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Diversity and Inclusion are Key to Authentic Sustainability Leadership

Submitted by: Shannon Houde

Posted: Jun 01, 2016 – 06:00 AM EST

Tags: diversity, inclusion, hiring, millennials, employment

 
Shannon_houde

As our talent pool ages, Millennials will comprise 75% of the global workforce by 2025. They want to work for organizations that make a positive contribution to society by addressing global challenges of resource scarcity, climate change, and income equality. Millennials also want to work for companies on the forefront of change, yet a lack of diversity and inclusion remains one of the largest barriers to innovation.

In short – as sustainability professionals we need to get better at practicing what we preach. It’s crucial to success and growth for leaders to ramp up diversity and inclusion tactics. In my work as a talent advisor and executive coach, I have noticed three simple steps to overcome this barrier and start building a more diversified workforce:

1) Set clear, transparent hiring goals
Fostering a diverse workforce starts with hiring practices. Attracting, recruiting, and hiring diverse talent should be an easy challenge to tackle. To help increase diversity I recommend stating specific hiring challenges and goals like Campbell’s and LinkedIn are doing. Clarify your company’s diversity and inclusion strategies and be transparent with rolling them out to the wider organization. One example of this is the creation of the “Rooney Rule” by the NFL. The Rooney Rule is simple: vow to interview one minority for every executive and management position available. This practice has directly correlated to an increase of diversity and effectiveness among NFL management.

2) Provide employee education and equal opportunities
Of course it’s not just a matter of hiring based on quotas. Developing an impactful, empathetic, innovative staff means that everyone must feel comfortable enough to share their authenticity and try new things. Mark King, President of Adidas North America, a top rated company by the Corporate Equality Index has said, “The number one thing that makes a great company are great people. We have a genuine care for our people and foster an environment of innovative thinking, collaboration and inclusivity to lead change for our industry.” Cultivating an environment where everyone feels welcome, and providing employee education and equal opportunity for raises and promotions helps attract top talent and turn good employees into great ones.  Unconscious bias training is one great example of how to do this. Or set higher standards for management and staff by rewriting their job descriptions.  LinkedIn provides monetary compensation to staff who dedicate time to increasing diversity and inclusion.

3) Develop empathetic leadership
Good leaders practice listening to a variety of people to make informed strategic decisions. As I have noted before, empathy and active listening skills are crucial for sustainability professionals who want to create lasting, impactful change. While being true to your values is important, it’s also necessary to bring others — who may not share your view — along on the journey.  An overly authoritarian leadership style can inhibit the kind of collaboration that must be fostered to make progress.

Equal opportunity for growth, sharing, and expansion is a more sustainable business model than backing a few people at the top. Sustainability leaders need to be able to affect change in areas that they aren’t expert in, which means inspiring and working productively with people in all branches of the organization. Listening to conflicting views and taking an interest in others’ experiences are important traits that any candidate will need to be able to demonstrate.

Furthermore, it’s good for business when leaders and employees really listen to all of their stakeholders and encourage a wide range of input. For example, research shows that the financial success of women [http://www.theguardian.com/sustainable-business/2015/apr/27/women-top-better-business-environment-sustainable?CMP=share_btn_tw] in business surpassing their male counterparts.

Our differences make us stronger. They make our ideas better, in the business world it is proven that diversity makes more money and leads to better results. If all candidates of all genders, races, and backgrounds are given equal opportunities to become CEO (or CSO!) then we are encouraging the next generation of Millennials to be authentic change leaders.  

How are you working on bringing more diverse perspectives into your team, or to making your workplace more inclusive for all? Please get in touch and visit me on Twitter, as I’d love to hear what strategies you are implementing.

The opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by CSRwire contributors do not necessarily reflect the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints of CSRwire.

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