Everybody’s thinking about diversity and inclusion. So much so that LinkedIn Learning’s 2021 Workplace Learning Report found that D&I was the number one development priority for 77% of L&D professionals.It even came in ahead of leading through change and digital transformation, which is quite something given that the report was produced in the middle of a pandemic, when everything was in a state of flux and digitisation was happening everywhere. But, then diversity and inclusion has been so high on the corporate agenda partly because of the pandemic and digitisation, but we will come on to that shortly.

As a result of D&I being such an important strategic priority, 81% of the 1,260 professionals surveyed for the report either had a diversity and inclusion strategy or intended to start one in the next 12 months. And 31% of them were working closely with D&I teams on their related strategy, programmes and content, which is actually a surprisingly low number, given that it’s a top priority. If an organisation has a D&I team, then surely any L&Ders working on a D&I strategy and on related programmes and content would want to collaborate closely with their D&I counterparts?

The effectiveness of your diversity and inclusion strategy

So there’s a lot of activity around D&I, but how effective is your average diversity and inclusion strategy? The best people to ask are probably the workforce as they tend to have a pretty good handle on whether an organisation is doing what it says its doing.

They should know if their organisation is diverse and inclusive (assuming that everyone in an organisation is on board with diversity and inclusion, which is a big assumption). According to a report by the research and advisory organisation Deloitte, it’s a thumbs up from most employees, with many saying they have faith in their employers’ commitment to DEI (diversity, equity and inclusion) and their ability to execute successful DEI programmes. The research found that:

  • 80% of respondents are confident their organisation will achieve its targeted DEI outcomes
  • 84% say their leaders who make public statements on DEI back their words with action
  • 80% believe their leaders are sincere in their commitment to achieve targeted outcomes

However, the article went on to talk about ‘commitment drift’ and the need for organisations to stay on track with D&I.

The impact of Covid-19 on your diversity and inclusion strategy

Right now, commitment is high, largely because Covid-19 and the Black Lives Matter movement highlighted the inequities in society. They brought home the need to create inclusive and engaging workplaces. Organisations want change, people want change and young people in particular want to work for organisations that are diverse and inclusive.

This has turned the dial up on diversity and inclusion, creating new opportunities and challenges for organisations. 5App is exploring these opportunities and challenges in a couple of webinars on D&I in the current climate. The first webinar is on How to Define an Effective Diversity and Inclusion Strategy in a Changing Workplace and the second one is on How Technology can Help Implement an Effective Diversity and Inclusion Strategy.

Let’s look at how workplaces have changed as a result of recent events, and how these changes have created new opportunities and challenges for L&D teams and business leaders with regards to D&I.  

What are the opportunities and how do they impact on your D&I strategy?

The switch to remote working and then to a hybrid work model has had a big impact on who works where, how and why. Hybrid work models widen access to employment opportunities for employees and enable employers to fish in a much wider, bigger and more diverse pool of talent.

This facilitates greater diversity and inclusion by making it easier for underrepresented groups to access the same opportunities as everyone else. For example, a disabled person might appreciate the ability to work wholly or part time from home, rather than facing a daily commute during rush hour. Or people with caring responsibilities might find it easier to balance work with home life if they don’t have to be in the office 9-5, five days a week. Geography is less of a determining factor over where people work either, which again breaks down barriers for people.

  • When defining and implementing your diversity and inclusion strategy, these opportunities need to be taken into account.
  • How can your organisation offer an inclusive and effective hybrid work model? 
  • Where does learning fit into this?
  • What resources will people need?
  • How do you reach out to underrepresented groups, both during the recruitment process and once they are PAYE?

    These are some of the questions L&D teams need to be asking.
                                                       

What are the challenges and how do they impact on your D&I strategy?

There’s always a flipside and with the hybrid work model, the flipside is this: making sure that people working remotely all or even some of the time have the same access to opportunities, to learning, to resources and tools, to internal networks and career development, as those working in the office full time. Proximity bias has emerged as a real issue in recent months. What is proximity bias? It’s the tendency to give preferential treatment to those in our immediate vicinity. And those working from home? The concern is that it’s a case of ‘out of sight, out of mind’.

According to Katica Roy, CEO of Pipeline Equity, a company that aims to stop unconscious bias in the workplace, proximity bias benefits employees who:

  • spend more physical time in the office
  • have frequent contact with leadership
  • are present in high-level meetings
  • work during peak business hours

Research by LinkedIn found that almost half of the UK workers surveyed thought that people who worked in the office would be favoured over those who worked from home, with many of them expressing concerns about the effect of remote working on their career. It’s something that concerns the C-suite as well, although 76% of leaders participating in the study said they were confident about creating an inclusive environment for all employees, wherever they worked.

Employers who are serious about D&I (which should, of course, be all employers) need to think about proximity bias so that there is equality of opportunity for all employees.

5App’s Diversity and Engagement Hub

Many organisations are using our D&I Engagement Hub to underpin their diversity and inclusion strategy. The Hub enables users to engage with the latest content and thinking around D&I. It provides learning resources that help build an inclusive culture and improve user engagement with learning.

Take the oil and gas challenger brand Spirit Energy. Spirit came to 5App for some standalone soft skills content, but soon realised that it could gain so much more by implementing the Hub. What followed was SHIELD – the Spirit Hub for Improvement, Education, Learning and Development. Internal employee influencers, Free Spirits, who ran internal networks such as the LGBTQ+ network were heavily involved, creating and sharing playlists for their communities.

The Hub’s metrics show that user engagement levels have been really strong and that SHIELD has really helped build an inclusive culture, making all employees feel that they belong.

Conclusion

So how do you ensure your diversity and inclusion strategy is fit for purpose?  You need to look at all of the challenges and opportunities in the workplace today and what they mean in your individual context. How do you overcome proximity bias, for example? You need to ensure all employees are engaged with their role, feel included and that they belong. Think about what it means to be an inclusive employer. What do employees want and need in the workplace? How can you facilitate that? And as with any strategic intervention, your D&I strategy needs to be closely aligned with overall business objectives and practices in order for it to succeed.

 

5App webinar - Thursday 10 March 2022, 2pm

To explore these and other issues further, please sign up to our webinar.

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