Five ways to use diversity, equity, and inclusion to make your organization more resilient
Note: This is an abbreviated article. For your free full toolkit, click here.
Want to help your organization come out the other side of COVID-19 feeling proud of its response to the crisis? You’ve come to the right place.
As a diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) consultant, I spend my days helping organizations live their values. I’m grateful to work with leaders who prioritize building organizations whose ethics are reflected in their work and environment. But as the public health and economic impacts of COVID-19 create significant pressure for all organizations, I’m starting to hear some new questions from clients who care deeply about their DEI work:
What can I be doing to build team morale through this transition? How can I make budget decisions in a way that is aligned with our organizational values? Do we have time for our diversity, equity, and inclusion work during coronavirus?
As we discuss the answers that are right for each of them, I find a common thread: it’s in times of crisis, when living by our values feels harder than ever, that doing so matters most.
COVID-19 has put a lot of pressure on both personal and professional values. Companies are navigating new problems and tough decisions every day, and many are worried about compromising the diversity, equity, and inclusion values that they’ve worked to shape. Workers are facing challenges they’ve never had before, and looking to employers for support through difficult transitions.
Managers who are modeling their company’s values to build strength and resilience during this challenging time start by acknowledging two things:
So, we can’t have business as usual right now. Navigating new stress about health and finances while homeschooling kids, managing depression and anxiety, and staying on schedule at work…probably isn’t realistic. But that’s ok! What’s key is that we adapt our business strategies accordingly.
How to use this toolkit:
With this in mind, here are five ways your organization can use strong diversity, equity, and inclusion values to navigate this pandemic. Download your copy of the free toolkit for the full list of tactics.
1: If nothing else, combat xenophobia and racism.
Inaccurate rhetoric and the spread of misinformation about the virus has fueled a rise in violent, racist acts and hate speech, particularly toward East Asians.
Use language accurately in your company communications: remember this virus is called COVID-19 or novel coronavirus — it is NOT the “China virus” or the “Wuhan virus,” and referring to it as such stokes stigma, racial violence, and oppression. If you hear folks referring to it as such or see other xenophobic or racist behavior, create a learning moment to make it clear that hate is not tolerated in your organization.
Download the full toolkit to learn more ways to combat xenophobia and racism.
2: Get creative with benefits.
Added stress hurts productivity and work quality and weakens our immune systems. And a global pandemic creates no shortage of added stress.
Leading with empathy, think creatively about what kinds of additional benefits could help your team right now. My favorite example:
Unlimited PTO for new responsibilities related to COVID-19. Think: childcare (and homeschooling!) or family care, recovering from illness, grocery shopping during off-peak store hours, mental health care, etc. Remember that caring for one’s own mental health is critical during this time, and must be valued just as much as any of the other responsibilities listed here. Unlimited PTO helps employees to be more focused on the task in front of them, worrying less about what they “should” be doing with that time.
Regardless of your PTO policy, emphasize equitable treatment around schedule flexibility. For example, rather than shifting work away from parents with known childcare responsibilities, asking those who haven’t shared about any extra obligations to pick up the slack, think about ways to make everyone’s load lighter. In other words, assume everyone has extra responsibilities at home right now, even if they’re not easily visible to you.
Download the full toolkit to see three more examples of creative benefits companies are providing right now.
3: Enable and celebrate work-from-home best practices.
The experience of working from home is VERY different right now. Trust those of us who’ve been doing it for a while: We’re not “working from home.” We’re at home during a crisis trying to work. That makes it all the more important to embrace those best practices.
Thanks to leadership from the disability justice community, we already have very strong best practices to help boost productivity while working from home. My favorite:
Set up blocks of time in your calendar to be unavailable. Working from home can make work days a lot longer, which is often harmful to our mental and physical health. Make sure your calendar includes breaks during the day (lunch is a great one to start with) so you step away from your computer to move around. Set aside time to be offline or do nothing when it works for your schedule.
Download the full toolkit to see four more work-from-home best practices that will improve organizational effectiveness.
4: Step up your employee engagement game.
Effective people management is crucial in a crisis, and we know that employee engagement has a strong impact on business success — but our go-to methods for these key functions might not work (or be appropriate) in these non-standard times. Thinking creatively about supporting teams virtually can offer new ways to show them that you care about them as people, providing resources and opportunities to not only boost their productivity, but to reinvest them emotionally in their organization.
Think about unique ways to boost team morale and build community inside your organization, even while you’re physically apart. Examples I like include:
Put extra time into fostering team engagement. Virtual happy hours (my favorite is “meet pets and families” day), “lunch and learns” over Zoom, themed meetings (funny hat day, anyone?) and more can be great moments to connect despite physical distance.
Adjust goals and priorities with your team. This is a big shift, and not all timelines can or should proceed as planned. Work proactively with your team to make sure they know that adapting timelines is expected during this time. It’s the responsible way to proceed — and you’re doing it too.
If you’re making budget cuts, adjusting goals and priorities takes on extra importance. Provide strong support to help staff navigate the impact of those cuts on how they spend their time. For example, if you decide to cut all salaries by 20% and have staff only work 80% of the time, provide clear guidance around what that 80% should look like. Is the company closed every Friday? Should all employees or teams set their own hours? Is there a block of time each day when all employees should try to be available to each other? What projects will be cut, priorities shifted, or goals adjusted to accommodate for the reduced capacity?
Download the full toolkit to see five more examples of ways organizations are improving employee engagement during COVID-19.
5: Consider your broader impact.
Because it’s the right thing to do. And because it’s an incredible opportunity to show the world what your brand stands for.
Convene a diverse group to think about how your organization is uniquely situated to help others right now. Two examples I’m celebrating:
C-Suite leaders are foregoing their salaries to reduce the need for layoffs or pay cuts for more financially vulnerable staff. Others are scaffolding pay freezes or pay cuts so that they don’t disproportionately cause more harm to those who make lower salaries. Consider what a minimum wage would look like if it aligned with your company values, and try to design pay cuts such that they don’t put anyone below that salary. (This will also benefit your company’s bottom line!)
Companies are re-purposing their resources to make an impact. Restaurants are preparing meals for healthcare workers and those living in poverty. Perfume factories and distilleries are producing hand sanitizer. Clothing factories are making face masks. You may not have these kinds of resources available to you, but employees could have creative ideas for ways to repurpose the resources you do have.
Download the full toolkit to see two more examples of how organizations are finding ways to have a positive broader impact during COVID-19.
These are just a few of the tools I’m seeing leaders use to bolster organizational resilience through COVID-19.
Make sure to download the full toolkit so you don’t miss other ideas that could make a difference for your team.
What other dilemmas are you facing around coronavirus? How have these tools and others been working for you?
Reach out and I’d be honored to navigate this together with you.