a western concept – China (58%), Hong Kong (55%), Japan (61%) and Singapore (61%), India being the least at (21%). Interestingly, the Chinese and Japanese languages have no indigenous words for ‘diversity’ or ‘inclusion’, therefore the loosely translated words can be difficult for people to relate to. As each country is considered in their own context, the findings are an accurate display of the key D & I dynamics within each particular country included in this study.

Improved awareness of unconscious bias, greater transparency and continuous auditing of management processes, greater understanding of the importance of face, hierarchy and harmony; and addressing the assumption that proficiency in English equates to professional expertise are just some of the dynamics that this paper identifies.

The paper highlights the need for organisations to rethink their current D & I strategies, and the value of facilitating discussions with key stakeholders on the ground. Organisations must invest resources to support engagement with these key stakeholders in a bid to gain accurate understandings of the most pertinent issues at local levels. Only through this exposure can these issues be addressed in a culturally appropriate methodology.

Click here if you would like further information on this paper.

The Case for Diversity

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It is widely acknowledged that diversity in our leadership teams matters, that diversity is imperative for any organisation that wants to achieve and remain competitive. While the benefits are many and varied I want to draw your attention to a recent body of research ‘Diversity Matters’ conducted by McKinsey & Company.

One of the key findings from this study is companies in the top quartile of racial/ethnic diversity were 30% more likely to have financial returns above their national industry median. The authors contend, based on other studies and the correlation in this study between diversity and performance, that the more diverse an organisation is the more successful they are at winning top talent, customer orientation, employee satisfaction and effective decision-making.

While this research paper found that no organisation performed well in all areas of diversity (it is a select few who do) it highlights the ongoing demand for diversity training programs. While diversity policies and approaches are country specific, traditionally the common approach in countries such as the UK, U.S and Australia has been to adopt a single diversity program that covers all areas from gender and age, to race, ethnicity, sex, religion and disability. I contend that one of the problems with this approach is that some more visible areas of diversity such as gender, have received more focus than others, namely race and ethnicity.

A new mindset and approach to diversity needs to occur. The overall current characterisation and management of diversity is too broad, it commands greater depth; in other words a more individualised, tailored approach is required, it needs to be ‘unbundled’. Specific programmes that develop, monitor and promote ongoing continuous improvement need to be implemented. Some examples are unconscious bias training, cultural intelligence training, mentoring, or executive coaching. These programs provide greater rigour, understanding and appreciation that make real headway into changing attitudes, behaviours and outcomes.

Further to improving diversity, leaders must visibly demonstrate that they believe in the value of diversity and assert why it is a priority in a manner that influences, promotes and inspires others to also commit.

As the authors of ‘Diversity Matters’ point out “diversity matters because we live in a global world that has become deeply interconnected.” This research serves as an ongoing reminder of the headway that we have made to date in countries such as the U.S and U.K in diversity, the benefits to be gained and serves as a reminder that there is still much work to be done.