2020 has been an odd year for Diversity and Inclusion. On the one hand, it’s been a terrible year for women: they took a disproportional hit of 50% of all job losses – though they comprise just two fifths of the global workforce – according to the World Economic Forum. There are also serious concerns about increased domestic abuse and other manners of intersectional discrimination that women have suffered. On the other hand, the fallout from the #BlackLivesMatter movement has forced many companies to take a hard look at their own D&I practices and set a new course for a more meaningful D&I agenda.
As a result, apart from a short blip in our productivity around the first Lockdown, Voice At The Table had many opportunities to support, influence and observe D&I developments across a broad range of organisations. Let me therefore share with you my top five most impactful trends that I witnessed this year.
- Safe Space Conversations
Following the outcry of #BlackLivesMatter, many organisations offered their staff a forum in which they could safely share their experiences of being Black. Anticipating good participation, most organisations were blown away by the interest in both speaking out and in listening to these experiences. These safe-space conversations provided not only a forum for sharing experiences, but also a space that brought together employees of different backgrounds with a strong desire to act and solve the raised challenges around systemic racism, microaggressions and other covert forms of discrimination. Safe space conversations proved so popular and impactful that many organisations have pledged to continue to host them in their own right as a full-fledged initiative to help table some of the unstated currents that run through our society and work culture.
- Inclusive Behaviours
Many organisations have begun to realise that without efforts around Inclusion, their Diversity efforts are less impactful. As a result, they opted to focus on laying the foundation of an inclusive work environment before layering it with Diversity initiatives. In doing so, it became important to them to understand what it means to be truly inclusive. As one example, many of our clients adopted our Eight Inclusive Behaviours model that not just identifies the types of behaviours to focus on but shows how to continue to develop each of these behaviours both as an individual and as a team in order to become more inclusive.
- Neutralising Terminology
‘Woke’ organisations realised that words matter. Everything, from policies to job descriptions to company reports to town hall speeches, is being scrutinised for gender-neutral and inclusive language to ensure that words do not unintentionally alienate. Antiquated terminology that conveys latent racism – such as blacklist/whitelist, blackball, black mark, master/slave, etc. – is being converted to words that convey the intended meaning without invoking racism. Leaders are being sensitised to the use of their words to ensure they set the bar for inclusive use of language that is aligned with the company’s inclusion values.
4. Inclusive Leadership
Leadership is being redefined. Mature leaders are being urged to add a layer of leadership skills to those they have already developed that allows them to be more conscious of blind-spots, to be fair in doling out opportunities across the entire team – not just to a chosen few – to be humble and more vulnerable in their demeanour in order to appeal to the changed priorities of today’s and tomorrow’s workforce. These practices – often already part of the norm in less senior leaders and managers – are being emphasised alongside other business-related priorities, and efforts are in place to support leadership in developing these additional skills.
- Flexible Working
The biggest shift that the pandemic brought to our work is logistical. According to some data, 60% of the UK adult population is currently working from home. This change brought many surprising developments to Diversity. Working from home enabled many more people with disabilities to perform roles that they wouldn’t have been able to perform previously. It gave opportunities to many women to fit the much-needed flexibility into their work-life routine. It proved to companies that working from home can be done successfully and that it is a sustainable model that will allow companies to attract a wider variety of talent. One such example is Zurich Insurance in the UK, which was able to attract more diverse candidates by advertising many of its senior positions as ‘flexible’, ‘part-time’ or ‘open to job-share’.
These are my observations. I would love to hear your observations about what has worked well in your organisation this year.
Next month, I will share with you what I predict to be the 2021 biggest D&I trends.
Until then, I hope you have a restful holiday season and a healthy and happy New Year.
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