By Madhukar Govindaraju , Founder & CEO

Everyone needs an ally. Be it in your personal life or the professional space, having allies always makes the job easier. But who is an ally? An ally is a person who takes on another’s struggle as their own. They stand up for you even when you don’t. An ally is a person committed to progress, one who proactively shares growth opportunities, identifies and mitigates micro-inequalities, and transfers the benefit of privilege to those who don’t have it. 

Having a workforce that functions as allies of each other automatically helps in building and strengthening a culture of trust and mutual respect within the organization.

Why allyship matters

We need to talk about allyship as diversity and inclusion and organizational resilience have become important topics of conversation. 

The concept of allyship figures quite strongly to foster a diverse and inclusive workplace. Allyship can fuel diversity and inclusion initiatives as allies bring attention to those unheard voices that struggle to be heard. The concept of allyship is about using individual power and privilege to elevate co-workers, team members, and colleagues and move towards a more inclusive and diverse workplace that is well aware of all bias – both conscious and unconscious.

While all this is true, research shows that while more than 80% of white women and men see themselves as allies to colleagues of other races and ethnicities, less than 50% of Blacks and Latinas feel that they have strong allies at work. If diversity and inclusion initiatives are at work then we need to be concerned about this startling gap.

Building allyship should matter to organizations today because 

  • Elements like diversity and inclusion have a crucial influence on the narrative of the workforce. With millennials and Gen Z making up a majority of the workforce, organizations need to wake up to the fact that this generation wants more than lip service to diversity and inclusion initiatives. 
  • It is vital for the inclusion of other groups as well such as those with disabilities, or mental health challenges. This aspect becomes all the more crucial as people across the world battle mental health issues with rising concerns over work from home burnout.
  • TAs we battle challenging times, organizations also realize that they need to build resilience into their DNA. Allyship can be a great driver of resilience as it helps in building trusted relationships between peers and helps them connect and care for each other. 
  • Employees and customers are both looking at organizations to become the beacons of equality and inclusion. They will not hesitate to vote with their feet if they feel that organizational values do not match their own. 

Allyship needs coaching

To build allyship, words of intent have to turn into powerful actions. 

However, words translate into action only when we truly understand the intent behind investing time in supporting and lifting others. It is consistent personal actions that work towards building an inclusive environment. If we look closely, developing allyship is about building an understanding of how systemic bias and social conditioning have influenced our belief systems and behaviors. 

Coaching can be a powerful tool to navigate the challenges that impede building allyship within the organization and help the workforce embrace the new concept and drive the necessary mind shifts to build a shared purpose towards diversity and inclusion.

Coaching works to build allyship primarily because it is:

  • Contextual and personalized  

Change only happens when people truly want to change. And people only want to change when they understand why they need to change.

For example, coaching helps people understand the underlying gaps in conditioning and how this conditioning impacts bias. Most people are unaware of their bias and need to understand how this bias affects others at work and the organizational culture. Building the understanding and context about how those different from us are not lesser than us demands a change in thoughts and learned behaviors. 

Through positive and continuous interactions, coaching establishes the context that people need to bring a shift in their behaviors. It thereby contributes towards building allyship across the enterprise.

Unlike day-long training programs aimed at improving diversity and inclusion, coaching can be highly personalized. It is targeted and specific to the challenges of an individual and helps in building the critical skills needed to build allyship.

  • Continuous 

You get a bunch of people in a room and talk to them about the importance of allyship and the benefits removing bias brings to them as individuals and to an organization. This group is greatly enthused with the talk. However, once this day-long session is over and the initial enthusiasm wears off, people go back to their old patterns.

People are creatures of habit. And changing any habit takes time and effort. The thing is, when it comes to behavioral change, this effort has to be continuous. One has to be mindful at all times to truly internalize the impact of their actions and gain the confidence to challenge behaviors that impede allyship.

Coaching is a continuous exercise. Unlike training programs, the relationship between the coach and the learner is grounded in trust and feedback. It is a non-directive method that involves inquiry and care and works with compassion and helps people understand that all beliefs are ultimately malleable. 

  • Aids growth 

Elements that impact diversity and inclusion such as unconscious bias demand that we continuously challenge ourselves and our peers to aid growth and learning. This is a process that has to be on the path of continuous evolution as well. 

The objective for developing allyship across the organization is to build the workforce such that every individual can develop the critical skills needed to become agents of change. Research shows that when we are made more aware of our behaviors, we are more likely to support issues like diversity.  

Coaching helps in building this awareness amongst people that aid intellectual growth. It keeps the right conversations going to support advocacy for issues like diversity and inclusion and traits that build resilience.

  • Builds Trust 

All employees want to feel like valued members of the organization. That is why most employee engagement initiatives focus on creating a sense of belonging, community, and connection at work. It is especially important for leaders and managers to actively demonstrate helpful and positive behaviors that build trust. 

Not giving employees a voice or being selective about it, lacking listening skills, command and control leadership, etc. are all signs of non-inclusive and untrusting behaviors. Coaching helps people identify the right behaviors that build trust and brings awareness towards behaviors and microaggressions that impede allyship. 

We have moved towards a hybrid work environment. With a certain section working remotely, it becomes all the more important to lead responsibly and help employees feel valued and trusted. Since coaching is a highly accountable process, it helps in bringing about the required change in actions and thoughts that contribute to increasing the trust quotient across the organization. 

