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What are the D&I trends in 2022?

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2021 was another tumultuous year for diversity, equity and inclusion professionals, yet in the workplace upheaval we’re seeing positive long-term trends taking root that 18 months ago would have been unheard of

During 2022, and the pandemic notwithstanding, we see four diversity, equity and inclusion (EDI) trends growing in importance.

 

Hybrid work and the future of work 

Hybrid work, a blended remote and office working culture, is not going away. Will 2022 be the year when the 9-5 day is consigned to the annals of history? Probably not. While some are enjoying the extra home time, unencumbered by a long commute, others are desperate to return to the office.


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There is enormous appetite, however, for a hybrid working culture. Catalyst research show 76% of employees want their company to make flexible work permanent, in terms of location and hours.

This is especially important for working parents still affected by school and childcare closures, and for women, most often primary caregivers who have been disproportionately impacted by job losses in the pandemic. Other studies also found that older workers and people of colour desire hybrid work options.

Catalyst research also shows that when workers have access to remote work, they report increased innovation, productivity, engagement, and commitment to their companies. They also have lower levels of burnout and report less intent to leave their jobs.

Despite this, about three-quarters of employees told us that their employer thinks that they are more innovative (72%) and work harder (75%) in the office or on-site.

Organisations must look seriously at how their workplace will look in the coming years. There is no one-size-fits-all magic formula, and the key is talking and listening to employees’ needs and concerns.

 

Mental health

We are still seeing a crisis in the workplace, exacerbated by the ongoing pandemic, with employees experiencing burnout.

Around 92% of global workers say they are burned out from the stress of work or from their COVID-19 work experiences, and their personal lives.

Remote work is one way to boost employee wellbeing, but another undervalued business skill is empathy. The pandemic has laid bare people’s personal lives. Pets and children have joined work conference calls, and our homes have virtually opened up to colleagues. 

A Catalyst survey on empathy found it is a must-have in today’s workplace, and particularly at times of crisis.

Employees are looking for empathetic leaders who can show care and understanding for their needs and concerns. Empathy can be learned with training, and those organisations putting it front and centre will hold onto talented staff as well as boosting productivity.

 

Intersectionality

There is a growing acceptance that for employees to thrive, they must feel psychologically safe and comfortable bringing their authentic selves to the workplace, without fear of being mistreated or penalised for making mistakes. Considering individuals from an intersectional perspective is a critical component in creating diverse and inclusive workplaces.

We are all made up of different identities from our age, gender, race, ethnicity, socio-economic background, religion and sexual orientation, to name but a few, and how we view the world is through the lens of these different perspectives and experiences. When companies fail to acknowledge intersectional identities, they dismiss a part of a person’s identity.

Catalyst research, for example, finds that 90% of women of colour or women from underrepresented racial or ethnic groups want to be leaders with influence and hold intellectually stimulating jobs, yet almost 60% experience an “emotional tax” in the workplace. This means they are ‘on guard’, bracing themselves for potential acts of bias or discrimination.

Forward-looking companies are honouring intersectionality by listening to better understand colleagues’ experiences at work and in life.  Rather than avoiding these conversations, these companies are embracing them to help inform their talent management strategies.

 

Allyship

The tragic killing of George Floyd created a global movement to stamp out racism across society, and this momentum is rightly growing today. Tackling systemic racism at all levels within an organisation should remain a fundamental priority for D&I professionals.

There is also a growing expectation from employees and customers that business leaders should speak up and act on social issues, including race, gender and immigration.

Over 40% of millennials surveyed said they would be more loyal to a job where the CEO had taken a stand on a social issue, and when a CEO announced a ban on social discussions at work in favour of an “apolitical” workplace, 5% of the employees quit.

This is allyship, or supporting and advocating for people from marginalised groups. It is about listening and being curious about other people’s lived experiences and using your own privilege or power to create change for those who may have been denied a voice or platform.

Allies question and tackle social and cultural norms, and use their power and influence to advocate for individual and structural change. Allies lean into uncomfortable conversations and take meaningful actions.

A Catalyst allyship study found that 68% of people from underrepresented racial and ethnic groups say that even amongst their own team members they brace themselves for signs of bias and unfair treatment.

From being on high alert for potential sleights or insults to trying to ‘fit in’ to avoid stereotyping because of their race and ethnicity, they hide their authentic self because their diversity is not valued in an organisation. The more ‘on guard’ an individual feels the more likely they are to contemplate leaving their job.

Organisations must make the right conditions to enable all voices to be heard equally and create inclusive workplaces free of prejudice and bias.

We expect 2022 to be a year of change and transformation. And while change can be difficult, organisations that listen to their employees, and embrace flexible workplaces where diversity is valued, will create the bedrock for future success. Though challenging, creating a workplace free of prejudice where diverse voices are valued and rewarded creates the right conditions for high-performing, inclusive teams and innovation.

 

Allyson Zimmermann is executive director EMEA at Catalyst