In season two, episode eight of Inside your Brand (IYB) with Get-Optimal, host Daniel Fellows was joined by Dan Roberston – Vercida Consulting’s director who is widely regarded as a subject matter expert on workplace diversity and inclusion, unconscious bias, and inclusive leadership.
Robertson spends his days supporting executives to turn diversity theory into meaningful actions but took time out of his schedule to chat about diversity, equality, and inclusion (DE&I) in boardrooms up and down the country with Get-Optimal’s founder – who wasted no time in asking, with his trademark searing honesty, “Are we making actually progress on DE&I?”
Diversity and organisational development specialist, Robinson, who has substantial experience across both the public and private sector, replied: “That’s a really good question to start off with. We’re all over the place to be quite frank.
“In some areas, such as gender, there is success to be celebrated. We’ve definitely seen more women move into senior positions and join corporate boards not only in the UK but globally. There’s more to do, of course, but we should celebrate that success even though we still have work to do.
“However regarding race inclusion – which everyone is talking about in the context of George Floyd – corporate UK is still tinkering and tailoring around the edges. There’s a lot of tokenism.
“On the surface, there’s some great work being done and conversations around DE&I are louder today than they have ever been and that’s great – we want people talking. But in terms of structure and change, there’s not been too much so my call out is ‘Come on, let’s be a bit more ambitious about where we want to go with this.’”
Robertson used the 30-minute episode to touch on the importance of those at the top of the tree becoming inclusive leaders. “The current model is not fit for purpose – it’s still very egocentric,” he said.
He continued: “The world outside is changing very radically and we have to be aware, as leaders, that we look at a problem from a lens that is fused with bias. We have to connect with people who think differently from us so how do we ensure we have a mindset that becomes curious?
“Going back to George Floyd, it’s about reaching out to non-white colleagues and just checking in and understanding the emotions they are experiencing.
“The Idea that we have hard skills and soft skills – we need to get over that and thinking that empathy is a soft skill. I genuinely don’t think you can be a good leader if you don’t have empathy.”
Host, Daniel, concurred: “Empathy, for me, is one of the core skills that anyone needs in their personal and professional life to be fulfilled.”
The two Dans also spoke about how, despite strides in women’s representation in powerful roles, many people still remain stubbornly resistant to the idea of women in charge.
“We call it a double bind. As womens’ competency goes up, their likeability goes down and that just doesn't happen to men,” revealed Roberston while IYB’s host shared a story of homeschooling his son.
Daniel said: “My son’s class was on Google classroom and there was a very bright and articulate girl who was answering questions correctly and three boys said ‘oh she’s so bossy.’ They are six-year-olds! We have a responsibility as adults to be careful of the language we use.”
The episode ended with Roberston letting listeners and viewers in on what they can do today to make the initial change around inclusive and empathy-loaded hiring?
He said: “Firstly, I would go back to the starting point and look at the data. There’s too much of a scattergun approach in terms of our inclusive recruitment processes. Use data to drive your strategy.
“Secondly, I would use services like Get-Optimal. It’s important that organisations ‘debias’ the system. They also need to ‘debias’ their attitude. It’s vital that hiring managers etc are clued up around unconscious bias and how this influences the recruitment process.
“Lastly, have diversity goals. Most organisations have goals on all sorts of things so why not have some metrics and KPIs around DE&I?
“Let's get on the same train and hopefully we will end up at the same destination.”