Julia Lazzara, President and Kelly Lockwood Primus, CEO, Leading NOWJulia Lazzara, President and Kelly Lockwood Primus, CEO
The events of the past few years, such as the pandemic, the George Floyd incident and subsequent societal unrest, and the great resignation, have compelled companies to reevaluate their workforce and workplace value equations. DEI, in particular, faced an unprecedented rippling effect of these factors. A Glassdoor report reveals that two-thirds of job seekers today meticulously look for companies with a diverse workforce. After all, lack of inclusion and belonging are among the top three reasons for the great resignation in 2021. Today’s businesses need DEI to better hire and retain talent and unlock their workforce’s full potential by creating work cultures where employees feel safe, respected, and better connected. To this end, Leading NOW offers research-based DEI solutions for organizations to bring about inclusive workplace cultures.

In an interview with Manage HR, Kelly Lockwood Primus, CEO; and Julia Lazzara, President, share how the company’s proven solutions help organizations win the war on talent and set themselves up for long-term business success.

Please give us a brief overview of Leading NOW

Julia: With a consultative and adaptive approach, we offer diversity and inclusion strategies, solutions and programs, leadership solutions and programs, coaching, assessments, talent development programs, and corporate policy formulation. We have been delivering our research-based, inclusive leadership solutions for nearly 20 years. Our two distinct research institutes, The Center for Diversity & Inclusion and The Gender Dynamics Institute, uncover the core problems workplaces face today. This proprietary research powers our Leading Forward and Leading Women solutions, which focus on inclusive leadership development and gender-balanced leadership, respectively. A strong research base enables us to understand and treat the root cause of DEI problems that workplaces face today, not just the symptoms.

At The Center for Diversity & Inclusion, our global experts gather and assess data related to all current and prevalent workplace challenges. They delve deeply into causation, resolution, and guidance on eliminating barriers to inclusion. Taking these findings, we develop solutions that resonate deeply with our clients. More importantly, we operate through an adaptive model that allows us to cater to our clients wherever they are in their DEI journey. We can effectively customize our work and deploy a wide range of solutions for clients.

Please throw more light on Leading NOW’s approach for delivering its solutions

Kelly: We approach the market in two ways. First, working with an organization’s leadership, we identify the way leaders are creating barriers to inclusion for organizations. Through consulting and assessments, we identify opportunities to work on the leaders’ mindsets to ultimately drive inclusive behaviors and decisions. Secondly, we work with the future talent of organizations, be it underrepresented minority populations or women, and help them develop the skill sets required to be seen as future leaders within companies. Through various talent development, leadership development, or mentoring programs, we help them learn and understand the importance of aspects such as financial acumen and business strategy to be prepared to take future leadership roles.

Could you shed some more light on the research that you do?

Kelly: Why would organizations still hesitate to embrace diversity and inclusion even after realizing its potential benefits? That’s the question we ask our Center for Diversity & Inclusion. We try to discover what’s causing or preventing organizations from having the fantastic business performance results that DEI offers.

Our most recent research was about Cultural Dynamics in the Workplace™. It revealed five key factors that prevent DEI initiatives from delivering inclusive cultures within organizations. The research showed how leaders could either create barriers or challenge the norms. It helped us identify what we needed to do for organizations to understand where they are in their DEI journey, and which barriers to focus their attention on. As a result of the research, we have identified the five elements that must be addressed to successfully drive DEI initiatives to achieve business outcomes. They include our Inclusive Culture Assessment, Diversity & Inclusion Consulting, Programs for Building a Culture of Inclusion, Reverse or Diverse Mentoring Programs, and Executive Coaching.

Please share with us a customer success story

Julia: We had been working with Nokia, the Finland-based F500 telecom and technology company, for several years in the gender leadership space. Nokia understood the importance of all managers, especially those responsible for hiring and managing teams, to be able to recognize their biases. In order to build a more inclusive culture, they approached us in 2019 to help them better embrace and effect diversity and inclusion. We crafted a custom program for them and helped them select 72 people within their organization, from all over the globe, to become trainers. We virtually trained 72 people on a Navigating Bias program, and they, in turn, virtually trained 7300 of their line managers in 2020. Since the program was customized to Nokia’s culture, unique challenges, and business approach, the satisfaction level of those who went through the program was 97.5 percent. This helped Nokia hire more underrepresented talent for the organization and to represent the markets within which they work.

What does the future look like for Leading NOW?

Kelly: As mentioned earlier, our Cultural Dynamics in the Workplace™ research identified five key factors that helped us recognize and review our current solutions portfolio. It also drove us to create the Inclusive Culture Assessment for use with a broad group of the organization’s employees. As compared to typical employee engagement surveys, the assessment is specifically targeted to understand the cultural barriers to inclusion, and it reveals insights on how leaders show inclusive or non-inclusive behaviors, how employees experience the culture, and whether there is equitable treatment for all employees.

  • Our proven solutions enable organizations to succeed in today’s dynamic marketplace as we customize strategies to help them achieve their business goals

Currently, we are launching a new assessment solution that will help leaders understand their own individual behavior. With our Inclusive Leadership Behaviors Assessment, each leadership team member will be able to receive 360-degree feedback on how they are seen with regard to inclusion and the treatment of employees. The assessment will enable leaders to understand if they are demonstrating the right inclusive behaviors, or not. Organizations will be able to easily identify which leaders lack effective behavioral traits with regard to DEI. As a result, they can make informed decisions to provide an Inclusive Leadership Principles program or DEI coaching.

Second, to support leaders‘ ability to transform their exclusionary practices, we are building a solution to help leaders recognize how much impact their behaviors, mindsets, and decisions have on the success of an organization reaching its inclusion goals. In a nutshell, our next steps include specific training and education customized to help the leadership teams reach their DEI goals. We are proud of our work and are confident we can help more companies address their DEI challenges.