By Linda Fisk
As companies of all sizes grapple with the urgent and complex issues brought on by the pandemic, such as employee and customer safety, revenue slowdowns, business delays and employee downsizing, the commitment to workforce equity might tumble to a distant consideration. But, in the new virtual environment, now is the time for champions of diversity and inclusion initiatives to be more deliberate about connecting with, advocating for and developing diverse talent. Leaders must balance the speed of decision-making, which is critical in these times, with the need to include the voices that represent the full spectrum of talent within the workplace.
The Business Benefits Of Committing To Equity
It’s increasingly clear that a commitment to equity is not just the right thing to do, but it is also smart leadership and good business. Research has proven that employees at organizations with advanced diversity and inclusion strategies are more likely to feel loyal to their company, engaged in innovative work and dedicated to top performance. Today, a strong commitment to diversity signals an exceptional work environment where each employee contribution is valued and all employees are provided every chance to succeed. That kind of organization promotes achievement, encouraging people throughout the organization to reach for their best because they are valued based on their performance. Not only does that kind of environment drive productivity, but it can also cultivate employee satisfaction. And when satisfaction rises, so can financial performance.
Diversity definitions have now expanded to include less visible characteristics like parental status or religion. Diversity matters because it brings a broad collection of experiences, perspectives, backgrounds and viewpoints to the discussion, leading to better decision-making. Today, leaders are focused on embracing the strengths of a diverse workforce and incorporating inclusion strategies.
Inclusivity is all about maintaining core diversity values of equal opportunity, but it shifts the focus to ensure that every person in the organization is being treated as an individual, empowering everyone in the organization to have the opportunities they deserve. In turn, inclusivity can breed employee support, build morale and nurture loyalty. By focusing on individual abilities and rewarding exceptional performance, the company can engender the sense of fairness and just rewards that diversity and inclusion is meant to instill. The pace of complex change in business demands that businesses leverage all relevant talent in every member of their workforces.
Further, if organizations don’t actively renew their commitment to eliminating overt and subtle discrimination, they can expect inequities to grow more insidious and turn into major challenges. Women and minorities of all genders can suffer from implicit and explicit bias at work, and at times of acute stress and pressure, these inequities can be amplified. This is when an organization’s investment in diversity and inclusion initiatives can yield significant rewards and eliminate inequities as we all adapt to a new working environment.
Five Steps To Incorporate Diversity And Inclusion
So, how do you unleash talent, ensure that your organization has representation from multiple points of view, and can leverage diversity and inclusion practices as a sustainable competitive advantage for your company? Here are a few key considerations for your business:
1. Understand who you want to be as an organization and how you want to be known as an influencer in your industry.
2. Once you’re clear on the reputation you want to have as a company, clearly communicate how you expect your leaders to behave to create and sustain a healthy and dynamic culture collectively. Also, create frameworks of accountability to ensure that all leaders live up to those ideals.
3. Commit to a journey that embraces diversity and inclusion, both inside and outside the organization. This will clearly signal your commitment and reflect the values of the organization to your customers, stakeholders and prospective employees. Be transparent about your commitment, your progress and the work yet to be done.
4. Acknowledge where you’ve fallen short, and make the bold choice to ask for the resources to help with the learning journey. Making investments in diversity and inclusion, and involve your employees in the future that you are aspiring to create.
5. Understand what your success signals are for your company to ensure that you are making meaningful strides toward an equitable workplace. Integrate the feedback from your employees about your progress. The judges of whether your company operates as an inclusive organization are your employees, so ask them regularly to report on their perspective. Conduct focus groups, issue engagement surveys and create other feedback mechanisms.
Why Now Is The Time Now For Change
As the pandemic shifts economic realities for many companies and forces businesses to pivot dramatically, workforce needs will also continue to change. Leaders should use this time to understand these needs and reconfigure diversity and inclusion programs to meet the changing work environment. Savvy leaders position diversity and inclusion programs as strategic assets in both good times and bad. This is crucial to the ongoing financial performance of their organization.
Originally posted on Forbes