Edna Vessey’s Featured Article – SHRM 2024 May-Jun Newsletter


Have you ever stood on the receiving end of a well-planned but poorly executed initiative? In my nearly 20 years of business transformation experience, I have witnessed executive leaders, colleagues, and workstream owners participate for months or years, working long, exasperated hours, driving towards an outcome that, in the end, floundered. “What happened?” “Where did it go wrong?”  “What did we miss?”  These are the retrospective questions the core team is left pondering.  Since inclusivity is not often fostered, too few voices are heard to fix the issues, leading to an even more significant change management initiative.


This is the essence of an Inclusive Change Management Strategy, a crucial aspect that, when implemented effectively, can lead to transformative and successful outcomes.


How can an inclusive change management strategy be created?


An inclusive change management strategy explores the diverse complexity of the workforce and leverages this insight to formulate a comprehensive approach. These steps will provide an easy guideline for incorporating inclusivity into the change objective.


Understanding Diversity Group: Collaborating with HR partners is crucial to gathering data and analyzing the diversity of the impacted group. For example, HR can pull information that will help you understand the age demographic of the impacted group, which will help tailor communication towards a more meaningful and inclusive interaction. Working with HR partners to proactively identify the neurodiverse workforce will ensure accessibility needs are met, tailoring training or communication according to those needs. Neurodiversity, which promotes the idea that there is no “right” way of thinking/learning/behaving, as well as agism, are often overlooked as part of the inclusive approach.


Owning The Diversity: Leveraging business partners or industry experts to derive relevant diversity information can be a game changer in the effectiveness of your change management plan. In the hospitality industry, for example, leveraging business partners in this field can help identify that the communication approach used for the resort workforce should differ from that of corporate users as they may not have access to email—a method regularly used in corporate settings. Staying in the world of hospitality, you might find globally dispersed staff; conducting training in their native language will be more effective than sending material or hosting training classes in your native language.  The point is to keep your planning and strategizing relevantly diverse and inclusive.


Involving Your Diversity: I have lost count of how often I have been the only woman in the room or the only Latinx sitting at the table. I certainly vividly remember not feeling heard earlier in my career because I didn’t have the same years of experience or the same level of education. When forming a task force, it’s not just about diversity for the sake of it but about ensuring proper representation by a diverse group, making everyone feel included and respected.


So, what next?  How can you implement the guidelines listed above? Once you better understand your diverse workforce, it’s time to evaluate your tactical or project team. Ask yourself, “Did we intentionally form an inclusive change advocacy team?” “Do our communication and training plans cater to the needs of our diverse workforce?” Having these questions front and center in your planning and strategizing sessions will help avoid the “where did we go wrong” questions.


As the CEO of Google, Sundar Pichai stated, ‘A diverse mix of voices leads to richer discussions, more informed decisions, and ultimately, better outcomes for everyone.’ Embracing diversity isn’t just about ticking boxes; it’s about leveraging our differences for superior outcomes. It’s about being intentional about who is in the room and ensuring that you, as a leader, have made a conscious decision to be inclusive.


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