How Post Business Recovery Will Benefit by Focusing on Diversity and Inclusion
The impact COVID-19 has had on life and business as we know it has been unprecedented. With the new normal that businesses now find themselves facing being one that needs to adapt and change on a weekly, sometimes daily basis. The most recent and impactful changes have ranged from ensuring your business is COVID-19 secure, to placing employees on furlough leave, through to instructing whole departments and sometimes whole organisations to work from home, rather than venture to the office.
Yet as these changes have unfolded, demanding a real time response, HR and business leaders have also been faced with the challenge of maintaining a semblance of business as usual for the very areas of good people practice that truly matter. Those being the areas that count in making a huge difference to the ways in which organisational culture operates, enabling employee engagement and people performance to flourish.
Diversity and inclusion has been one such area that until the emergence and unfolding of the COVID-19 pandemic, had gained a worthy focus and significant momentum. Yet understandably, at least initially as the pandemic hit, regrettably the focus of attention has managed to lose its place in the priority list, whilst the impacts from the new normal have taken precedence.
It is however the very impact of the pandemic that has demonstrated how hard inequality and inequity can affect people’s lives. Naturally this effect extends to business operations and their diversity focus as well.
Why focus on diversity matters
During a time of increased organisational crisis and uncertainty, as this time clearly is, performance and productivity are some of the first areas to be impacted. When people are operating from a place of fear, uncertainty and survival instinct, it’s understandable that performance in a role will be negatively impacted as a result.
Yet the evidence of a correlation between business performance and diversity has been well researched and explored by a variety of well respected business consultants and experts in human resources management. Where once again Mckinsey, the global consulting firm, well versed in their studies and advisory on diversity and the positive impact it has on organisational performance have reported how crucial the time now is to remain focused on the diversity agenda.
Their report, ‘Diversity wins: How inclusion matters’ is Mckinsey’s third addressing the topic and brings together their earlier analysis of diversity, inclusion and its benefits, published in 2014 and 2017. The findings of all three reports correlate to reach the same overarching conclusion that companies who have more women within their top teams outperform those with limited women in senior seats. And diverse teams, no matter where they are geographically located, or the sector the organisations are operating within, deliver better results.
COVID-19 and its impact on diversity progress
The unfortunate result of the COVID-19 era we continue to find ourselves in, is one where business leaders have, resulting from their focus on this unique set of circumstances, withdrawn their attention from the need to progress the diversity and inclusion agenda.
Inevitably attention has been placed in responding to the economic crisis at hand, which has led to HR professionals having to juggle, manage and contend with a multitude of challenges facing organisations in efforts to save jobs, ensure the effective continuation of operations and support employees who may be facing personal, health and financial challenges as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
As such, despite the clear evidence to support the prioritisation of diversity and inclusion policy and initiatives, the attention on this area has shifted firmly by senior teams to one more concerned with business survival. The outcome of this shift in focus could be detrimental to the future progress of diversity.
It’s worthwhile also considering that the UK Government itself has also halted initiatives that support diversity and inclusion, such as gender pay gap reporting, which has been suspended as a reporting requirement in 2020. As a result, the consensus on the decision to halt gender pay gap reporting, is that this, combined with coronavirus itself, could disproportionately affect women in the workplace.
Prior to the COVID-19 crisis, gender pay gap reporting, initially introduced in 2017 mandated that organisations with 250 employees or more, must publish and report specific figures about their gender pay gap. This came as a result of a Government consultation on the gender pay gap and workplace equality which concluded in 2015.
The objective of introducing this reporting was to increase transparency around pay, and highlight the gaps in equality which could be identified by having access to the pay information of larger firms. And whilst organisations with less than 250 employees weren’t mandated to report on this in the same way, the practice was encouraged, highlighting the evident need to address gaps in pay, which were disproportionately impacting women at all levels of organisational hierarchy.
The decision to temporarily place this reporting on hold, could add further damage to women and their ability to progress at work. According to Sam Smethers, Chief Executive of the Fawcett Society, as reported in People Management magazine, “It will be mothers who will take on the majority of care for the children who are not in nursery or school.” It’s this impactful addition to womens workload and work / life balance, that could add further detriment to career progression prospects, as redundancy rounds are contemplated.
Coronavirus will disproportionately affect women in the workplace, commentators warn, so keeping diversity and inclusion on the agenda is more important than ever
However it’s absolutely vital that employers and business leaders don’t lose focus of their gender pay gap goals and diversity initiatives. Particularly as the gender pay gap offers the best data available, at scale to indicate where in your organisation diversity & inclusion initiatives are bedded in, and where they require greater focus.
How to pursue an inclusive recovery
Focusing on equality, diversity and inclusion offers organisations the very best chance of recovery post the COVID-19 crisis period. Dame Helena Morrissey, the founder of gender equality campaign group the 30% Club and former CEO of Newton Investment Management, speaking at the CIPD festival of work conference earlier this year, made clear that “this is not just about equality and about treating people fairly, which is of course important in all of this, but it is about getting better creativity, the best thinking, about making the right decisions.”
And it’s through effective decision making in this area, whilst actively pursuing an inclusive recovery and recognising that diversity and inclusion are necessities, that will engender far greater outcomes for recovery.
The Mckinsey research found that companies with more than 30% of women on their senior executive teams are significantly more likely to outperform those organisations with between 10% and 30% women at the top.
— McKinsey Global Institute (@McKinsey_MGI) April 10, 2018
In addition, organisations need also to acknowledge that by focusing solely on short term financial recovery without a focus on diversity and inclusion, will in the long term be detrimental to employee engagement, employee brand, the ability to attract and retain top talent and the bottom line, in the long term.
It’s not enough to focus on D&I only when times are good in business, this moment of collective crisis is calling on Human Resources professionals to articulate the link between diversity, inclusion and the strategic aims, outcomes and objectives of the company during this all too crucial time.
Through the use of effective data as a starting point for decision making and action, leaders can not only affect good decision making on people management, linked to the COVID-19 crisis but also make strategic decisions relating to D&I that the organisation can learn and grow from.
CakeHR’s reporting capability greatly enables HR & business leaders to draw insights, conclusions and trends from historical data on diversity and pay reporting, that will help to predict future needs and behaviours. Using the HR dashboard, HR business partners can easily measure the percentage improvement of workforce productivity, whilst determining causes and understanding the impact on costs, and financial performance.
Using data to incentivise managers and business leaders to create inclusive cultures, where diverse talent can be attracted, developed and retained is vitally important to organisational success, making the adoption of a solid HR Management software solution like Cake HR so beneficial to organisations embarking on their inclusive business recovery journey.
Bringing it all together
Recovery for organisations, businesses and indeed individual livelihoods must continue to be at the forefront of post COVID-19 recovery strategy. And yet, the critical consideration for organisations is how they can combine these all too urgent focuses with the matter of diversity and inclusion, which should remain as high a priority in the efforts to bounce back from the coronavirus crisis.
The data on why a strong D&I focus should rank highly in your organisation’s priority focus speak for themselves. However, should resistance be encountered, then your leadership team perhaps yourself directly if you’re a business leader, can find comfort in knowing that by focusing on diversity and inclusion at this critical moment in your plans for recovery, you’re sowing the seeds for sustainable growth and increased resilience, that will last far beyond the COVID-crisis. And that’s good news for everyone, all round.
CakeHR is an award-winning HR software company that provides attendance, performance and recruitment management for customers worldwide. More information at www.cake.hr