Why now is a great opportunity to reboot inclusion at work​

Many of us haven’t seen our colleagues since the start of lockdown, but in some ways the COVID-19 pandemic has brought colleagues closer together says Sarah Cheyne, Global Head of Talent Experience and Inclusion at the Adecco Group: “Vulnerability is the new normal – now we all have a common interest, enemy and situation that shows no discrimination.”

We’ve been united behind the goal of protecting our colleagues and customers. However, as we move forward into recovery, there is a risk that these efforts could be undermined if organisations don’t take steps to create an inclusive culture in the ‘new normal’. In its Diversity Wins report, McKinsey & Company highlights that many organisations have shelved their D&I initiatives as they focused on addressing the impact of COVID-19. However, as we explore in The Inclusion Imperative, now is the perfect time to embed new and more inclusive working practices.

An unequal crisis

The COVID-19 pandemic is affecting everyone, but we’re not all affected equally. The Adecco Group’s latest research finds that people on lower incomes are more likely to experience a loss of earnings or uncertainty about their financial future. Females and those from minority ethnic groups are also at risk, being more likely to work in key health or social care roles. Older workers, people with disabilities and those on non-permanent contracts are also more likely be negatively affected.

Once companies start to transition back to on-site work, 39% of companies are planning to better leverage a variable staffing model and 34% intend to increase use of AI and automation, according to Mercer’s Global Talent Trends 2020 report. Plus, a growing list of business leaders are adding their weight to working from home. These plans have very different consequences for different individuals. The question we asked ourselves was how can these corporate responses to the pandemic help to drive better diversity and inclusion outcomes?

Putting inclusion and diversity at the heart of the COVID-19 response

This crisis has unexpectedly given us the opportunity to institutionalise inclusion and diversity into values, processes and structures in a way that couldn’t have been possible during business as usual. In our new whitepaper we explore three areas where we believe companies can make a positive impact on inclusion now:

  • Financial support: Identifying vulnerable employees (including temporary, contract and agency workers) and exploring how you can support them financially. During a recent LinkedIn Live chat, Alain Dehaze, CEO of the Adecco Group urged companies to use the crisis as an opportunity to redefine the social contract between employer and employee so that it protects all workers equally.
  • Working practices: Accepting that work and home obligations may overlap and offering support for workers who struggle to juggle both. New data from YouGov shows that ‘middle class’ workers are more able to successfully work from home compared to those in lower paid work, and so companies consider how and where work is done in a way that is fair for all employees.
  • Support for mental health and wellbeing: Recognising that the crisis can have an impact on your employees’ mental wellbeing, as can your organisation’s long-term plans for the post-COVID-19 environment. The CIPD recently warned that employers need to act now to reduce the risk of mental ill health during and after the COVID-19 pandemic: “Fear of infection and feeling isolated, along with concerns about job or income loss are just some of the knock-on effects from the pandemic that are all likely to increase the pressure and stress people are under”.

An inclusion re-boot

Investing in inclusion now will make businesses more agile, more creative, more adaptive to change and more resilient for the long term; organisations with inclusive cultures are six times more likely to be innovative and agile and eight times more likely to achieve better business outcomes. Conversely, those that neglect inclusion may find themselves at a disadvantage during recovery as the qualities that characterise diverse and inclusive companies such as innovation and resilience will be much in need.

In the short term, companies have a great opportunity to demonstrate their commitment to inclusion through financial help, tailored support for home-working, and proactive support for employees’ mental health. In the longer term, leaders can rethink every facet of their company’s ways of working.

To find out more about adopting inclusive workplace practices, download a copy of the Adecco Group’s new white paper, The Inclusion Imperative.