5 September 2023
Leaders as Allies Session Takeaways: Driving Actions for Change and Building Greater Accountability for DEI
COVID-19 is the setting for one of the most challenging times in living memory for businesses and society. The very notion of culture has been challenged with some workers being asked to home school whilst fulfilling work tasks from their kitchen table. For others, working from home has meant a sudden drop in social interaction which has stripped away many of the nuances that help to determine their identity.
These challenges inspired Brands with Values to use their culture auditing tool, Culture Decoder, as a means to understanding how cultures might need to adapt. The Culture Decoder has been used to audit corporate cultures, transforming some of the largest organisations in the world across private, public and the third sector. The Brands with Values COVID-19 study has sought to understand which values are required to build a resilient culture. Green Park are proud to be a partner of the report, alongside Management Today.
The results of our study sets out a bold and progressive view of how organisations could act and of how cultures could transform into something that has a benefit to the individual and to wider society. We have strong representation from industry leaders that this progressive view is being shared and used by those who have the power to make a positive change.
As the CEO of Diversity Headhunters and Inclusion Consultancy Green Park, I am acutely aware of the role that both the perception and reality of a brand’s value and culture play in talent attraction, acquisition, retention, development, inclusion & advocacy. So, when Adrian and Martin from Brands with Values, who had recently carried out our own internal culture audit, invited us to be a part of their Covid-19 Culture Study, we jumped at the chance.
At Green Park helping organisations evaluate tomorrow’s ‘cultural add’ instead of yesterday’s ‘cultural fit’ is an important lever used to move beyond the bias that exists in most organisations and all traditional recruitment, performance management and promotion processes.
The economic impact of the pandemic is already sending shock waves through the private, public and third sector markets we support, many of which had only recently picked up momentum following both Brexit uncertainty and the General Election. The speed of future economic recovery remains to be seen, but while most market commentators waste time shrouding industries in further uncertainty, there is only one thing certain for all brands: some will sink and some will swim and their access to talent plays a key role.
For organisations to succeed now, they will need to understand their full employee and customer experience better than their competitors. Today this means understanding how their brand and culture is perceived and recognising all the different stakeholder groups that can coalesce to support and advocate for their purpose. What I like most about this study is that it offers our industry leaders a unique set of insights into what matters the most today and what can be adopted or retained to create a culture fit for success in the ‘new normal’ post COVID-19. The Brands with Value technology also allows leaders to independently track progress, without HR marking their own homework as they measure the cultural change they’ve been asked to guide.
Green Park has championed the business case for increasing diversity since 2006, campaigning for inclusive, fair, transparent and ethical recruitment practices. It is therefore heartening to see Socially Responsible and Ethical be among the top ten most valued sentiments in the report. Certainly, the spread of Coronavirus has reminded us of our responsibilities within the wider community and the importance of protecting the wellbeing of others. However, I was disappointed, to see that while most sectors highly ranked Socially Responsible, it was not one of the top ten words for HR and Recruitment professionals – outside Green Park of course!
The current Black Lives Matter movement serves as a reminder that we all have a part to play in active antiracism. It has provided a window of choice, whereby organisations and individuals can choose to rewire the parts of our corporate system which are failing to provide equality – as demonstrated year on year our Leadership Series which analyses the gender and ethnocultural composition of the Britain’s most senior roles.
I believe many Chairs would want Socially Responsible to be in HR and recruitment professionals top three values. Afterall, when it comes to equal opportunity and compensation, they are being paid to be on the corporate frontline. I am sad to say that the lack of diversity competence and levels of bias in this part of the economy is so high that if the same individuals were surveyed now, post George Floyd’s death and BLM protests, I suspect the term Socially Responsible would feature no higher.
Of course, it is no surprise to see the word Agile most used. With so much of the global population in lockdown, organisations have had no choice but to rapidly adapt their business thinking. Agile has become a matter of survival; alongside access to capital it’s the key short-term differentiator in determining who sinks and who swims. And with it in joint lead, is Honest, also integral in successfully navigating organisations out of crisis.
This research tells us that by creating a culture which values honesty, authenticity and transparency, led by the behaviour of those at the top, an organisation is far more likely to retain the trust, respect and loyalty of their employee and customer base - critical in these times of uncertainty and hardship.
While coronavirus may have drastically altered our landscape and view ahead, I do believe that some of the changes to our working environment are for the better. With greater recognition of Community focussed values, today’s leaders have a unique opportunity to transform the UK’s working culture. Not only can we accelerate our digital transformation, we can excel our progress in diversity and inclusion, strike a better work-life balance and create a healthier, more authentic relationship with work that boosts creativity and productivity at a time when we need it most.
Of course we can only achieve this if we have the insight, will and skill to move past yesterday’s thinking and focus on the values and partnerships that we need to do things differently tomorrow.