Last August, I had an illuminating conversation with an equal rights activist working in the hub of Toronto, Ontario. During this conversation, I spoke about the LGBT workforce and what could be done to ameliorate company cultures, making them more inclusive of the LGBT community. The activist turned to me and said “Have you heard of TD bank? They have phenomenal initiatives prioritising LGBT inclusivity at work. All of my LGBT friends who work at TD bank are filled with praise when it comes to inclusivity there.” Interesting; I was captivated. What made this company so appealing?
Inspired by TD Bank’s efforts of promoting LGBT inclusion, I began to consider effective strategies for inclusion, for organisations seeking to attract diverse candidates. I decided that it would be interesting to examine whether or not different approaches to diversity statements could influence how inclusive a company feels to prospective LGBT employees. In my research, I observed two ways in which diversity statements can be constructed:
- Through a focus on differences (you provide a unique and diverse contribution to the company)
- Through a focus on similarities (we value you equally to any other employee, everyone is valuable in the same way).
Interestingly, the results of the study (including over 200 participants) indicated that a value in differences approach was far more favourable than one with a value in similarities, for LGBT respondents. This is because, a value in similarities approach deemphasizes the group identity (being LGBT) for the individual, conveying intolerance of group member differences (Levy et al., 2005). In turn, valuing differences can reduce anticipated scrutiny and stereotyping. The language used in the value in differences approach emphasizes notions of valuing differences and mutual respect. In doing so, it acts as a cue to refute threatening identity contingencies associated with sexual orientation, developed through numeric underrepresentation, social hierarchies and stereotypes.
As such, in addition to mentioning LGBT members in a company’s diversity statement – which is practiced at TD Bank and many other companies – the approach taken in the statement itself, also plays a significant role in whether or not prospective employees feel comfortable joining a company. In fact, my research showed that highlighting a value for differences, improves prospective LGBT employees’ perception of trust, comfort, belonging and ability to express their sexual orientation in the workplace.
When people feel comfortable and can express themselves authentically at work, they perform better, have increased engagement and increased productivity. Having a diverse and inclusive culture at work can also promote better employee satisfaction, talent management, corporate reputation and collaboration. As such, fostering a culture of inclusivity, should be a top priority for companies today.
All of the outcomes mentioned above have serious practical implications for a company’s success. Specifically, an increase in LGBT employee members coming out, for example, is crucial as currently over half of LGBT employees choose not to even disclose their sexual orientation at work. In turn, research has shown that coming out to colleagues decreases distraction, depression, exhaustion, anxiety and stress at work. As ‘coming out’ is often held back because of perceived negative social identity contingencies, diversity statements catered towards reducing such negative social identity contingencies are crucial.
The research outlined above illustrates one approach companies can take to promote an inclusive company culture to prospective employees. By articulating inclusive cues, such as through the approach taken in a diversity statement, companies can best prepare themselves for the future by attracting and retaining the best talent from the LGBT community, and other minority groups.
If you would like to share your own thoughts or questions about company culture and inclusivity, contact Raphael Korine, a member of our research team, here.
At what age do you think you’ll stop working? I’ve asked this question to executives at the peak of their career, and to MBA students in the early stages of theirs and it seems like we’re finally getting it. More and more, the answer I hear is ‘never’, or at the very least ‘well into my 70s’. It seems we’re coming to terms with – embracing even – the prospect of an extended working life.
But here’s the catch. What about the next logical questions: What skills will you need to build to be employable in the future? How will you build them… and who’s going to pay?
At this point, the room tends to go quiet.
While we’ve figured out that we need to be working for longer, we are far less certain about what it takes to stay employable in an ever changing world of work. This is exacerbated by the disruptions we see around us in our roles, organisations and industries as technology displaces some jobs while augmenting others; as new competitors enter the landscape and fundamentally shift how customers and clients engage with our products and services.
It’s clear then, that much will have to change — both in how we as individuals understand and anticipate the evolving nature of work, and how we then respond:
Anticipation. As part of my research consortium, The Future of Work, I recently launched a survey asking people in large corporations how they were addressing learning. I was fascinated to see that many of them scored highly in terms of investing time and energy into regularly learning new skills. However, they scored lower on anticipating which skills would be valuable in the future. Essentially, they were investing a lot of resources into learning, without knowing in which direction they should be going. This is concerning.
Response. What do we need to do differently to learn over the course of a longer working life? Here again, it seems that we are experimenting at the edges of the system with online learning modules and mentoring, but are yet to make the fundamental shifts required to maintain our employability.
