Pushing Past the "Stuck State"


When George Floyd was murdered we all noticed. In our noticing we noticed something else—the progress being made in terms of inclusion and equity is not enough. We’ve entered a “stuck state” that holds back not only talented members of our organizations, but our organizations themselves!


It wasn’t just one thing that led us to this stuck state, and it is not just one thing that will push past it. Making real progress on diversity at every career stage will require intentionality and a strategic approach.


Getting Strategic—and Inclusive—With Talent Development


Organizations will need to get strategic in their approach to talent development. Many organizations have specific goals for diverse representation at the executive level. However, they lack the holistic strategy to achieve and sustain their desired results. Once goals are established organizations need to map out the large steps needed to achieve those goals. Then they need to dive even deeper to what are the small steps to achieve each of those larger milestones.


An effective strategy will need to begin looking at the drop off happening at the first step into management. Leaders need to be held accountable for readying the talent for the next level. A multi-tiered development approach should include direct feedback, identification of skills needed, development and education opportunities, stretch assignments and creating visibility to leadership.


Lastly, and possibly most importantly senior leaders need to be equipped with the skills and tools needed to effectively develop this high potential talent. And they need to want it! Increasingly, they do. What we’re seeing now is a shift from optional to urgent.


Moving Beyond Good Intentions


With large organizations like the NFL and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences publicly committing to diversity as a focus, and the research that demonstrates the business case for more diversity in executive leadership, you may be left with one big question. How did we get here? Why does the pipeline still show significant underrepresentation of women and people of color at every level? The answer is a confluence of factors.


Good intentions and goals have not been translated into sound strategies to achieve those goals. An intentional focus and strategic approach are needed to attain the progress these organizations are striving towards.


This is what hasn’t worked:

  • Leaders have used faulty approaches to identifying potential. Relying on intuition, past experience and current performance as indicators of potential has led to a seemingly smaller pool of “qualified candidates” to develop.

  • Unconscious bias training has been conducted with a “dip and done” approach that simply does not work. The leaders who are responsible for developing this talent are not being properly equipped with the skills and knowledge they need to effectively do so.

  • Leaders have been allowed to default to “they are just not ready”. Not enough organizations are asking “why aren’t they ready? What steps did you take to get them ready?”

All these factors have contributed to the lack of progress and stuck state we are still facing in 2021.


So, you might be asking where do we go from here?


Where Do We Go From Here?

Corporate America has been spinning its wheels for decades, attempting to influence change by focusing on the numbers, and it hasn’t worked. That was clear before the George Floyd incident, but it’s become abundantly more clear since.


Despite ongoing attention to issues of bias in workplaces around the country, and despite well-intentioned efforts of many companies, we still seem to have trouble making the needed changes to truly adopt inclusive workplace practices and remote bias.


That’s discouraging.


But don’t be discouraged. Being discouraged leads to inaction. Being discouraged leads to feelings of futility. Being discouraged leads to more of the same—a never-ending cycle of the stuck state.


Let’s change that.


We pointed to the pervasiveness of the stuck state early last year when we released our white paper New Decade, Same Challenge: Overcoming the Stuck State. We’ve long advocated and worked for inclusion as a critical business imperative. It still is. But in the current demographic and cultural landscape within the United States, embracing inclusion is less about getting ahead of the competition and more about simply keeping up.

In other words, it’s no longer optional; it’s urgent. What steps are you taking to get beyond the stuck state? How can we help?

Recommended Reading

Becoming an Inclusive Leader

Inclusion: The New Competitive Business Advantage

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Are you tired of workplace diversity training that does not link to business? Are you tired of tactics that don’t drive business results? InclusionINC has inclusion training solutions and strategic consulting that link inclusion to employee engagement, productivity, innovation and retention, moving inclusion beyond tactics to a critical business strategy.

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