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Why Developing Allyship Should be an Organizational Priority

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. 

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