DEI: Coaching to Drive a Culture of Inclusion

Dec 7, 2022

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) have become a necessity for most organizations. When implemented well, significant benefits can be seen in business outcomes through better innovation, decision-making, employee engagement, and overall performance.  Most organizations track diversity metrics such as ethnicity, race, disability, veteran status, gender, and age.

We are noticing progress in the diversity mix in organizations that follow a strategic and systemic approach to DEI. These include designated leads to promote the initiative, recruitment focus and shared accountability with hiring managers, diverse candidate slate, use of technology to reduce unconscious bias, and rigorous training and tracking of DEI metrics.

What is Inclusion?

While organizations are progressing in the right direction, it remains to be seen if these diverse hires are thriving in the organization. This is where a built-in culture of inclusion can make a difference. Inclusion refers to when a diverse mix of people have a voice and say in decision-making, whereas equity is the practice of providing equal access to opportunity and resources irrespective of age, nationality, gender, language, etc. Inclusion may be challenged by learned assumptions, beliefs, or attitudes that we bring to work and are very often unaware of.

Inclusion goes beyond top-down mandates and policies as it is a behavioral and cultural change and not easily measurable. There are many ways of doing this right or getting it wrong. A one size fits all training approach is a great start but does not result in cultural transformation. This leaves employees accepting the change because they are told to accept it and not because they truly believe in it.

Measures to Drive Change

For DEI to drive cultural transformation, it takes more than policies, training, and top-down mandates. It requires every leader, manager, and employee to understand how it impacts them at work, internalize the change, and become aware and deliberate about their behaviors. As DEI continues to evolve, we need to get used to the language of inclusion, anti-bias training, and engaging teams in the process of creating an inclusive culture that is long-lasting and sustainable.

If the goal is to leave no one behind and bring everyone along, then the culture of inclusion has to be addressed at all levels. New coaching practices have become an increasingly popular and proven way to help people become aware of their values and mindsets to help them reach their full potential by better understanding themselves, their goals, and their dream role.  It can be done at all levels within the organization.

Role of Coaching

Ongoing coaching conversations in teams can enable inclusivity and uncover any underlying systemic issues that are holding the team back and encourage them to own their improvement journey. Coaching managers in the moment with live situations can help them recognize and overcome their unconscious biases, internalize the change, become consciously aware, and role model the cultural transformation.

Effective coaching itself is a challenging skill that takes significant effort and practice. There are habits to learn and unlearn in the process. Coaching can equip modern managers to coach at the moment with situational tools, drive engagement and improve performance in teams.

Author: Sushma Chakkirala

Sushma Chakkirala leads Digital Production Management at JPMorgan Chase. She has been passionately involved in corporate DEI initiatives and external TechWomen communities. She is also an alumnus of the Coacharya Foundation.

Sushma Chakkirala
Sushma Chakkirala

Sushma Chakkirala

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