Taking Charge of Diversity and Inclusion in the Post-Pandemic Workplace

Taking Charge of Diversity and Inclusion in the Post-Pandemic Workplace

There is a sense of hope and excitement when we get ready to welcome the new year. With 2021 beckoning, things have been slightly different this past year. COVID-19 took centre stage in 2020 globally and unfortunately it’s not ready to leave us just yet.

COVID-19 interrupted almost all businesses and companies were forced to rethink their priorities and strategies. Human resource (HR) professionals were particularly challenged as they grappled with unexpected aspects of operations, diversity, and inclusion(D&I), and client services, among other things.

HR teams have realised that diversity and inclusion are more than just items on a checklist. They are critical factors that impact an organisation’s results and success graph.

Defining Diversity and Inclusion

HR teams have realised that diversity and inclusion are more than just items on a checklist. They are critical factors that impact an organisation’s results and success graph. Click To Tweet

The term diversity means that your company has hired employees from different ethnic, cultural, and socio-economic backgrounds. When global organisations hire people from different backgrounds, with varied experiences, lifestyles, and interests, it shows that the company is diverse.

Inclusion means that your company has taken the right steps to ensure all employees feel welcome and valued in the organisation. Clear procedures and policies must be laid down concerning diversity and inclusion. It’s also crucial to understand that senior leaders play a key role in making an organisation an inclusive organisation. A company is considered inclusive when leaders and employees demonstrate actions and behaviours, allowing different perspectives and opinions to be heard, acknowledged, and recognised.

Another aspect that is considered an equally important component of a strong workforce and D&I is equality. The term equality means that every employee in the organisation has an equal opportunity to grow and progress. This would include aspects of hiring, professional training and development, and promotions.

HR teams must strive to ensure that they become equal opportunity employers who hire without discrimination or bias. This is a critical step if they want to be committed to diversity, equality, and inclusion in the workplace.

Why Diversity and Inclusion Are So Essential

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Diversity and inclusion have evolved into a cultural phenomenon having direct and tangible benefits for an organisation. According to a study, inclusive companies can enjoy a 2.3x higher cash flow per employee over 3 years. If a company wants to make money, D&I must be high on their priority list. Here are some reasons why diversity and inclusion are essential for every organisation:

For Better Employee Engagement

A survey found that diversity and inclusion are closely linked to employee engagement. Employees must feel valued and have a sense of belonging. Unless employees feel included, they find it hard to work to their full potential. If you want your employees to feel included, HR teams must ensure they are actively engaged at work.

Employees must also feel excited and passionate about their work. Giving employees the right responsibilities according to their unique skill sets is one way to encourage a passion for their work.

To Attract the Right Talent

A recent survey revealed that 67% of job seekers look for a diverse workforce when considering job offers or companies.

This statistic reinforces how critical D&I are when it comes to attracting the right talent for your company.

During the hiring process, hiring managers usually look for qualifications and experience. HR managers must also look for factors like enthusiasm, desire to succeed, willingness to learn, creativity, etc. These steps can help create a diverse workforce.

When HR teams put the right kind of D&I programs in place, it helps boost your company’s brand.  It helps to create and foster a healthy work environment that is attractive to prospective employees. When your company is presented as a desirable workplace, the chances of attracting talent from diverse talent pools increases considerably.

For Better Financial Performance

For all companies, achieving superior financial performance is critical. The results of a popular survey showed that companies with diverse teams are better financial performers.

In addition to achieving ethnic diversity, HR teams must also look for ways to foster a gender diverse organisation. A recent study shows that gender-diverse companies perform 21% better than their competitors while companies with ethnically diverse employees perform 33% better than the others.

Research shows that gender-diverse companies perform 21% better than their competitors while companies with ethnically diverse employees perform 33% better than the others. Click To Tweet

To Have an Edge Over Your Competitors

When there is diversity in the workplace, employees are exposed to a variety of perspectives. Employees are also likely to have different experiences, skills, characteristics, and backgrounds.

Having different viewpoints and perspectives can prove highly beneficial when a company needs to plan and execute a business strategy. The availability of other diverse options leads to finding the best possible solutions, and the process becomes a quick and efficient one. It also leads to better and informed decision-making with effective results. Faster decisions help a company achieve better results and earn higher profits. Thus diversity could be the critical factor that gives the organisation an edge over its competitors.

To Promote Innovation and Creativity

A diverse team can leverage the serious advantage that having a variety of perspectives brings. When it comes to a company’s product or services, having at least one team member from the target audience’s age, gender, race, culture, etc. can be a massive advantage. The teams can understand their target audience better and arrive at better decisions quicker.

When different perspectives and viewpoints come together, it becomes a melting pot for fresh and more creative ideas. With increased creativity, innovation will not be far behind.

To Reduce Employee Turnover

HR teams must look for new ways to reduce employee turnover and improve employee retention. When a company has a diverse workforce, they tend to accept individual differences and characteristics more. This directly impacts how employees feel. When employees feel valued and accepted, they are happier and tend to stay with the company for a long time. This keeps employee turnover rates low.

How to Adopt D&I in the Post-Pandemic Workplace

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Companies have begun to come to terms with the reality of remote working. HR teams have started adopting crucial changes as they get used to working with a global workforce. HR professionals have realised that these times are an opportunity to handle things from a fresh perspective.