What’s the answer? I firmly believe that this is a societal shift and must be addressed at every level and by multiple stakeholders – individuals, governments, educational institutions, organisations. For now, however, let me focus on organisations.
Work is a major place of learning, and it is incumbent on organisations to be active both in the anticipation and response stages:
- Anticipation: is your organisation analysing how jobs are changing and then translating this into guidance for your employees?
- Response: does your organisation provide people with the time and resources to act on this by embracing lifelong learning?
There are some organisations already leading the way here: media and telecoms company, AT&T, anticipates future job profiles through the mapping of job categories. This then demonstrates which areas will grow and where jobs may be at risk. Westpac, the Australian bank, enables response with a platform-based approach called LearningBank, which has been rolled out to 40,000 employees. This is a social learning environment where employees co-create and share their own learning material as well as accessing training curated by the company.
Where does this leave us? It took time for us as individuals to come around to the reality of longer working lives, and perhaps it will take time too for organisations to fully appreciate the challenge ahead and their role in addressing it. In the meantime, however, those organisations that anticipate and respond fastest, have much to gain from an informed and employable workforce.
No one ever admits this. But everyone craves for it. Reassurance. The politician from his voters. The entrepreneur from his clients. The subordinate from the superior. The managers. from their talent. A business model from its environment.
Unfortunately reassurance in VUCA times has to pass through a re-certification by the appropriate stakeholder group. Except parental, there is no blind reassurance today for anything. How do we earn the reassurance?
3 simple suggestions to reflect over:
- Ensure your relevance: your skills must still have currency. They must not have a diminishing marginal utility . Build emergent ones, divest redundant ones. Acquire the ones that will be needed as you look at your future risks and opportunities. Reinvent yourself, however painful it may seem.
- Build wider networks: the world is far more networked today than we can ever imagine. Collaborate, connect, communicate, co-create with various network groups. Staying only tethered to a function, industry or geography is inadequate. The reassurance demands a wider connecting of the dots.
- Stay hungry: stay hungry for ideas, for talent, for learning, for leadership. Hunger drives a very different passion. Many unfortunately are satiated and still expect reassurances. That is not going to be.
Prabir Jha, Global Chief People Officer at Cipla
Being the newest member of Hot Spots Movement, a key focus in my recent job search was to join an organisation which celebrates diversity. Not only do I have a diverse background in terms of my heritage, (being Jamaican, Finnish, Pakistani and English!) but I’m also – like everyone, really – diverse in the way I think and feel. And it’s this latter type of diversity that many organisations are only now beginning to understand and act upon.
One element of this ‘diversity of thought’ is mental health. This is something we all come into contact with, either personally or through the experiences of friends and family. However, it consists to be a pervasively silent culture. In fact, with 3 out of 4 employees experiencing a wobble in mental stability at some point, it is one of the biggest workplace issues, costing UK employers £30 billion alone, through lost production, recruitment and absence. And yet, conversations and initiatives around mental health are conspicuously absent in many organisations.
From my own experience, speaking with others and through readings, implementing a successful mental health strategy alongside changing attitudes and cultural expectations, is of course challenging and does not happen overnight. It can prove difficult to merge the law, practice, training, evaluation and management into one company-wide policy.
This is why I was particularly excited to come across an exciting, new approach to tackling mental health: Co-production. This method puts employees affected by mental health at the heart of planning, delivering and evaluating policies. Offering them the chance to come forward, not to label themselves, but to work alongside HR professionals, is extremely innovative and merges expert and lived experience. This creates active networks that both support those affected and better informs those who aren’t.
Co-production appears to have many positives, including being based on psychological research dating back to the 1950s, blurring the lines of distinction between authority and recipients and being economic in drawing on the wisdom of employees themselves. As a result, Co-production and involving those who suffer, may help them feel a better sense of belonging and reduced stigma – in turn, increasing their sense of competence, engagement and loyalty.
This collaborative approach to problem-solving resonates with so much of the work we do here at Hot Spots Movement, from our advisory practice, to the Future of Work Research Consortium and our crowdsourcing methodology, the ‘Jam.’ I cannot help feeling that co-production is an energising and innovative concept that could really move the needle on mental health in organisations and empower those most affected with ownership over the solution.
For more information on how you can collaborate with your colleagues on mental health challenges visit our website http://www.hotspotsmovement.com and contact one of the team.
