Jun 14, 2023
As a leader, try yelling “be inclusive, be inclusive, be inclusive” at your staff members. You are trying to move the organisation toward achieving greater creativity and innovation through the benefits of diversity. You know that becoming more inclusive is the catalyst for gaining diversity inside the firm. The President and the Executive Team have made the official pronouncements about using diversity to better prepare for a more creative and successful future. Whatever your own thoughts on the merits of diversity, it is your leader job to turn their pronouncement into reality. Being a smart leader, you know that just yelling at your staff to be more inclusive is a nonsense and won’t work. Great, so what do you do about those in your charge?
This type of major transformation is not the moment for shotgun style team meetings or town halls to convince everyone to get on board with senior management’s directions. En masse, that blanket approach will yield a lot of tatemae or superficial acceptance, but the honne of entrenched resistance will still remain there, hidden and submerged.
In Japan, diversity actually means gender diversity, rather than LGBTQ, racial or religious diversity. To drive gender diversity requires a lot of one-on-one meetings with the team members. Busy leaders may think, “well diversity is a noteworthy aspiration, from the President, but in reality, I am already busy with my current workload. Where can I possibly fit in time for this additional activity?”. All true, but there will be no change unless the leaders make the time available to have those individual conversations with their team members.
What will those conversations involve? To get transformational change, we need to work on our emotional change (EC) and add to it changes in behaviour (BC), to get the performance change (PC) we need. In our talks with our staff, we should explore their mindset about inclusion? They may have never thought about it before, so this is a vital first step for them. What are they thinking about this new direction? Do they think this new direction will harm the organisation and that the senior executives are mistaken in their approach?
What is their opinion about gender diversity? Do they have female relatives or friends who may currently be affected by a lack of inclusion in their workplaces? What are their set of beliefs about this topic? Have they inherited dated or mistaken ideas from others, rather than investigating what they think, based on their own research? What emotions does inclusion trigger for them? Are they fearful of the consequences? If they are men, do they see women as rivals or competitors for future promotion to senior positions? What insights do they have about how to secure an inclusive workplace? If it was going to work here, how would we get it to work? What could we do to make this environment more inclusive and more innovative by drawing on the strengths of the whole team? How can we position ourselves to beat the competition?
Today 54% of women are in the workplace in Japan, predominantly in low paying part-time jobs. Assuming a five-day work week, 70% of men worked an eight-hour day or more while only 40% of women did the same. More women will have to enter the workforce to make up for the labour shortage being driven by the declining birth rate in Japan. There will be some increased immigration for blue collars workers into Japan, as government policy has become more flexible to deal with a shortage of workers. Nevertheless, the capacity of firms to access women will only grow in importance. Companies will need to become more inclusive to attract and retain them.
Leaders need to work through these scenarios with their staff. Everyone needs to understand this is a vital step for the economy, if Japan is to prosper as a sophisticated and advanced economy in the world. They also need to align that macro view with what it means at the micro level for the team members. None of us work in a bubble and what happens to the overall economy impacts all of us. The point needs to be made that the whole country needs inclusivity first, in order to get to diversity, to tap into the full innovation potential of all the workers.
Once we have worked on the emotional component of the transformational change, we need the staff to engage in behaviour change. Skill sets need to be upgraded around time management, teamwork and communication with colleagues. The actions each staff member takes adds up to the totality of the firm’s actions to embrace inclusivity to get to diversity. It has to be clarified that this is not someone else’s responsibility and certain members of staff cannot simply continue doing what they have always done. If we are going to do this, what do we need to change and what things do we need to introduce?
Behaviour change is difficult, but once awareness levels have been heightened, it gets easier to spot where a previous behaviour has to be replaced with a new behaviour. Communication styles also need attention. Inclusivity in communication may force old habits to change. Clubby all male cliques will need to change, so that the women working in the organisation feel they are valued and welcomed too. Interactions on a daily basis set the tone of the organisation’s commitment to inclusion. This is where the EQ part comes in and the realisation made that the IQ component can’t solely be relied upon for change.
When we get the emotional and behavioural elements to work, then we can see actual results where inclusivity is happening on a daily basis. This will provide the platform to sustain the diversity needed in the organisation. Leaders will incorporate inclusivity into the leadership repertoire and deeper relations between colleagues will become a given. We can open the door to diversity and with it to innovation.