How to future proof your organization

Increasing the diversity of your team and providing your employees with a feeling of belonging can give your organization a competitive advantage over firms which overlook these values.

September 26 2018

Are you smoothly navigating the waters ahead? Are you equipped to navigate the future successfully, through the ambiguity, volatility and disruption that we face? Is your workforce capable of consistently strong decision making? Can your firm combat institutional blindness? Are your people agile enough to find innovative solutions to complex questions: to emerging digital technologies, new environmental demands? Is your organization skilled at risk management, and does it have a healthy risk culture? Can your leaders drive change and successfully execute strategies in these times? Is your firm “future proofed”?

Strategic, forward-thinking firms, and industries, are already taking these questions seriously. They know that if they don’t, they will be at a competitive disadvantage. They will lose out on access to talent, clients, and new markets, and they know that they will not have the right leadership and culture to navigate constant and complex change and uncertainty. If you’re not already thinking about these things, you will risk being left behind.

Leaders Are the True Drivers

Getting your culture right is key to your success. Organizational cultures are shaped by their leaders: intentionally and unintentionally. Their words, behavior, dress, and mannerisms are observed, emulated, and repeated—the good and the bad. It’s up to each individual leader to decide whether he or she wants to be a good one.

Future-proofed firms have leaders that know how to be power players in the “economy of belonging”; they have the knowledge and skills to engage employees and foster loyalty, trust, and motivation—the necessary motor parts for success.

Power Players in the Economy of Belonging

By becoming power players in the “economy of belonging” leaders are accessing the most effective tools for sustainable business results: the power of belonging and its inherent diversity.

When people feel the power of belonging, they feel valued, accepted, seen. People will only engage if they feel that they belong. As organizations struggle to attract and retain millennials, the power of belonging will be a go-to tool in engaging them in the overall goals and direction of a firm.

On the flip side, feeling excluded is the number one cause of disengagement. The cost to business cannot be underestimated.

Including Individual Icebergs

The power of belonging opens the door to the true return on investment of inclusion: diversity of perspectives.

In the economy of belonging, visible diversity is no longer enough. We shift our focus to the uniqueness of individuals and to capturing the kaleidoscope of diverse perspectives.

We will actively seek complex diversity. Social demographics will no longer be sufficient as the key indicator of diversity. Complex diversity goes beyond the visible; it champions the uniqueness in each of us. There’s no such thing as non-diverse. Diversity will no longer be defined by the differences among people in the organization: diversity will be defined by the different perspectives in the room and how their uniqueness adds value.

Vehicle for Excellence in Execution

It’s a paradox. On the face of it, diversity of perspectives looks like it takes longer. In reality, the time that you spend on it upfront you will get back tenfold on the back end. If you’re trying to execute a strategy, you have to reduce the drag, and the power of belonging reduces that drag. It is the conduit to achieving excellence in execution.

Economy of Belonging Adds Value and Optimizes Operations

• Provides an early warning systems for bad decision making, combating institutional blindness.
• Creates more willingness to take a leap of faith, adding value, optimizing organizational functioning and nurtures the next level of engagement.
• Taps into the wisdom of crowds. Diverse group always outperforms homogenous group in problem solving. Creative and innovative problem solving will be at your fingertips, and you will welcome more probing questions in complex situations.

Economy of Belonging Mitigates Risk and Improves Risk Management

• The main pillars of a diverse, and inclusive culture are fully aligned with a healthy risk culture. They are two sides of the same cultural coin.
• Diversity of perspectives refines risk identification and perception. Some groups perceive risk differently than others. Expert groups are more likely to be tolerant of uncertainty.
• Creative conflict is allowed. It’s a pressure valve against uniformity. It dissipates group think¹. Those who oppose the group’s opinion will be welcomed.

Economy of Belonging Has Strategic Advantages: Global Talent Magnet and Client Engagement

Global Talent Magnet:
• The economy of belonging is your best countermeasure against poaching. The bond of belonging is the new organizational glue. It is how we motivate, engage, and create loyalty.
• It future proofs your organization as the talent pool shrinks, changes its face, becomes global and less mobile.
• It boosts your employee brand (and employer value proposition).

Client Engagement:
• The economy of belonging helps you form and retain a loyal client base, allowing your company to ward off low-cost competitors. It positions your firm past the price.
• It is key to new and underserved niche markets. You will be able to tap into previously denied access points to invisible and influential local networks.
• You will be able to offer savvy solutions and more nuanced and targeted service and product design.

Steering in the Right Direction

There are numerous steps that the maritime industry can take to improve, and it starts at the top. As leaders :
• Let it be known, consistently and frequently, that this is one of your and the firm’s top-three priorities.
• Speak articulately and eloquently on the issue: make it personal and link it to business strategy.
• Lead by example and pay attention to unwritten rules, your own intentions, and your own interactions.
• Hold other leaders and managers accountable for all the above, and those described below.

Simply Select and LIVE the Best Policies and Processes

• Stop hiring and promoting in your own image. Address individual and systemic unconscious bias.²
• Strive for clarity and transparency, in the way you manage your talent.
• Advertise all job vacancies, even project roles. About 80% of job vacancies are not advertised.
• Broaden your search beyond your usual networks, recruiters, schools and career fairs.
• Reword your job descriptions. Make sure they’re gender balanced.
• Implement “blind” recruiting, to avoid unconscious bias in candidate selection.
• Establish diverse candidate slates. Do not accept the “there are none out there” excuse.
• Use diverse hiring panels, that are trained in addressing their unconscious biases.
• Standardize interviews, to reduce bias.
• Make succession planning and talent development inclusive. Whose on your lists?
• Be aware of gendered differences, and gendered language.
• Explore or develop flexible working models, that do not penalize careers.
• Ensure fair play for agile workers, and never make assumptions about their ambitions.
• Mentor, or better yet, sponsor someone different from yourself. Informally or formally.
• Institutionalize maternal and paternal leave. Make sure that it’s lived and not penalized.
• And crucially, focus on fostering deep flexibility: replace archaic norms of how, when, and where you work with a focus on results.

¹Definition: “group think” occurs when the group is willing to take more risk than any of the individuals present would themselves.
²Joanna Lublin, Bringing Hidden Biases into the Light—Big Businesses Teach Staffers How “Unconscious Bias” Impacts Decisions, Wall St. J., Jan. 9, 2014.

The views expressed in this Insight are those of the author alone and not necessarily those of the Global Maritime Forum. Excerpts may be published with reference to the Global Maritime Forum.

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