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June 17, 2022
Diversity and inclusion in the workplace are not new concepts. However, as the threat of COVID-19 shifts, businesses must have a plan and embrace these concepts. People have gained new and varied perspectives while living through and preparing to emerge from the pandemic.
Although often used together, diversity and inclusion represent different ideas. Diversity is the makeup of the business, including but not limited to age, race, gender, sexual orientation, religion and disabilities. Inclusion is how diversity is integrated. Business leaders aim to make employees feel like they belong and can be themselves in virtual and face-to-face workplace settings.
Why does it matter?
No matter the difference or situation, business leaders should expand their empathy and compassion for employees as work-life challenges evolve. The pandemic has a positive side as 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. Diversity and inclusion should be part of the conversation when discussing employee well-being and engagement.
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. The benefits of diversity and inclusion remain the same as before the pandemic, but this is an excellent time to revisit business strategies. Consider the following for ways to promote diversity and inclusion with your workforce:
Employees and businesses should understand issues as fully as possible. Actively listen to understand differences and seek opportunities to expand your viewpoints. That knowledge will drive company approaches and policies.
On a similar note as above, seek out opportunities to be with those who are different than yourself. A business could do this by expanding recruiting, selection and hiring. Personal growth begins once you’re comfortable with being uncomfortable.
Multiple points of view are critical to developing inclusive policies. Consider including a diverse group of employees, regardless of role, in the decision-making process.
Everyone has been affected differently by the pandemic. Touch base with all employees to learn about their work-from-home or home-life situations to understand how you can be mindful of their challenges. That same attitude is equally important as employees return to the workplace. Two-way communication is critical.
People want to feel a sense of belonging and value in their communities, including the workplace community. Leaders are responsible for building 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.
Feedback, performance reviews, and pay evaluations should be analytical and driven by metrics. That helps remove any bias that may have caused those processes in an in-person work setting.
Everyone is called to step up, but it definitely starts at the top in the workplace. Inclusive leadership takes effort. While still in control, it’s essential to show empathy and appreciation—and keep listening to and supporting the workforce. Now more than ever, employees need and deserve to feel heard and respected in the workplace.