Towards the end of our first 4i dynamic forum on Diversity and Inclusion, someone suggested that it was “maybe it’s time for organisations to raise or fold”. At the time, the question in hand was “what action could you take that would make the biggest difference in companies to support greater inclusion”? The conversation was fascinating, ranging from abolishing HR functions to using AI to track who does the most interrupting in meetings through to 50/50 roles where people spend half their time on pure business delivery and the other half on people based initiatives.
But the poker analogy really got me thinking. Because, in the corporate world, we don’t usually do either. We usually check. Which means we choose to do nothing. We leave things as they are, at least until we have fresh information or additional “cards” to play. And at a lot of the time, this is the safe option, the easiest option, the option that requires the least thought. The option that doesn’t get us fired, the option where we get to keep doing our job and keep doing the things that we’ve always done.
That’s not to say it’s not a good strategy. In poker, you may do it deliberately, knowing you’ve likely got the best hand, but wanting to see what everyone else is doing before you commit, before you stick your head above the parapet and find out whether you are right or not. But when it comes to the people in your organisation, standing still doesn’t feel like a great option. You may think you’ve got a great team who are highly motivated, but things around them change – the environment, the competition, personal circumstances – so just “checking” can be awfully big risk too.
So what about folding? In a broader context, this tends to be the hardest decision in business. To recognise that the strategies you have defined or the execution approaches you are deploying are simply not right or not working as designed. Realising you’ve got a problem can be tough – or at least accepting that you could be wrong and it’s time to change. Good leaders have to recognise when they have made mistakes and alter course accordingly.
So if your diversity and inclusion strategy is not working, then do you fold your current hand and deal yourself a new one? Because if the diversity of your workforce, particularly at the senior levels, is not improving, then why do you keep doing what you’re doing?
But if you feel good about your strategy, then is it time for a raise? With the overwhelming evidence of the benefits of a diverse workforce, if you are seeing traction with your hiring, retention and promotion practices, now is the time to double down. Because a pandemic isn’t going to stop the war for talent – you are going to need your best people, now more than ever. And they want and expect to work in an inclusive environment which supports the whole work force.
So basically, it is time to raise or fold. If what you are doing is working, double your stakes and do it faster. And if it’s not, time to fold and try a new strategy.