By Madhukar Govindaraju , Founder & CEO

Everyone needs an ally. Be it in your personal life or the professional space, having allies always makes the job easier. But who is an ally? An ally is a person who takes on another’s struggle as their own. They stand up for you even when you don’t. An ally is a person committed to progress, one who proactively shares growth opportunities, identifies and mitigates micro-inequalities, and transfers the benefit of privilege to those who don’t have it. 

Having a workforce that functions as allies of each other automatically helps in building and strengthening a culture of trust and mutual respect within the organization.

Why allyship matters

We need to talk about allyship as diversity and inclusion and organizational resilience have become important topics of conversation. 

The concept of allyship figures quite strongly to foster a diverse and inclusive workplace. Allyship can fuel diversity and inclusion initiatives as allies bring attention to those unheard voices that struggle to be heard. The concept of allyship is about using individual power and privilege to elevate co-workers, team members, and colleagues and move towards a more inclusive and diverse workplace that is well aware of all bias – both conscious and unconscious.

While all this is true, research shows that while more than 80% of white women and men see themselves as allies to colleagues of other races and ethnicities, less than 50% of Blacks and Latinas feel that they have strong allies at work. If diversity and inclusion initiatives are at work then we need to be concerned about this startling gap.

Building allyship should matter to organizations today because 

  • Elements like diversity and inclusion have a crucial influence on the narrative of the workforce. With millennials and Gen Z making up a majority of the workforce, organizations need to wake up to the fact that this generation wants more than lip service to diversity and inclusion initiatives. 
  • It is vital for the inclusion of other groups as well such as those with disabilities, or mental health challenges. This aspect becomes all the more crucial as people across the world battle mental health issues with rising concerns over work from home burnout.
  • TAs we battle challenging times, organizations also realize that they need to build resilience into their DNA. Allyship can be a great driver of resilience as it helps in building trusted relationships between peers and helps them connect and care for each other. 
  • Employees and customers are both looking at organizations to become the beacons of equality and inclusion. They will not hesitate to vote with their feet if they feel that organizational values do not match their own. 

Allyship needs coaching

To build allyship, words of intent have to turn into powerful actions. 

However, words translate into action only when we truly understand the intent behind investing time in supporting and lifting others. It is consistent personal actions that work towards building an inclusive environment. If we look closely, developing allyship is about building an understanding of how systemic bias and social conditioning have influenced our belief systems and behaviors. 

Coaching can be a powerful tool to navigate the challenges that impede building allyship within the organization and help the workforce embrace the new concept and drive the necessary mind shifts to build a shared purpose towards diversity and inclusion.

Coaching works to build allyship primarily because it is:

  • Contextual and personalized  

Change only happens when people truly want to change. And people only want to change when they understand why they need to change.

For example, coaching helps people understand the underlying gaps in conditioning and how this conditioning impacts bias. Most people are unaware of their bias and need to understand how this bias affects others at work and the organizational culture. Building the understanding and context about how those different from us are not lesser than us demands a change in thoughts and learned behaviors. 

Through positive and continuous interactions, coaching establishes the context that people need to bring a shift in their behaviors. It thereby contributes towards building allyship across the enterprise.

Unlike day-long training programs aimed at improving diversity and inclusion, coaching can be highly personalized. It is targeted and specific to the challenges of an individual and helps in building the critical skills needed to build allyship.

  • Continuous 

You get a bunch of people in a room and talk to them about the importance of allyship and the benefits removing bias brings to them as individuals and to an organization. This group is greatly enthused with the talk. However, once this day-long session is over and the initial enthusiasm wears off, people go back to their old patterns.

People are creatures of habit. And changing any habit takes time and effort. The thing is, when it comes to behavioral change, this effort has to be continuous. One has to be mindful at all times to truly internalize the impact of their actions and gain the confidence to challenge behaviors that impede allyship.

Coaching is a continuous exercise. Unlike training programs, the relationship between the coach and the learner is grounded in trust and feedback. It is a non-directive method that involves inquiry and care and works with compassion and helps people understand that all beliefs are ultimately malleable. 

  • Aids growth 

Elements that impact diversity and inclusion such as unconscious bias demand that we continuously challenge ourselves and our peers to aid growth and learning. This is a process that has to be on the path of continuous evolution as well. 

The objective for developing allyship across the organization is to build the workforce such that every individual can develop the critical skills needed to become agents of change. Research shows that when we are made more aware of our behaviors, we are more likely to support issues like diversity.  

Coaching helps in building this awareness amongst people that aid intellectual growth. It keeps the right conversations going to support advocacy for issues like diversity and inclusion and traits that build resilience.

  • Builds Trust 

All employees want to feel like valued members of the organization. That is why most employee engagement initiatives focus on creating a sense of belonging, community, and connection at work. It is especially important for leaders and managers to actively demonstrate helpful and positive behaviors that build trust. 

Not giving employees a voice or being selective about it, lacking listening skills, command and control leadership, etc. are all signs of non-inclusive and untrusting behaviors. Coaching helps people identify the right behaviors that build trust and brings awareness towards behaviors and microaggressions that impede allyship. 

We have moved towards a hybrid work environment. With a certain section working remotely, it becomes all the more important to lead responsibly and help employees feel valued and trusted. Since coaching is a highly accountable process, it helps in bringing about the required change in actions and thoughts that contribute to increasing the trust quotient across the organization. 

