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How Can Business Tackle to Negative effects of COVID-19 on Diverse Employees?

COVID-19 is without doubt taking its toll on the wellbeing of employees. Research has shown that diverse groups (women, LGBTQ+, people of colour, women with children) are disproportionally affected by the transition to home working. Major concerns highlighted are mental health (burnout, anxiety, concerns about the future), work/lifestyle balance, health and safety and lack of connectivity and belonging.

Pre-COVID, research indicated that a large majority of employees felt that although their employers cited DEI as one of the clear areas of investment for the future of their business, lack of accountability at individual manager level and insufficient funding, hindered that mandate. Furthermore, organisational DEI initiatives were not communicated effectively and notably, that diverse groups were feeling the effects of the ‘broken rung’.

As it is widely acknowledged that diverse leadership groups outperform the profitability of non-diverse organisations, how can organisations address both pre-COVID and post-COVID DEI challenges and nurture, advance and retain employees that will feed their talent pipeline for future years? Also, how can they show stakeholders and emerging talent, that they are not shying away from these difficult issues in the face of mounting challenges?

If existing DEI initiatives were already struggling to gain traction, now may be a good time to inject more creativity and more accountability. Diverse employees and all that they bring to the organisation, may well be one of the competitive advantages that will be key for post-COVID recovery.

Here are a few ideas that may inject new vigour into your DEI activities:

1 Ensure that any programs, existing or new, have a high profile, powerful leadership. Granting the correct level of weight to this role will show diverse and non-diverse employees alike that the organisation has DEI as a key priority.

2 Get inclusive. Ask your employees what it is that they need to help them adjust to these difficult times. For some this may be greater connectivity with colleagues. If so, brainstorm on how this can be addressed. Include your diverse employees in the process, but don’t forget that professional workplace mental health services are just as important.

3 Get creative. There are a myriad of new ideas out there just waiting to be harnessed. Remember that diverse teams are more creative so ensure that your DEI working group embraces the diversity of your organisation.

4 View DEI as a key organisational strategy by viewing it within an organisational change context.

5 Align your DEI initiatives with your Sustainability Agenda, encouraging and helping your supply chain to adopt similar initiatives to your own. This creates transparency and shows a true push towards inclusivity across your Business.

6 Consider adjusting how you view work processes. COVID has shown us that there are other ways of working. Employees cite stress from workloads as one of the key contributory factors to workplace anxiety which in turn impacts mental health. Consider offering reduced hours or other flexible working arrangements.

7 Ensure that senior managers/managers make regular contact with diverse employees enabling groups to be monitored continuously.

8 Make senior managers/managers personally accountable for DEI metrics.

Getting creative, rediverting budget and showing that DEI is pivotal to your Business will go a long way to reassuring diverse employees that they are truly valued members of the organisation. This may, in turn, help them through some of the difficult times ahead.


Geri Carden
Inclusion & Sustainability Consultant | Business Transformation | Circular Economy | Sustainable Supply Chain Advisory|ED&I Strategy

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