In April 2020, Coulter Partners began the HR Leadership Forum. The aim is to share practical ideas as a group of HR professionals, creating a rising tide to raise all boats during a time of unprecedented disruption.
The June HR Leadership Forum was focused on the topic of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.
The previous session had covered the role of mental health in the workplace and how organisations are adapting and measuring this. Real, practical examples were shared and so in June, a topic was chosen where similar practical examples could advance the understanding and impact of the whole group:
1) The Business Case – where are your organisations on the business case for D, E & I? How well is this understood by your organisation and do you see the link between diverse teams and better business performance?
2) The Inputs – what are you doing to improve diversity in the organisation? How do you select interventions that will work?
3) The Outputs – linked to the business case, what results, both tangible and intangible, are you seeing in the business because of a more diverse team?
The business case is clear
Given the sector that participants came from, no-one on the forum said their organisation or leaders are struggling to articulate the business case for D, E & I. Most of the group were in the phase of implementing changes in their organisation with many seeing positive results where outcomes were measurable.
The pandemic has presented a chance to really ‘level the playing field’ of work with the idea of putting complete trust in employees on how and when they worked, as long as the task being completed and deliverables were as expected. These included new smart workspaces and work approaches, less time in the office and more flexibility around childcare. For example, many companies had moved to a policy around ‘parental leave’ rather than maternity or paternity to reflect the changing responsibility of modern families. The team did share that moving the discussion from gender to other forms of diversity was more of a challenge.
The right ingredients – inputs to driving D, E & I outputs
The discussion quickly moved to the ingredients needed to drive a successful strategy. The role of executive search partners was raised and partnering with them to build search processes which are inclusive and will increase the likelihood of making a diverse hire. Some of the challenges were obvious to see but hard to fix. When you have a business unit which provides products and services in relation to fertility, having an all-male leadership team would not be reflective of the customer base and became a great incentive to change.
When the discussion moved to retention and promotion of staff, the importance of clarity around goals and measures was raised. Many commented that there are certain roles, including sales, where performance was more clear-cut and, in some cases, this made for a more diverse team as outputs and success were more well defined.
Next came a discussion on role modelling. Several organisations had put in place new policies which included parental leave and flexible working. When senior leaders were not seen to be modelling these policies, however, it became more difficult to promote this new approach among those less senior. More than ever, with less informal interaction, the behaviour of leaders was being watched for signals of how to behave in this new world.
HR leaders were playing a coaching role in this role modelling, with the word ‘vulnerability’ being something that was seen as more and more important for leaders to display.
One practical idea that was shared was about embedding D, E & I in the business and what the role of HR should be. HR cannot be the start and end of D, E & I, so many had put formal Diversity Champions into the business and some had also launched inclusion champions – especially those that believed that their company had moved a step along the journey to be able to talk about inclusion as well as diversity.
Two final lessons, which may seem obvious but were called out, were “What the CEO wants, the CEO gets” and “start small”. Where diversity was treated as a priority for the CEO, with clear mandates and targets, the needle moved much more quickly. That may seem overly simple, but leadership commitment is key. The second lesson is that small wins can help build momentum across the organisation. The challenge of diversity is that one size does not fit all and therefore driving success in one area of the business can have ripple effects across other parts of the business.
HR Forums for 2021
The next HR Forum will be on Wednesday 8th September and to make scheduling easier, we will be hosting the forums on the following dates which will be sent out shortly:
Wednesday 8th September 10:30 EST / 15:30 GMT / 16:30 CET
Wednesday 27th October 10:30 EST / 15:30 GMT / 16:30 CET
Wednesday 8th December 10:30 EST / 15:30 GMT / 16:30 CET
Coulter Partners would like to thank everyone who contributed to the lively and open discussion in June. Feedback is always welcome on anything we can improve or iterate.
About the Coulter Partners HR Leadership Forum
During these unprecedented times, we are hearing HR teams are under immense pressures. These pressures range from complete restructures, to dealing with contract and working pattern changes on a scale never seen or experienced before. All while being responsible for positive morale in a time of almost complete uncertainty. No organization was resourced to deal with this degree of disruption, and this is where knowledge sharing can help all of us excel during this time. Each month, Coulter Partners hosts a virtual meeting, bringing together HR leaders from earl-stage businesses to global pharmaceutical companies. The aim of the forum is to share practical ideas as a group of HR professionals, creating a rising tide to raise all your boats. The next HR Forum will be held in September 2021.
Ian Coyne – Executive Director, Global Information and Intelligence
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