Embracing Diversity and Inclusion in a Post-Pandemic Workplace
Never in modern history has the economy been shaken to its very core so quickly. In the wake of COVID, tens of thousands of workers are reconsidering their priorities, changing jobs, and in many cases, changing careers. Factor in the ability to work virtually anywhere and the data that shows remote working can be highly beneficial for some corporate roles, and you have a perfect storm for changing the face and character of the modern workplace.
Increasingly, employees want to work in an environment where they can grow, be challenged, and feel accepted and valued. Pay is no longer the top draw. Millennials and GenZ’s are the most diverse population segments in our history. Of the 87 million Millennials in this country, only 56% are white. For comparison, 72% of the 76 million Baby Boomers are white. Moreover, a 2020 study by Glassdoor found that 76% of employees and job seekers consider a diverse and inclusive workforce to be an important factor in considering job offers.
Diversity and inclusion extend far beyond race, ethnicity, or gender. There are other nuances in the workforce, including those that face cognitive challenges, have different thought processing skills, come from different backgrounds that manifest themselves in their behavior, mannerisms, or social skills, or come from different geographical locations that have different beliefs, social roles or ideologies.
It’s human nature to make assumptions about people based on our initial interactions with them, and while this can serve us well in society, it can also cause us to miss opportunities in the workplace to hire employees who will take our business to the next level. Diversity and inclusion are essential to creating a more dynamic and responsive organization, one that reflects the diversity of our customers and clients.
This is easier said than done, of course. Adding diversity, inclusion, and equity to your mission statement or the opening lines of your strategic plan won’t change your culture or broaden your workforce. Neither will a stream of emails touting your dedication to these principles. Creating diversity and inclusivity in the workplace is granular. It takes time, dedication, resources, and leadership to change the face of an organization.
Start with your company’s goals. Assess where you are now as a business and figure out where you want to go. This is individualized work. There’s no manual for this; no copy and paste from another organization. A good starting point is doing a self-assessment survey on diversity, inclusion, and equity to identify specific gaps in your organization’s recruitment, human resources, and management practices. This will help you focus on identifying gaps rather than spending too much time fixing something that isn’t broken.
Leading the way
Leadership is essential. In addition, to support at the executive team level, you need to initiate deliberate, informed change at all levels. Many companies are hiring a Director of Diversity and Inclusion to head up this type of organizational change. As part of the executive or leadership team, they can hold the business and its operations accountable for meeting specific goals. According to Indeed.com, jobs focused on diversity and inclusion have increased 35% in the last two years.
Importance of training
Training is another key ingredient. Executives and line managers are highly influential in how company-wide initiatives are executed, and ultimately, successful. These managers need to buy into this body of work and understand their own roles in meeting company goals and objectives. They will also help reinforce employee-level training, providing leadership and guidance in building diversity and inclusion into teams, units and divisions and providing course corrections when insensitivity creeps in.
Change takes time
This is a delicate process since humans by nature are biased. Our beliefs, backgrounds, social circles, and intuition tend to influence our behavior, especially on the subconscious level. Often, we don’t even recognize we are reacting in a way that is not inclusive or equitable. Additional training may be needed to address individual and organizational bias. Before it can be overcome, it needs to become part of the collective consciousness without fear of judgment or retribution. If your company doesn’t have expertise in training, seek out trainers who can tackle this on behalf of your organization and customize it to your unique culture.
Unfortunately, not everyone will jump on board. Some people are resistant to change while others will adjust over a period as new ideas are introduced, and new policies and practices are adopted. Keeping doors open to conversation and dialogue is an important part of your ultimate success. Management must be willing to walk the walk and talk the talk. One effective strategy is to find those who are most resistant to change who serve as informal thought leaders in the company. Find out why they are apprehensive and see if you can lower the level of resistance through dialogue. If you can move even some of these people into the middle of the organizational mindset, you will see organic and real change, as they no longer work against your efforts to become more inclusive and diverse. At worst, they may decide that your workplace isn’t for them and move on.
As you work toward becoming more inclusive, diverse, and equitable, remember that it takes time, consistency, and resourcing. Commit the resources needed to conduct regular professional and personal trainings, including division or company-wide meetings to discuss the importance and benefits of embracing the tremendous potential of a more diverse, inclusive workforce. You also need to keep the channels of communication open. Change is difficult and people will have honest questions and concerns. Be ready to address them with candor, honesty, and authenticity. Remember, we are all in this together as we create a more productive, inclusive, and effective work environment where everyone is welcome to share their talents, improve their skills, feel valued and have the opportunity to be successful, personally and professionally.
# # #
Melissa Lopez currently serves as the CEO of Positive Adventures and CEO and Co-Founder of Onyx Offsites & Trainings. Her background expertise in the digital space as well as her executive leadership skills have proved crucial, especially in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Lopez was able to successfully pivot the company’s team building programs into the virtual space, and within less than two months, Positive Adventures was successfully offering virtual team building and training programs on a global basis to corporations and schools. It was during this time that Lopez, alongside the original Positive Adventures Founder Ryan Shortill and Co-Founder Jered Cherry, recognized the need to adjust to accommodate a new set of challenges for the global workforce. This realization was the launching pad for Onyx, a new company that elevated Positive Adventure’s existing portfolio of programs for companies on a global basis. Lopez continues to be the driving force behind Onyx, playing an instrumental role in growing the brand and providing resources for corporations of all sizes. Outside of her day-to-day responsibilities with PA and Onyx, Lopez is also a leading figure in the San Diego community, actively serving on various Board of Directors including Entrepreneurs Organization and Pegasus Building Services, and actively volunteers within the San Diego marketplace. She has been recognized by her industry peers as a recipient of multiple awards including “2016 CEO of the Year” from the San Diego Chapter of Entrepreneurs Organization (EO), and as a finalist for Woman of The Year 2016 and 2021 by San Diego Magazine, in recognition for her dedication to entrepreneurship, charity work & leadership within the San Diego community.
About Onyx Offsite and Trainings:
Created by the team behind Positive Adventures, a leader in experiential education, Onyx brings more than 20 years of proven expertise in outdoor education, training and development. The Positive Adventures team has a large corporate client portfolio currently being serviced, which will transition to Onyx. Their experience includes supporting Fortune 500 companies and top brands across the country and around the world.