How To Manage Diversity At Workplace In The Post COVID-19 World

How To Manage Diversity At Workplace In The Post COVID-19 World

We humans identify ourselves in wide range of ways and no two humans are the same. In broader terms we are diverse in nature along the lines of sexual orientation, race, gender identity, religion, age or ethnicity. We are also different in our physical abilities, strengths, weaknesses, level of education and many other factors as well. When we talk about diversity in the workplace, we mean that the workplace represents the diversity of the community it serves.

Inclusion means that each person irrespective of their personal, social, physical or other differences, is equally empowered to voice out her/his opinions and have the assurance that her/his voice will be heard. Inclusion is not merely a tolerance for diversity but actually has a wider connotation wherein it entails acceptance of each individual the way she/he is and striving towards elevating people so that they are at an equal footing with anyone else and they don’t feel small in their skin.

Why Diversity and Inclusion is Important?

Diversity and Inclusion, when subjected to an incomplete analysis, seems like a concept relevant only from the HR perspective.  Something to be done along the lines of morality and ethics. And that is to a great extent necessary. To build a truly ethical company, taking care of diversity and inclusions is necessary. However, that is not the only point to it. More and more companies have realized that nurturing a diverse and inclusive workforce leads to tangible benefits such as economic gains and a better brand equity. A recent McKinsey report stated that companies which strive for diversity are 35% more likely to show returns above the average for their industry.

Here is why diversity and inclusion in the workplace is important:

  • It leads to a more capable and qualified workplace. When a company is truly inclusive, they can tap into a much larger talent pool. This helps ensure that good people are hired no matter what background they belong to or how they identify themselves.
  • It drives creativity and innovation in the workplace. A diverse workforce makes sure that the company, as a whole, is thinking along diverse perspectives informed by those coming from varied backgrounds and possessing different perspectives. Overspecialization has always been found to be a sure way to breeding weaknesses in the workforce.
  • A diverse workforce can really give a boost to your brand equity and your image as an employer. As the world is moving forward and paving a path towards inclusion, a company that wholeheartedly embraces diversity can help to improve its perception amongst the external stakeholders like customers, shareholders and potential employees.
  • It improves the competitive edge of an organization. When an organization is truly inclusive, it is tapping into markets and talent pools that it would not be otherwise looking into because of biases and prejudices.

How Has COVID-19 Impacted Diversity and Inclusion?

COVID 19 has impacted the business world in unimaginable ways. More and more people are forced to work-from-home and several people are laid off. The tendency to downsize the workforce in the face of the pandemic is the new normal for many organizations. Some experts are suggesting that the unemployment rate could peak well beyond what was seen during the Great Depression in 1933.

This has increased the concerns that the positive momentum that was shaping up around diversity and inclusion will be negatively impacted. Many researchers believe that the most impacted group from this change are women. Early indicators show that the impact on women’s job opportunities has been disproportionate.  

In today’s unprecedented times, it is easy to lose focus on aspects which do not provide an immediate benefit. This short-term view can lead to principles like diversity and inclusion being sidelined in favor of more immediate concerns. This can result in the organization losing the vital momentum created to bring about positive changes at the workplace.

These are some of the scenarios of how diversity and inclusion can be overlooked:

  • In the current situation, where most of the work is being done remotely, unacknowledged biases might creep into the recruiting processes of the organization.
  • For people who are not well-equipped to handle the outbreak, the health risks posed by the pandemic are higher. The type of community you live in (close quarters vs distanced) will increase the risks posed. Resource availability also differs for disparate groups of the population. Conditions for the employee differ based on their personal experiences. HR Managers might have difficulty in reconciling with these differences.

In this time of economic uncertainty, all these nice to have things face a real concern of being sidelined. This is why it is even more important for the human resource professionals and organizational leadership to ensure that the principles of diversity and inclusion are given their due importance.

How to Address the Question Of Diversity And Inclusion?

Here are some steps to take in the post COVID-19 world to ensure that the organizations don’t lose their focus and continue to nurture a culture of inclusion:

  • As discussed above, women are more likely to be impacted by the current situation. Women may find to maintain a perfect work life balance in this current work-from-home situation. Sudden dips in performance could be attributed to these factors. It is importance for the organizational leadership and other team members to be understanding about any such situations.  
  • Human resource professionals should run general awareness campaigns tackle the issue of unacknowledged biases. They should also, challenge any such biases, so that the organization’s stance on diversity and inclusion can trickle down to all levels.
  • Organizations should focus on sound physical and emotional health of the employees. They can also take steps to encourage and empower employees to voice out their concerns or explain their perspectives. This data can be then used to craft more inclusive policies, mindful of the diverse issues faced by different groups or individuals.
  • Take necessary steps to monitor recruitment of new team members to ensure that the policy of inclusion is being adhered to stringently. In a remote setting, it is easier for biases to crop up. Organizations can put in place a feedback loop with the interviewed candidates to ensure that any such things don’t happen.
  • Organizations should also take a long hard look at the entire supply chain to understand pain points from a diversity perspective and ensure resolution of any such issues.
  • Leadership should always have a strong and clear stance on the principles of diversity and inclusion.  The constitution of the leadership team should reflect that stance, so that everyone in the organization has a fixed point to rally around.

Conclusion

Now when everyone is at a vulnerable state of mind there is a need, now more than ever, that the message of cooperation and community is kept alive and healthy within the organization. Not only does this boost your employees’ mental health and productivity but also helps in making sure that the organization stands true to the ethical standards of humanity. This is the time to find the right balance between your business strategy an equally well thought out people strategy. This will help organizations to navigate the post COVID-19 world with a clear eye on the future.  This vison will help them meet their strategic goals and fill in the gaps that still remain, from the perspective of diversity and inclusion in the workforce.

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