Putting real inclusivity into action

It’s easy to overlook introverts, part time and flexible workers, and make assumptions about generations X, Y and Z. But everyone has a vital role to play in the potential productivity of your organisation, says Danny Kalman, so ignore them at your peril.

There comes a point in a career when opportunities are determined more by confidence than technical ability. But confidence is not always a good gauge of ability. The problem for organisations is that too many development and promotion opportunities are determined by profile, familiarity and likeability, instead of genuine merit or skill.

Not everyone presents in the same way, but just because some need more persuasion than others doesn’t mean they are less talented.  Many introverts may be more talented than the organisation is aware of, yet without proactive engagement that talent may languish or simply walk away. Just as in love, people need proof that their organisation is listening to them and taking their needs seriously, otherwise your relationship might just all be over.

After finding diverse talent, organisations need a development strategy that constantly creates opportunities for all employees. That’s not being charitable, it’s placing intelligent bets. Only by each individual performing to his or her potential will you maximise the collective performance of the organisation.  And why have diversity if you’re not going to use it?

Development is about nurturing the talent you have, it’s a bottom-up approach to inclusive talent management. Promotions, on the other hand, are about actively managing talent upwards, a top-down approach.

Developing introverts
Establishing an inclusive talent strategy that gives development opportunities to all staff needs to embrace the diversity of personalities. Those people who are more open, talkative and comfortable with self-promotion tend to excel in more traditional training settings, get noticed more readily and are often highlighted as high potentials. Introverts, on the other hand, internalise their thoughts and by the time they’ve had time to think others have often spoken up.

Those responsible for running development programmes need to understand such traits, to leverage the potential of all participants. Simple changes can be made to learning programmes, for example taking care not to directly spotlight individuals, building in different methods to encourage contributions, or providing advance notice of questions so everyone can be prepared with their answers. Once people feel more confident to express themselves, their energy and passion can often be seen.

Aligning individual with organisational needs
It’s easy to make assumptions about introverts, about young graduates, generation X,Y or Z. Rather than make those assumptions, it’s vital to include them, to ask for their feedback. We spoke to a random sample of graduate recruits about their ambitions who had been with an organisation between one and three years. Most of them said they were planning to leave because they looked up and didn’t see anyone like them. They also didn’t respect what they saw. They didn’t want to do what they felt was necessary in order to gain profile, familiarity and likeability within a system they felt was immune to their personalities and values.

On first reading, this is terrifying for the organisation as it appears their talent management is doomed. On second reading, there’s a real opportunity here.  Instead of panicking, allow the individuals concerned to be the change they seek and to set the new norm they want to follow. That’s one sure-fire way of reconciling individual needs with organisational needs. It allows individuals who were previously complaining or unhappy to take responsibility for setting up a new direction  And it allows the organisation to benefit from free consultancy on how to remain agile in the face of change.

Think of your employee population as an informed customer. Their feedback is vital to efficiently reconcile individual and organisational needs, so there’s a common purpose. Without this foundation there’s little point in undertaking programmes or initiatives, as they’ll have no credibility with your people.

By definition, an organisation is at its most efficient when the collective sum of its people’s individual productivity is being maximised.  Yet many organisations treat individuals as ‘factors’ of production, that ignores the marginal benefits diverse individuals can offer. In turn, if an individual feels treated as just a number, they’ll behave like one, decreasing their potential productivity and value even further.

A classic example of apparently different needs is in not allocating work to part time or flexible working staff. In one organisation, flexible workers were unlikely to be allocated to certain projects ‘because the client wouldn’t like it.’ When we spoke to the client they were actually happy to consider it because they liked the individual in question and they were reforming their own flexible work arrangements and were keen to learn.  This is just one example of challenging current decision-making, but I’m sure you can imagine hundreds more.

About Danny Kalman

Danny Kalman is the CEO of Ella Forums  and is the co-author of Inclusive Talent Management, published by Kogan Page 2016. He was Director of Global Talent at Panasonic Corporation from 2008-2013 and was instrumental in the development and implementation of their global Talent Management’s policies and procedures.

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