Head of Admin & Community Management
While a growing number of organisations are working hard to implement programmes to harness a diverse and inclusive work environment, many are still struggling to identify obvious improvements in the metrics they hoped to see changes in. The rhetoric of diversity has outpaced the reality and an increasing number of people are beginning to express ‘diversity fatigue’.
According toa team of world-renowned social psychologists, led by Harvard University Professor Dr. Mahzarin Banaji, the root of this disconnect between rhetoric and reality may lie in the unconscious mind. Most leaders would agree that it is unfair and unwise to choose a CEO because of height, overlook a manager for promotion solely because he is gay, or penalize employees for working flexibly. Yet these are real examples of how we unconsciously make decisions every day in favour of one group, and to the detriment of others, without even realising we are doing it. Even when leaders declare a commitment to fairness in their organisations, unconscious bias causes them to evaluate equal performers differently, as Emilio Castilla, of Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Stephen Benard, of Indiana University, have demonstrated in their research on the ‘paradox of meritocracy’.
It is essential to understand that unconscious biases are not deliberately created; the human brain is hard-wired to make hasty decisions that draw on a variety of assumptions and experiences. Consider this: we are exposed to as many as 11 millionpieces of information at any one time, but our brains can only functionally deal with about 40. So how do we filter out the rest? We do it by developing a perceptual lens that filters out certain things and lets others in. As a result of these pre-established filters, we see things, hear things, and interpret them differently than other people might. Only occasionally do we realise how subjective those determinations are, and how much they are impacted not by what is in front of us, but by what we interpret is in front of us.
Can we outsmart the brain? According to the renowned behavioural economist, Daniel
Kahneman, it is very hard to eliminate our individual unconscious biases. Hundreds of studies have examined the relevance of interventions for reducing bias. It turns out that the positive effects of diversity training rarely last beyond a day or two, and a number of studies suggest that people often respond to compulsory courses with anger and resistance, with many participants actually reporting more animosity towards other groups afterward.
So what can we do? I will be exploring some concrete strategies for overcoming unconscious bias in my next blog. Till then, I would love to hear your diverse perspectives on this important topic!
- Levy Paluck, E., and Green, Donald P. (2009). Prejudice Reduction: What Works? A Review and Assessment of Research and Practice. Annual Review of Psychology, 60, 339-367.
- Dobbin, F., & Kalev, A. (2016). Why Diversity Programs Fail. Harvard Business Review, 94(7), 14.
- Howard Ross, 2008. Proven Strategies for Addressing Unconscious Bias in the Workplace, Cook Ross
- (2013). Outsmarting our brains. Overcoming hidden biases to harness diversity’s true potential. EY.
In today’s changing workplace, the rise of freelancing, remote working, and virtual teams means many organisations are grappling with how to generate a shared culture. This is no easy task, and here at the Hot Spots Movement, we’ve been looking for new sources of inspiration on how companies can address this challenge.
One particularly interesting insight comes from a field that few of us would associate with organisational culture: social movement theory. This was the focus of my PhD and, at first glance, the two may seem strange bedfellows. But on closer inspection, this field reveals important lessons for companies on how to build what is known as ‘collective identity’.
Collective identity describes a sense of self that goes beyond the individual, placing the desire of a group above your own.[i] Many sociologists have pointed to it as an explanation of why unstructured or informally organised social movements, like the LGBT liberation or anti-nuclear movements were created.[ii] In these movements, a strong, shared identity was compelling enough to bind diverse, disparate groups of people into achieving a shared goal.
Likewise, collective identity is powerful in the organisational context too. Research has shown that when a person starts to identify collectively, there is a shift in their goals, and that even ‘selfish’ individuals become cooperative when they identify with a group.[iii] In addition, when people in a work setting have a strong sense of group identity, morale and productivity rise.[iv]
So, how can you go about creating a collective identity in your team or organisation? Here are three steps to get you started:
- Create A Clear Narrative: Whether it be the women’s, LGBT or environmental movement, what binds individuals in social movements is the feeling that they are part of a broader ‘whole’. For organisations, describing what the company as a collective has achieved in the past, or common values and shared characteristics required to be ‘part’ of the collective can replicate this.[v] An example can be seen in John Lewis Partnership, which places the views of their founder on co-ownership as a core part of their organisational and brand identity, ensuring that their employees feel connected to a shared past and mutual beliefs.[vi]
- Create Common Goals: Social movements are bound together by a shared desire for change, and similarly, identifying a common goal across departments can be powerful in ensuring people feel a shared identity, and don’t revert to identity by function.[vii] We saw this in action in a recent crowdsourcing project we ran with an Irish bank. The Bank invited their 11,000 employees from across divisions and departments to collectively craft five brand values they could all identify with. This provided an opportunity for the employees to work on a shared goal, resulting in a feeling of communal achievement.
