Creating sustainable change



It is a really valuable exercise to find out what others are doing and learn from their experience, however, the important step of understanding what is happening within our own company is often missed.

70 per cent of change programmes do not deliver the aims and outputs they were originally designed to do. Given that diversity and inclusion is effectively developed and led through a change management approach I’m sure the failure figures are similar.   There are numerous reasons why change programmes don’t succeed, from failing to create a clear vision to declaring victory too soon and slowing down. One consistent reason why D&I strategies fail is that the changes are not anchored into the company culture and are seen as individual initiatives. There is rarely a conversation about D&I that goes by without the word ‘initiatives’ being used repeatedly.

Creating a more diverse and inclusive culture will not happen overnight and a collection of initiatives will not result in the sustainable change many companies are aspiring to without underpinning it with change management principles. To respond to this, we created an easy to follow framework – STAR – to support how you think about your journey.

The framework has been designed to help you plot on the red line where you are on the journey using two key founding components:

  • The levels of engagement this topic has with colleagues across the whole organisation. For example, how well the business case is articulated, how often your managers think about D&I in their day to day activities
  • The extent this work is already embedded in to business as usual. For example, the level of accountability you have established for measures such as good people survey results, whether D&I is a consideration in your supply chain

The framework enables companies to identify where their diversity and inclusion efforts are operating and gives you a clear focus on how to progress to the next level of your journey and how to articulate how you aim to create a more diverse and inclusive organisation. Are you experiencing ‘inertia’ within the business? Are you purely driving ‘initiatives’? Or are you truly operating in a way that will create long term ‘inclusion’?

Over the years we’ve experienced some companies talking about their progress on D&I when that just isn’t the reality their employees are experiencing. It has been a real challenge for many as there are few tools that help create a pragmatic overview of ‘where you are now’ and ‘where you want to be’. There are also limited ways to effectively measure and manage progress – making sure that any actions are firmly built into the strategy and the journey.

The STAR framework will help you identify where you are now as well as where you want to be. The following areas will help you focus on how you are going to make that a reality.

  1. Create a clear plan

Delivering the vision will not happen overnight, so you need to create a plan that may span a number of years covering:

  • The high level projects required to deliver the vision, for example, create and implement flexible ways of working
  • Give a clear understanding of why you are doing those high level projects – what difference will they make
  • Who is responsible for delivery and the implications if they don’t succeed
  • The meaningful short-term actions, and wins that maintain interest and momentum without compromising delivery towards the overarching vision.
  • How you are going to measure the impact – many plans don’t do this properly and often find themselves running around later into delivery trying to decide how they can prove their actions are making a difference.
  1. Create an engaging communications plan

Any well thought through action plan requires a robust communications plan to create engagement internally and raise awareness of your commitments and intentions externally. Ensure that the plan focuses on engaging employees at all levels as to why this is so important, what the benefits will be to them and define the part they will play in creating the change. Feeling that you have a part to play and thinking about the actions you can deliver in everyday work is critical for success.

  1. Use every opportunity to role model the change you would like to see in the company every single day.

As Gandhi famously stated “You must be the change you want to see in the world” role modeling what the overarching vision looks like through day-to-day behaviour is critical. For example, if part of the vision is to create a more collaborative workplace where thoughts and perspectives are gained from a wider group, then make sure you demonstrate that in your day-to-day activities. Encourage and mandate your colleagues and senior leaders to do the same.   When others see what the vision looks like in reality they are more likely to replicate those behaviours.

  1. Change won’t happen without challenging the status quo

Many people are happy to commit to creating a different culture within the workplace and fall at the first hurdle when others push against any change that will impact them. This is a classic example of permitting barriers and roadblocks to hinder or stop progress. Creating change is not easy and there will be some bumps along the way. By focusing on the vision and reminding others what we are ultimately striving for, the path should be a little smoother and you and those around you will be a little more resilient.

Using the above STAR framework and steps will set you up to creating more sustainable change, moving from a collection of well-intentioned initiatives to a strategic and thought through delivery plan and impact measures, that will drive embedded and sustainable change.

Charlotte Sweeney and Fleur Bothwick are authors of Inclusive Leadership: The Definitive Guide to Developing and Executing an Impactful Diversity and Inclusion Strategy published by FT Publishing (27th October), priced £24.99