Necessary, Not Discretionary: Why Your Company Needs an Inclusive Culture When Things Get Tough
Covid-19 has businesses around the world cutting costs. Companies are understandably trying to prioritize the essential aspects of their business, such as adapting to remote work and maintaining productivity. Still, we must not forget that Diversity and Inclusion initiates are crucial as well. Unfortunately, diversity programs are often among the first to go, when, in reality, they are more critical now than ever. If companies choose to lessen their focus on diversity, they face the risk of falling behind other companies and receiving backlash from their customers.
Employees of color and those from marginalized groups are also more likely to suffer negative consequences from the Covid-19 pandemic, so special attention is needed to ensure that these employees are getting the support and flexibility they may need. So, what can companies do to make sure that diversity remains a corporate priority? And how can we make sure each of our employees gets the support they need?
First, we need to make sure that we don't lose sight of diversity goals because of the Covid-19 pandemic. Ongoing programs should be continued as much as possible, and any diversity goals a company has should continue to influence corporate decisions. Even if the benefits of continuing D&I programs are unclear now, the benefits will be evident in the future. Having an inclusive culture will give employees and managers the tools necessary to handle any virtual disputes that may arise. Similarly, companies that continue their commitments to equality and inclusion will come out of the Covid-19 crisis poised to take advantage of future opportunities. Diversity has many tangible benefits, and a pandemic doesn't take those benefits away.
Companies also need to provide proper support and flexibility to all of their employees, especially those with challenging situations or health concerns. Allowing those with children at home to work remotely will help employees balance the demands of parenting and work obligations. If an employee holds a position where they must be present at work physically, then assisting with finding and affording childcare is essential. Those with health concerns or high-risk family members should be allowed to work remotely, if possible. If not, flexible leave policies enable companies to ensure that talented employees return to work once they can do so safely.
The Covid-19 pandemic is challenging for business and employees alike, but by promoting diversity and inclusion, companies will be better equipped to face whatever challenges lie ahead. Likewise, a healthy, supportive company culture will encourage employees to be both flexible and resilient. If we want to successfully rebound from this pandemic, we must be open-minded, tolerant, and flexible. Diversity and inclusion are not merely useful right now: they are necessary for any company that wants to succeed. The benefits that D&I initiatives bring will help businesses overcome recent setbacks and work toward adapting to the new priorities and obstacles that lie ahead.