As we enter the New Year, it’s widely accepted that diversity, equity and inclusion strategies and efforts are going to play a vital role in how we do business, attract talent and develop brands in 2021.
The year that has gone was a big one for DE&I and if there was any doubt about its place on your list of priorities or its importance to the business, those questions have been answered. When it comes to how the business is seen, few factors are playing a bigger role in the company’s mission to be defined by a culture of fairness, compassion and opportunity for all. This means not only how you hire people, but how you pay them, structure their benefits and manage them in the process of achieving both their personal aspirations as well as the goals of the business. It is part of what employees expect in 2021.
It Starts with Leadership
Leadership has had a difficult time of late. Managing people in remote environments is drastically different from the in-person skillsets that many professionals have developed over their careers. The new way of working requires new approaches from managers to stay in tune with workers. Much of that is about engaging them on their situation and asking “what do you need?”
For example, the pandemic has disproportionately affected women whose role as mothers tends to be more demanding than that of men in their role as fathers. At the same time, some communities are struggling with health impacts of COVID-19 more than others. These are just a couple of factors that have to be taken into consideration as leaders look at the human factors that shape their employees lives and affect their ability to remain engaged with work.
Taking an empathetic, individualized approach to customizing the work experience for employees will help when it comes time to holding them accountable for their work. Employees who feel a sense of loyalty from their employers are more likely to reciprocate that loyalty in the performance of their duties.
High profile events that drew attention to issues of racial justice won’t be forgotten in 2021 and the conversation around how companies can better support the type of systemic change that is needed to create equity in not only our workplaces, but society as a whole, is set to continue.
There has been a great deal of discussion in the last year about creating safe spaces for courageous conversations. While having those conversations is important to understand what employees are going through and how they see the business becoming a participant in solutions, it doesn’t mean much if it isn’t followed up by action on a level that addresses their concerns as human beings.
Companies will be expected to develop task forces dedicated to strategically implementing policy actions and initiatives to improve the diversity profile of the organization. Listening, addressing concerns and taking action will increase the sense of inclusion from all stakeholders involved.
The equity piece may involve embracing new benefit structures that help employees manage their circumstances in new ways. Whether that’s student loan assistance, paid family leave, mental health support or healthcare benefits tailored to members of specific communities, 2021 is the year of personalization in terms of equity.
In some cases, equity does not necessarily mean money, but could translate into flexibility or benefits. In any case, these things are not going to work as part of a one size fits all package and should be used to create personalized offerings that improve the employee experience, meet employee needs and create the inclusive and equitable environment the employer brand needs to thrive in the modern business landscape.
It Continues with Leadership
Sound like a broken record? Well, it can’t be said enough that the success and failure of diversity, equity and inclusion efforts rests on the shoulders of leadership. It can’t just be a moment in time kind of thing. DE&I efforts have to be followed up on, seen through and held accountable for results. It’s down to leaders to ensure a culture of accountability and to develop people that will hold themselves and the organization to a higher standard around these issues.
Another ongoing journey many organizations have to embark on centers around the development of diverse leadership pipelines. Diversity and a culture of inclusion is easier to achieve when employees can see it reflected at the highest levels of the organization. If 2021 is set to be the year of inclusiveness, a big part of it is going to be created by setting up diverse candidates for success.
That inclusive piece will be vital to organizational culture more than ever as the regularity of remote work in the long term comes into focus. With the lessons of the last year applied, Chief People Officers can now focus on refining the remote employee and candidate experiences, from remote interviewing and onboarding, to performance standards and recruitment tactics that target demographics unchained by geography. None of it will be possible, however, without buy in and follow through from leadership.
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