Today several companies strive to achieve workplace diversity, but not all of them end up on the successful side of the spectrum. The process of creating a gender-neutral and culturally diverse workplace is an ongoing one.

Here are some ideas to adopt inclusion and diversity in the post-pandemic workplace:

Support the Employees

Some employees may be working parents, some could be taking care of their parents, or employees may be married to or live with essential workers.

This pandemic has affected all employees differently. Employees are juggling different situations at home, along with their professional commitments. Some employees may be working parents, some could be taking care of their parents, or employees may be married to or live with essential workers.

Here are some ways HR teams can be supportive of the employees:

  • HR teams must take time to reach out to all employees about their challenges when working from home.
  • Whenever possible, offer flexible timings. The goal must be getting the work done, even if it means allowing some flexibility on office hours timings.
  • Keep those employees in mind who are returning to work during this time. Consider and list down steps about how the transition will be and aim to make the transition as smooth as possible.

Aim to Achieve All-Round Inclusivity

Sometimes in the quest to achieve D&I at the workplace, diversity initiatives get more focus, and inclusion programs get left behind. HR teams must understand that the inclusion and diversity process will not yield the best possible results unless diversity and inclusion are given equal importance.

Here are some ways in which HR professionals can attempt to achieve all-round inclusivity –

  • People from different faiths and religions must feel welcome in the organisation. They must feel encouraged to be active participants in organisational processes. One way to do this is by celebrating festivals of all faiths. Even if the celebrations are on a small scale, these acts make employees feel valued and recognised.
  • Employees should be encouraged to have a healthy work-life balance. HR teams can offer paid leaves on birthdays. Another option would be to celebrate an employee’s marriage anniversary or occasions like mothers’ day or fathers’ day.
  • Special care must be given to physically disabled employees. HR teams must ensure that the office workspace is differently-abled friendly by having the required infrastructure and facilities in place. Whether it’s the right kind of workspaces or cubicles or proper facilities in washrooms, all these factors are crucial in creating a diverse and inclusive company.
  • In the case of new mothers returning to work, facilities like a creche or an office daycare can be set up. This can go a long way in making the transition a smooth and easy one for the employees.

Create a Safe Space

During these times, employees may feel vulnerable or alone. Due to the pandemic and the remote working situation, employees are physically disconnected, and interactions have been limited. Employees may also feel emotionally disconnected. HR teams must look for solutions to take care of the physical and emotional well-being of employees. They must look for ways to support employees and keep their spirits high.

Here are some suggestions for creating a safe space for employees.

  • Ensure that communication is always two-ways and create an environment for two-way communication to take place.
  • Open existing channels or create new channels of communication for all employees. This encourages conversations and brings a sense of camaraderie within all levels of the organisation. It also fosters a sense of unity among employees. Some examples could be holding weekly happy hours, hosting Town Halls virtually, or even group meditation sessions.
  • HR teams can also ask employees for new activity suggestions.
  • You could also consider holding an online crash course for employees to learn some skills of their choice.
  • HR professionals must have regular one-on-ones or small group sessions to check on the employees’  mental well-being. Asking specific questions will help you get specific answers, instead of generic ones. For example, if you ask employees ‘how are you doing?’, the reply you would usually get is ‘I’m doing well’. Instead, ask your employees, ‘how are you doing on a scale of one to five?’ and the chances of getting specific and insightful answers increases.

Get the Right Strategies in Place

While companies and employees tackle these anxious and uncertain times during the pandemic, it’s also essential to keep the financial aspect under control. HR leaders and professionals will not be able to implement D&I successfully without proper and formal training.

It is the HR leaders’ responsibility to ensure that the right industry-specific D&I strategies are put in place. For example, the diversity strategies for the IT sector would vary from those of the real estate or hospitality sector. To successfully execute D&I strategies, defining these policies and strategies is vital.

An organisation’s success depends largely on its employees. The talent acquisition and retention process is where HR teams can begin implementing the D&I policies. The goal would be to open up job opportunities for all individuals without any restrictions of gender, class, religion, physical ability, etc.

For example, in the IT sector, the talent team can hire people based solely on their unique skill sets. There may be many applicants such as someone with a physical disability, someone from the LGBTQ community, or even a new mother returning to work. With remote teams, hiring can achieve more D&I than before.

The pandemic broke the barriers of geographical boundaries as companies are now employing talent from across the globe. Achieving D&I could seem more challenging now, but it also has its advantages. Along with a diverse country, HR professionals will also need to keep national and international factors in mind. HR teams would have to look at local cultural nuances, local holidays, regional behavioural aspects, etc. as they gear up to put the best diversity and inclusion efforts into action.

Gone are the days when D&I was considered just a program. Organisations are widely welcoming D&I as it creates an amicable, progressive work environment and impacts business. An organisation will achieve its business goals, objectives, and targets only when D&I is given its due importance.

To prepare themselves for the post-pandemic workplace, companies have actively restructured their priorities and vision. As we live in a rapidly changing world, it’s about time that D&I is also a part of the new normal in the post-pandemic workplace. The need of the hour is to take a human approach to human resources by adopting D&I. This helps people to thrive, resulting in better organisational performance.


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