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Are Your Leadership Development Programs Developing the 6 Next-Practice DEI Leadership Capabilities?


Wed Oct 13 2021

Are Your Leadership Development Programs Developing the 6 Next-Practice DEI Leadership Capabilities?

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We’re in the midst of a historic workplace shift.

According to the latest PwC survey, 65 percent of employees in the workforce are looking for a new job, and there is an expected 41 percent attrition rate in 2021. Eighty-seven percent of employees are not engaged, according to Gallup. Three out of four job seekers say diversity is a critical factor when assessing companies and job offers. Forty-one percent of Black and LGBTQ+ job seekers won’t even apply at a company that lacks diversity. One in three working mothers are considering leaving or downshifting their careers. Sixty-six percent of employees want more flexibility. More than 30 percent say they will quit rather than come back to the office.


Added to this, the demographics of the workforce are changing rapidly. Some quick stats:

• The workforce is aging globally.

• The Hispanic/Latinx US population grew by 18 percent over the last 10 years, making them the fastest growing demographic in the US.

• Twenty percent have disabilities.

• Sixty-eight percent have a high school education or less.


• One in six Gen Z identify as LGBTQ+.

• Seventy-six percent of nonbinary adults are between 18 and 29 years old.

• Thirteen percent of the US population are immigrants.

• The white population shrank for first time.

• People identifying as multiracial grew from 9 million in 2010 to 33.8 million in 2020, which is a 276 percent increase.


• Twenty-two percent speak a language other than English at home.

• Metropolitan areas grew by 9 percent.

• More than 50 percent of US counties shrank, with a rural to urban shift.

Who makes up the workforce and what they want, expect, and need from leaders has fundamentally shifted. Old ways of leading are no longer appropriate or effective for new ways of working and the new workforce itself. If your leaders are not creating an inclusive environment and culture, you’re going to lose the war for talent.

The big question is this: Are your leadership development programs keeping up?

There are six “next practice” inclusive leadership behaviors and traits your leadership development programs need to address to equip leaders to effectively lead in today’s new reality.

The following is a sample from an assessment of these capabilities. As you are reading through, ask yourself how well your leadership development programs prepare your leaders to answer yes to these statements.

1. Listen Deeply

  • We have a strategic employee listening plan, which includes targeted approaches for hearing underrepresented employee voices.

  • We specifically measure the emotion of inclusion.

  • BRG/ERG leaders, who have a pulse on your underrepresented communities, are invited to ongoing conversations and listening sessions with senior leaders.

  • Leaders seek out, listen to, and believe the workplace experiences of their employees.

2. Be Agile

  • Leaders leverage the thinking of a wide range of employees across the diversity spectrum in projects, decision making, and so on.

  • Leaders do not adhere to a rigid organizational structure and instead leverage and grow talent across the organization.

  • Leaders break down barriers to progress and facilitate employee growth and success.

3. Stay Curious

  • Leaders have an inquisitive, open mindset and use questions such as “What else could be true?”’ or “How can I be more inclusive right now?” or “Who else should be included in this decision/meeting/project/opportunity?” as leadership tools.

  • Leaders want to understand how people who are different than themselves experience the workplace and world.

  • Leaders have a growth mindset, learn from feedback, and are open to change.

  • Leaders question the way things are done and seek to understand how unconscious bias or inequities might be embedded in systems and processes.

4. Be Courageous

  • Leaders speak up and challenge policies and practices that are inequitable or exclusionary.

  • Leaders display vulnerability and share their own personal DEI mistakes.

  • Leaders have the tough, sometimes messy, conversations with their own team and the leadership team.

  • Leaders consistently reflect and seek outside feedback on their personal impact on DEI.

5. Get Flexible

  • Leaders are more interested in results than how and where work is accomplished.

  • Leaders look beyond experiences and backgrounds traditionally viewed as indicators of employment success.

  • Leaders have a hire-for-retention mindset and do not let life events such as becoming a parent become a barrier to career success or feelings of inclusion.

6. Consciously Include

  • Leaders are intentional about who is mentored and sponsored and gets stretch assignments and exposure to executives and experiences that position them for advancement.

  • Leaders act as allies, amplifying voices and results and advocating for people from underrepresented groups.

  • Everyday meetings—who is invited and gets their voice heard, how ideas are shared, when and where they are held—are run in an inclusive way.

  • Leaders use inclusive language.

  • Leaders have ongoing DEI check-ins with their teams.

This is an exciting time for learning leaders like yourself. You can seize this moment to rethink and retool your leadership programs. In doing so, you’ll be equipping your leaders with the tools, behaviors, and mindset to create workplace cultures where every single person can thrive. That’s a worthy cause!

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