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Sustaining Diversity Initiatives Despite COVID-19

Sustaining Diversity Initiatives

April 2, 2020

We know this has been a challenging time for all of us. Businesses have had to respond rapidly to the changing environment, shift policies, communicate with employees and customers and adapt to this new way of working remotely.

We want to make sure that Diversity and Inclusion is still in the forefront of your agenda. During times of crisis and especially when companies must make difficult financial decisions, the work of Diversity and Inclusion are sometimes regarded extra and unnecessary and at risk of either being put on the back burner or being eliminated completely. On the contrary, the work of Diversity and Inclusion is of the utmost importance during stressful times. This is the time when companies must work deliberately to make sure people feel belonged and engaged and to preserve brand value in the long term.

The policies that will be rolled out, how the crisis is handled, how employees and customers are treated and taken care of and how the organization contributes to the larger issue in the community are all things that will set a new tone for an organization’s brand identity in consistently attracting and retaining talent.

Whether it is hurricane Katrina or COVID-19, unfortunately, these times of crisis disproportionately affect the marginalized and vulnerable population. A large percentage of people from diverse communities are employed at hotels, grocery stores, manufacturing companies, meat processing plants, as well as in janitorial and other entry-level positions where they are probably already laid off or do not have the luxury of working from home or practice social distancing.

They are affected by lack of proper information and communication due to lack of knowledge and understanding of new state and federal policies about unemployment applications and available help, availability or lack of technology, Wi-Fi/broadband, proper parenting skills or to effectively homeschool their children or heightened concerns for a range of mental and emotional issues arising due to isolation, confinement and elevation of underlying mental health issues.

Practicing Inclusivity Through Communication

Here are some tips to practice inclusivity in your COVID-19 responses.

  • Make sure you are communication with all employees appropriately. Not everyone receives communication in the same way, especially if you have a multi-generational workforce, so be sure to use multiple channels of communication, including email, video messages and text messages. Provide interpreters and multilingual resources as needed.
  • Zoom calls have become the go-to tool for connecting and meeting. Make sure everyone gets some time to be comfortable with the technology.
  • Allow all participants to put their pronouns while registering.
  • Consider adding closed captioning if you have audiences who are hard of hearing.
  • Not everyone feels equally comfortable to speak up so if it is possible, call everyone by name and allow each individual to speak or use a structured approach to meetings.

This is a great time to utilize the Employee Resource groups (ERG's) to not only make sure employee engagement is up but to also connect appropriately with relevant diverse audiences in order to make sure they are informed about company changes, policy changes, action items, resources available to them and that they feel connected and happy.

Be sensitive in hosting virtual happy hours and explicitly mention bringing tea, coffee, soda, etc. to accommodate folks who have dealt with alcoholism, personally or in their family.

Diversity + Inclusion Resources

Here are a few other resources to keep the work of D&I alive and forefront during these times of crisis and to continue to have a longer view and plan for the most productive and innovative workforce now and after the crisis is over.

Lastly, if your organization does not already have a Diversity and Inclusion plan, this is a great to time to get started working on one. Check out our Inclusion Guide on how to get started and reach out to us for additional support.

If there are specific issues you would like to learn more about, please contact Sanjita Pradhan at spradhan@dsmpartnership.com as we work on creating more virtual events, podcasts and blogs to help you continue your Diversity and Inclusion work.

You can count on The Partnership to continue to share accurate and fact-based updates as well. See more on COVID-19 here, including employment resources for those impacted due to coronavirus.

Find these tips useful? Find more business tools and information by visiting the Business Resources page.

Sanjita Pradhan

Sanjita Pradhan is the director of diversity and inclusion at the Greater Des Moines Partnership where she leads our internal and external DEI strategies to ensure DSM USA is welcoming and inclusive to all individuals.