In the last three to five years the business case for diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI), accessibility and justice has become stronger than ever before. We know that research shows organizations that have positively embedded diversity and inclusion have stronger performance over time.

However, an organization’s ability to adapt and reimagine workplace engagement for all, followed by bold action, are viable predictors of sustaining strong performance.

DEI plays a critical role in business recovery and resilience and now more than ever, organizations have an important decision to make – to ensure that DEI work remains a core part of doing business. As we embark upon what we hope to be a downturn in a global crisis, it’s time to reaffirm our commitments to DEI work and shift conversations beyond the realm of representation within the organization to what is our strategy for how we will bring in, encourage, engage, advocate for and lift up people from all walks of life in a hybrid environment.

Fostering DEI itself is a challenge but how do organizations maintain momentum and increase impact within an evolving hybrid work environment? Consider these tips to get started.

Reaffirm Commitments to DEI and Intersectional Priorities

Clear communication that seeks to emphasize the purpose, reach and action to advance diverse talent, reskill the workforce and enhance the economy at large increases morale, and boosts creativity and innovation. Organizations are constantly hiring talent and expanding into new markets, which means the commitment to DEI and the employee experience should stay at the forefront. The vision, followed by bold action, should be communicated constantly.

Structure Growth and Learning Opportunities into the Flow of Work

Learning and development (L&D) helps to develop competencies and skills that, when done well, will improve the company’s bottom line. From organization to organization, this shows up in different ways. Most commonly, it shows up in a company’s brand and reputation, talent pipeline, productivity, optimization and future marketplace opportunities. On a fundamental level, organizations exist to provide a service, maintain a competitive advantage and/or make a profit. L&D is essential to supporting their efforts.

With the rise of remote and hybrid work, learners’ time zones and geographies are less relevant now than ever before. To meet learners’ needs and drive behavior change, which is necessary to support business needs, L&D professionals need to partner with stakeholders to develop, manage and scale solutions that are structured into the flow of work.

What does learning in the flow of work look like? Consider this example: Let’s say a member on your team has been promoted to the sales team. However, this employee has little experience with technical skills like negotiation and account management. In this situation, it’s important to ask critical questions to ensure that learning adapts to the current environment. For example:

  • What training is accessible in the moment of need?
  • How is training accessed?
  • What technology is used and how does it play a role in the experience?
  • Does training take neurodiversity into account given the individual’s needs?
  • How can the learning translate into a situational experience on the job?

Another potential way to structure learning in the flow of work is to tie continuous learning experiences to a professional development plan (PDP). This builds in accountability, measures motivation over time and incorporates an assessment –– it’s also psychologically satisfying to see your progress.

You can take it one step further by building diverse representation into cohort-based learning experiences. After all, people learn from the personal experiences of others in a more fruitful way. Asking these questions will help your organization identify whether or not it’s optimize L&D for learners of diverse backgrounds.

Measure and Evaluate Inclusion.

There’s a difference between diversity metrics and inclusion metrics. In today’s business environment, it is simply not enough to measure diversity for representation alone. Organizations should also invest in measuring inclusion — an indicator of uniqueness and belongingness. While remaining diverse matters, organizations should pay greater attention to inclusion and establish how to measure it. This goes above and beyond measuring the impact of a single program or portfolio of programs.

Measuring and evaluating inclusion calls for a broader approach. Why? Remote and hybrid work — while flexible, convenient and able to improve talent pipeline— may erode inclusion. Research shows that more than 68% of organizations will shift to a hybrid work model. So, it’s imperative to look at inclusion in the context of hybrid work.

How are your DEI efforts measuring up in a hybrid work (and learning) environment? Are your organization’s strategies, processes and methods as effective as they could be given the way we work today? Paying close attention to these questions will highlight if your overarching DEI strategy is working and whether or not people truly feel included.

To measure inclusion in your hybrid work context, consider the following questions:

  • How does a hybrid environment shape the path of career opportunities and promotions for employees?
    • Does spending more time on site lead to more promotions and advancements?
    • Does your organization reward, promote or advance employees for effort more than for results?
  • Is there a perception of bias against workplace flexibility and productivity?
    • Do employees feel more psychologically safe working remotely, in person or in a hybrid model?
  • Your diversity data may show that you have a spectrum of intersectionality, but how engaged are your diverse employees?
    • What is their motivation level for being involved in organizational events and groups, beyond their day-to-day responsibilities?

Retaining Diverse Talent

It not effective to invest in hiring a diverse pool of candidates for the sake of hiring, if those employees are exiting the company as soon as they join due to gaps in what the organization says it stands for in relation to employees’ lived experience. Thus, it’s imperative to dig into the experiences people are having across the organization to better understand where the challenges are in terms of engaging and retaining diverse talent for the long-term.

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