How Hertfordshire County Council is prioritising D&I in its coronavirus recovery

Hertfordshire County Council has reinvigorated its D&I strategy to ensure its employees feel more valued during its coronavirus recovery.

Developed to overcome the impact coronavirus has had on the workforce, the new strategy will include positive case studies to document achievements and identify gaps that need attention. 

Caroline Butler, head of HR strategy, reward and employee relations at Hertfordshire County Council, said the pandemic has amplified the need for D&I strategies within organisations to increase engagement. 

Speaking to HR magazine, she said: “HR has always had a key role in shaping an organisation's culture and in ensuring its people feel valued and able to belong giving their best performance.

“With the COVID pandemic we have seen the best business leaders show the human side of them and workforces come together to keep going and meet the changing needs of customers and communities.”

The council's HR team is aiming to ensure employees who return to work after the pandemic retain and rebuild a sense of belonging in the organisation, regardless of their race, background, identity or circumstances.

Butler said: "The council views the return to offices after the national lockdown as a chance to review how it works, as well as the impact it may have on groups of staff from different backgrounds and in different positions/societal pressures." 

It has linked its D&I strategy to its people strategy by developing progression plans for BAME employees and women into senior leadership roles. 

Other priorities include hiring employees under 25 to provide younger generations with the opportunity to begin their career and to ensure the workforce is diverse when it comes to age.   

Employees at the council are also offered the chance to learn and acquire new skills and knowledge as part of the strategy.

"In particular, we are keen for all of our staff, regardless of background, to have the opportunity to progress and for the council to have a diverse talent pipeline which is reflective of the diversity within our workforce and communities," Butler added. 

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A year of remote working has led to 50% of HR professionals voicing concerns over the erosion of company culture, according to research by LinkedIn in October.  

Butler said now is the time inclusion must be put at the top of the HR agenda.

She said: “As we start to emerge into our new ‘normal’, HR must reinforce the compassion and social responsibility we have seen throughout the pandemic and champion inclusivity and belonging to maintain high-performing organisations.”

Organisations that recognise the value of a diverse workforce and are inclusive will have the widest possible pool of talent and competitive advantages after the pandemic she said.

"It can also reduce recruitment costs, sickness absence, underperformance, grievances, employment tribunals, and lost and wasted talent."