How COVID-19 May Actually Increase Diversity and Inclusion for Many Companies

By: Lisa Carey and Jimmy Davis

We know by this blog’s title and what is going on in the world that you might be questioning this entire post and idea. But work with us for a few minutes. Prior to the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery, which have sparked a response previously unseen regarding the issue of racism in America, we were dealing with a crippling pandemic. Most of us have been home for more than 15 weeks (and counting). Many of us have added new skills and roles like teacher, IT professional, tutor, daytime dog walker, and more. We have also gained respect for other professions that we took for granted pre-COVID. We have seen companies go completely remote and even make the decision to maintain that status through the end of 2020 and beyond.

With this new way of working from home, we are experiencing one another in different ways and are having greater access to people’s private lives. Given what we are collectively experiencing across the globe, there is greater opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of one another, to engage with our colleagues on another level, and, for leaders, to foster a greater culture of diversity, inclusion, and belonging within and across our organizations.

And now, as cities start to open up (and some needing to shut back down), we are faced with what the working world will look like as this continues to evolve. There is a very real possibility that people will continue to work from home even if a vaccine is found. Here are a few ideas and suggestions that individuals as well as company leadership should consider as we continue to work virtually, both in the short term as well as for those who will do so indefinitely:

  1. Connect with your colleagues in a new way. With Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Google Meet, and every other online function, there is a chance to learn more about your colleagues on a personal level. Use the extra time when meetings end or during the occasional virtual happy hour to connect and check on your colleagues. You’ve finally got that invite over to their homes—we are not only seeing kitchens, offices, basements, and living rooms, but we are also learning about coworkers’ family dynamics via photobombs from their kids and pets, as well as gaining insights into how they work and optimize productivity. You may find other commonalities like favorite shows, movies, books, guilty pleasures, or hobbies that you would have never known otherwise. Be curious, share experiences, and engage broadly and inclusively. Embrace the chance to get to really know them.
  2. Companies that will remain remote partially or completely can now attract and recruit a whole new population of diverse talent. We have been a society where many believed that your physical presence in the office was required to ensure that work was getting done. We saw companies build vast campuses and implement all types of amenities to keep people on the premises and engaged. However, the pandemic has proven that countless jobs can be done productively from home. As a result, many companies will seek to reduce their physical imprint on cities across the country. Consequently, with many jobs moving to working from home, the ability to recruit diverse individuals increases as factors like location of the job become less salient. We know that many diverse individuals have other variables that are factored into their career choices and the companies they choose for employment. Some are parents, are taking care of parents, already have an established community, or simply do not want to work in cities that may not be as diverse as their current location. With a remote working option, many will be open to a wider choice of companies. Also, companies that may have struggled to recruit minority talent can now offer remote roles to take advantage of that broader base of talent while increasing their overall diversity makeup—it’s a win-win for everyone.
  3. Leaders can be more proactive than ever before in creating space for debate and innovation. Through the use of technology, leaders can now be more inclusive by bringing a greater number of team members together from near and far and inviting them into the conversation to ensure their voices and diverse perspectives are heard. Leaders should ensure that meetings and other interactions encourage this, as it is not only the right the thing to do, but it is also good organizational practice and has become a leadership imperative. This will help produce better outcomes and have a real impact on employees feeling engaged and included.

Although there will continue to be challenges with many working virtually, it is important to look at the bright spots and the many game-changing opportunities that have presented themselves that we must hold onto and leverage even further as we continue the reentry process back into our communities and workplaces over the coming weeks, months, and years ahead.

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