Time to hit reset, not rewind: 2021 is an opportunity to re-establish diversity and inclusion priorities priorities

As the world turned its attention in 2020 to fighting off the pandemic some of society’s gaps were exposed.

Inequalities have widened and those on the periphery felt even further away from the centre. The reality of how much ‘dead time’ we lose to commutes and hollow tasks also became more apparent.

Overall one thing became crystal clear: greater attention must be paid to make our working lives more agile and flexible, and businesses must provide sufficient support to help us maintain a healthy relationship with work.

Don’t forget about our leaders

Leadership has come under intense pressure and, at times, scrutiny around the ethics of decisions made as they battle to keep their businesses afloat. But the question is, who takes care of the leaders that are expected and tasked to take care of the rest of us?

Right now, leaders need the ability to think strategically, at times pivoting their entire operating model to stay relevant. But it is those who combine strategy with the highest levels of emotional intelligence and who have made inclusion a primary business objective that have truly thrived.

HR teams were, and continue to be, at the epicentre of the crisis. They too have had an extraordinary 12 months, with no rule book to turn to and the need to rapidly re-deploy workers, working patterns and resourcing models.

With everyone looking towards HR for support, those key individuals don’t have the luxury of time to reflect and re-group.

Business success is dependent on worker wellbeing

In the same way that we often realise how spent we are when we finally stop and take holiday, individuals will recognise that they are running on fumes at the tail end of the crisis.

It is imperative that leaders and HR professionals start to think of wellbeing alongside inclusion as a key leadership capability. How to build sustainable and inclusive organisations, functions and teams.

Leave blanket approaches and box checks in 2020

2020 has also shown us that on some things you just can’t cut corners. The ‘follow me’ mentality of imitating competitor programmes, forming employee resource groups and tasking them with solving the issues, and hiring of D&I heads with no budget or authority is on the decline.

My strong desire is that we will see far more meaningful programmes and interventions in 2021, such as;

  • Leadership frameworks and programmes with inclusivity embedded in them
  • A balanced approach to inclusion strategies that considers all strands of diversity
  • A desire to look at deeper systemic challenges and the root causes holding inclusion back
  • Wellbeing programmes for leaders and HR professionals
  • The rise of holistic diagnostic wellbeing, which consider the multiple complex dimensions of wellbeing
  • Coaching-led approaches to help with all of the above
  • Leadership teams that value and encourage individuals to take time for reflection and personal growth
  • A more thorough understanding of what ethical digital platforms look like

Above all, with organisations still battling with the now and struggling to look at what’s next, the main focus needs to be tackling the root cause of problems.

As we navigate the third wave of the pandemic, companies who have the courage to go deeper than the surface of the challenges will be empowered to create a safer, healthier and more inclusive workplace.

Chris Parke is CEO of Talking Talent