How inclusion leads to better balance

IWD Lauren main


Action on Society |

This International Women’s Day is all about balance. The impact of diversity on the performance of a company is well documented.  At CCEP, we’ve set targets and believe that committing to progress will help us get there faster. But as we push for progress, we are turning more and more attention to what kind of environment has to be in place for diversity to thrive – and that’s about inclusion.

You know a great, inclusive leader and their team immediately. Knowledge is shared, ideas flow, everyone speaks their mind, and people challenge ideas (even the most ingrained) and not each other.

You also know when it isn’t working. There’s a sense of caution, some don’t contribute at all, you wonder if they’re really getting at the root of a problem and you question if there’s an unspoken in group and out group.

To achieve effective balance, we need to talk more about inclusivity. If someone doesn’t feel included, they may feel like they have to work harder than everyone else to achieve their goals or may never experience the ease and authenticity of simply being themselves at work.  This is not balance for that person, for their team or for the organisation as a whole.

At CCEP we are taking a top-to-bottom approach to address this, from our leadership governance structures to education and training for employees. We know that diversity of ideas, thinking and experience across our business will lead to better ways of working and better results.

As companies make better systemic changes, I also believe there are behaviours we can hold ourselves accountable for individually, every day. Here are two simple questions you can ask yourself:

Do you always seek advice, opinions and inspiration from the same people?

Having trusted people around you that you can always depend on for good counsel is obviously important. But it can also be limiting if you only ever default to the same people, particularly if your immediate network looks, acts and thinks just like you! Seeking new and different perspectives will not only challenge you to develop your thinking, but it will also signal inclusion to your teams and help to foster a culture of respect. It will also help build informal networks across your organisation that aren’t bound by traditional roles or reporting structures. Recently, we had a young leader from an outside organisation come to a meeting to openly critique some of our work – he was honest, forthright and the resulting discussion as a full team was more challenging and more progressive. It’s also about learning from someone whose fundamental life experiences are different than yours – that can be as simple as being an ally to an internal employee resource group or having a coffee with someone that isn’t in your ‘go-to’ circle of advisors.

Do you create space for candid discussion?

It is critical that employees feel comfortable to speak up in the workplace, and that they are given the tools, platforms and opportunities to do it. At CCEP we run a company-wide employee engagement survey that is reviewed by our leadership team, and we have a growing network of employee resource groups. But this is just the start; we know that we need to listen and act upon what we hear. This applies to teams of all shapes and sizes, to show employees that when they speak they are being heard, and that what they have to say matters.

As a leader, I can (and should) do this every day – my team and I actively encourage each other to challenges ideas and seek out multiple perspectives. It leads to better ideas, bolder actions and a growing ability and comfort with managing complexity. But for people to feel comfortable speaking up – especially when they disagree – they need to feel they can.

Creating a culture of inclusion and respect is something we need to work on every day. Ask yourself these simple questions and use this International Women’s Day to learn from someone new to you.

Originally published here.