Workplace Inclusion – 2023 DEI Trends and Predictions
In this article, our team of diversity experts share their insights on the latest DEI trends and predications for 2023. From the impact of the ongoing financial uncertainty facing many countries, to diversity data, the menopause, and the inclusion dilemmas of hybrid working, we explore some of the DEI challenges and areas to watch over the coming year.
Maintaining DEI momentum in the face of financial uncertainty: Making DEI the ‘golden thread’
With an uncertain financial outlook in 2023 and many businesses experiencing staff and skills shortages, leaders will be tested even more than usual. Many employees are already facing an acute cost of living crises, and we still have a long way to go to recover from the fall out of the pandemic in relation to mental health and well being for example. The so called ‘softer’ people skills will be needed more than ever. Heart as well as head will be needed to retain great talent, motivate and engage.
Leaders will need to continue to demonstrate that they understand how to take appropriate account of difference and to be seen to take action to address systemic and structural disadvantage. We know that so many people take evidence of inclusive leadership into account when they decide to apply for roles or stay in them. A McKinsey report found that 39% of job applicants have turned down or not pursued a job due to a perceived lack of inclusion at an organisation.
Many of the best businesses understand the real business case for diversity so are looking to do more work to ‘turn the dial’ on equity and inclusion. More and more DEI work will be woven into leadership programmes, performance targets, business strategies and all learning and development interventions. It will become less common, thank goodness, to hear how it has all ‘gone too far’, as the discourse has become more mature and nuanced, despite occasional tabloid headlines.
For larger companies, there will be sophisticated train the trainer programmes to build in-house capacity around inclusion at work, and setting up and properly resourcing employee resource groups (ERGs) so that they are integral rather than peripheral to the organisation.
Despite a daily diet of our institutions and systems and politics failing to address inequalities, there will continue to be constant and positive pressure to creatively disrupt the status quo – to, for example address the ethnicity and gender pay gaps, and increase representation of minoritised groups at senior levels. It is about both doing the right thing and business success.
Communication will be even more key given the stress some staff will be experiencing. The best leaders will think about what can be done to listen and support staff as far as is possible.
Hybrid working: Overcoming the inclusion dilemmas it creates
Some version of hybrid working is the new normal and we expect to see this continue for the foreseeable future. Whilst it may address some aspects of diversity, it also presents a multitude of inclusion dilemmas. Employees expect some degree of flexibility from employers as standard but the degree to which flexibility is offered and adopted may differ according to many factors such as an individual’s position in the hierarchy, whilst the needs of others in the team and business must also be considered. It’s a balancing act that needs careful handling.
In a recent Eden Workplace survey of tech workers, nearly all respondents (95%) stated it is very or somewhat important to have the ability to work remotely. However, the balance between an individual’s, the team’s and the company’s wants is one of the key challenges, with very different views on the way forward. How much is physical human connectedness important to creativity, innovation, bonding and a sense of belonging? The debates will go on.
It is also important to continue to consider how we ensure all voices are heard in hybrid meetings. There are many tools within Teams and Zoom of course that can monitor engagement and encourage participation such as break-out rooms, chats, polls and the raise hand function.
Balancing work and the rest of life can be even more challenging with hybrid working arrangements . Whilst hybrid working may offer a number of benefits, it can also create a lack of distinction between work and home life, leading to a never ‘fully off’ mindset. It will require line management to routinely explore these benefits and disbenefits with every employee. Tailored approaches and nuanced communications are needed to engage and retain talented and diverse staff.
DEI data collection: Transparency and effective analysis
Transparency when collecting and presenting diversity monitoring data is crucial and is a key area many organisations will prioritise in 2023. With Glassdoor reporting that for 3 out of 4 US job seekers the diversity of an organisation’s workforce is a key factor when evaluating job offers, ensuring your diversity data monitoring process is robust is becoming increasingly important. Candidates are attuned to ‘diversity-washing’ and are looking for cold hard data to evidence which potential employers actually deliver on DEI.
It is important to assess what data is collected and be clear on the goals you want to achieve e.g. a 25% increase in female hires at C-suite level over the next 3 years, and that progress against these KPIs is monitored. Communicating why targets matter is key – if we hear this – ‘People are being given the job because of…’ then we know people don’t understand how targets are different from quotas, nor the ethical or business case for diversity.
“Learning how to collect and understand diversity data is a critical part of the work of Diversity and Inclusion. There is no point collecting data unless it is analysed and the analysis leads to real world change where there is a greater experience of belonging through inclusion.”
Teresa Norman, Diversity Consultant, EW Group
Many organisations are moving towards pay transparency for gender, ethnicity and beyond so they have a meaningful story to tell about how they are going to move the dial.
Barriers to Belonging: The personal and organisational cost of emotional tax
‘Emotional tax’ refers to ‘the heightened experience of being treated differently from peers due to race/ethnicity or gender, triggering adverse effects on health and feelings of isolation and making it difficult to thrive at work.’
How much mental capacity might a Black member of staff have to spend thinking, considering, or dealing with conscious or unconscious bias that white staff don’t have to worry about? How much time might a neurodiverse member of staff need to spend worrying about negative stereotypes rather than being creative? And what’s the effect of that additional mental load/emotional strain on their ability to thrive?
These are the things that inclusive leaders think about and to think about them requires a good understanding of how advantage and disadvantage play out in organisations and develop the skills to know what to do about addressing them. The bottom line is that if companies do not create a culture of psychological safety, it damages individuals, groups, and performance.
Workplace Menopause: An intersectional approach over ‘one-size-fits-all’
Whilst much good work has been done over the past year to raise awareness of the symptoms and effects of the menopause on many women, how can employers better support people affected by its symptoms and account for intersectionality? A one-size-fits-all approach cannot be applied to a diverse group of people who experience menopause and peri-menopause symptoms.
It is important that organisations take an intersectional approach to workplace menopause support and understand the health inequalities and cultural nuances that mean women from different groups (whether race, religion, disability, LGBT+, class or any other identity) will experience, vocalise and receive support for menopause symptoms very differently.
“It isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach which is where we all started with this. It is about looking to your audience and asking how can I best equip what I am doing to meet your particular needs? So I am meeting you where you are, rather than asking you to meet me where I am.”
Going beyond the menopause, many employers are also beginning to consider the needs of those with debilitating conditions like endometriosis and take time to understand and overlay the health inequalities and cultural nuances that mean women from different groups will experience, vocalise and receive support for these things very differently.
Inclusive leadership: Making the complex simple
It is all too easy to get lost in complexity when thinking about socio-economics, disability, sex, race, religion and more. The best inclusive leaders are confident and competent about thinking through complexity and coming up with a workable plan that takes into account internal and external drivers and their values, whilst developing a personal and strategic narrative on DEI, just as they might do on anything else.
And the very best inclusive leaders are genuinely excited the whole DEI agenda,
The tougher the financial environment the more crucial it is that leaders are competent and confident to address inequalities and build even more robust and inclusive cultures. The key is to view DEI as an investment rather than a cost, and always link this work to getting the best, retaining the best and delivering the best.