Working Towards More Diverse Leadership Through Coaching

On any given day, the news cycle is filled with discouraging news – from lack of equity in the make-up of corporate leadership to racism in the theater industry. Take, for instance, data cited in a recent Mercer study. In their 2020 global report, Mercer’s global survey of 1,150 companies in 54 countries that showed 64 percent of workers in entry level positions are white. In the top executive ranks, however, 85 percent of positions are held by whites, demonstrating the promotion gap that minorities face.

The repeated negative headlines and data reflect a broader truth that has been left unanswered for far too long: workplace bias continues to impact the hiring, development, and promotion of underrepresented groups. In fact, a simple look at cases filed with the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) in financial year 2019 shows that the most frequently filed charges include those in protected categories such as disability, race, sex, and age. So how can business leaders address these cases of workplace bias, develop training programs to meet all the requirements and expectations of their workforce, and make sure that companies retain the employees in which they invest? By seeking the advice of an experienced business coach.

I believe that building a strong culture of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) goes hand-in-hand with professional coaching. Coaching is about inspiring leaders to maximize their personal and professional potential and to become the expert of their own lives and experiences. Below, I discuss three areas in which a professional coach can help an organization create and support a diverse organization.

Beyond Training to A Culture of Inclusion

Many organizations provide training sessions about diversity, equity and inclusion and/or have an overall DEI program, but fail to implement these ideas in practical terms. Coaching takes the lessons learned from training and enables leaders to turn them into strategic plans with actionable goals. The purpose of coaching is to create a true culture of inclusion in which all employees understand how acceptance and inclusion impacts their own work, decision making, problem solving and ultimately business opportunities and growth.

Commitment to Professional Development

As organizations seek to become more diverse and inclusive, it is imperative that there is clarity in the process for leadership and career advancement. A professional coach can offer ideas on how to support this endeavor on an individual and organizational level. GlaxoSmithKline’s (GSK) Accelerating Difference program as one example of a successful diversity and inclusion initiative with coaching at its heart. The program focuses on providing clear avenues of advancement and professional development for employees of diverse backgrounds. It has also been successful in keeping employees at the company – data shows that 88 percent of participants have stayed at GSK and 49 percent of the participants have been promoted internally (compared to 29 percent men and 31 percent women not in the program.

The Importance Employee Retention

In a recent article published by Chief Learning Officer, the author Nadia Nassif draws a direct correlation between the importance of an organizational atmosphere of accepted diversity and inclusion, professional development, and employee retention. She says that “by conducting an accurate assessment of development needs ... and ensuring that the right strategies and tools are in place to promote career growth, organizations can tackle the skills and retention challenge head-on.” A professional coach can help equip business leaders with the skills they need to provide daily reinforcement of a commitment to an inclusive culture. This is particularly critical with high-potential employees; often, when a high-potential employee is asked why he or she is leaving an organization, and they are likely to respond, “I felt like my voice wasn’t being heard.” Looking back at the GSK Accelerating Difference program (discussed above), participants in the program were more likely to stay at the organization (76 percent) than those who did not attend the program.

Throughout my career I have been successful at maximizing outcomes for clients committed to taking actions aligned with their values, especially in the areas of diversity and inclusion. My philosophy is simple: I help individuals, as well as organizations, achieve their highest potential by creating an intentional focus on impact and purpose. Please contact me today to discuss how I can help you and your organization fulfil your commitment to diversity and inclusion through coaching.