When entitlement and transparency clash (and how learning and development needs to respond)

The last few months have seen seismic shifts in the equality debate, especially in regards to gender. Hollywood seems to be the epicentre and the after shocks have hit the UK government but it definitely won’t stop here.

 

Learning & Development (L&D) needs to recognise that it presents a disruptive era within the equality and diversity narrative. Leaders within all industries must recognise the inevitable role of equality, diversity and inclusion in organisational culture and brand.

 

In recent years, learning and development have focused on unconscious bias. This has opened people’s eyes to what they (allegedly) didn’t know. The impact has been enlightening, however, little evidence of organisational behaviour is really changing.

 

As a result, the tectonic plates collide…

What we have now is very different. In fact, the tectonic plates of “entitlement” and “transparency” are colliding.

 

Entitlement is conscious, but not spoken about. When a Hollywood movie producer is made a demigod, power and entitlement result. It allows individuals to believe they have the right to intimidate and overpower others. They think they have the right to make comments to those who are junior and vulnerable or touch them inappropriately. And we squirm with revulsion. But entitlement is also, about some who believe they have the right to a position or pay rise simply because they are of a particular gender, race or other characteristics. Not repulsive, but maybe a slight shuffle in our seat!

 

Transparency has two key drivers. Social media now gives a voice that can’t be silenced. #metoo, for example, is a global movement empowering women to share experiences that have been suppressed. Within the hallowed halls of Westminster ‘WhatsApp’ is a digital platform used by female staff to expose and warn others of “the usual suspects”.

 

Ironically the other driver for transparency is the UK Government. They are tired of business kicking the equality agenda into the long grass. So they decided that they were going to force organisations to publish data and allow the public to judge for themselves. The gender pay gap was the first shock and many organisations panicked when they witnessed the BBC backlash.

 

Nevertheless, this isn’t just about Hollywood or the UK Government…

Although very different and disconnected drivers, they are both shaping an agenda, that empowers those who have been silenced and will cause organisations to have to rethink who they are and how they behave. This isn’t just about Hollywood or the UK government. This is your organisation too. Earthquakes cause damage and after the shocks have ceased there will be a need to rebuild.

 

So what’s the role of L&D in this fast-changing circumstances?

This is a time where L&D must harness this energy and consider how it helps to shape learning experiences that will create authentic changes in thinking and behaviour. We need to focus on what is conscious, however uncomfortable it may be. We need to facilitate brave, honest and challenging dialogue that will help to stimulate cultural change that promotes equality, diversity and inclusion core and not a tick box exercise.

 

We need to prepare leaders to think about the environments that they create and what they permit.

 

It will be difficult and uncomfortable but L&D professionals need to be brave and seize the opportunity to disrupt and create potentially the most important changes that will have been witnessed in decades.