Diversity and inclusion (D&I) is an integral part of most organizations' strategy and vision. During normal times, it is an area that businesses work on assiduously to improve their brand and bottom line. However, with a global public health crisis impacting the economy and employment on an unprecedented scale, it is easy to put D&I on the back burner and focus on more pressing priorities.
Sustaining D&I while dealing with the obvious business fallout from the Covid-19 pandemic won't be easy, but it is possible. Based on my extensive experience of working with diverse populations in terms of race, ethnicity, language, gender and ability levels, I have put together the following checklist for business leaders and social entrepreneurs to understand what they are doing right and where they need to improve.
1. Use A Comparative Approach For Performance Evaluation
Every industry works differently, and every organization's culture is different. Where an organization stands today is probably vastly different from where it stood pre-pandemic. Similarly, when the world emerges on the other side of this crisis, all organizations will find themselves in a different set of circumstances. These reasons call for a comparative approach to performance evaluation.
Any organization can compare its progress on D&I with developments in other companies in a similar time frame. Here are some questions and metrics to consider:
• Where do you currently stand in relation to other companies that have similar missions and vision statements on D&I?
• How much progress have your competitors made over the past six months in terms of expanding diversity within the ranks of their organizations? How does that compare with the progress you have made?
• What is the size and composition of your diverse talent pool versus your competitors'? What has changed since the beginning of the pandemic?
• On the open talent market, what is the turnover rate for employees who are diverse versus those who are not? How does your turnover data compare with that? Has the pandemic affected the overall turnover rate?
2. Be Innovative With Your Hiring Approach
With the world confined to their homes, finding candidates from physical job fairs and career expos is not an option at present. Besides, traditional methods of hiring can only do so much to support large-scale D&I initiatives. So, ask yourself the following questions:
• Am I advertising my organization's diversity- or disability-friendly jobs in the right place?
There are various social media groups for diverse professionals (e.g., groups for individuals on the autism spectrum, women in STEAM and transitioning military veterans looking for civilian jobs, to name a few). Post jobs in those groups for personalized, targeted campaigns.
•Am I reaching out to other organizations or entities that advocate for diversity and inclusion in the workplace?
D&I needs collaboration to grow. Partner with disability service providers and community support groups to tap into untapped talent pools.
•Am I in touch with employee resource groups (ERGs) that promote D&I?
ERGs can be a great source of support, advice and encouragement.
•Do my employees, customers and business partners know why D&I is still important?
The Covid-19 pandemic has affected everyone in one way or another. Faced with growing unemployment and underemployment, people without disabilities are struggling to get by, let alone those with disabilities who are already vulnerable to workplace discrimination and may have trouble adjusting to the new normal of containment and self-isolation. It is, therefore, important to make sure everyone you interact with is aware of the benefits of D&I. Train your employees on how to sell your vision more effectively.
3. Promote Your Referral Program And Benefits
A good way to increase diversity in talent sourcing is to encourage your current employees who are diverse to refer their connections to your organization. Highlight the benefits clearly to incentivize your employees to bring great referrals.
4. Actively Promote Principles Of Inclusion
If ever there were a time to promote principles of inclusion in action and not just in words, it is now. Do you make unilateral decisions, or do you call upon your employees to hear what they think about a specific project, strategy or direction? Meaningful employee engagement can be achieved as simply as by asking them to participate in a 10-minute online survey.
Bringing It All Together
Diversity and inclusion in the workplace is an essential business practice that forward-thinking organizations prioritize at all times. It creates a positive work environment where innovation, creativity and entrepreneurship thrive. An effective D&I approach requires regular planning and nurturing. It does not have to be "switched off" in response to external circumstances and then switched back on again when those circumstances improve.