People’s attitudes to organizational change often sit at one of two extremes. On the one hand, there are those for who organizational change fills them with dread. They feel threatened and fearful. They don’t want to let go of what has always been, and become resistant to change. At the other end of the spectrum are those who readily embrace change. It allows them to be creative and take advantage of new opportunities. They revel in the risks as new potential energizes them.
These extremes are evidence of responses connected to personal culture, and are shaped by experiences, upbringing and mindset. Failure of change projects is often laid at the feet of a lack of training, inadequate explanations, or simply the rapidity and scope of change being too great. The question that must be answered, is how to lead such extremes through times of change.
Valuing diversity in the workplace energizes effective change
A 2015 McKinsey report titled ‘Why Diversity Matters’ found that businesses with higher levels of diversity outperform others by up to 15%. This outperformance is explained by what diversity brings to the table.
By employing a diverse range of people (different genders, backgrounds, ages, personalities, races, and so on), an organization gives itself the potential to discover more creative solutions and become more welcoming to an increasingly diverse customer base. To unlock this potential, diversity must be accompanied by inclusion. People must be made to feel that their contributions are valued, and that they are respected as people, colleagues and employees.
Especially through periods of change, diversity provides the impetus to discover innovative solutions, making teams more inventive and agile, and thus aiding the breaking down of resistance to change.
Combating cultural conflicts in change management
In any multicultural setting, there is bound to be some conflict. How leaders deal with this is crucial to creating a forum where such conflict becomes a force for greater innovation and creativity. It is essential that leaders eliminate their unconscious bias, and take a care-fronting approach to conflict resolution.
Are your leaders equipped to take advantage of a diverse workforce?
It is also essential that change leaders identify differences in approaches to work (for example, task-oriented or relationship-oriented), contrasting attitudes, and different skill sets. Communication styles between genders and age groups are likely to be different, too. As the workforce gets younger, change leaders must become more mindful of the mindset of the millennial generation.
Leaders today must understand that their diverse workforces have embedded assumptions and ways of thinking. These differences must be accommodated in the leadership approach. Communication in leadership is key – without attention to cultural differences, a leader’s verbal and nonverbal communication style can destroy collaboration.
It is crucial that today’s leaders possess the skills to manage across cultures. They must be good listeners, and have the skill set to discover hidden talents and employ them in situations that benefit both the employee and the organization.
Organizational culture should be developed in line with a diversity and inclusion (D&I) policy that encourages employee engagement across cultural divides. Opportunities for promotion should be seen to be equal for all, irrespective of gender, race or background. Teams should be developed purposefully, with diversity of members leading to healthy conflict that enables greater agility through change.
Embrace diversity and your team will embrace change
It is natural to be wary of change. Whether a person is excited by it or fearful of it, the risks are the same. As are the rewards. When an organization embraces diversity and inclusion, it prepares itself for change.
Divergence in views and perspectives, and discussion and debate in open and honest forums in which all are encouraged to take part and all voices are heard equally, leads to better solutions. It is the power of these solutions that fuels successful change and helps to eliminate resistance to change.
Does your organization have a positive diversity and inclusion policy? Are your leaders equipped to manage multicultural teams effectively?
Contact us today, and discover how we could help your leaders and managers lead more effectively and authentically through periods of change.