In troubled and uncertain times there’s a tendency for businesses to focus purely on the balance sheet. It seems big tech is doing exactly that by laying off thousands of workers. But what if, for some companies, bracing for a potential recession didn’t involve cutting costs in areas that other businesses might, but doubling down on their core offering and company DNA? For some this could be an opportunity to demonstrate commitment to Equity, Diversity & Inclusion (ED&I).
Most CEOs see tough market conditions as an opportunity to mitigate risk and strengthen teams, but how many have the vision to make their organisations more sustainable and inclusive for long-term results?
In the current economic climate, most leaders will shift their attention away from ED&I, as most are either late to the party or only planning on staying for a short time before moving on to the next ‘fad’. For a few, ED&I will remain a priority on the agenda, as they see value in their organisations becoming more authentic during the coming storm. To stand the best chance of tackling future challenges, creative and varied solutions will be absolutely key. That means boosting inclusion and engagement to release the full power of diverse teams and unlock innovative thinking.
So, how do you ensure that ED&I remains in your leadership’s agenda? It’s all about perspective. Leaders are paid to act in their organisation’s best interests, and therefore must understand that ED&I is a business tool that helps them deliver on their existing corporate promises.
Any organisation’s claims around ED&I play an important part in people’s decisions in where they work, whether they stay and if they choose to engage or ‘quiet quit’. At Green Park, broadly 32% of our 200 annual executive search placements are ethnic minorities for whom an employer’s purpose and ED&I credibility can be major factors in engaging, preparing and deciding to accept an employment offer.
A commitment to ED&I has to be sincere and constant. With public scrutiny of ED&I credentials growing over the last five years, there’s no room for inauthenticity. Opinions about ED&I have changed, buying patterns have not. If you’re not committed, and your efforts don’t go further than the marketing department, then you are taking a stance by doing nothing.
If, however, you want to maintain your focus on ED&I and continue to recruit, retain and provide equal opportunities for diverse candidates, then you have to do more than promise to build an inclusive culture. If you’re serious about it, there are a few things to bear in mind. Firstly, underlying problems – such as disparities around pay or high rates of attrition – will undermine your recruitment efforts until you find a solution.
Secondly, you should be honest about the ED&I situation within your organisation. It’s no good pushing lofty aspirations for future change if the reality is different. Small achievable steps are far better than large ones that have no likelihood of happening.
Thirdly, when considering diverse candidates, think about how they can add value to your organisation rather than how they will help you meet a quota or requirement. Hiring someone with a protected characteristic won’t help if they have to have exactly the same group think and skillset as everyone else in your team. What’s more, candidates that sense any kind of tokenism aren’t likely to accept an offer or worse may join and never fully commit. The result: wasted time and energy for all concerned.
We know inclusive organisations aren’t created overnight. It takes long-term, unwavering commitment. But once you have embedded inclusion, group think turns into diversity of thought, and culture fit turns into culture add. The role of HR as an ambassador in all this has never been more important. It’s essential to stand strong, amplify your ambition and ensuring people decisions and processes are transparent and equitable.
Now is the time to decide how important ED&I is to you and to communicate honestly. Once we emerge from difficult times, there will not be the boom markets or mass exodus of talent there were following Covid. It’s more about changing a leadership mindset from fear of risk to consideration of reward.
In most cases, I expect ED&I focus, spend and energy to reduce. However, for a few organisations it will increase, as they already see it as integral to success. Those few may seek to leverage Green Park’s 16 years’ experience in this area, but even if nobody approaches us to drive more advantages through ED&I, we would be standing right here anyway. It’s authentically where we want to be – at the heart of meaningful change.
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