Caretaker is an adjective that can describe a leader but is uncommonly used. However, organizational leaders are responsible for their workplaces and the wellbeing of their employees (during hours of operation of course). As companies continue to increase diverse hiring, leaders should consider how to ensure the environment is one that will retain talent. Leaders must increase intentionality around inclusion to create workplaces that foster growth, ideation and authenticity. However, when asked to operate through a lens of unfamiliarity, leaders must be their own caretakers by engaging in continuous learning through expansion of their circles, reading, continuing to raise empathy levels, and immersing themselves into environments that are not familiar and or comfortable.
Leading is an honor. There are ebbs and flows, however, it is an opportunity to make great impact. It is also an opportunity for great learning, most of which are on the job. It is when leaders must work to ensure that employees are happy, successful and being treated fairly. Leaders and the workplace experiences they create and allow are what employees remember and are the impetus to whether talent is retained and for how long. According to a study conducted by Harvard Business Publishing, a question regarding the business impact of diversity and inclusion, 20% of respondents say that teams with inclusive leaders are more likely to make better decisions. And 29% say that they are more likely to report behaving more collaboratively. In the same study, 86% of respondents say a company’s commitment to workplace diversity affects their decision to work there.  Also, 42% reported they are less likely to leave their job within a year. Amid growing calls to increase hiring of BIPOC and other diverse candidates, leaders are expected to be somewhat knowledgeable about the needs of their employees.
This area of leadership may sound daunting. And in some respects, it is. Working to change workplace cultures, policies and procedures to include inclusive and equitable practices is not easy. This work demands tearing down and rebuilding systems, behaviors and thought process that have been in place for centuries. This is precisely why workplace caretakers i.e.; leaders must be intentional about moving beyond courageous conversations to courageous actions.
Fortify Yourself– It is imperative that leaders are knowledgeable about inclusion or have individuals around them who are. We cannot assume that because someone is in a leadership role, that they know what inclusion is or how its demonstrated. Again, taking time to ask questions and listen what is going on beyond your normal sphere of associates can start to prepare you for creating environments where diversity is appreciated and leveraged.
Take Care of Your Employees– and they will take care of you. Employees are loyal to employers who are transparent, authentic and who listen. Communicating care and concern for their professional and personal wellbeing can render a huge payoff. Your employees will remain engaged and dedicated to the work.
Operational Excellence– Create roles for diversity that is not present in the organization. Measuring diversity and creating metrics is a way to tell the story whether positive or not. Leaders cannot continue to stick your heads in the sand and hope the issues will soon go away. Organizations must be laser focused on profitable strategies and processes, now more than ever before. This requires leaders to demonstrate ingenuity and the ability to seamlessly modify antiquated workplace practices to create environments where diversity is celebrated.
Good leadership is needed for success in this area. And those leaders who are realistic about the need for change can benefit by becoming trailblazers and influencing others to follow.