Management Development Tips with a DEI Lens w/Martine Kalaw Ep#164
SME Strategy is a strategy consulting company that specializes in aligning teams around their vision, mission, values, goals and action plans. Learn more about how we can help align your team with our strategic planning and implementation services.
Anthony: Welcome, folks to this episode of the Strategy & Leadership Podcast. My name is Anthony Taylor, I'm going to be your host today. Today I am joined by Martine Kalaw. Martine, how are you today?
Martine: I'm great Anthony, how are you?
Anthony: I'm so excited. We've just had a such an amazing intro call today. So I'm just excited to get into the heart of what you do, your body of work, and your career. You recently wrote ABCs of Diversity: A Manager’s Guide To Diversity, Equity, And Inclusion In The New Workplace. Tell our listeners who you are, why you're amazing, why you bring the 'wow', and what you do for work.
Martine: Yeah, thank you. So I have a boutique firm that supports human resources professionals in being able to gain confidence around driving diversity, equity and inclusion in the workplace. So we want to be able to equip human resources professionals with ways to identify the return on investment of DEI, being able to reduce the burden of having to own DEI and save time around DEI. We do that through training and consulting.
And in conjunction with that, I really believe that human resources alongside managers can help to really shift the makeup, shift DEI in the workplace, because these two groups really influence the makeup of an organization and the trajectory of somebody's career.
Whether it be hiring, promotion, compensation, attrition, people stay or leave organizations because of their managers. Diversity, equity and inclusion is a huge component of each of these foundational management skills. So human resources professionals can take ownership of equipping and providing managers with these tools. So then in turn, we can actually start to make DEI more accessible in the workplace through these foundational skills. It doesn't have to be so so ethereal.
Why do I do the work that I do? Because one, I've spent my entire career in the HR space, more specifically learning and development, designing DEI training. Whether it's unconscious bias training, you know, racial equity training or workshops in that space. In that capacity of designing management programs, DEI programs and training, I also understand the pressure that human resources already has in their work.
I also understand that sometimes it can feel like, when you're human resources, you're trying to vie for a seat at the table. So then all of a sudden, you're now given this other initiative that oftentimes feels like an extracurricular activity. So in that capacity, I'm sensitive to the workload that HR has already. I'm also sensitive to, and I'm familiar with, the skills that managers need to develop. I've designed programs, I'm familiar with it. I also have my own personal and academic experience in organizational development. So the combination of all these things has sort of equipped me to really drive DEI in the workplace, in this capacity through human resources and through managers.
Anthony: Yeah, absolutely. No, I love that - it's super important. One of the things that I really want to touch on, you know, the DEI side is important and foundational to what you do. But in the years of training and development that you've had for yourself, I want to really emphasize the first thing you said, or one of the first things he said, which was game confidence. So anytime somebody is learning a new skill, whether that new skill is coding, communication, web development, or understanding the intricacies of diversity, equity and inclusion, they're gonna be bad at it first.
So in your years of learning and development, how foundational or how important is it for somebody to have kind of a incremental development plan as they go into making these new board decisions for themselves in their organizations?
Martine: It's really about level setting. So we can't expect for everyone to come in knowing everything, just like you said. There's a learning curve. So that applies to anything whether it's DEI, whether it's management, development, all of these things require or involve a learning curve. So we've got to create a space for that. They're different levels to the learning, and learning really involves the peer to peer interaction as much as it involves these classroom or virtual workshops. So really, that's what it is and learning works best and is most effective when you can apply it to your day to day job. You're able to apply it and then come back and say this works, this is what didn't work.
That's really why I feel strongly that in every organization, whenever there's opportunity for growth, anytime we're promoting people to a new position, there's opportunity for management development. We should all - if we don't have that in our organizations, there's a great opportunity for that, right? Because that increases productivity, it allows for people to be more motivated within our organizations, it allows for engagement, right? It allows for us to spread the wealth in terms of the workload, and all of these other things. So that's why management development is already critical and important. So what we get to do is, we take this foundational learning, these skill sets, and we just widen the lens a little bit. We start looking at hiring, because that's a component of manager development.
Being a hiring manager, what does it look like? So what a component of DEI infused into this hiring practice looks like? Well, let's start to think about where all of us have tendencies to have biases. When we're looking at resumes, right? We all carry affinity bias. How can we start to account for that, when we look at a resume and see a certain school or a company? What do we do to mitigate that bias, so that we're open to looking at other resumes? How do we widen our network? How do we partner with recruiting or talent acquisition to get in a wider pool of candidates?
