Under the extreme pressure of Covid-19, there is a significant risk that an organisation’s focus and progress on inclusion will backslide.

It is tempting for leaders to consider taking inclusion off their priority list; something to come back to when the crisis has passed. But this is precisely when being able to access a diversity of ideas, whilst including and supporting your people is most needed.  In unprecedented times it simply isn’t viable to rely on old ways of doing or thinking. 

Inclusion of diverse perspectives will help in assessing and mitigating risk, gaining greater insights into changing client needs and effectively adapting to radically different ways of working.  Inclusion will enable leaders to meet the challenge of engaging and supporting staff whose work and personal lives will be entwined as never before.

Inclusion is also directly relevant to some of the most pressing people-based issues facing organisations at the moment, including:

  • Leadership communication – understanding your various audiences and what they need to hear from you.
  • Ways of working – adapting to new patterns, different management requirements and support needs as staff move to remote working.
  • Engaging diverse talent – working out how to leverage the full breadth of ideas, expertise and experience at your disposal.
  • Delegation and distributed leadership – defining how to empower others and reduce bottlenecks whilst also having appropriate checks and balances.
  • Being responsive to client need – understanding how to evolve products and services to meet the changing requirements of your clients.

This advocacy for inclusion makes complete sense on paper – but what about from the midst of the messy reality we are all coping with? 

Whilst our rational selves may understand the advantages of inclusion, that logic can be subsumed by more immediate reactions to the threat of the virus.  We are faced with a tension between the expansive ethos of inclusion, set against messages about needing to isolate ourselves from one another.  It can seem to make sense to hunker down, tighten our circle of trust and default to our safe ‘go to people’. 

It is important to acknowledge the potential for all of us to revert to what and who we already know.  Being honest enough to recognise this tendency will help us to anticipate our biases, so we can put in place measures to counter them. 

 ‘Inclusion Under Pressure’ is an initiative that has been set up in response to the Covid-19 crisis. Its aim is to support Leaders and Senior D&I professionals to realise the value of inclusion, just when they need it most.

Many of us are asking questions about what we can do to help during the current crisis.  We can never thank key workers and those on the frontline enough, and it leaves us wanting to understand where we can contribute in our own smaller ways.

As consultants, we understand the extraordinary influence exercised by the people we work with.  Leaders and Senior D&I professionals have the scope to significantly affect their staff, their clients and their communities – sometimes on a global scale.  Inclusion Under Pressure is designed to make it as easy as possible for those decision-makers to come to one place and access the support they would find most useful and relevant.

Inclusion Under Pressure is a collaboration between Fantail, Pause Consultancy, Jenny Barrow Associates and Moore Development. It will:

  • Provide a free-to-access Resource Collection which curates the best thinking, speaking and writing about inclusion under pressure and brings it together in one place. There is a lot of great ‘stuff’ being produced but it is hard to pick through the noise to get to the most useful insights. 
  • Set up free-to -access cross organisational “Virtual Inclusion Exchanges” (VIE) where Leaders and Senior D&I Professionals from different organisations are brought together in small facilitated sessions. The VIEs will provide a space to candidly discuss what people are experiencing, as well as collectively address live issues and share examples of what’s working.
  • Offer a range of consultancy services to help Leaders and Senior D&I Professionals meet the challenges of inclusion under pressure. This support will be tailored to meet clients’ needs and will take into account any pressures businesses are experiencing due to financial hardship.  It will encompass everything from 1:1 Executive Coaching and facilitation of Senior Team meetings, through to strategy support and customised virtual development sessions.

We won’t be ‘going back to normal’ – too much will have changed in societies and economies for that to happen.  We need to draw on all our diverse resources and talent to devise a way through the crisis and then build a new normal beyond it.

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