There’s a lovely lake near my home that I enjoy walking around, especially during the summer. Sometimes I put my headphones on and blast my favorite music. Other times I need complete silence. This is especially true when I’m in the midst of making difficult decisions or coming up with new ideas. During those moments, the music just sounds like noise. It‘s a distraction. And it becomes challenging to think clearly.
If you work in the diversity and inclusion space or share a passion and commitment to help your organisation or institution become more diverse, inclusive, and culturally intelligent, I’m guessing you sometimes feel the same way. There is a lot of noise out there. Externally, the “trends” keep coming. For example, unconscious bias training has been around for several years, but in recent years, the demand for it has skyrocketed. But what is the best way to integrate it into your efforts? Internally, you are trying to strategize. Should we start with training? What assessment tool should we use – the CQ Assessment, IDI, or some other tool? Should we focus on domestic or global diversity or both? Filtering through these important questions isn’t always easy. And the solutions and processes certainly aren’t the same for everyone.
However, what does transcend any organisation, school, governmental agency, etc. is a mindset and process for thinking through these strategic questions.
Here are a few CQ strategies you can use to cut through the noise and keep moving towards creating a more inclusive and culturally intelligent organisation.
1. Identify your Needs and Pain Points. Instead of immediately defaulting to the latest trends, look inward. Take a hard look at where your organisation or institution is on the journey to becoming more culturally intelligent. What is the level of commitment by leadership? Are they just saying this is important, or are they demonstrating their commitment by allocating quality time and financial resources to your efforts? What are your biggest challenges or pain points? Are employees having difficulties working across generations? Are your students of color or other underrepresented groups not feeling included on campus? Or is there a broader need to create an inclusive environment where everyone in the organisation feels a strong sense of belonging? Once you have a good understanding of the unique issues your organisation is facing, you will be better equipped to identify the best CQ strategies for addressing them.
2. Resist the Pressure to “Just Do Something” I was recently talking with a Learning and Development Manager. She was new to her role and felt pressured by top leadership to immediately roll out a plan to facilitate several diversity training sessions with staff. They felt that this would be a good demonstration to employees that they were taking action. She was frustrated because, although she fully supported the need for training, she knew they had not adequately assessed their needs and pain points. Making training the first step would be a mistake. I affirmed her position and encouraged her to take the necessary time to do a full assessment or audit of the organisation’s current state.
Because of the heightened awareness of cultural challenges within and outside our organisations, we tend to feel the pressure to do something now! While we should always view this work with a healthy sense of urgency, we shouldn’t be reactive. Being reactive can result in short-sighted efforts, temporary fixes, and wasted time and resources. Some might argue “well that all sounds fine, but if leadership says to do something, you have no choice.” I get it. But, when possible, challenge the process. Remind them that the goal is individual behavioral change and organisational change that can be measured and sustained long-term. The best CQ strategy may be to slow down and get laser-focused on efforts that support these goals.
3. Make Sure your Efforts are Inclusive. We often tout our commitment to creating diverse and inclusive organisations, but we aren’t always good at including employees in the entire process, from start to finish. Yes, we do organisational climate surveys and post-training evaluations. But do we include our employees in the early design or planning stages of the decision-making process? It’s impossible, or at the very least not the best use of time, to attempt to get input from everyone in the organisation at every step of the process, especially if it is a large organisation. But there are ways to demonstrate an inclusive process or teams in the entire process. For example, if you are planning a training, seek substantive input on what content would be most useful before the training. Not just from the planning team but from those who will be participating in or influenced by the training. We typically wait until after the event to seek feedback.
There’s no promise that these CQ strategies won’t feel slightly noisy at times. However, I can guarantee that by taking a more focused and culturally intelligent approach you won’t fall into the trap of every Pop-Up trend and you will reach your goals sooner and with much less headache.
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