Use of Self & The Future of Organizational Development: Diversity, Equity & Inclusion in Practice

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To pull a headline from any article in any major newspaper is to put an image to our nation’s conflict. It is never more apparent than when this turmoil impacts our everyday spaces, workplaces and private interactions. In many discussions, bias has emerged as a key driver of social conflict that has spilled into everything from consumer experience to corporate social responsibility. As OD practitioners, the impact of bias is frequently a symptom reflected in workplace and strategic initiatives. The scope and complexity of bias is that it inserts itself into each and every one of our human interactions. Researchers have argued that the pervasive nature of bias is rooted in how the brain creates associations with our own lived experience. Social cognition happens intentionally (explicit bias) and unintentionally (implicit bias). Associations manifest in ways that we cannot escape as they are how we come to understand our world.

As OD Practitioners it is incumbent upon us to understand the use of self in our work. Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DEI) touches all areas under our sphere of influence. Our work involves the lived experience of others, whether it is through talent management, leadership development, culture transformation, strategy, or any other form of organizational intervention. We cannot afford to overlook our responsibility to recognize and contribute to the work being done in Diversity, Equity & Inclusion practices.

Companies across the U.S. are struggling to make sense of how to mitigate the negative effects of bias by creating strategic approaches to enable healthy and productive work environments. As someone once said, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” Fortunately, OD practitioners have access to the tools and methods that can impact both culture and strategy. It’s time to start thinking about what to do with these tools at our disposal in ways that address bias more directly. As an OD practitioner, where do we start? First, it begins with self-awareness. As practitioners and individuals, we need to understand what we “bring into the room.” Then I would suggest asking the right questions:

Examine your current employee lifecycle through an inclusive lens:

·  Entry: What do our recruiting practices reflect? Where are we sourcing candidates from? How diverse are our hiring committees?

·  Retention: What does an employee see on a daily basis that reinforces that their unique perspectives matter? How do we treat the dissenting voice? How do we reward appropriate behaviors?

·  Succession-planning/Talent Management: Do our identified group of high-potentials represent diverse backgrounds? Are we creating appropriate opportunities for career advancement that don’t call into question our values (e.g. work-life balance, parent-friendly policy, etc.)?

·  Leadership Development: Do we conduct regular bias training? Is this training compliance-driven or meant to build awareness around these issues? How do we measure success in our training around diversity, equity, and inclusion?

·  Exit: What are the leading causes for the departure of our diverse workforce populations? Have we done our due diligence in the first 3, 6, or 9 months of employment? How often do we revisit our DEI strategy?

About the Author

Carla Thomas is an alumna of the Saint Joseph’s University's ODL program. She is also a current doctoral candidate with the University of Pennsylvania and maintains her own practice, The Realize Leadership Group. Her expertise includes: Diversity, Equity & Inclusion, Leadership Development, Talent Management, Strategic-planning, Culture Transformation, and Behavioral and Psychometric Assessments.

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