Diversity and inclusion (D&I) in the workplace are not new concepts. However, people have gained new and varied perspectives on these topics while living through the pandemic.
What Are Diversity & Inclusion?
Although often used together, diversity and inclusion are separate ideas. Diversity is the actual makeup of the workforce, including but not limited to age, race, gender, sexual orientation, religion and disabilities. Inclusion is how diversity is integrated.
The goal for business leaders is to make employees feel like they belong and can be themselves—both in virtual and face-to-face workplace settings.
Why D&I in the Workplace is Essential
The pandemic has and continues to elevate disparities and highlight other challenges. For example, a subtler form of diversity is whether somebody is a parent or caregiver. No matter what the “difference” or situation is, business leaders should extend their empathy and compassion for employees as work-life challenges evolve.
Largely a a result of the pandemic, diversity is addressed in new ways with employees working from home. For example, those who may have trouble getting around the office due to physical limitations have been able to work from the comfort of their home.
When discussing employee wellbeing and engagement, diversity and inclusion should be a part of the conversation as well.
Making D&I the New Normal
If we’ve learned anything from social distancing and isolation, it’s that humans are their best when connected and engaged with each other. While the benefits of diversity and inclusion remain the same as they were before the pandemic, this is a good time to revisit D&I business strategies.Consider the following ways to promote diversity and inclusion in your organization:
- Get educated. Employees and businesses should understand these issues as fully as possible. Actively listen to understand differences and seek opportunities to expand your views. That knowledge will drive company approaches and policies.
- Seek opportunities. Seek out opportunities to be with those who are different than yourself. A business could do this by expanding recruiting and hiring. Personal growth begins once you’re comfortable with being uncomfortable.
- Invite opinions. Multiple points of view are critical to developing inclusive policies and programs. Consider including a diverse group of employees, regardless of role, in the development of your D&I strategies.
- Support employees. Touch base with all employees to find out about their work-from-home or home-life situations to understand how you can be mindful of their challenges. This is equally important as employees return to the workplace.
- Build trust. People want to feel a sense of belonging and value in their communities, and that includes the workplace community. Leaders have a responsibility to build trust and acceptance, which will help create a safe environment for employees. Whether virtual or in person, leaders should ensure that everyone’s voices are acknowledged and heard within the workplace.
- Reevaluate performance. Feedback, performance reviews and pay evaluations should be analytical and driven by metrics. That helps remove any bias that may have driven those processes in an in-person work setting.A truly diverse and inclusive workplace takes effort by leaders and employees alike, but when achieved it is valuable for the entire organization.
A truly diverse and inclusive workplace takes effort by leaders and employees alike, but when achieved it is valuable for the entire organization.