2021 was another incredibly turbulent year, perhaps more so that we all envisaged. However, as companies across the country became more accustomed to working in flux and learned how to be more agile than ever, great opportunities for change arose. Indeed, according to research by HR Grapevine, over 75 per cent of respondents believed that the COVID-19 pandemic presented the chance to shake things up for the better.
Undoubtedly, a key area for seismic shift was in the Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) space. With greater emphasis placed on mental health in 2021 than ever before, as well as a much more open rhetoric around those traditionally taboo subjects, like the menopause, as well as a continued focus on LGBT+ and ethnically diverse inclusion, it’s clearly been a year of much needed change.
There is now a much greater understanding around the hurdles and barriers diverse groups face when entering the job market, and employers and their teams alike are far more aware of how to be allies and promote allyship. More than three-quarters of job seekers and employees report that a diverse workforce is an important factor to them when considering a role. However, half of employees believe that their employers still need to do more to increase diversity amongst their workforces in order for true diversity, equity, and inclusion to be reached. Now is not the time to become complacent.
So, what do we think 2022 has in store for D&I in the workplace?
The continued embrace of flexible working
Even without the Omicron variant rearing its head, it’s likely that many companies will continue to advocate for and encourage flexible working routines amongst their employees to help aid their D&I efforts.
What the pandemic has shown is that the ability to work flexibly has allowed all workers to thrive, but especially those from diverse groups. From better accessibility to the workplace for disabled employees to greater work/life balance for people with children, greater autonomy for those who need regular medical attention and better access to roles thanks to the lifting of geographical barriers – the opportunities are endless.
As we head in 2022, the likelihood of this emphasis on flexibility diminishing is very small. Companies who choose not to continue implementing flexible working schemes will very quickly see the available talent pool decreasing, but also risk losing a large percentage of their current workforce to more flexible competitors.
The improvement of inclusive policies
Organisations have become more open to discussing traditionally ‘hushed’ subjects in 2021, such as menopause. As greater work/life balance came into play in 2021, so did the understanding that employers have an important part to play not only in the professional lives of their employees, but also in their personal lives. And they also recognised more than ever that they had a responsibility to ensure that these conversations were inclusive of everyone.
Employers became far more aware of the divides created and harm caused through non-inclusive policies – especially those that extradited LGBT+ employees. Many began to make small, but significant, changes to certain processes to provide better equity amongst their workforces, such as being conscious of using non-gendered language.
2022 and beyond will likely see employers making vast improvements on their current policies, as well as creating new ones that make all employees, current and prospective, feel safe and valued.
Equity is key
Next year, there will be a much greater emphasis on equity in organisations’ efforts to be more diverse and inclusive. When aiming to promote a culture of fairness and equal opportunity, companies will need to explore in more depth the barriers and hurdles different minority groups face when entering the workforce.
When looking at how to help everyone be on level footing, equity must take precedence. It can’t be about giving everyone the same tools without considering their unique differences, but about taking everyone’s unique differences into account and then equipping them with the tools they need specifically to succeed. The ability to achieve equity is as distinctive to one person as their fingerprint, and this will become a key focal point for organisations in 2022.
Without a doubt, this year will see significant growth and further change. Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion will continue to be a focal point for all businesses and advanced improvements will be made. Allyship will become stronger, understanding will become deeper, and workplaces will become safer.
The theme for 2022? Accountability.
As said by INvolve’s Managing Director, Alexandra Evreinoff, the overarching theme for 2022 will be accountability. The need to report on progress, however big or small, is vital to ensure change is taking place. It also allows businesses to stay accountable and on top of switching track and refining processes as the year goes on. Alongside implementing D&I solutions, accountability ensures businesses get into the mindset that inclusion is an evolving landscape, and a one-size-fits-all method won’t be beneficial for everyone.
Here’s to 2022 and holding ourselves accountable for long-term sustainable change.