So that's really what pivoting DEI, in the space of management development, can look like. So it's a lot more foundational, it's a lot more digestible, and makes DEI a lot more accessible.
We can help you align your team around a clear vision, mission, values, goals and action plans,
so you can lead your organization more effectively and get better results.
Anthony: Yeah. So I'll ask a kind of weird question. As you look at DEI, it is way overdue, for lack of a better term. Like there's a lot of opportunity and not DEI for the sake of DEI, because it's 'what you should do'. But actually, because there's a business benefit.
What do you think if we talk about that learning and growth - what do you think is in the way of it being adopted more? Is it that organizations are afraid of doing it? Is it that they're not negatively incentivized enough to not do it? What is - I don't want to say what's taking so long - that's not really my question. But when is that tipping point going to happen? Speaking of that, level setting and incremental growth.
Martine: That's a really great question. I think it's starting to happen. What we know is that DEI efforts, whether they were called the DEI efforts, whether they were just diversity efforts, this is not new. It's not something that's brand new, it's been around for decades, and we know that there has been a lot of opportunity. There's opportunity for systemic remediation of compensation, equity in compensation. Within the workplace, there are lots of things that we get to do differently.
So what's taking so long is, I would argue what you just said earlier, some organizations don't feel they haven't been given permission to acknowledge that there's a return on investment. That and to be able to see this as a business structure, just like we see security, or we see marketing, or we see sales. Security is such a great example, because it's something that's absolutely critical. It's fairly new, like the whole concept of data security in the workplace, it's still fairly new, within the last 15/20 years. A lot of companies have been taking more initiative around that space, but nobody looks at it as "oh, it's just the right thing to do". Right?
We also look at what the cost is of not doing it. And we look at the benefit, the savings, what we're able to draw in. I think that because DEI is so personal, there's a lot of emotion and stories connected to it as there should be. A lot of organizations feel like maybe people are afraid, they feel like it's going to cheapen it by being able to identify it as an a business imperative as well. So that's what I like to do. I feel that, you know, I sit in a particular body, being a black woman where I can sort of assure people into acknowledging that yes, it can be both.
It can be the right thing to do, and it can also be a business structure that does have a benefit, a quantitative benefit to the business. So that's really what's been taking a little bit longer than we would like.
Anthony: Yeah, I get that. Well, I tried to approach race and background - it's not even and I understand that. But here's my next question is. Imagine you're at a restaurant, and you're with your best client, or the people that you've known for a long time. You know you're not gonna pull any punches with them. Do you know what I mean? Like, you're gonna give it to them straight 100%. And if you want to take the platform, shoot real straight with our audience today as they look at these things.
We have a lot of people who talk about DEI, there's some people who have read about it, some people might be feeling the outward pressure of it. But I'd love to hear from your perspective, if you feel so candid, like a no bullshit approach around like, hey, what do you need to do? Like, how do you get this going, stop being afraid of blank? If you feel so inclined. Otherwise, you could just tell us anything else that you want people to know about diversity, inclusion, and how to make it work for them.
Martine: I love it. And my job is to be a straight shooter. I mean, I think the first thing we've got to do is identify what the benefit is, because then there's going to be a cost associated with it, there's going to be resources. I argue that just like with any other business structure, there are systems that actually look at the intersection of different diversity categories.
Oftentimes, what I see organizations sort of run away from - it's one thing to look at the distribution of gender across all of our different departments and all of our different regions. That's just one layer at the top layer, super easy to do with any system. But it's another thing to look at the cross section between gender and race, and also, maybe age category or generational groupings across our different departments. And then let's look at that as it relates to promotion. That's a whole different story. I think organizations are apprehensive about doing that, generally speaking, because they're afraid of what the numbers are going to show and reveal. It's going to show that they have a lot of work to do. But I think that we can all agree that we're all starting from zero, or maybe one, and it's okay.
Furthermore, organizations sometimes wonder well, what's the incentive? How do I benefit? If we start to create more systemic remediation, so that all the systemic inequities that somehow trickled into the workplace are improved, how do I benefit? I'm doing pretty fairly well, right now. So that's why that return on investment has to happen first. Being able to identify the impact, the value, what does the organization actually gain? What are the savings that we're going to get from doing all of this work? That has to come up front. So that's the first thing, ROI, identify the cost. And the cost sometimes involves certain systems, so investing in systems that can run like analytics that are actually looking at the cross section of data.