In Conclusion 

Plato said, “Reality is created by the mind. We can change our reality by changing our minds”. For a long time, organizations have leveraged the ‘command-control’ strategy to drive productivity and profitability. But with the evolution of time and intellect, people no longer respond to these strategies. As the business landscape becomes more complex and challenging, and as workforce demographics change, organizations have to shift their workforce management strategies. Allyship is that tool that can help the workforce connect in meaningful ways and bring about real change in mindsets and behaviors. 

Connect with us to see how our AI-powered coaching platform can help you develop allyship in your workplace. 

By Kavita Ryali, Product Evangelist & Advisor, Numly™ Inc.

My very first recollection of the word “Allies” was back in middle school.  It was in a school debate in a Simulated United Nations Council as an inquisitive 12-year-old that I understood the true power of Allyship for nations. A simple meaning that I tacitly derived was a group of nations in helpful association, called treaties, with another group of nations. What I learnt in the process was that the power of “Allied” nations changes the course of how countries work with each other, in socio-political environments, influence economic growth and overcome the threat of war. All pretty darn good Super Powers I must say!

Being All-In with Allyship 

Workplaces today across geographies, cultures, and economic and social influences are no less of a representation of a so called Simulated United Nations. The power in “Allyship” today to educate, unite, help and grow individuals goes way beyond in every macro level of personal and professional relationships. It is showing up and uplifting colleagues, mentees, friends, acquaintances of underrepresented groups in an empathic and educated way. We see more and more “Allyship” being a crucial part both inside and outside of our working institutions. Building a diverse and creative workplace is a flagship priority for enterprises to nurture all possible inclusive behaviors. 

Know Your Allies

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion goes across professed and non-professed groups in terms of gender, race, and sexual orientation. Supporting people with accessibility needs, supporting women, supporting people of color, and supporting the LGBTQ community. Much less traversed but I would even include the “good guys” aka men who form strong allies and take intentional unbiased action towards diversity, inclusion and advocacy for these groups.

The Y factor for Women Leaders 

In her acceptance speech, Vice President-elect Kamala Harris made a request of America’s children. “Because every little girl watching tonight sees that this is a country of possibilities, and to the children of our country, regardless of your gender, our country has sent you a clear message: Dream with ambition, lead with conviction and see yourselves in a way that others may not, simply because they’ve never seen it before.”

Per a Research Study from Penn Law we see a widespread pattern of how women face criticism and various detractors to their growth.

  • 58% of the 52 women interviewed reported having been criticized for being soft spoken or “not assertive enough,” which is very subjective;
  • 54% indicated they have been hesitant to take on leadership roles because of criticism of their behavior; and
  • 71% said they had been reluctant to speak up or speak frequently in meetings or group settings because of criticism of their behavior.

The effectual journey and success of Kamala Harris as the first woman of color, biracial Black-Indian woman being nominated by a major party for the vice presidency is a marker of major gender and racial progress in U.S. society. It is testimony to the fact that women of all backgrounds have accomplished important outcomes and many leadings despite hostile or biased workplace settings. 

Allyship is a significant factor in successful culture change and build the mindset of grit and resilience in women in tech and in multiple male dominated industries. It’s a weighty catalyst that empowers women to hold their fort, rally their teams and drive change and growth for their respective organizations. Allyship leans in to the culture change, to create and maintain an inclusive environment. We NEED our Allied counterparts as trusted partners to ensure we are presented with equal opportunities and in turn erasing some of the factors as to why women are losing interest in certain careers such as STEM. Allyship can open doors, broaden networks and advocate for female emerging leaders.

Power up your Y Factors

In my quest for tapping into what makes Allyship work for women, here are the Y factor aka power skills that can transform women’s workplace and professional experiences.  In my earlier blog, I share what is the Y factor and how multiple women shared their transformation stories towards their growth and success. 

Here are 5 ways you can take intentional inclusive actions and take advantage of allyship, form allies in systemic improvements and gaining the power skills to go with it. 

  1. Being Self Aware: Train on Soft skills on Self-Management that make you aware and empower you to gain confidence, understand your stress factors, willingness to change and build personal credibility. These have demonstrated how you can understand your own strengths, weaknesses and seek help in coaching and mentorship allies. 
  2. Understanding Unconscious Bias: It is not enough to just be self-aware but also understand factors that cause inequities in workplaces. Inequities in not overt actions of unacceptable behavior but also in subtle ways of unconscious bias. For example, female leaders, particularly female leaders of color, are often disparaged more starkly and receive personality-based feedback instead of skills-based feedback. Marginalized group members have long noted these experiences, but majority group members often miss the subtler signs of bias. 50 ways to fight gender bias   
  3. Understanding your Privilege: Arduously going through the practice of unlearning and re-evaluating, by which a person holding privilege and power actively seeks to uplift his or her allies, goes a long way. For example, understanding the privilege men can have in being allies to empower women, understanding the privilege one has in empowering minority communities or a person with disabilities and systematically helping can transform societally and in workplaces. 
  4. Networking and forming Allies: Make a conscious effort to know who you have worked with who share a positive energy and share constructive feedback. Be proactive and seeking out cross functional sponsors and mentors or even outside your organization. Attend networking events, offer to volunteer and often reach out people you want to learn from or stay connected. Be an Ally to a person in need. Be involved in peer coaching. How can you help 
  5. Bringing Diversity to the table: Organizations both big and small are breaking legacy barriers by bringing in necessary training, awareness and leadership efforts on diversity, equity and inclusion. Be it in the Hiring processes, or promotions, providing adequate opportunities for growth or bringing in champions, diversity and inclusion fosters allyship and brings in revolutionary changes in organization resilience. Harvard Business Review Article captures How to be a Better Ally

To see your Allyship Building Skills in Action with the power of AI , take a look at NumlyEngage(™). Get a live demo today!