How Change Readiness Promotes Diversity and Inclusion In The Workplace

If you thought that diversity and inclusion was a simple checkbox left for select HR executives and multicultural marketing teams, perhaps the racial reckoning of 2020 changed your perspective. Building diversity and inclusion in the workplace isn't just the right thing to do. In fact, the business case for diversity is better understood than ever before.

Companies with gender and ethnic diversity are significantly more likely to financially outperform less diverse companies. Across industries, it’s proven that diversity is good for an organization’s bottom line, and companies have therefore started improving their recruiting strategies, creating diverse metrics across teams, and building a stronger pipeline of diverse talent. However, while many are betting on diversity, much is still being learned around creating more inclusive practices for in-house employees.

An inclusive workplace is one that values individual differences and perspectives and ensures all employees – no matter their gender, race, nationality, sexual orientation, ability – feel welcomed and accepted. Even organizations with a relatively diverse workforce encounter major obstacles in establishing work environments that embody inclusive leadership and accountability, provide equal opportunities, and promote openness and fairness while eliminating bias and discrimination.

While many steps must be taken to create an inclusive workforce, there are thankfully synergies found when a company works to prepare for workplace and career change. Many of the same techniques that foster a more agile, change-ready organization can create a more inclusive workplace for marginalized communities.

Change Projects Foster Inclusivity and Equitably Share Opportunities

When new opportunities emerge in companies, it’s natural for leaders to think first about employees they’ve built a rapport with or previously worked alongside. However, leaning too heavily on “this is who I like” filters can remove diverse populations from the consideration set.

Instead, when an organization opens up internal change projects or stretch assignments to all, they decrease the likelihood of their biases coming into play. Change projects allow an employee to see different perspectives, acquire new skills, and be exposed to new peers and leaders. These projects also create more agile employees who are capable of handling change initiatives better. On the Volonte platform, you’ll find these listed on the Project Board.

Alongside these agility skills, employees have the opportunity to work on projects that may be more aligned with their interests or skillset. This contributes to employees feeling as though their employers have their best interests at heart, paving the way to a more authentic, less transactional relationship between the two. Internal projects will also provide talent with access to new leaders and teams. The broader, deeper, and more diverse our networks are, the greater our chances of future doors opening.

When a diverse team member gains access to these opportunities, we increase fairness of opportunities while also fostering a more inclusive workplace.

Remote Work Decreases Moments for Microaggressions

When the pandemic sent millions of employees home, many individuals from marginalized communities got a taste of freedom from microaggressions, convenience in travel, and the benefits of virtual conversations. When the social justice movements were at an all-time high, many Black employees could grieve in the privacy of their homes. Throughout the pandemic, some Black women felt less pressure to wear certain hairstyles because they weren’t going into the office. Other disabled employees were thankful they didn’t have to worry about inconvenient commutes. Groups of women felt they had a better runway to express their thoughts over Zoom instead of competing alongside their male counterparts in person.

While there is no one-size-fits-all approach to remote work and even some exceptions within the above list, many diverse employees feel less anxious because of the opportunity to work remotely.

When a company works to increase the opportunities for remote work and improve the collaboration between remote and office workers, they are more competitive among peers and are fostering a more inclusive work environment.

Upskilling and Reskilling Signals Support

With the Great Resignation and its aftermath, there were two dynamics at play. White-collar workers who, having been afforded new perks during the pandemic, were rethinking their priorities and reflecting on their purpose. And Blue-collar workers, who were likely already facing inequalities at work, saw the pandemic amplify those.

Let’s address both through the lens of diversity and skill training.

Among white-collared workers, post-pandemic diverse individuals are re-prioritizing their needs. Alongside compensation, work-life balance, and remote work policies – some may consider other opportunities because of a disinterest in their current job. Upskilling and reskilling can allow employees to shift into work more aligned to their interests and skills while also getting them away from mundane or repetitive tasks. A company that offers these opportunities demonstrates that they are investing in an employee’s future.

Among blue-collar workers, the pandemic began to tell us the story of how a disproportionate number of Black and Hispanic workers have essential jobs. As we’ve already seen with the increase of self-checkout lines and ATMs, many of these essential jobs will become automated in the future. By providing concrete tools to help close skill gaps, employers help their teams weather inevitable change.

While bridging skill gaps does not get employers off the hook of offering competitive wages and benefits, safe work environments, and work-life balance – reskilling and upskilling signal that an organization is committed to future-proofing their employees' skills.

As our collective acumen on disparities across racial, ethnic, and social groups has increased, businesses have better understood their role in creating a more inclusive world. Thankfully, those who have already started leaning into agility tools have a burgeoning toolkit of practices to foster this inclusivity at work.

Curious about how you can build an organization that’s more inclusive and excels at thriving in a rapidly changing world? Schedule a call with Volonte’s change experts to learn more.