Diverse employment has been a mainstay of smart, inclusive, and successful workforce strategies, for some time now.
Countless research studies have proven the powerful impact of a diverse employment approach. From heightened workforce engagement, and more creative ideas to positive commercial outcomes, diverse employment is really a no-brainer for organisations today.
But like everything these days, there’s the COVID factor to consider.
A recent study from McKinsey has highlighted the troubling experiences of diverse workers, during the pandemic. The survey looked at data from across 11 developed and developing nations, and the results were interesting to say the least.
Responses to the pandemic, applicable to all people across the board, from both diverse and non-diverse groups, weren’t surprising. The pandemic has created more stress for everyone, including:
- Strain on mental health
- Loss of connectivity with colleagues
- Job security
- Concerns about new job opportunities
- Health and safety issues
- Poor work/life balance
The differences for diverse groups of workers however, were alarming. These groups – which included people of colour, women, LGBTQI+ people and even working parents – suffered at higher levels than the non-diverse groups. Examples included:
- More people in diverse groups, felt the mental health impact, AND suffered more severely
- Women were more greatly affected regarding workplace health and safety. This resulted in more women experiencing negative mental health outcomes
- Women also felt a greater burden from household and domestic duties, indicating that the ‘double shift’ of working from home, then taking on domestic responsibilities, to be a gendered issue. Fewer men registered concern about the household duties
- Workers who identify as LGBTQI+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, or gender nonbinary) felt disproportionately concerned about losing professional opportunities. And they reported a greater sense of isolation than non-LGBTQI+ workers
- Other factors for the LGBTQI+ group included increased stress levels, perceived increased workload, and subsequent performance anxiety, over their cis gender peers. This in turn, meant LGBTQI+ workers reported more mental health issues
This is just the tip of the iceberg for diverse employment in the COVID workplace. Startlingly, the research uncovered a somewhat unaware employer base specifically related to minority groups during COVID. Most companies had a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) policy in place, and were maintaining strategic priority and investment towards DEI initiatives. Yet still, challenges remained. Take a look at the data below:
So… what can companies do to address inequities for diverse employment groups, during COVID. Here’s some of our thinking:
1 Diverse Employment Needs Better Communications
A diverse employment approach requires uniquely tailored communications at the best of times. During COVID, as the McKinsey data shows us, these communications need to be stepped up. Ideas include:
- Provide a comprehensive COVID update with accurate, scientific data. Give people peace of mind that the business is on top of the crisis from a workforce standpoint
- Where feasible, provide access to vaccinations and boosters, or at a minimum, provide information for government provision of the same
- Increase collaboration with business leadership, to encourage greater discussion and debate about how the diverse workforce can be engaged, included, and treated with equity during the COVID crisis
Diverse workers in particular, want to feel safe and secure during this uncertain time. And they want to have confidence that their employer has a sound grasp of the latest COVID news and information.
…leaders now have an opportunity to build a more equitable and inclusive workplace that will strengthen their organizations far beyond COVID-19. Businesses that seize the moment will not only be better placed to support their employees but also will drive sustainable business performance…
2 Foster Relationships and Connectivity Between Workers
Having worked remotely for some time, diverse workers are feeling uncertain and disconnected. Job insecurity – real or otherwise – is a real stressor.
It’s up to the managers and business leadership to ensure remote workers are in regular contact with them and their peers.
A hybrid model of working appears to be the ideal for most employers as we live through the third year of the pandemic – where workers can opt to work a split week between the office and home.
Because of this, business leadership needs to establish regular team meetings via Zoom or other video app, so colleagues can see each other, interact, collaborate, and feel included. Visibility here, is key.
3 Diverse Employment and Mental Health Management
The response to the pandemic has been incredibly varied. Some people are more laissez faire, others highly stressed and nervous.
Irrespective, and depending on where you live, the mental health toll across all groups, appears to be significant.
Adapting existing workplace health, wellbeing, and assistance programs to account for the added stress of COVID is a basic and must be adopted by all organisations, especially in relation to diverse groups.
At a tactical level, business leaders can create an environment where workers feel safe to express concerns or stress, and where they can access outside help via the workplace EAP solution, without bias. Leadership is well placed to increase check-ins with remote workers, informal virtual catchups, phone calls and messages to increase the sense of inclusion and comfort during these difficult times.
Diverse employment is a complex issue and one that cannot be treated with cursory attention. This complexity has exponentially increased since the start of the pandemic. If organisations are to get the most out of their workers – diverse or otherwise – a truly inclusive, compassionate and adaptable workforce strategy must be adopted.
As one of the world’s leading providers of contingent worker management solutions, CXC is well positioned to optimise all elements of your contingent workforce strategy. With operations in more than 50 countries across five continents and decades of experience, we can assist with every aspect of your program.