Over the past few years, but particularly since mid-2020, conversations and initiatives around topics of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) have become commonplace in a growing number of workplaces and organizations. The importance of these conversations (and the organizational initiatives that stem from them) cannot be overstated. Individually, these components are vital symptoms regarding the overall health of a workplace. Together, however, they are vital towards creating and maintaining a work environment that allows all employees to remain flexible and productive in the work they contribute to their employers.
Because leaders and developmental professionals are at the forefront of driving meaningful and long-lasting change within their organizations, forming and implementing strategic DEI initiatives within the organization must pertain to all of its membersâboth current and potential.
In order to better understand how these conversations and initiatives can spark positive and long-lasting change, and how your company can best utilize them to implement its own DEI initiatives, we asked Alexandra McGroarty â co-founder and lead HR consultant for McGroarty & Co. Consulting (MGC) - to cover 3 of the top DEI trends you and your leadership team can use to further drive diversity, equity, and inclusion within your organization. Read on to learn what she had to say.
1. Remote employee learning and development programs
Since the onset and subsequent spread of the COVID-19 pandemic in March of 2020, millions of workers around the world (and many of the organizations they work for) have shifted to working remotely or at home. Although several vaccines against the virus are now widely available, a portion of the workforce has yet to return to the office, with many of them voicing their interest to not only remain remote permanently but also for their employers to implement remote development programs for them and their colleagues.
"According to a global survey from McKinsey," McGroarty tells us, "nearly 3 out of every 4 employees have expressed an interest in working remotely from home for at least 2 days out of each week. To add to this, some 65% of remote workers have stated they prefer the flexibility of remote work to a $30,000 pay increase. For employers and organizational leaders, this tells us that there is a gap to fill regarding the broader implementation of remote leadership and development programs for their employees, given how many of those employees desire to remain working remotely at least part of the time."
As McGroarty explains, implementing programs such as these falls hand-in-hand with the ramping up of DEI initiatives within an organization. Ensuring that all remote employees possess the same resources and tools to continue training and developing professional skills remotely is just one example of DEI, as certain demographics of employees like working mothers may desire to do so.
"Employers must gauge whether or not all of their employees have equitable access in regards to not only their flexibility in scheduling," McGroarty adds, "but also in their ability to continue learning and developing their own leadership skills. Remote work is a great opportunity to implement blended learning solutions for all employees, especially those who rely most on DEI from their employers."
2. Prioritizing DEI initiatives to attract and retain more candidates
Along with a shift towards remote work, the past few years have also seen unprecedented amounts of workers leaving their careers to pursue more meaningful work opportunities. This mass exodus of workers, since deemed "the Great Resignation," has likewise presented greater opportunities for employers to create more diverse, equitable, and inclusive work environments in order to not only retain a larger portion of their employees but attract others as well.
"From the organizations I work with and those who help lead them," says McGroarty, "I have noticed that an increasing number of employees wish for their employers to prioritize DEI from within the organization, beginning with its importance to its internal culture and values. They want to see how a company's leadership is working to implement DEI into its organizational structure, management teams, daily operations, marketing efforts, and engagementâboth internally and externally."
According to McGroarty, employers can prioritize DEI by beginning with equitable compensation for both existing and new employees. This not only lets employers "put their money where their mouth is," but shows current workers and potential candidates that DEI remains a priority driver for the company they work with or apply for.
"Without leading by example," adds McGroarty, "your employees will begin seeking more meaningful opportunities elsewhere. By starting on improving DEI with measures to implement equitable compensation and then transferring that to other areas of the organization, such as personal and/or professional development opportunities, your employees will be able to see your organization standing out from the noise of others who haven't done so successfully."
3. More organizations will implement and scale up DEI training
In order for organizations' DEI initiatives to be truly successful, it is not only the company's leadership or managerial teams who need to be trained on what DEI is and why it is important to their company, but all employees and other internal stakeholders. The importance of this, as McGroarty tells us, is due to another vital component of any organization's longevity and success: communication.
"Every employee deserves to feel safe in the workplace," McGroarty says, "and that they are welcomed. They need to feel a sense of belonging, which comes from heightened engagement. DEI-related training is one of the best ways to help teach existing and incoming employees what to do or not do, what to say or not say, or how they can best approach sensitive situations with their peers."
In this way, communication of and training around DEI within the workplace needs to be as inclusive as possible. For instance, referring to certain demographics of people by their preferred pronouns and in first-person will help eschew traditional harmful stereotypes around those demographics. Additionally, workplaces implementing DEI training must help their employees consider aspects like unconscious bias, updated terminology, and metrics to explore DEI through new lenses and perspectives.
"As 2022 continues," McGroarty concludes, "I expect to see a growing number of companies and organizations doubling down on their DEI training and initiatives. This will prove vital for the continued productivity of their employees and teams. The more members of an organization who feel safe, protected, and welcomed at their workplaces, the greater their productivity will be, and the higher the quality of their work will be."