In Conclusion 

Plato said, “Reality is created by the mind. We can change our reality by changing our minds”. For a long time, organizations have leveraged the ‘command-control’ strategy to drive productivity and profitability. But with the evolution of time and intellect, people no longer respond to these strategies. As the business landscape becomes more complex and challenging, and as workforce demographics change, organizations have to shift their workforce management strategies. Allyship is that tool that can help the workforce connect in meaningful ways and bring about real change in mindsets and behaviors. 

Connect with us to see how our AI-powered coaching platform can help you develop allyship in your workplace. 

By Madhukar Govindaraju , Founder & CEO

The differential impact of the pandemic has compounded the predicament for women across all economic groups – be it battling on the frontlines, warped distribution of unpaid care, gender exploitation, or an escalated risk of domestic violence. Evidence from disaggregated data essentially reports the impact on the well-being of women at large with irretrievable social and economic consequences. With meager resources available for mitigating gender inequality, the call of the hour is to recalibrate organizational policies and diversify talent with women on the forefront.

We recently discussed the fallout of the pandemic and the exacerbating gender inequality by throwing light on how governments and stakeholders can mainstream policies for a more gender-balanced ecosystem. Essentially, envisioning how the voice of the woman can be more accurately represented is critical for expediting progress towards a gender-equitable workplace. The stark truth that the pandemic has exposed in the context of gender bias is an unprecedented challenge that can be conquered with ‘resilience, courage, adaptability, and collaboration’.

With compelling research on how women-led countries are managing the pandemic more productively, we can see that these nations are a direct reflection of a society that endeavors to drive inclusion and advocate gender parity. Observations on how countries with greater gender parity are managed are indicative of intrinsic feminine characteristics that are largely distinct from the conventional supervisory and controlling influence.

As organizations are striving to apply a gender lens whilst revisiting their policies, it has been observed that women have equal makings of a powerful leadership. The inherent qualities of pragmatism, resilience, and humility are some of the key attributes of a majority of women leaders. Equity in business leadership and across the board not only elevates cultural diversity but also delivers an experience of a profound organizational culture. Rethinking systemic progress to harness the power of all genders is the baseline for diverse leadership in organizations. 

Numly has handpicked some of the key factors that can help drive organizational and behavioral changes to promote gender equity:

  • Re-invent the workplace

With the new normal of how the pandemic is reshaping the workplace, businesses must grow to be more adaptive. The absoluteness of the pandemic has organizations looking to address the experience of the workplace as being ‘outdated’ and are endeavoring to stay on the ball.

  • Re-evaluate core practices 

Fostering practices and policies amongst senior leadership – and not just an individual to drive a shift towards inclusion is imperative. Organizations must combat gender inequality with the cognizance of female talent by introducing a comprehensive and systematic agenda in their best practices. This new realm of leadership ensures active participation of everyone’s intelligence in driving successful business outcomes. 

  • Offer support for new learning and development 

Harness the power of senior women leaders to provide continual engagement for retaining women through developmental and reskilling opportunities. Strategizing a career path with flexible work policies to ensure career advancement is found to have a deep impact on employee retention thereof. 

  • Bolster leaders and managers to foster talent 

The essence of equity at the workplace must begin with leadership development at the core. Mentoring managers and leaders with out-of-the-box coaching tools and training practices can help leverage their role in augmenting the participation of women in the workforce. A consciously led support for women in the selection and promotion processes must be practiced while providing developmental opportunities.

  • Fortify diversity and inclusion beyond gender 

Focusing on a culture where everybody is heard through diversity and inclusion. With inclusion, organizations are bound to achieve diversity as part of a cultural shift. Integrate global diversity into the organizations’ value-proposition by advocating equity as an integral practice. Diversity has been known to generate increased ROI, greater innovation, and elevated levels of employee engagement, productivity, and commitment. Organizational leaders must analyze the connection between their diversity efforts and business objectives.

  • Practice a shift in mindset for a more empathetic workplace

With increasing turnover rates for women employees at workplaces posing a serious threat, it has become imperative for companies to place employee mental health and well-being at the highest priority in the face of the pandemic. Fostering empathy and compassion among employees helps create a feeling of solidarity and delivers a positive experience cycle. Promote women leadership for a gender-balanced environment by leveraging characteristics that involve resilience, courage, adaptability, empathy, collaboration, and cognizance of collective contribution.

Numly continues to recognize the extraordinary contributions made by women, especially in the face of the pandemic – be it in business, civic, and personal lives. However, the rigor of the progress that has been made as indicated in workforce demographics needs to see a sustained effort toward an organically diverse and inclusive workplace. Investing in inclusive leadership to unleash the true capability of diversity is a pivot point for sustained evolution in the workforce – where every leader asks the routine question of whether their actions are perceived as equitable.

Our prepackaged programs including the Women Leadership Development and D,E&I programs are focused on helping organizations increase women’s sense of influence in the workplace. We design coaching and mentoring models that enable businesses to build gender equity that is significant for women in the context of the fallout of the pandemic and is a ‘win-win’ situation for attracting, retaining, and engaging talent.

We also offer a host of reverse mentoring programs for managers that actively engage both men and women employees in creative thinking and innovation-centric strategy for the ‘future-proofing’ of businesses. Numly helps identify the right methods around achieving the central theme – organizational equity by leveraging the art of adaptability, both in thought and action across diverse cultures. 

NumlyEngage is an end-end digital solution model designed to help transform organizations and their people through Peer Coaching and self-development programs. Fortifying women’s voices in leadership by breaking stereotypes and inspiring a change toward a more resilient workforce is the core of our practices.