Episode 18 Summary: What is the Moveable Middle? How can they support an organisation’s diversity, equity and inclusion goals?

Welcome to the latest episode of the Steps to Change podcast, where we dive deep into the realms of learning and development, organisational behaviour change, and effective strategies to inspire actionable differences.

In this engaging session, your host, Allen Liedkie, is joined by the insightful Jess Leahey, a Project Design Manager at Steps and a pivotal member of the Senior Leadership team in the US. Together, they explore the intriguing concept of the “Movable Middle” within organisations and discuss its critical role in advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts.

This episode delves into understanding the ambivalence of the Movable Middle towards DE&I initiatives, the importance of empathy and strategic engagement, and the long-term commitment required to foster truly inclusive workplace cultures.

Read on to learn more about the moveable middle and find out how they can improve your workplace relations.

What is the Moveable Middle?

The concept of the “Movable Middle” refers to a distinct group within an organisation that occupies a neutral stance towards diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) initiatives. This group isn’t categorically opposed to DE&I efforts, nor are they actively engaged in promoting such values. Their position is characterised by ambivalence, which stems not from resistance but perhaps from a lack of awareness, engagement, or understanding of the potential impact and value of DE&I initiatives in their professional environment.

Understanding and engaging the Movable Middle is crucial for workplaces aiming to foster a more inclusive and diverse culture. This group holds significant potential for organisational transformation because they represent a majority that can be swayed towards active support of DE&I with the right approach and resources. By tapping into this potential, organisations can significantly enhance their efforts towards building a more inclusive workplace.

The presence of a Movable Middle in workplaces offers a unique opportunity for organisational growth and development. This segment’s neutrality means they are open to influence and can be guided towards a more active role in DE&I initiatives through strategic engagement and education. Their shift from neutrality to active support can create a ripple effect, encouraging a broader cultural shift within the organisation towards greater inclusivity.

In essence, the Movable Middle embodies a latent force within the workplace that, once mobilised, can contribute significantly to the advancement of diversity, equity, and inclusion. Their transition from passive observers to active participants in DE&I efforts can serve as a catalyst for change, promoting a more inclusive, understanding, and diverse organisational culture.

How Can the Moveable Middle Be Effective for Workplace Diversity?

The Moveable Middle, a concept discussed in the context of workplace diversity, plays a critical role in shaping inclusive environments. This group, neither staunchly resistant nor fully supportive of diversity initiatives, holds significant potential to influence workplace culture positively. The key to unlocking this potential lies in understanding the characteristics and challenges associated with the Moveable Middle.

One of the primary challenges is the variability within this group. The Moveable Middle consists of individuals with diverse perspectives and levels of openness to change, making it crucial to approach them with tailored strategies that resonate on a personal level. This requires a nuanced understanding of their concerns and motivations, which can be as diverse as the group itself.

Another challenge is the potential for passive resistance among members of the Moveable Middle. While not openly opposing diversity efforts, their lack of active support can hinder progress. Overcoming this necessitates creating opportunities for engagement and dialogue, allowing them to voice their apprehensions and misconceptions in a safe and non-judgmental environment.

The Moveable Middle’s key characteristic is its openness to influence and change, making it a pivotal group for driving cultural shifts in the workplace. Engaging with this group effectively can lead to a more inclusive environment by leveraging their potential to become allies in diversity efforts. This involves providing education on the benefits of diversity and inclusion, sharing personal stories that highlight the value of diverse perspectives, and involving them in diversity initiatives in meaningful ways.

Utilising the Moveable Middle with the Steps to Change Model

The Steps to Change process offers a structured approach to facilitating the Moveable Middle in the workplace, encouraging their transition from passive observers to active participants in fostering diversity and inclusion.

The initial stage involves creating awareness within the Moveable Middle about the current state of diversity in the workplace. By presenting factual, compelling evidence of the benefits diversity brings to an organisation, this step aims to challenge existing perceptions and stimulate curiosity, setting the stage for deeper engagement.

Following awareness, the next step focuses on understanding. Here, the process involves engaging the Moveable Middle in dialogues and educational sessions that delve into the nuances of diversity and inclusion. This is designed to deepen their understanding of why change is beneficial, not just for the organisation but for each individual, encouraging a shift in mindset towards more inclusive attitudes.

The commitment phase is crucial as it seeks to transform newfound understanding into concrete commitment. During this stage, individuals from the Moveable Middle are encouraged to make personal commitments to support diversity initiatives. This could involve taking part in diversity training, becoming a mentor, or actively participating in diversity and inclusion events.

Finally, the process culminates in action. Individuals are supported to turn their commitments into tangible actions that contribute to a more inclusive workplace. This could range from simple acts like advocating for inclusive language in meetings to more significant commitments like leading a diversity-focused project.

Episode 5: What Provides An Effective Feedback Conversation?

Learn More

If you’d like to learn more about the Moveable Middle and find out how to better utilise it for your workplace, reach out to us at Steps today! You can speak with one of our experts and discover how our processes can benefit your business practices.