- Create Opportunities for Co–Creation: Collective identity in social movements is solidified through actions, whether that be attending meetings or organising protests. For companies, creating shared tasks, which require discussion across the group, can help ensure that employees feel a united identity. For example, our Jam platform allows organisations to build on the power of their teams through crowdsourcing, empowering employees to solve problems together, and creating a shared purpose and engagement in the process.
So, next time you feel your team is not clicking, perhaps draw inspiration from social movements, and focus on building collective identity.
To find out more about our work on identity and culture, contact firstname.lastname@example.org
[i] Flesher Fominaya, C. (2010). Collective Identity in Social Movements: Central Concepts and Debates. Sociology Compass 4/6, 393-404. Retrieved from https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/64c8/328c26d1819142d8ea6348db1b61ce475a1f.pdf
[ii] Melucci, A. The Process of Collective Identity. Johnston, H. and Klandermans, B. Social Movements and Culture (University of Minnesota Press, 1995).
[iii] Van Bavel J. and Packer, D. (December 27 2016). The Problem with Rewarding Individual Performers. Retrieved from https://hbr.org/2016/12/the-problem-with-rewarding-individual-performers
[v] Seaman Jr., J.T and Smith, G.D. (December 2012). Your Company’s History as a Leadership Tool. Retrieved from https://hbr.org/2012/12/your-companys-history-as-a-leadership-tool
This old adage was first coined by Shakespeare some five hundred years ago in his play Hamlet. But I wonder how easy it is to follow this sage advice in a corporate working environment of values, mission statements and branding? How easy is it for us to stay true to our ‘original’* selves in the working world?
We explored this theme in our recent research on the Innovative Organisation. We asked how companies can combine original perspectives to unleash the great ideas that will ensure their future success. I also had the opportunity to hear first hand what it’s like to be an ‘original’ when I interviewed Jat Sahi, a former actor turned innovation guru at Fujitsu and it’s been a running theme of my year so far. While the concept of hiring originals to contribute diverse perspectives will seem logical to many of you, the part we see organisations stumble over is enabling their originals to stay that way.
So I wanted to share with my key takeaways for allowing originality to flourish:
- Don’t subject new talent to homogenising processes. This is something many of us are all guilty of, in overzealous on-boarding programmes that focus more on assimilating people into ‘the way we do things around here’ than on nurturing their originality. To genuinely foster differences of backgrounds, disciplines, culture and generations, organisations must promote inclusion, creating opportunities for people to share what is unique about them and combine their perspectives with others in a collaborative architecture.
- Focus on the why not the how. Jat Sahi spoke with me at length about how we have all become very good at executing work, but not very good at thinking about why we are doing it. It is the ‘why’ that helps us uncover the different motivations, perspectives and ideas within our teams. Thank you Jat!
- Maintain a balance between conformists and mavericks. Miriam Erez and Eitan Naveh of Technion – Israel Institute of Technology tell us that truly innovative teams are comprised of 10 to 20% of conformists. It’s this combination of originals who will challenge, disrupt and innovate and those who are adept at current ways of working that bring about the most successful new ideas.
Looking over the points above, I’m mindful that we don’t even need to look at people from different educational background or technical expertise to contribute originality of thought. With an eye to our upcoming Future of Work Research Consortium Theme Shifting Identities, all of us have elements which make us originals. So what I’d like you to do over the coming week is to dig back before you looked at your colleagues and emulated them, to before you finished your corporate grad scheme and even before your university told you how you should think. Think back to what makes you truly you, and make sure you bring that quality to your discussions with colleagues and the work that you do. Personally, I’ll be looking to enjoy the uncomfortable conversations and actively engage in ambiguous situations – two things I know I can bring to the table.
*Grant and Sandberg, Originals, 2016: define hiring originals as “intentionally hiring someone who would make peers feel uncomfortable; someone whose skills the company does not require and someone without previous experience in solving the type of problem at hand”.
 Miron-Spektor, E., Erez, M., & Naveh, E. (2011). The effect of conformist and attentive-to-detail members on team innovation: Reconciling the innovation Paradox. Academy of Management Journal, 54(4), 740-760