This report is aimed at leaders and HR professionals who care about contributing to more inclusive work spaces. To produce this report, I interviewed more than 40 HR managers in Dutch companies with international projection across different industries and at different levels of leadership. This interview process allowed me to synthesize what are the main issues regarding diversity, talent, and inclusion in these organizations.
The goal of this report is to provide a brief insight into the main diversity and inclusion challenges in international companies established in the Netherlands.
Inclusive leadership is not a complicated concept. It is about leading by having the tools to integrate the unique qualities of each team member into the work. Leaders who are aware of their own biases and preferences, actively seek out and consider different views and perspectives to inform better decision-making. And that’s what makes them different from people with conventional leadership.
In fact, research indicates that an inclusive leadership style facilitates the perception of inclusion in employees, leading to positive identification with the company, empowerment, increased productivity, and reduced turnover.
These challenges of inclusion and diversity are not only faced by technology companies and startups, this issue affects all industries, from financial and educational institutions to NGOs and consulting firms. In addition, the challenges are repeated at every level of management, from executives to middle management to employees, all of whom are experiencing inclusion and diversity issues.
The rising need for inclusive leadership
Organizations and markets are no longer what they used to be at least a decade ago. Gone are the days when a company would operate within the confines of a city or state and hire people within its vicinity. The present times show how organizations are crossing physical and cultural boundaries to become more diverse and inclusive.
There’s a new type of leadership—inclusive leadership—that’s gaining traction in the business world. The emergence of this leadership capability in workplaces is due to the increasing diversity of markets, ideas, customers, and talent. Inclusive leaders are those who are great listeners, show optimism, and promote collaboration between organizational members hailing from diverse backgrounds and cultures. These leaders embrace change and take explicit actions to maximize the perspectives, abilities, and ideas of people for the success of the company.
The trend of inclusive leadership is gaining strength because of the visible effects it brings. Research from the Harvard Business Review shows that inclusive leadership directly affects team performance. Teams under inclusive leadership are 17% more likely to show consistently better performance, 20% more likely to make right decisions, and 29% more likely to collaborate with other people and teams.
But inclusive leadership is fraught with a couple of challenges, which are as follows:
- Business leaders often show the tendency to prefer familiarity over newness when they are leveraging the abilities of people. Today’s leaders are always under pressure to focus on teams’ hidden potential, align common priorities, enhance productivity, and deploy resources optimally.
- Employees working in a modern-day organization hail from different backgrounds and cultures. They differ from each other in their thinking pattern, language, and working style. As such, communicating across cultures by taking into account the diversity of their human capital stands as a challenge before inclusive leaders.
- Involving employees in the decision-making process is a challenge that leaders have to overcome. Employees feel more engaged and valued when they have a part to play in solving business challenges. But, most organizations have a risk-averse culture, meaning they prefer not to try something new.
- Acquiring and retaining talent on a global scale is a challenge facing many inclusive business leaders today. Hiring the best candidate—the one who possesses the necessary skills and performs well—is not a piece of cake for leaders. There’s a dearth of skills, and attrition is also high across all sectors—something that certainly puts pressure on HR teams and the company’s finances.
What can inclusive leaders do?
The challenges of inclusive leadership mentioned above are real. However, they shouldn’t deter inclusive leaders from taking the organization to the peak of success and profitability. The key to overcoming these challenges lies in recognizing the diversity of thoughts and diversity of strengths. Here are some solutions that can help inclusive leaders to overcome these challenges:
- Building a global career
Many business executives have globally eligible profiles. But the issue they face is that they lack career direction to explore new environments. They often have a negative mindset that pulls down their motivation and their ability to achieve their personal and professional goals. They wish to advance to senior positions, but they lack clarity of the steps they need to take.
To solve this issue, it’s important for organizations to develop and empower diverse professionals in their respective careers. They will have to maintain a laser-sharp focus on identifying and nurturing talents. There’s an urgency to match the strengths and skills of professionals so that they advance in their careers and get the promotion they deserve.
- Building global leadership
Today, global leaders are working in extremely complex environments. Workplaces today include virtual teams and online collaboration—something that has presented new challenges for leaders while they are striving to get things done, manage teams and projects and positively influence stakeholders. There’s often too much confusion about the communication process across diverse cultures. Not to forget, teams are demotivated and disengaged at work, and there’s a lack of trust and accountability.
By focusing on building global leadership, many of diversity-related issues in organizations can be solved. Organizations should now develop skills and abilities that revolve around communication and collaboration between diverse teams. It’s just not about getting things done; it’s also about getting things done in the right way.
- Embracing inclusivity
Lastly, organizations across the globe have become more complex in their nature and operating style. Such complexities can often lead to stereotyping, miscommunication, cultural shock, and a lack of trust, cultural adaptation, and amicable behaviors. Also, traditional training and coaching programs of organizations often focus on demographics alone and fail to address the challenges of virtual working.
This is where diversity and inclusion come into the picture. When organizations harness this idea, they will be more performance-driven, creative, and innovative in the long run. They need to focus on creating more productive and agile environments to boost collaboration and support talent development. They need to set clear business objectives and have a long-term vision to remain competitive.
Inclusive leadership is becoming popular among organizations that hire and nurture employees coming from diverse cultures and backgrounds. They face many challenges while managing the expectations and needs of a diverse workforce. But these challenges can be solved by focusing on building global career paths for employees, giving them exposure to global leadership styles, and weaving diversity and inclusivity into the fabric of the organization.
There is so much more to say and learn about inclusive leadership. Developing the skills needed to leverage the full potential of an organization full of diverse people gives you the ability to write a whole book. But I hope this report will help you start to be aware of how to practice a better leadership style that results in better results for your company and more engaged and productive employees.
Magali Toussaint. Global Leadership and career solution provider at U Diverse – Supporting international executives to get their dream career, develop global leadership skills, and lead diverse teams
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About U Diverse’s founder:
Magali Toussaint is the founder of ‘U-Diverse’. She is a certified Talent Acquisition Strategist, an ICF-certified Leadership Consultant, a Career Coach, a Cross-Cultural Trainer, and a Job Search Strategist with an extensive career in Recruitment, HR, Diversity, as well as Education. She has lived and worked in over four countries and speaks French, English, and Dutch fluently. Read More...