Strategic Diversity – As a Tool
Diversity is a business management tool that all leaders need in their armoury: board members are no exception. It forms part of a strategic approach and its practice develops strategic thinking. For effect diversity plans have to be tailored to the organisation and its needs. There is no sense in trying to pull diversity schemes off the shelf and thinking they will work for you. Organisations have to go beneath the surface, to think about what inclusion means for them. This strategic discipline engages the board and gives it the power to contribute to the organisation.
The diversity journey requires strong leadership, and the governing board is a good place to start. With a duty to make strategy, the board can provide a vision for diversity among its own ranks and for the organisation. By changing its own composition, opening up its processes to make them more inclusive, communicating its belief in the value of diversity, the board sends a powerful message to the rest of the organisation.
Strategic board diversitypoints to the need for a strategic approach to diversity on the board. It shifts the focus away from number crunching and towards transformation. Board members and leaders create the space to talk about important, sometimes difficult, issues, decide to take action on diversity, bringing change where it is most needed.
One step at a time
Groups need time to come around to the idea of diversity. Leadership in this area calls for tact as well as determination. Get the board to commit to small steps that increase their knowledge of, and comfort with, diversity issues.
- Demystify diversity.
- Adopt change management techniques
- After every step, review progress and set the next step.
- Deal with individuals; talk to board members one-to-one.
- Listen carefully to trustee concerns and strive to find convincing answers.
- Strengthen governance systems to support diversity and participation.
- Put trustees in charge of their own change process.
- Be patient and reaffirm practices and procedures that work.
- Capture learning and sustain the culture that brings about the changes and transformation you aim for.
A template for strategic diversity
- Through our diversity strategy, we will become a more vibrant, engaged and effective decision making body.
- Our composition will reflect our belief in the positive value of diversity and will be strategically designed to meet the needs of our organisation.
- We will be a dynamic mix of trustees from different backgrounds, each one selected for his/her commitment, skills, experience and knowledge.
- We will have a boardroom culture that supports inclusion, fosters teamwork and permits every trustee to make a contribution.
- Board systems, processes and practices will support strategic diversity.
- Better-informed policy decisions will strengthen our management and improve our organisation’s ability to fulfil its mission.
- Our diversity measures will enhance the organisation’s credibility and improve its reputation in the community.
- Through our own experience of diversity, we will strengthen our competence to lead diversity for the rest of the organisation.
The board of (organisation) adopts the following values as the drivers of change:
- Inclusivity –welcoming people of all faiths, races, genders, ages and social groups
- Tolerance – being tolerant and understanding
- Respect – having respect for all and treating people with dignity
- Affirmation – affirming the equal value of each individual
- Exploration – exploring the organisation’s commitment to diversity as part of its agenda of modernisation
- Equity – giving people equal access, widening the choice for everyone
We will continually improve our understanding of diversity issues and strive to bring them into a strategic context for the board and the organisation.
We will coordinate our diversity efforts with the organisation’s strategic, long-range and annual plans.
We will identify where we need technical assistance to achieve diversity, such as training and development, and will invest in the necessary support.
We will pinpoint areas of difficulty in establishing a diverse board and find ways of overcoming them. We will strive to close the gap between what is and what should be.
Our Chairperson and other board leaders will be committed to finding ways to foster diversity and make the strategy work.
We will conduct trustee recruitment in a way that supports our strategic objectives, seeking individuals who will contribute to meeting the organisation’s needs. Candidates will be evaluated on the basis of experience and the skills they bring. Appointments will be made on merit.
We will cast the net wider in our search for trustees, using advertising and community networks to reach individuals and to make contact with a bigger pool of potential recruits.
We will examine our processes for retaining and involving all board members. Steps could include providing support for new board members, improving meetings, developing understanding of the needs of minority trustees and raising board awareness of specific needs.
We will model individual and group behaviours that support diversity. We will create a working culture that exemplifies our commitment to inclusivity, fairness, transparency and respect. We will treat others as we wish to be treated.
We will communicate our diversity efforts to the rest of the organisation, provide an organisational vision for diversity and act as ambassadors for our vision.
We will provide moral and material support to staff members working to bring more diversity to the rest of the organisation.