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How should businesses approach D&I in 2022?

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While the concept of diversity and inclusion (D&I) made its way into workplaces well before the turn of the century, 2020 was the biggest year so far for taking real action. We’ve seen this in the way organisations across the globe have set representation targets, released inclusion reports, and introduced internal strategies to begin paving a clear path to diversity. This momentum continued into 2021 and we shouldn’t expect any different in 2022.

It isn’t news to anyone that D&I is key to a successful business. McKinsey’s 2018 report, Diversity wins: How inclusion matters, found companies in the top-quartile for gender diversity on their executive teams were 21 per cent more likely to have above-average profitability than others. Top-quartile companies for ethnic/cultural diversity were 33 per cent more likely to outperform on profitability. 

On the flip side, research by Glassdoor shows that 76 per cent of job seekers and employees consider a diverse workforce to be an important factor when evaluating companies and job offers.

So, it’s not just the moral thing to do, it’s good for business too. But how should businesses approach D&I in 2022?

Consider the whole spectrum of D&I

While many companies have made great strides when it comes to gender equality, there are still many facets of D&I that are often overlooked.

Despite every individual, regardless of gender, ethnicity, or sexuality, being highly likely to experience disability at some point in their lives, accessibility is often not considered in D&I conversations. 

The same goes for age; for the first time in history, there are up to five different generations in the workplace at one time – from the Traditionalists to today’s Generation Z. Age discrimination can be commonplace – usually unintentionally – despite the many benefits of a multigenerational workplace.

It sounds straightforward, but organisations must consider how to include everyone. Things that can limit a person’s ability to flourish at work are all too often ignored.

Flexible working practices

One of the significant changes made by the pandemic was home working, and born from it, the hybrid working model. Flexibility is no longer a ‘nice to have’ – it’s considered a widespread necessity – this poll found nearly half (44 per cent) of workers want to continue working from home. 

When it comes to accessibility, in some cases remote working had a positive impact on employment and productivity. UNISON found that 73 per cent of disabled people working remotely during the pandemic were as productive, or more so because they experienced fewer sensory issues, had no commute, and had a greater ability to manage pain or conditions.

The same report found that 54 per cent of those with disabilities felt they’d benefit from remote working once the pandemic is over. Similarly, data has shown that nearly a third of women want flexibility as it would provide a better work-life balance and make it easier to manage childcare or caring responsibilities. 

In the same vein, a survey by Saga Populus on behalf of the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), found that 78 per cent of workers over 50 want flexible hours or part-time positions. As we’ve previously covered, 64 per cent of graduates want to be in the office several times a week but older generations seek more time at home.

One of the simplest and most effective ways of diversifying organisations is by continuing to offer flexible and remote working options. The last two years have been something of a forced experiment, so it will be up to organisations to determine the best working practices for them, their employees, and for talent attraction. 

Until now, hybrid working has meant employees can choose where they work. In the future organisations should also consider giving employees freedom over when and how they work. 

Improve web accessibility 

Creating diverse businesses starts at the initial stages of recruitment. Subconscious biases flood our attitudes and approaches to almost everything and need to be eliminated to ensure a truly objective talent pool is being sourced. Blind applications, which remove gender, ethnicity, sexuality, and age from the interview processes allow companies to objectively select candidates based on merit and competence. 

With this, optimising digital platforms allows everyone the ability to access the necessary information. As technology, data, and AI increasingly entangle themselves into our daily lives, businesses should implement digital transformations into their 2022 D&I strategies not only for the benefit of business functions but for society as a whole. 

As we look towards the new year, many things are still uncertain. But one still stands out very clearly; D&I initiatives aren’t going away until all members of our society are included. And in the current candidate-led market, The Great Resignation, and with increasing skills shortages, businesses need to be more competitive than ever. They must hold a mirror up to themselves and evaluate what changes need to be made – and actually make them.

Our D&I Checklist allows you to determine how inclusive your organisation is and begin to take the steps to a truly welcoming company.

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