Cultivating allyship in the workplace with Kiah Grafton
We recently had the pleasure of catching up with Kiah Grafton, Chief People Officer at IMDEX and Thought Leadership panellist for the upcoming Diversity and Inclusion webinar, where she shares her views on cultivating allyship in the workplace and understanding privilege.
On a personal level what does allyship look like or mean to you?
For me, allyship is recognition and respect for the differences we each experience throughout our life. No two people have the same interaction with the world – the way we grow up, the culture we come from, our gender or ethnicity – all these elements play a part in who we become.
We all experience privilege in different ways and allyship is about understanding our own personal privilege and harnessing it to support and empower those who may be marginalised or face greater challenges; supporting and advocating for them to achieve success and receive the opportunities that they deserve. Allyship is reaching out, helping and empowering.
As a leader, I am a champion for allyship in our organisation and I use my privilege to advocate for others who are in diverse groups. I am intentional in how I lead my team and the organisation to actively promote an inclusive culture that fosters allyship.
How can companies cultivate allyship?
Creating a culture of allyship requires systematic change in the workplace. It requires intentional, proactive action to enhance inclusiveness in all areas of company culture.
Companies can cultivate allyship through encouraging inclusion in the workplace. The first step is around educating on unconscious bias and increasing employee’s level of self-awareness around their own bias. This then supports more robust discussions around acceptable and unacceptable behaviours. Allyship is where members of the team, from senior leaders to peers, supporting minority groups in the business.
People can only truly feel comfortable to be an ally if there is a culture of psychological safety in the organisation. Some of the key elements of achieving this are:
1. Educating employees on diversity and inclusion through mandatory courses. Through these courses, employees should be encouraged to speak up about D&I.
2. Creating Employee Resource Groups focused on specific employee groups e.g Women, Indigenous employees, LGBTIQA+, military, disabled & neurodiverse employees.
3. Publicly communicating and publishing diversity & inclusion outcomes and activities.
What has IMDEX done to promote allyship within the workplace?
In the mining industry, compliance-level D&I is ubiquitous. Most companies have a D&I policy but not all are focused on genuine change. At IMDEX, we want to leverage diversity and inclusion to drive business results and create a thriving company culture where our team members are proud to work.
We have listened to our people who through both our engagement surveys as well as our brand and values refresh project, shared that they want to work in a culture that promotes diversity, equity, and inclusion.
At IMDEX, we custom designed our own mandatory program ‘Better Together’ which educates our workforce around identity, unconscious bias and how everyone can act as an upstander when they see behaviours that are not aligned to our values or are ‘below the line’. We have facilitated this face to face with all employees around the globe and the feedback has been outstanding with many people saying it has changed their perspective and had a profound effect on them personally.
In addition, recently we launched a formal Mentoring program, allowing more senior members of our team to provide guidance to nurture less experienced members in our teams globally. This has allowed great knowledge sharing and opportunities for cross-country collaboration. We also launched our D&I Council with representatives from every region we operate in, providing input into strategic actions. Their initial focus has been to increase gender participation in our workforce, as well as considering how we attract more young people to IMDEX when we are an aging workforce.
Our newly appointed Non-Executive Director, Uwa Airhiavbere will be supporting IMDEX as an ally and is the board representative who leads D&I as a priority.
With regards to UWA’s personal experience, he has been a member of multiple Employee Resource Groups (ERG’s) during his career at Microsoft including Microsoft Blacks at Microsoft and GE’s African American Forum.