One of the striking findings in my research was that there was a mismatch between the answers from the ‘digital leaders’ and the answers from the ‘HR professionals’. Everyone thought there definately were risks, but the HR professional thought there were none. If this is true more widely it would go some way to explain why HR professionals are surprised not to be able to get senior managers involved in championing issues. They have not considered the risks to us in doing so.
“In order to further understand the factors which may act as contextual cues for digital leaders in their decisions to champion equality and diversity in the workplace participants were asked to what extent they feel there may be associated risks for those who do take on champion roles. In the interviews participants were making sense of their context and reflecting on how they have seen what has happened in their own experience and those around them.
‘Critical sense making’ describes the ways in which individuals make sense of their own local environments while acknowledging power relations in the broader societal context (Mills, 2010). Part of sense-making is judging the level of risk which might follow specific course of action in your context (Weick, 1995).
Individuals make judgements to appraise threats and risks as part of their own decision making. These judgments are based on perceived or real risks and these risks are plausible because they resonate closely with one’s own experience, or the known experience of others nearby. In their previous answers respondents had clearly identified a range of business drivers which exist in their organisations. They had also identified a number of cultural and organisational elements, which they understood as creating a climate in which equality, and diversity was supported by organisational policy.
Participants all appeared to agree with a general perception that equality and diversity issues were larger than the individual, and understood the role of workplace culture in which dignity, respect and fair pay is valued. Given these findings it might be expected that they would perceive championing these issues as relatively low risk.
All respondents but one however, were adamant there were associated risks for some people in getting involved with equality and diversity issues in the workplace. The response that there was no perceived risk, or that there should be no risk, came from the interviewee who is the senior HR professional. This mis-match in expectation was analysed further and respondents answers were analysed to identify themes around risk. These include: risks to oneself (personal risks of image, reputation, how one might be perceived by others personally), professional risks (how one might risk or lose effectiveness in a professional role), risks to the business, and risks to the wider endeavour of equality itself. The prominence of the discussion of risk in the data makes it worth discussing these findings in detail.”
I have continued to test this finding informally with further groups. I have been lucky to be able to get gigs doing CPD workshops and conference workshops in February and March.
The first one I did was for senior IT professionals in FE and HE. I asked the question ‘Do you think there are risks associated for some people in championing equality and diversity issues in the workplace’? I asked for responses in chat : Yes, no, maybe, not sure, some ….. etc
Not everyone chose to answer obviously, but
Yes: Maybe was 3:1 No noes.
I asked the same question again in a session at the Advance HE conference. The session was recorded so I plan to look at the chat if it was recorded too, but this was a group of HR professionals and I saw at least one ‘No, not any more’
At The ALT ( learning technologists) session
YES: maybe was 5:2