Food industry leaders and teams have been navigating the “Diversity challenge” for quite some time. It’s not a new initiative, emergent observation or the result of a fresh look at historic organizations. Over the past year or so, then, what if anything has changed? For a moment, let me ask you to take a look at your organization’s Diversity work from two connected but differing perspectives.
A rush to talk about change
Some organizations reacted quickly and broadly to the summer of 2020. They may have pushed out emails and videos by leadership. They may have expressed their dismay at the current state of affairs and challenged themselves, their teams, their industry or their guests to take another and deeper look at this intractable problem. Often, they followed up with forums and listening sessions and provided invitations to diversity professionals to help them enhance the organization's visibility on the challenges at present and ahead of them.
This rush to talk about change generated energy around the subject. It often helped leaders to hear what was going on in the minds and hearts of their team members. For many leaders, it also provided them a chance to discuss their own misgivings about what was happening in their cities, their organizations, their worlds.
There's another thing that happened during the rush to change. Leaders set expectations. Leaders behaved in a certain way. Whether they spoke or they wrote. Whether they listened or they read or none of the above. Their behavior, in reaction to a traumatic summer and the moments in it, were now the model for what's next. To be plain, Leaders reacted, and Team Members now had a model of how to respond in the next situation.
Some Leaders and Team Members, however, are not working from a shared expectation around what Diversity should look like in their four walls. Just like there is a difference — at times — between policy and procedure versus how work actually gets done, there are differences and distance between leadership’s expectations and how Diversity is actually handled day to day in the organization.
How is Diversity defined? How is Inclusion made real within the organization? What mistakes can we own and take responsibility for? These are key components that many times were neither developed nor resolved by the “rush to talk about change” mindset.
A rush to change
As a starting point, organizations in a rush to change began with an assessment of their status; the time for talk was now. They reached beyond their engagement survey and developed or acquired a more sophisticated assessment tool — a tool that asked questions about comfort, difference and leadership, and while it included questions about race, it went beyond them as well. They took a comprehensive look at their people, processes and the functional glue that connects them to the work they do and products they create, all with the intention of seeing any diversity-related challenges.
These folks engaged in policy shifting discussions that resulted in the rewriting of recruitment, retention and hiring procedures. They often went further and began to unpack the impact of bias in their day-to-day processes, conversations and personnel interactions (from the frontline to executives). Executive Coaching for senior leadership is also on the list of action items. Whether it was recommended by direct reports, the board or the leaders themselves, a deep focus on the growth of “diversity acumen” for senior leadership is the focus and the intended outcome.
Where does your organization stand with Diversity work? Have you rushed to change or simply rushed to talk about change? Charting a course for a more diverse future will require you to first answer that question.
James Pogue, PhD is a consultant in the areas of Diversity, Inclusion and Equity. He’s the founder of JP Enterprises and believes that sharing the results of his research with leaders and decision makers is his way to be a catalyst for positive change.