By Mandy Rico, Director of Advisory and Inclusion at diversity and inclusion consultancy, INvolve
From the impact of the resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement on workplace policy to hybrid working becoming the norm, it has been a challenging time for employees in the UK and across the world. Concerns around the shrinking economy have caused businesses to make cuts globally, with news indicating that layoffs, particularly within the technology sector, have disproportionately impacted diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) roles. However, it is critical that businesses, large and small, don’t disregard and de-prioritise DEI over the next year as other considerations come to the fore. DEI isn’t a one and done exercise or a nice-to-have, and policies should continuously be front and centre and evolving to suit employees needs in a changing business landscape.
Our work at INvolve over the last few years signals that employees are, rightfully, expecting their workplaces to be strong when it comes to inclusion and equity. This comes as more Gen Z workers are entering the workforce. Research indicates that 77% of this generation consider it important that their company supports diversity and 82% emphasise the importance of mental health days. Due to the increasing presence of Millennial and Gen Z employees in the workforce, failing to attract and retain this demographic can be a costly mistake for businesses.
Not only will prioritising inclusion initiatives increase employee retention, but there are also other benefits to employers. For example, studies have demonstrated a clear correlation between inclusive working environments and employee engagement, which is a critical component to productivity and therefore financial performance.
Steps toward meeting targets can include welfare programmes and flexible working arrangements, but they must be considered alongside wider development opportunities, forums and training, particularly to ensure that diverse talent are adequately supported where necessary. From a recruitment viewpoint, such initiatives demonstrate that prospective employees’ individual needs and career development will be taken seriously.
Equitable practices must be implemented to ensure all talent have equal opportunity to progress within their company – these can take the form of development programmes, specifically for diverse talent who may need support in overcoming barriers to senior leadership positions. Development programmes work to ensure high potential diverse talent are not trapped within the lower levels of organisations, instead offering them tailored support to help build their careers. Through addressing the nuanced challenges faced by diverse talent, senior business leaders can gain insight into their everyday experiences. This can help to inform business practices and any potential improvements moving forward, thus driving a wider talent pool to their business.
For organisations that are still early on in their DEI journey, it’s important to kickstart by developing a true understanding of your company’s culture and the key barriers that must be overcome, through tracking both qualitative and quantitative data to create a holistic overview of an organisation. This can provide a great starting point to track development as new and improved strategies are put in place. The onus should be on employers to offer the resources and implement the strategy to help drive DEI efforts, however they mustn’t be alone in their endeavours. A bottom-up approach is also important. Each and every employee should support the cause, playing their part in using the resources available and doing their own research to develop their understanding of the issues involved and where they can support. To help motivate employees, businesses can be honest about the current state of play regarding inclusion, why inclusion is important and ensure that employees are communicated with regularly to showcase the progress that is being made.
Allyship is key to reinforcing DEI efforts; everyone should be involved conversations for change and the work that needs to be done. To be an active ally, employees should listen to the experiences of others and continue to be a part of conversations around all strands of diversity, equity and inclusion.
Regardless of where they currently stand in their journey, organisations can seek help from external diversity and inclusion consultancies to ensure their workplaces are up to scratch when it comes to DEI. What’s most important is that during the undoubtedly difficult times ahead, companies are continuing to make headway in creating safe and inclusive workplaces so all employees can thrive.