Lead inclusively by incorporating these steps in your approach.
With the state of the business world during the time of the global pandemic, it’s important that employers and organizations are thoughtful about navigating Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI). As businesses make rapid changes, an issue that’s arising is that they may not be allowing enough time for thoughtfulness in decision-making with a lens of DEI. Speed can be one of the worst enablers of bias and have lasting effects. Fast decisions can hinder equitable spaces and inclusion. We don’t want to move so fast in our business recovery efforts that we fail to implement positive outcomes from a DEI perspective. To be a part of the solution, reflect on the below reminders to keep an eye toward leading inclusively.
Encourage Leadership to Support and Relieve HR
There’s no doubt that HR has been inundated, furloughing people, bringing people back on, and mitigating fast-moving changes that require their full attention. In many organizations, HR actually does the work of DEI (in hiring, internal communication, and representation of the business). If HR is balancing a lot right now, it can cause the work of DEI to receive less attention or fall to the wayside. And right now, we actually need for DEI work to be amplified. This might require organizations who value DEI to relieve their HR managers of their DEI responsibilities and shift or assign that work to other senior organizational leaders. Organizational leaders, C-suite leaders, and managers can leverage this time to become more deeply involved in the work of DEI themselves. It’s time to really shift and make the case for DEI in a new, relevant way.
Think of DEI Through a Remote Work Lens
Organizations are navigating from a remote work perspective. And while some people will return to “business as usual” after this settles, now is the time to consider entertaining new and different talents that haven’t been on our radar before. Remote work can actually open up opportunities for underserved and underrepresented individuals. For workers who have been thriving, how can you continue to allow them to do so if they have reached their stride in the remote working environment? How can you cast the net even wider to attract talent that may be limited in their ability to commute? For some companies, it might be valuable to hire remote workers who weren’t in the normal hiring pool before. On the other hand, how can organizations be sure that their employees succeed post-turnover. Going forward, we will have to consider how to support remote work and insulate against any negative effects.
Over-Communicate with Empathy and Compassion
There’s no denying that empathy and compassion are both vital. Anytime we find ourselves in a period of time where there’s so much uncertainty—we need to over-communicate. We must ensure that leaders and messengers on behalf of the company are thoughtful and considerate. There is value in those leaders demonstrating vulnerability and sharing how much they’re navigating and being impacted by this crisis. This allows others to know they are not alone. You must ensure you have a voice of authenticity, transparency, and truth. Keep asking strategic DEI questions at every point and encourage other leaders to do the same. Set clear expectations so people know when, where, and how you are communicating updates.
Find Ways to Boost Job Security and Communicate That Security
People need a stronger sense of connectivity and comfort, especially as it relates to job security. Some organizations might think that they can’t communicate a high level of security because they don’t even know the reality. The response in that situation is leaders need to be thoughtful in how that information is shared. Otherwise, it can lead to the organization suffering from bias that is directly related to performance ratings. A good rule of thumb now is that organizations give less weight to performance ratings that may have been in place before the pandemic. This gives people more space to still do work but allows for the trauma and difficult times in regard to concentration and performance. Organizations need to be mindful of that.
Be Thoughtful in the Demographic Factors of Hiring and Firing
Women and POC are very high on the unemployment list right now and getting hit the hardest by the pandemic. It behooves organizations to make sure that they are making those terminations or reductions in staff decisions with thoughtfulness on the demographic factors. We must be aware of what percentages are when you reduce part of those populations—especially when those communities have smaller networks. This just magnifies what some could perceive as a lack of intentionality in recruiting and handling diverse candidates. With an organization that wants to showcase leadership in DEI, optics are not everything, but they do create a narrative that people will gravitate to. If POC and women are the ones experiencing the most job loss, that will affect the optics of the company in the marketplace and public eye.
Social Distancing Needs to be “Physical Distancing” and Not Cut Off Social Interaction
Social distancing is meant to be “physical” so the coronavirus can’t spread, but we don’t actually want to isolate ourselves from learning, interaction, and social connection. The language of “social distancing” has caused some people to perceive they need to cut off communication. We don’t want to encourage the negative effects of socially isolating people, and even though we are “physically distant”, we must encourage ways to communicate and connect. Organizations need to have established touchpoints with their employees, such as virtual social events and check-ins. One way to do that is with Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) for creating community and network building. This can help people feel more connected and able to be authentic, which results in better performance in the remote workplace. ERGs are not only for those who are part of that population, but also a great time for allies to connect as well.
The Power of Intersectionality
Lastly, we can shape more inclusive conversations with intersectional thinking. We must be aware of those unifying (and often unseen) identities such as people who are caregivers, people who are struggling with mental health, or dealing with grief. If people have strong thoughts about equality being compromised, are they willing to have that conversation in the public? Maybe not. Leaders need to think of ways to shape intersectional work and encourage people to have these conversations to create a culture of listening and support. Don’t rely on assumptions. Ensure you are relating back to the lived experience of those you’re working with and view experiences through an intersectional lens.
Times right now are intense and can cause organizations to make speedy decisions at a detriment to those underserved communities. We must still find time to pause and think of the long-term implications on DEI as a result of the pandemic. We must recognize that our space and our work is going to look different. If organizations are really thoughtful, this can be seen as a huge opportunity with talent acquisition efforts. We can see the silver lining, create more opportunities, and leverage this experience as a benefit to be more inclusive