by Elizabeth Williams

Is 2021 the year we finally start getting inclusion, diversity and equity (ID&E) right?  In a time of overt racism in the U.S. Capitol building and the firing of KPMG’s U.K. leader for calling unconscious bias “complete crap” are we finally ready to start getting ID&E right?

Michael Kaneva, Chief Diversity Officer at Export Development Canada joins us on The Swear Jar to work through why we’re so afraid to confront the ugly truths that underpin the need for ID&E programs in organizations. 

The business case is pretty clear — diverse organizations outperform their peers, particularly when executive teams are diverse and this is the year, perhaps, where business imperative meets moral imperative but as Michael reminds us, it’s not “plug, play and walk away”. We can’t flip a switch to make our organizations suddenly more inclusive. We need trust and respect to get things moving.

The minefield

But for Fearless Communicators, the whole ID&E thing feels like a giant minefield full of personal and organizational risk. What if we use the wrong words? What if we need to admit that our organization has been less than stellar? How do we arm our executives to shift the narrative from the careful, mostly meaningless support noises to a conversation that confronts unpleasant realities?

This is where the communications team can actually start adding a ton of value: We can help leaders tackle this by helping them reflect constructively on the past, listen very, very carefully to the current reality in their organizations and then put evidence-based strategies in place to move the ID&E agenda forward.

Courageous conversations

This means we will be confronting barriers, asking leaders to be courageous and vulnerable in ways they have never had to before. Michael says that in addition to a powerful, passionate champion for ID&E in the organization, the CEO needs to own the strategy or it will become a checkbox, not a universal program. It will also be important for employees to see the leadership team firmly in the driver’s seat.

For Fearless Communicators, he recommends that we keep in mind that we are messengers in this context, not change agents. We can drive success by supporting a deliberate listenting program that takes stock of the past and present situation and gathers data about the organization. Using this data, we can create the communications plan that will help drive these difficult conversations. It will be important to make sure the learning and development team, HR and the ID&E teams are all aligned.

Key Topics

  • Understanding equity (4:30)
  • Inclusion is not a checkbox (8:36)
  • What are we so afraid of?  (10:25)
  • Getting pas the scary (15:45)
  • Confronting barriers (20:20)
  • Communication success factors (19:40)
  • What communications teams should be doing now (24:30)
  • How EDC approached its ID&E strategy (27:50)
  • What success looks like (29:42)
  • What we’re liking (35:00)

ABC Resources Highlighted in this Episode

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