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It goes without saying (yet we will say it again, louder for the ones at the back) that successful organisations are successful because they make the best use of their most critical resource- their people. Every single person has amazing capability and brilliant performance potential and unlocking this talent across the organisation at all levels is critical to organisational success. The key to this is creating and sustaining an organisational culture that embraces diversity and encourages the inclusion of every employee in their working life.

But there is an elephant in the room when it comes to developing and embracing a diversity and inclusion performance culture. Many organisations approach this issue by running diversity training programmes and awareness seminars, alongside HR procedures to ensure absolute equity in the workplace for all. The real challenge though is to change deeply ingrained behaviours across the workforce, where old habits and assumptions create often unconscious biases that can reduce a total and true commitment to diversity and inclusion.

Ultimately everyone in the organisation is responsible for ensuring that everybody included – colleagues, suppliers, and customers – feels valued and appreciated. This goes way beyond just behaviours and involves a shift to a values-based inclusive culture in which the primary goal is to recognise, unlock and unleash the individual talents of all. This improves organisational performance and creates a workplace full of enthusiasm, energy, and personal responsibility. Whilst responsibility to embrace diversity and inclusion lies with all of us, it will be up to the leaders in the organisations – at all levels – to set the tone and example for this. HR might set procedural guidelines and organisational protocols, but an inclusive organisational culture lives through the way behaviours are played out every day in the workplace. And that is a leadership and management responsibility.

This is where coaching comes in! As coaching is a conversation that requires appreciative listening, a deep understanding of the other person, and holding individuals in high positive regard, leaders and managers should consider utilising their advanced coaching skills as an effective approach in helping build sustainable inclusive organisational cultures that value and celebrate diversity. Coaching should only see the potential, talent, and capabilities of others, it should be totally unbiased and have the sole purpose of helping others be the very best they can be and to perform outstandingly well. This means that coaching conversations, when done well, are honest, transparent, and have no motive other than helping someone learn, develop, and perform better.

In short, coaching should make people feel included, no matter who they are or what job they do.

Some organisations have successfully introduced diversity and inclusion coaching specifically to help leaders become more self-aware and more effective in their leadership roles. Other organisations employ coaches to help individuals in the workforce who feel excluded, marginalised, or unable to find their voice and express themselves effectively with the organisation. Such initiatives are to be welcomed and hopefully have some beneficial impact. However, only when the organisational culture embraces diversity and inclusion can there be any lasting impact.  It is through a systemic change to the culture that provides the psychological safety for diversity to flourish and for everyone to bring their authentic selves to the workplace.

So, on a day-to-day level, leaders and managers must use their coaching skills to listen, appreciate and include others. They must interrupt harmful or biased language or behaviour and encourage quieter and unrepresented voices to speak up. They must delegate work equitably and with consideration as to how best nurture talent across their team whilst achieving the results required. And through coaching, they must set a strong example of the behaviours we all need to show to encourage talent, diversity, and inclusion to flourish throughout the organisation.

According to Forbes, organisations strive to create diverse and inclusive environments where every individual’s unique perspective is valued and equity and fairness prevail. Studies have shown that workplaces with diverse and inclusive cultures have better business outcomes. McKinsey & Company’s “Diversity Wins” report found that companies with more diverse executive teams outperformed their industry peers in profitability by 33%.

There is one thing that people must pay heed to- right now, DEI is looked at more on the organisational level than on the individual level. That is an approach that needs to change. If the thought process undergoes change at the most basic level and we have people believing that people can come from any background and get the job done, organisations will not take long to follow.

Organisations should continually evaluate their coaching programs to ensure they achieve their DEI goals. As organisations continue to recognise the importance of DEI, they should also realise the invaluable role that coaching plays in this journey. DEI and coaching can lead to a more inclusive and equitable workplace where individuals from all backgrounds can thrive and contribute to their fullest potential. It’s a powerful partnership that can benefit not only the organisation but society as a whole.