We also want to look at the cross section of data and look at the numbers because we want to have a baseline, so we can benchmark against real numbers, right? Then the other thing is really looking at who are the stakeholders and what their responsibilities are. Oftentimes, you know, what I've seen, and I shouldn't say often, but what I do see or have seen is that some organizations will have the equivalent of a an employee resource group. They're making strides around DEI and they have a lot of great programs, but there's no strategy around it. So you'll have strategy, just like with any other business structure. If you just have a bunch of great programs, no strategy, no system, no way of measuring whether or not we're actually improving or not, well no wonder no one's going to feel inclined to make it a priority. So that's where there's opportunity.
Then lastly, the other part of it is the soft skills. Where we're actually talking about stories, when we're actually bringing people in to understand what people's experiences are, and how it ties back to the history of the workplace, and the history of our country. We're in the US - or the history of systemic oppression in other parts of the world. It looks different in other parts of the world, but it exists.
So in order to get there, there's got to be an opening where we can create a space as an organization. Where people are allowed to learn, they're allowed to ask questions, and they don't feel like there's a certain stigma where they're going to be shamed or blamed by asking the wrong questions. As an organization, we have to be willing to be a little bit more graceful, and gracious, and how we engage in those conversations, so that everyone feels like they can say something. Because one of the things that I hear more than I'd like to, when I'm leading these types of conversations, I usually get white men who feel like, "Martine, I'm not allowed to say anything, I don't feel like I should say anything, I don't want to say the wrong thing, I don't want to offend anyone, I don't think it's my place." And my response is, if you don't feel like it's your place, then we've got a longer way to go than I thought, because the only way things change is for everyone to be involved.
When we look at the demographics of who is sitting at the helm of most of these organizations, they're predominantly white men. So if white men do not feel like they can be part of the conversation, then we're really not going to get as far as we need to. So we need everyone in that conversation as well.
Anthony: Absolutely. For everybody listening, I talked to a lot of people about this, people who have historically been marginalized. People are kind of tired of having to stand up for themselves all the time. So like, know that it is absolutely your place. And that you can do that. It's okay to be wrong, because the only way that you're going to make progress is by being wrong from time to time. I'm wrong all the time, so I'm okay with that.
Martine: I'm wrong lots of times too.
Anthony: Perfect - that's the only way we move forward. But Martine, I want to take something that I thought was really cool. Looking at diversity, equity, inclusion in itself as a business, as you would security or any kind of other like business priority. You can't just have the programs, you need to have the strategy, you need to consider your stakeholders, you need to have the communication and then bring it down to the soft skills - which is like you would do with any function.
Martine: Yes, Anthony.
Anthony: You said it! I'm just repeating it. But we facilitate strategic planning sessions. When we do strategic planning, we say, "hey, it's a framework for everybody to win". Because we provide the ground rules, we provide the framework, we provide the guidance, so that everybody can be successful. But then also, if you do everything that you talked about, you can put that framework, that system, that structure so that everybody can be successful. A word you said that I really liked was remediate. It's actually to look at all the areas in your business or in your organization that you've historically screwed up, whether it was your fault or not.
The same thing with strategy. You do strategy, you fix the problems you created with your people. If you remediate the DEI inequities, then you make it fair for everybody. If you make it fair for everybody, you're going to have such better performance, because then it's actually providing opportunities for everybody. That's the next level of growth and productivity. Did I get that Martine?
Martine: I couldn't have said it better myself - everyone wins. I do want to say that doesn't happen overnight. So the other thing that I do want to remind organizations is, look, you're getting a lot of pressure from your employees, right? It's the Great Resignation. So employees are coming in, they're showing up to organizations, and they're just kind of like "what can you do for me? You're not working fast enough." But remember, employees can't dictate everything. They can help influence things. But if we're just reacting to them, then we're not actually being authentic, right?
So we've got to be okay telling them, "Hey, slow down, we're not going to just throw a bunch of programs together to appease you, we're going to actually treat this as a business function. We're going to build this out, and it's going to take time." But if we actually have the strategies in place, and we lay it out where we're communicating it in the same way we communicate every other business structure or function, then our employees can't help but to respect that. I think that people know, individuals know, when an organization is being performative. They can sort of sense it, versus when an organization is being really thoughtful. They're taking their time and laying things out. Look, we're not going to create systemic remediation overnight.
