Creating Belonging At The Workplace Through Allyship

Despite 75% of companies across the world saying diversity is a focus area for them, only 25% of them have inclusion goals for leaders. Most of them are looking to change this because failing to support efforts towards inclusion negatively affects the workforce experience as well as the customer experience.

Therefore, not only is being inclusive the right thing to do, but also it brings tangible value to all stakeholders. Whether it is Mastercard helping older employees learn social media or Microsoft working to make technology accessible to all, there are numerous examples of companies being more inclusive. In the process, business leaders worldwide are relooking at policies aimed at increasing the representation of marginalized groups and helping them ‘belong’.Allies play a crucial role in converting inclusion to ‘belonging’.

What is allyship?

Simply speaking, an ally is one who uses their privilege and power to advocate for the marginalized. Allyship refers to lending your voice to support those whose voices are not heard. However, allyship focuses more on action than merely on the intent. For example, A Women in the Workplace survey reveals that while 80% of white employees see themselves as allies to women of color, only 30% of them speak up in support, and only 10% actually mentor or sponsor them. Similar disparities exist across other marginalized groups.

Why is allyship important?

The traditional models of inclusion put the onus on marginalized people to step up and ‘lean in’. However, without vocal allies who support and nurture the process of leaning in, inclusion and belonging are difficult goals. According to Deloitte’s State of Inclusion survey, over two-thirds of professionals report experiencing and witnessing bias. They also agree that this negatively affects their productivity, engagement, wellbeing, and overall happiness. Hence, allyship can be instrumental in engaging and energizing people by making their voices stronger and elevating the entire workforce experience (Wx).

How can companies and leaders be better allies?

Leaders can help their companies in creating a Wx that unlocks the best of their people through a culture of better allyship. Some of the aspects they can address are:

1. Remove microaggressions: Harmful and hurtful stereotypes about groups or communities constitute microaggressions. For example, making fun of an older colleague’s lack of technological expertise, ridiculing the driving abilities of women, and talking about the crime rate due to certain races or religions on a ‘lighter note’ constitute some microaggressions. Leaders can train themselves and other people on identifying and addressing microaggressions. Typically, a team that operates with high degrees of psychological safety will have lesser microaggressions. Igniting meaningful dialogue and keeping people’s talents aligned with organizational objectives can be instrumental in reducing microaggressions.

2. Listen more: Allies focus on listening to verbal and non-verbal cues. Especially in an increasingly virtual world, it is easy to miss out on what some people have to say. However, by taking charge of team meetings and helping everyone share their ideas and opinions, you can significantly improve the Wx. People from under-represented communities tend to face more scrutiny of their credentials. Create those safe spaces around you by listening actively and taking action.

3. Embrace your own privilege: With privilege comes power. And as the movie quote goes, “With great power, comes great responsibility.”Ensure that you do not let power turn into entitlement. On the contrary, use your rank and position to build an equitable organization. Provide feedback on systems and processes as an ally and not as a critic. Encourage people to speak up and be better allies.

4. Create supporting infrastructure: Relook at your policies and processes to see if they support allyship. Have you eliminated pay gaps? Do you measure your Wx regularly to see what people need? Does your hiring process have any unconscious or conscious biases? Consider re-articulating your rewards and recognition philosophy to ally with inclusion and belonging goals.

As a leader, you have the power to create inclusion in team meetings, policies and processes, and day-to-day work. Use it wisely to elevate theWx of your people.

To create an inclusive Wx that relies on allies to deliver on your business strategy and vision, reach out to us now!

About the Author

Sumit Singla

Founder of eleventHR Consulting.

Sumit has been working in HR & HR consulting roles for 16+
years across sectors and verticals and specializes in
organization design, wellbeing, storytelling & design thinking, and performance management. In his career with consulting firms such as Aon, Deloitte, and Accenture, he has successfully led programs aimed at total HR transformation for clients.

 Recently, as Associate Director for India Consulting at Deloitte, he worked with clients on cultural transformation and HR process and policy design. He also organized and spoke at conferences and events about a variety of topics relevant to HR today.

Now self-employed, he works with clients across the globe on a variety of HR solution areas.

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