3 Reasons Why Allyship Should Be a Management Skill

A woman in a headset and a man in a suit high-five each other.

The call for diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) has never been louder. There is a rising awareness of the value of allyship as a managerial ability despite its traditional perception as a personal commitment.

It’s not enough for leaders to know that allyship in the workplace matters—they must implement it. When allyship becomes a key part of how leaders manage, they can create a workplace that celebrates and appreciates diversity.

 

What is Allyship?

Allyship is using one’s privileges and position of power to actively support and advocate for colleagues from underrepresented or marginalized groups. At its core, allyship involves:

  • Yielding – Recognizing one’s privileges and yielding opportunities to those facing systemic barriers.
  • Listening – Seeking to understand the unique experiences and perspectives of marginalized individuals.
  • Learning – Continuously educating oneself on diversity, equity, and inclusion issues.
  • Action – Taking tangible steps to create a more inclusive environment and level the playing field.

Although anyone has the potential to be an ally, usually, it’s colleagues who benefit from privilege based on their gender, race, or position. These individuals may include women of color, LGBTQ+ individuals, or members of other minority groups.

 

Why is Allyship Important: Its Role as a Management Skill

As a leader, embracing allyship involves actively supporting and advocating for others to level the playing field and promote fairness and inclusion in the workplace. It creates a sense of belonging and psychological safety, which leads to higher employee engagement, productivity, and overall organizational success.

Research also indicates a clear link between allyship and career satisfaction. A study found that 92 percent view allies as helpful for their professional growth. Moreover, those with at least one workplace ally are almost twice as likely to feel a sense of belonging and job happiness.¹

These findings underscore why allyship the workplace is an essential management skill. When leaders act as allies, they create a supportive environment that transcends daily tasks and an inclusive company culture where employees feel empowered to overcome challenges and thrive.

 

1. Drives organizational success.

Companies with an inclusive workplace culture see marked improvements in innovation, productivity, profitability, and customer satisfaction. In fact, research reveals that diverse companies have a 36 percent higher likelihood to outperform their competitors in profitability.² However, it won’t happen on its own. Leadership must support and actively stand up for it.

Moreover, over 50 percent of people learn about the value of allies by hearing about their friends’, coworkers’, or strangers’ negative experiences.³ Wouldn’t it be wonderful if more people could learn about allyship by hearing success stories from employees who have succeeded with personalized support from their managers?

 

2. Improves active listening.

Allyship improves your capacity to listen attentively to your employees by promoting empathy and an open-minded approach to communication. When you actively listen, you strive to understand the experiences and perspectives of others.

This helps you hear what others are saying and understand their feelings, needs, and concerns more deeply. This heightened attunement allows organizations to nurture a truly inclusive environment where every voice is respected and valued.

 

3. Creates an environment that nurtures innovation.

Employees feel more at ease sharing their perspectives and creative ideas when they have allies in the workplace. This inclusivity develops a rich exchange of insights and viewpoints, essential for creating breakthrough solutions and driving innovation.

However, when employees see their leaders actively advocate for their rights and professional growth, it instills a sense of empowerment. It encourages employees to take risks, experiment with new ideas, and explore unconventional approaches without fear of judgment.

This creates an environment where employees are free to think innovatively, challenge existing norms, and leverage their unique talents.

 

Making it Happen: What Are Some Ways to Implement It?

Allyship isn’t just about hiring diverse employees or having a policy on paper. It’s something that needs continuous effort. Putting allyship into action involves getting everyone on board, including the team and leaders, and planning to amplify diverse voices. Below are examples of allyship in the workplace:

 

Yielding – Begin with What You Find Most Challenging

Discussing and taking action on all facets of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) is important to establishing real organizational change.

This means addressing the aspects of DE&I that feel comfortable or familiar and those that may be challenging or uncomfortable to confront. This shows that your efforts to promote diversity and inclusion are comprehensive and meaningful.

 

Listening – Creating a Place for Everyone at the Table

Setting up opportunities for everyone to participate is key. Consider establishing the following within your company to address inequality, especially when everyone has the chance to share their thoughts or contribute in the way that suits them best.

  • Roundtables
  • Employee resource groups
  • Town hall meetings

Leaders play a big part in promoting allyship but also worry about making mistakes. The most important things are honesty and active listening. We need leaders who can actively listen to their employees and avoid assumptions or interruptions during discussions.

Leaders who openly acknowledge their humanity and challenges, saying, “I’m human. This is new to me, too. I might mess up, but I’m committed to improving things,” inspire meaningful change.

Read More: Empathy Is at the Core of Sustainable and Effective Leadership

 

Learning – Educate Yourself

The journey of allyship begins with educating yourself about discrimination, privilege, and power you have. Even if your organization isn’t ready to discuss allyship, plenty of resources are available to help you learn and grow.

There are numerous books, podcasts, and TED Talks you can explore. Just remember, this is a continuous journey. You’ll always be learning, relearning, having conversations, making mistakes, picking yourself up, and moving forward. It’s a lifelong journey, more like a marathon than a sprint.

Read More: Empower, Engage, Excel: Building a Culture of Learning in Your Organization

 

Action- Don’t Hesitate to Step Up

Managers are crucial in fostering an environment where active bystander behavior is encouraged and supported. Leaders set the tone for acceptable responses to instances of discrimination or bias.

Thus, leading by example is essential. Addressing discrimination sends a powerful message that such behavior won’t be tolerated. But it’s not always that simple. According to a Deloitte study, almost one in three employees admitted to ignoring bias they saw or experienced.⁴

Being an active bystander sets a precedent for others to intervene against disrespectful or discriminatory behavior. This fosters a culture where individuals feel supported when speaking up.

Receiving feedback is crucial for leadership growth. However, blind spots can hinder insight into others’ experiences. Establishing a safe space for sharing ideas without fear of repercussions facilitates feedback for allyship. This can be achieved through mechanisms such as:

  • Anonymous suggestion boxes
  • Regular one-on-one feedback sessions
  • Employee surveys focused on diversity and inclusion
  • Open forums where employees can discuss their experiences
  • Diversity and inclusion task forces or committees where employees can provide ongoing feedback and suggestions

 

Various feedback options, including anonymity, ensure that all team members can contribute to creating a more inclusive environment.

 

TIME TO TAKE ACTION TOWARDS BUILDING A MORE DIVERSE AND INCLUSIVE ENVIRONMENT WITH SALEM SOLUTIONS

Ready to diversify your workforce? Let’s start by reevaluating your recruitment strategies to ensure they are accessible and inclusive to individuals from all backgrounds. With Salem Solutions, we can expand our outreach efforts to attract candidates from underrepresented groups and create opportunities for them to succeed within your organization.

Together, let’s make a concerted effort to build a team that reflects our society’s rich diversity society. Reach out to us today to make everyone feel valued and included.

 

References

  1. “International Women’s Day 2023: Why We’re Focusing on Allyship at Menzies Aviation.” LinkedIn, www.linkedin.com/pulse/international-womens-day-2023-why-were-focusing-allyship-thomson/.
  2.  “Companies Say Diversity Matters. So Why Aren’t They Becoming More Diverse?” World Economic Forum, www.weforum.org/agenda/2022/03/diversity-inclusion-equity-business/.
  3.  Preeti Bonthron. Being an Ally Is More than Saying “I Am an Ally” – but the Actions That Back It Up. 2023, www.dialglobal.org/post/kate-williams-allyship.
  4.  “Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.” Deloitte United States, www2.deloitte.com/us/en/pages/about-deloitte/articles/unconscious-bias-workplace-statistics.html.

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