Diversity and inclusion are important issues for businesses during the current pandemic. Initiatives and best practices that increase diversity and inclusion create a work environment that attracts and retains talented workers. This environment makes it possible for businesses to thrive. During this unprecedented time businesses can become more responsive and resilient to changes in the marketplace by understanding the need for diversity and inclusion.
The COVID-19 pandemic have made it necessary for many businesses to have a remote workforce. This has changed how business leaders and workers relate to each other. However, even with a remote working conditions, diversity and inclusion remain very important for businesses for many reasons. According to research from McKinsey:
• Diversity and inclusion help attract talented employees; 39 percent of job seekers decided not to pursue a job because of a perceived lack of inclusion.
• Diversity and inclusion help retain talented employee; employees who experience some form of discrimination are three times more likely to think about leaving their jobs.
• Diverse and inclusive teams make more accurate decisions that are based on differing views and knowledge.
• Diverse and inclusive businesses build greater trust with their customers; their inclusive practices will demonstrate their values of respect.
The pandemic has changed working conditions and has brought forms of diversity to light that are much more subtle than obvious race, ethnicity, gender or disability differences. “The pandemic has elevated disparities and pulled the covers off things occurring in marginalized communities,” says Fannie Glover, Director of Equity and Inclusion at the Early Care and Learning Council of New York. She gives an example that illustrates living and working conditions for some low-income workers. “If you’re living in a one-room apartment with five family members and you test positive for COVID-19, it’s impossible to isolate yourself. If you’re the only bread-winner and you can’t work, your entire family suffers. In addition, if you don’t have a car to go to food banks, nor money for public transportation, you are without food even if it is free.”
Business leaders have the opportunity to respond to workers in disparate situations, and they have to opportunity to build diversity and inclusion even during the COVID-19 pandemic. During video and tele-conferences with employees, leaders can be transparent about company changes and skill demands. They can tie these new opportunities to career paths and outline the ways that employees can make the best use of tuition assistance to prepare themselves for taking on new responsibilities.
And new work responsibilities can come quickly for all workers. Bronwen Evans, Chief Talent Officer with MedCan, a leading health management company in Canada, says, “Because our business has had to adapt so quickly by offering most of our services remotely, we’ve had to redeploy talent to different areas of the business, providing us with the opportunity to understand and appreciate broader skill sets.” Developing worker skills by offering tuition assistance is one strategic way to encourage diverse perspectives that can bring resilience and success.
In the midst of uncertainty and rapid change, providing tuition assistance for workers as a way to increase diversity and inclusion is best practice. Businesses need to be agile and resilient. Just as they have adapted how they do business, they also need to be able to respond to an uncertain future. They need to ensure they have diverse workers that can respond quickly and take on new and shifting responsibilities.
The Deloitte report “Practicing inclusive leadership in times of crisis” states, “Reimagine how your organization collaborates. Around the world, organizations are mandating extended periods of remote work or alternate work schedules. Inclusive leaders will explore ways to maintain their flexibility even after the pandemic and:
• Empower their organizations with versatile work policies and tools, well-being support systems, and rewards that meet the needs of a diverse workforce.
• Establish guidelines to help workers adapt to a long-term shift in working styles and improve collaboration between teammates with different schedules or geographical locations.”
Educating diverse employees and encouraging them to seek education that aligns with business goals, benefits all. Chris Beck, Chief Operating and Financial Officer for Caldwell Partners International, a global talent recruitment firm says, “Diversity benefits us by ensuring decisions are made with input from many lenses. When it comes down to it, no one should be making leadership decisions without having a representative group guiding them along the way.”
By Kathleen Eischeid, Edcor Business Development Coordinator
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