Article: Refreshing the skills agenda with a focus on DEI

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Refreshing the skills agenda with a focus on DEI

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There’s an increased focus on DEI and skill enablement as companies navigate a new world of work. In this article, we look at some of the steps companies can take to enable women at the workplace via learning.
Refreshing the skills agenda with a focus on DEI

Ethically speaking, it was more than time for a global concentration shift to diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workplace. But at the same time, the business case for DEI has never been stronger. 

As remote work has ruled in a post-pandemic world, the culture around trust, equity, and relatedness has strengthened. The war for talent and skills-focus has awoken companies to the diverse talent pools needed to achieve their business goals. Employees have started to rethink their priorities in work and life, forcing organizations to reimagine their talent-management strategies. And workplace trends like ‘employee burnout,’ ‘The Great Resignation,’ and ‘purpose-driven organization’ have created a new world of work.  

DEI and skills

During the last two years, the responsibility of virtual schooling and caring for the health and safety of family members has largely fallen on women in most households in India. This global health crisis-induced shift has led to exponential stress, overwork and now full-on burn-out1 for a generation. The gender pay gap, lack of leadership advancement for women, and women’s health continue to be top challenges and opportunities for the modern-day workplace1.

Enabling and empowering women by providing access to upskilling and progression is one of the critical outcomes of the DEI agenda. Skillsoft’s 2022 Women in Tech — India report3 notes that 52% of women working in core tech companies and 42% of women working in non-tech companies ranked professional development/training opportunities as one of the top five incentives they expect from organizations. The onus is on organizations to provide the right learning opportunities.

Organisations today are expected to have a heart, to be vocal on what they stand for, and to make measurable progress against goals relevant to all stakeholders — from ESG to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) to co-creating the new shape of work.

Strategies for DEI-forward learning

For women to succeed in the workforce today, a purposeful learning strategy and plan for implementation are necessary. Here’s where organizations can focus:

• Focus learning on the future

Curate and customize learning avenues to suit diverse needs. As employees prioritize flexibility, a blended set of offerings, i.e., virtual and in-person, live and recorded, micro and extended learning, would make learning available and accessible in today’s hybrid work environment. Develop and design learning content with a focus on the success skills of today as well as tomorrow. Power skills like resilience, agility, and empathy can help fuel talent from diverse employee segments.

• Map learning to career growth

Aligning learning programs with talent mobility, career paths, growth journeys, and leadership assignments ensures that women can realize their aspirations and apply their learnings. It has a direct impact on both learning outcomes and business success.

• Create a community

Social learning, peer-to-peer learning, and learning from leaders are some channels to engage learners. According to Skillsoft’s Women in Tech 2021 report, 47% of women respondents said seeing more women in leadership roles encouraged more women to pursue technology-related careers.

• Mentor and coach for leadership success

While seeing women leaders will inspire women leaders, delivering active opportunities to be mentored and coached by such women leaders will inevitably help women.

• Use data for DEI efforts

HR must delve into data analytics to identify areas of opportunity in creating equity at work. Tracking diversity metrics around hiring, retention, and career growth is essential to link DEI to talent and business outcomes. Investing in an AI-powered talent marketplace platform will open up career opportunities in sync with learning offerings. According to Gartner2, 40% of companies put such a platform in place last year, and an additional 48% plan to invest in one in 2022. 

• Listen and communicate

HR must build the emotional intelligence to actively listen employees. However, mere empathy does not work; proactive and ongoing efforts are essential for a DEI-forward talent approach. HR and L&D must train and sensitize managers. Holding regular listening sessions, setting up anonymous hotlines for reporting concerns, and making insights actionable are ways to make women employees feel heard and trusted.

DEI is about going beyond the immediate ask. For example, organizations can support women employees beyond mere L&D and workplace policy by cultivating a DEI-friendly culture to avoid employee burnout and mental health concerns.

Leadership buy-in

Building efficient processes and a robust culture around DEI requires more than a simple mission statement; it must work in tandem with the overall talent and business strategy. This means developing the overarching ecosystem and DEI mindset from top-down and equipping leaders, managers, and the broader workforce with the needed tools and understanding to transition intent into action on the ground.

28% of companies have a multi-year, public DEI strategy, yet just one in three leaders has DEI metrics tied to their performance ratings. 

Leadership buy-in will be possible only when HR advocates the business impact of DEI, highlighting the business metrics on an ongoing basis and showing the CXO suite the business benefit of the DEI strategy.

This article is part of a content partnership with Skillsoft. It is curated by Rhucha Kulkarni.

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Topics: Learning & Development, #GetSetLearn

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