Why Your Leadership Style Matters – Equality vs. Equity in the Workplace.
Let’s talk about leadership. And how strong management can foster an equal and equitable workplace. Whether you’re a small business owner or an HR professional, your focus should be on your people. And on the knowledge that what is equal may not always be equitable. It’s important to understand how your behavior and philosophies as a leader shape this important pillar of company culture in your own workplace.
We’ve all heard the terms equality and equity thrown around. But are you clear on what they mean and, more importantly, how they’re different? Let’s get down to it.
Equality is the idea that every employee has the same value and worth. And because of this, everyone deserves to be treated in the exact same way. While it still has its place, equality dismisses the fact that every individual worker has varying needs. So even if your intention is a good one, focusing solely on equality in the workplace will not get you there.
Equity is the quality of being fair and impartial. It is acknowledging that every person has the same worth and that it is because of this worth that they deserve to be treated individually. To be given the systems and accommodations that they need in order to be and do their best within the workplace. These systems will not, and should not, look the same for everyone.
So if we are aiming to build equitable workplace culture, what leadership practices can you adopt now to develop equity for all?
Equitable Workplace Leadership Skills For the Small Business Owner
Be a Dynamic Leader & Focus on Your People
Your people are your best asset. When workers are happy and treated fairly, they want to do good work. On the other hand, when they are not respected, heard, or treated poorly, your business operations will suffer.
As a small business owner, your people look to you to model the beliefs, mission, and pillars of fair and equitable company culture. People follow passion, compassion, understanding, and transparency. When you yourself set an example, the right people will come and they will stay. When you do good work, so will they.
Build Trust through Transparency
“Trust is earned” … a common phrase for good reason. Just because your role within the company structure puts you above your employees, it does not mean that trust and respect are automatic or guaranteed. Practice transparency and that trust will be earned. Establish an open flow of communication between you and your employees. Listen, learn, and give your employees the equitable solutions they need to thrive.
Normalize that Everyone has Needs
When talking about equitable workplaces, many make the false assumption that accommodations are necessary only for disabled or marginalized workers. Instead, focus on meeting the needs of all of your individual employees. This inclusive environment will foster a fair and equitable workplace while best setting each individual up for success.
“Every employee impacts an organization's direction, but leadership has by far the largest and most direct effect on company culture, which revolves around employee engagement, environment, atmosphere and the success of the company and its clients.” – Forbes
Equitable Workplace Leadership Skills For the HR Professional
Build Trust with Managers & Employees
Let’s face it, there are times where HR isn’t wanted in the room. This is especially true for small businesses, where there previously was not an HR department. It can feel like your expertise, while extremely valuable, is not being given much value at all.
But when you focus on building trust, not only with employees but also with upper management, they will feel comfortable coming to you and including you in the room. When a great foundation of trust is built, your (much-needed) expertise becomes vital to everyone.
Forgo the Cookie Cutter Approach
No two people are the same. How you deal with Human Resource issues as they arise need to be handled with care for each individual's needs. HR is a people business. Prioritize your people. Care for your employees and their well-being. Have the difficult conversations, and make sure you are representing all employees.
Be a Support System when Managerial Leadership Goes Wrong
HR is not always going to be in agreement with management and vice versa. When a clear boundary is broken or a regulation is violated, it is up to you to step up and lead. To ensure best practices are being met and that employees are treated fairly. Equitable workplace culture is not automatic. It takes work and it is important you support management and employees alike when handling any issues that arise.
“Look at the equity of people and not just the equality of people … What is equal and across the board, is not necessarily what is best for the organization or for every single person in that organization.” – HR Expert Nikie Walker (Quirky HR Podcast)
When it comes down to it, what is best for your business is what’s best for your people. When you prioritize equity, you set the individual and the whole up for success. As a leader – whether as a small business owner or as an HR professional – your own actions are invaluable to setting the tone and expectations of the workplace.
“Dividing the professional from the person no longer applies in modern work culture.” Functioning under outdated systems or managerial strategies benefits no one. With this in mind, your action item for today is to practice fair and equitable solutions in your own leadership style. We guarantee you’ll see a shift in employee output and workplace satisfaction.
Leadership is a skill that can be developed. If you’re not there yet keep developing that skill and see where it takes you and your workers. If you’d like to dig deeper, we at Boss Consulting HR are here for you! Together we can assist you in building out these equitable practices within your own business. Check out our One-On-One Services or join our Quirky HR Coaching community.
To listen to the full Quirky HR podcast episode on Organizational Leadership with HR expert Nikie Walker, click here.