Dr Jo Cribb: ‘Why the smartest organisations will prioritise diversity in a post-COVID world’

Dr Jo Cribb: ‘Why the smartest organisations will prioritise diversity in a post-COVID world’

What will it take for leaders to adjust to a ‘new normal’? Join Dr Jo Cribb, a highly experienced former public sector chief executive, and part of the faculty for ANZSOG’s Executive Master of Public Administration, to learn practical, research-based strategies delivered through three webinars in August-September. (Partner Content)

Dr Jo Cribb knows what dynamic leadership constitutes. As one of the youngest people ever appointed to chief executive in the New Zealand public service, she has led policy on some of the most challenging and complex social issues of our time including family violence and vulnerable women.

And it’s issues like these, as well as so many others that will only be exacerbated in the wake of the Coronavirus pandemic—a reality Cribb implores organisations and government to pay heed to.

Even developed nations like New Zealand and Australia are at risk of falling behind  on equality and inclusion , and the risks of losing the progress they have already made  are significant. In Cribb’s view, it’s incumbent upon progressive leaders to implement practices and policies which aim to not only lessen the economic fallout but protect employees; with greater diversity at the forefront of restoration efforts.

“This crisis gives us the chance to make changes with a diverse and inclusive lens,” she says. “The people and organisations to see success will be the resilient ones that can harness the best ideas from those around them, challenge norms, experiment, pivot, fail, reassess, reinvent and start again.”

In fact, there’s a real opportunity for organisations and agencies to emerge stronger and more profitable than before with Cribb drawing comparisons to the period following the GFC in which “banks with a higher share of women on their boards proved less vulnerable than their peers, and diverse companies out-earned their peers.”

Of course, this example is in line with a host of global studies. A 2018 McKinsey study for instance, showed that organisations in the top 25th percentile for gender diversity on their executive teams were 21% more likely to experience above-average profits. This was backed up in 2019, when Boston Consulting Group found that companies with more diverse management teams had 19% higher revenues due to innovation.

Perhaps most critically however, diversity and inclusion remain top priorities for female employees and young people moving up ranks. As of 2015, millennials usurped Gen-Xers as the largest, working, generational cohort. Despite this, young people’s views on workplace culture are too often overshadowed or ignored by organisations led by older leaders.

 A 2018 paper by the Billie Jean King Leadership Initiative (BJKLI) and Deloitte showed that two-out-of-three millennials listed their employer’s purpose as a reason why they chose to work there. However, the same proportion of respondents felt leaders were simply paying “lip service” to diversity and inclusion rather than implementing genuine measures. Attitudes like this should be of particular concern to leaders across government and public services which have long struggled to attract and retain millennial talent.  

But sadly, early signs point to a different reality. In a state of pandemic panic, many leaders have parked their diversity and inclusion programs with jobs in this space in the firing line. Using New Zealand as an example, Cribb says that despite proactive and positive handling of Coronavirus by the Ardern Government, more than 500 business and public sector  leaders surveyed last month reported they expected to cut more jobs; something that would prove to be a crushing mistake according to Cribb.

“If attracting the most talented people, who are engaged, committed, and working to the best of their abilities isn’t critical to business recovery, then I am not sure what is,” she says.

We’re at a critical juncture right now, in which the best brains across business and government are vital. Rather than regress in their pursuit of progress, leaders should be focused on reinforcing the value of inclusive, supportive workplaces which breed the innovation we need to repair damage. It’s more important than ever.

Dr Jo Cribb will share her experience and advice on overcoming a period of unprecedented change and disruption through a series of three webinars run by the Australia, New Zealand School of Government (ANZSOG) in August and September. Other presenters will include: Gill Callister PSM (former Victorian Government Secretary and current CEO of MIND); Liz Macpherson (the first woman Government Statistician in New Zealand and current Assistant Commissioner in the Office of the Privacy Commissioner/Te Mana Mātāpono Matatapu, New Zealand Government); Michelle Hippolite (Deputy Director-General, Te Papa Atawhai (Department of Conservation, New Zealand Government)); Trish Bergin (Co-Director, Governance of the 50/50 by 2030 Foundation); Carmel McGregor PSM (Adjunct Professor and Academic Fellow, at the Institute for Governance and Policy Analysis at the University of Canberra); and Emma Hogan (Secretary, Department of Customer Service, New South Wales Government). See here for more information.

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