Inclusive Moments

This is the third and final installment in the BAD2018 conference series. I’ve enjoyed writing about gender stereotypes, bringing masculinity into the conversation and now, ‘Inclusive Moments’. Those 48 hours in Toronto have gone a long way.

This last article draws on inspiring presentations from Professor Iris Bohnet of Harvard Kennedy and Rony Hacohen of the Behavioural Insights Team. My thanks to both for their insight, and one final time, to Professors’ Sarah Kaplan and Sonia Kang from the Rotman School of Management for leading such a thought-provoking event.

 

Inclusive Moments - moving from vision to execution and good intent to meaningful progress.

Vision is important; grand aspirations are inspiring; it’s wonderful to think big and aim high. But almost every organisation we come across at MoreThanNow have these boxes ticked when it comes to diversity. They’re building a culture where everyone can thrive; they’re inviting everyone to the party AND asking them to dance.

These are vision statements; public commitments of good intent. To deliver on their promise, organisations need an effective strategy. Because strategy is to vision what behaviour is to culture - the means to an inclusive end.

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“There’s more rigour in the marketing department than the HR department”.

Professor Iris Bohnet at BAD2018

So, what does an effective inclusion strategy look like and how do you discover what works from what doesn’t? These questions need more rigour and attention than they receive from most leaders and HR teams…

 

The first step is to think in moments.

Many of us aspire to a healthier diet. Many also struggle to turn that intent into action. We falter in ‘high risk’ moments - watching Netflix on the sofa, ambling past the pizza place on a Friday night and walking down the crisps aisle in Tesco…

If you want a vision of a ‘healthier you’ to become reality, you need to design ways to nudge yourself away from those temptations. Maybe empty the snack draw and replace it with healthier alternatives for the next episode of Stranger Things? Maybe make a deal to ‘commitment-bundle’ that Friday-night pizza with a Saturday-morning run? Maybe buy the weekly shop online so you’re not lured in by the goodies aisle?

We need to think in the same way about inclusion. Because while I have a good understanding of bias and the desire to behave inclusively, neither mean I will make equitable and meritocratic decisions from moment-to-moment. To follow through on my intent, I need to design safety-nets around me. It’s why, for example, we developed our recruitment process at MoreThanNow without asking for CV’s. Our blind applications are screened independently and our interview questions are carefully structured. Because these are moments of ‘high-risk’ where we would otherwise be liable to exclude and discriminate.

 

The second step is to prioritise and experiment.

There are hundreds of inclusive moments you could focus on in the workplace. In your decisions about hiring, promotion and pay; in your meetings rooms and office corridors; in your away-days and after-work drinks. You can’t solve them all in one fell swoop, by convincing people how important they are with a ‘business case’ and rewiring their minds with diversity and unconscious bias training. You need safety-nets….

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“Stay focused on the facts, use an inclusive and empathetic lens, collect and pay attention to data, and experiment”.

Rony Hacohen, Behavioural Insights Team, BAD2018

Identifying and prioritising where to focus is a difficult task. Data and empathy are not mutually exclusive; neither are facts and stories. Your job is to gather and weight diverse inputs, and make a judgement on where to spend your time and attention:

  • What priorities do your stakeholders value?

  • Does your internal data point to bias in management decisions?

  • Where does academic literature highlight high-risk moments of exclusion?

  • What feedback, stories and experiences have you gathered from your employees, especially from those whose voices are underrepresented and who are at greatest risk of discrimination?

You can start big and drill down - ‘what moments stop our talented women getting to our leadership roles?’, or you can focus on more precise issues revealed by data - ‘why do our assessors rate BAME candidates lower than Non-BAME candidates in our graduate assessment centre?’. Once you have a focus, everything else falls into place - you choose a measure for your moment, design an intervention to influence that outcome and test its effect with a robust experiment.

 

This journey needs your support.

This iterative approach to progress is informed by what we’ve learnt about behaviour over the past decade. We know more than we did but we still have much further to go. It’s why experimentation is so important. It means we can all be pioneers and we can all contribute to an understanding of what works and what doesn’t. While Professor Bohnet and Rony Hahonen are at the forefront of that journey, they can’t give us all the answers. Their work is an inspiration and a guide, not an instruction manual.

Below, for example, are some lessons on reducing the gender pay gap that Rony shared at BAD2018. We now know, from the tireless work of researchers around the world, that ‘in-the moment’ actions like balanced shortlists are likely to be more effective than general initiatives like unconscious bias training. But this list is not complete, it’s ever-evolving and needs your support…

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Make your mark…

Sometimes our visions can lead us astray. It’s difficult to think in moments when you’re supposed to be creating a culture where ‘everyone can be their best self’. But such aspirations are too grand for meaningful progress; they must be broken down before they’re built back up. So ask a small question, experiment with your answers and be sure to tell the world what you’ve learnt.

In her conclusion, Professor Bohnet asked where we would be more likely to drop rubbish - on the left or the right shoreline in the picture below. Her point was that the answers we find will not stand alone. Like picking up litter, the behaviours we promote will build into an environment that’s better for everyone. The sum of our moments will be greater than its parts.

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Thank you for reading. Please consider sharing if you found this article interesting and feel free to get in touch if you have any questions or would like to ask about our work.

 
James Elfer