Diversity and inclusion for the future of work

Posted in: Amin Neghavati

The future of work is changing rapidly (nothing new, we all know that), and so are the skills and competencies that leaders need to succeed in this dynamic environment. As leaders and managers, we have a crucial role to play in preparing our teams for the challenges and opportunities of the globalised and digitalised work context. In this blog post, I’ll talk about leadership development with a spotlight on diversity and inclusion. A lens we sometimes ignore (unconsciously) for various reasons. 

Diversity and inclusion are non-negotiable 

Diversity and inclusion are not only moral and social imperatives, but they’re also the secret sauce to organisational success. Research echoes what we know in our bones: diverse and inclusive leadership teams enhance creativity, drive innovation, and fuel performance. But beyond the bottom line, they cultivate a culture of compassion and understanding—a vital currency in today's interconnected world. So, we can’t just ignore it. 

Battling barriers to diverse leadership 

Yet, the path to diverse leadership isn't without its hurdles. Unconscious biases, discriminatory practices, and limited opportunities can make progress slow. But where there are obstacles, there are also opportunities. The journey may be long, but every step forward is a victory worth celebrating. We have done a lot at Bath to overcome these challenges but it’s not a quick journey and there is no end. We have to keep going. 

Intercultural competence 

Verna Myers, a leading diversity and inclusion expert, once said, “diversity is being invited to the party. Inclusion is being asked to dance.” While I totally agree, I believe there is more we can do after “inviting others to dance.” We can perhaps engage in a conversation about how our dance strategies are similar or different and learn about each other’s dance moves. We can perhaps try and dance together. This is where intercultural competence comes into perspective.  

A key aspect of developing effective and diverse leaders for the future of work is intercultural competence which is the link between diversity and inclusion and is about making diverse communities more inclusive. As described by Mitchel Hammer, intercultural competence is “the capacity to shift perspective and behaviour based on commonalities and differences by experiencing cultures and individuals with greater levels of complexity.”  

It is the ability to communicate, collaborate, and lead effectively and appropriately across cultural differences and contexts. Intercultural competence can help leaders to understand and appreciate the diversity and complexity of cultures, values, and behaviours in their teams, and to adapt and adjust their own styles and strategies accordingly. Intercultural competence can also help leaders to build trust, rapport, and respect with their colleagues, partners, and clients from different cultural backgrounds and settings.  

While diversity can be measured by demographic analysis and inclusion can be measured by an analysis of outcomes, measuring intercultural competence which focuses on capacity is not an easy task. There are various ways to assess and develop intercultural competence. One of the tools that can help leaders to assess and develop their own and their team’s intercultural competence is the Intercultural Development Inventory (IDI). The IDI is a widely used and effective cross-culturally valid framework that measures an individual or group’s level of intercultural competence along the Intercultural Development Continuum (IDC). The IDC describes five stages of intercultural development: denial, polarisation, minimisation, acceptance, and adaptation.

Think about where on this developmental journey you might be when watching this short video: The Intercultural Development Continuum - Overview

What can I do here and now? 

For leaders new to this field and eager to promote inclusivity and intercultural competence, the journey begins with small steps: 

  • Listen and learn: Engage with diverse voices, amplifying their stories and experiences. One of the best ways to learn about another culture is to get a first-hand account from people who live it. You can ask those in your team from different backgrounds to share their stories, experiences, and perspectives with you and others. Why not have a quarterly “getting to know different cultures” meeting or have a chat about it over lunch. 
  • Dive deep: Immerse yourself in different cultures that are around you, embracing new experiences with an open heart and mind. Look in your team. You don’t always have to go too far to find different cultures. Try their food and music; learn about their literature and special occasions. There is so much we have in common and there is so much in which we differ. They are both beautiful. 
  • Share your story: Intercultural competence is not only about learning about other cultures, but also about reflecting on your own culture and developing your own cultural awareness- in fact, this is the first step. Talking about your own culture can help you to become more aware of your own assumptions, biases, and preferences, and how they affect your communication and behaviour. This is particularly important if you are in a leadership role. 

Remember, it takes courage to change things, but we can always start with small steps. With these first steps, let’s pave the way for a future where diversity isn’t just celebrated but it’s the cornerstone of our leadership excellence. 

Amin Neghavati, Learning & Organisational Development Manager 

Further Reading 

References 

Advance HE (2019) Intercultural competencies: a guide for higher education 

Advance HE (2020) Diversifying leadership.

Advance HE (2021) Equality, diversity and inclusion guidance

Deardorff, D.K. and Arasaratnam-Smith, L.A. (eds.) (2017) Intercultural competence in higher education: international approaches, assessment and application. London: Routledge. 

Gregersen-Hermans, J. (2017) ‘The impact of diversity and inclusion on innovation in higher education’, Journal of Applied Research in Higher Education, 9(4), pp. 574-589. 

Holbrook, A. (2019) ‘Diversity and inclusion in higher education and societal context: how do we get to the next level?’, Higher Education Research & Development, 38(7), pp. 1325-1338. 

IDI, LLC (n.d.) IDI, LLC | Intercultural Development Inventory 

 

 

 

Posted in: Amin Neghavati

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