It takes time. So I do also want to give organizations permission to not feel like they have to react so quickly. This stuff takes time. And that is alright, as well.
Anthony: I got one more thing that I'd love a 30 second answer on, because you mentioned "let's not give more work to HR, let's make sure we spread the workload". So in 30 seconds or less, whose job is it to be able to drive those changes? Because I know from my perspective, when HR bring something to the table, it's maybe HR wants us to do this. So who needs to drive this so that as part of the strategy - it's a we get to do not a must do?
Martine: I mean, truly, this shouldn't necessarily an HR responsibility. It should really be seen as another business function where we're bringing in an expert, and they have an expert team. But in a lot of instances, we don't have that. So who else gets to be responsible? Well, we get to build it into our strategy, whether we build it into our performance management or wherever.
But if we build it into our values, into all these different elements of our business, our core business, and it becomes the responsibility of everyone, including our leadership. So our leadership is responsible for being accountable, right? So our leadership, our managers, human resources, and our ERGs - we kind of can work all in tandem. HR not just being the person who's running it, but our talent acquisition. So recruiting is a huge component of really driving DEI. That's the first.
The second is, of course, we talked about managers.
But then the third is who are managers - who's being accountable, where are they accountable to? They're accountable to the leaders. So the leaders are actually making sure that managers are actually implementing these practice, mitigating bias, and maybe we're actually looking at it based on measurement. They're based on performance. And then at the end of the day, who is involved in actually overseeing the overall strategy? It's HR. But they're only as effective as the support and approval and reinforcement that they get from senior leadership as well, the executive team.
So I really see it as different stakeholders. We've got HR broken out between head of HR, as well as talent acquisition managers, their leaders, senior leaders, and then the executive team. We can include the board of directors, they should always be in the know, so they understand the value of everything that is being actually played out in the organization.
Anthony: Yeah, so it's got to be driven top down, but also recognize that people are going to kind of follow the leader, everybody can be responsible, and making sure that there's a chain and communication.
Martine: I always say that, and in my work and learning development, I always said, "I'm only as effective as the leaders ability, the CEOs ability to establish a learning culture, or reinforce learning culture". If there isn't a learning culture, then I'm only a trainer, and I'm able to conduct training, and then that's it. That's all that happens. But if there's a learning culture, that means learning happened outside of these training rooms, and so that's the whole idea of DEI as well. It can't just be the responsibility of one person. Otherwise, it's not part of the culture, it's just becomes a box that we check off.
Anthony: Yeah, and I will warn you, our listeners, it's gonna be harder and harder to get talent. People like Martine and high performers who want to win in an environment where they're challenged and pushed forward. They are going to go to organizations that support them, and they will figure out what that is real fast. If that's not you, then you're going to miss out on the best people. So there's a lot of good reasons to do this. And if you want your business to grow and survive in the future, that's one of them. But I digress.
Martine, it's been such a pleasure. I know you've got your masterclass coming up. I know people want to get a hold of you to just engage and interact with you. Where can they learn more about what you're doing? Where can they sign up for your masterclass, and where can they connect?
Martine: Perfect question. They can go straight to my website, www.martinekalaw.com. And they can go right onto the page for masterclass and sign up for my May 11 masterclass, it's one hour. It's a DEI masterclass from 12:30 to 1:30, Eastern Standard Time. We're going to go over the five things that all human resources professionals can do in the next 90 days to really shift, move the needle around DEI in the workplace. So it's gonna be a lot of fun.
Anthony: Great, I love it. I want to apologize to all of our listeners if I blew out anybody speakers or earbuds. I just get really passionate about this stuff because it's fun. It's important. It's worthwhile and it's the work worth doing. So, Martine, it's been such a pleasure chatting with you today. Thanks for being on the podcast and sharing with our listeners.
Martine: It's been a pleasure. Thank you.
Anthony: Folks, this has been the Strategy & Leadership Podcast. My name is Anthony Taylor. I hope you enjoyed today. I hope you check out Martine's masterclass. I hope you take steps every day in the right direction to build a great organization and I hope you subscribe and stay listening to all of our episodes of the Strategy & Leadership Podcast.
So once again, Anthony Taylor and I will see you next time!