Albert Einstein in a letter written to a Robert S Marcus, had beautifully captured the importance of being more compassionate. He said, “A human being is part of a whole, called by us the “Universe,” a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings, as something separated from the rest - a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circles of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.”
The battle against the novel coronavirus has led to a state of uncertainty and fear in the world. In times like these we tend to limit ourselves to people who are similar, and in the process, distance ourselves from others. Diversity and inclusion matters even more now, with a need to emphasize inclusion over exclusion. It is imperative that leaders understand the importance of not only maintaining the progress they have made on D&I so far, but how to now take it a notch higher.
Without a doubt the topmost priority of any organization is the physical and mental wellness of its employees. However, the challenge here is to understand the diverse needs of the workforce at the organizational level as well as the diverse home environments they are all now confined to.
Even companies who have had a strong diversity and inclusion plan in place have been facing difficulties in supporting their diverse workforce during this time of crisis. To foster and elevate D&I amid remote working, here are 4 ways organizations can steer their way through these troubled waters.
Thinking out loud
The experience that the leaders create now is going to make or break their D&I initiatives. In these uncertain times employees are facing anxiety, stress and fear. They rely on their leaders for guidance and support. How organizations and their leaders act today will result in how they will be looked at post the crisis. It is important that leaders are educated and encouraged to address the emerging needs of the employees by thinking above and beyond the traditionally set D&I boundaries. This is the time to reflect and refocus on the ongoing D&I agenda.
Leading with inclusivity
While the to-do list of leaders today have employee wellbeing and safety as the top most priority, driving it in an inclusive manner is of utmost importance. The situation today has forced leaders to make decisions amid a global crisis; these decisions are bound to be quick and at times also prone to unconscious bias. This leads to a negative message being communicated in the organization.
Leaders should drive their decisions on the pillars of emotional intelligence and inclusivity. It is crucial that everyone, from front line workers to c-suite managers, has a role to play and is equipped with the right guidance, tools and resources to do it.
The heart of solid D&I lies in communication and maintaining a human connection. This has become difficult in the current norms of social distancing. However, digital platforms can be used to have frequent check-ins with employees. Companies around the world are substituting the water cooler interaction with virtual coffee sessions, story telling sessions and digital town hall meetings. This has helped in lifting a barrier that could arise because of the physical distance. It translates into opening a new digital door of intimacy between the employees and leaders as everyone gets a peek into each other’s lives beyond the workplace.
D&I for business prosperity
D&I has always been an important element to spark innovation in the organization.
In a study conducted by Harvard Business Review it was found that companies which give importance to diversity, out-innovate and out-perform others. They are 45% more likely to find their market share go up and 70% more likely to capture new market areas.
It leads to building a culture where the employees’ voice is heard and out of the box ideas acknowledged. Today with massive disruptions in the world, D&I and the innovation that it generates has become all the more crucial.
The words “We may have all come on different ships, but we’re in the same boat now” by Martin Luther King Jr, perfectly describes the situation we are in today. Organizations should educate themselves and be sensitive about the need to implement D&I in order to maintain a culture of belonging and feeling valued in these uncertain times. As the world is learning to navigate through these new realities, it is best if we do it together.