As HR professionals, we’re the company ambassadors; this means we represent all employees to the organization’s leadership and vice versa. The tumultuous events of the past year laid bare the significant potential for inequality, providing HR with an opportunity to evaluate company policies to make meaningful changes and a greater impact in light of the lessons learned from 2020. As we do so, we continually strive to make our organizations diverse, equitable, and inclusive workplaces for all.
COVID-19’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Reckoning
Despite our best efforts to help our employees, the COVID-19 global pandemic brought layoffs, lost wages, unsafe working conditions, loss of childcare, loss of health and wellbeing, and more. Within certain already-disadvantaged populations, the negative impacts have been even more concentrated:
- The pandemic’s financial impact has hit people of colour harder. 43 per cent of Black adults and 37 per cent of Hispanic adults report they had trouble paying bills during the pandemic compared to only 18 per cent of White adults. (Source: Pew Research Center)
- Lower-income adults face more employment hardship. 33 per cent of lower-income workers report a lost job in their household—more than twice the number reported by upper-income workers. (Source: Pew Research Center)
- Women’s employment is more threatened during the pandemic. According to McKinsey and Company, “Women’s jobs are 1.8 times more vulnerable to this crisis than men’s jobs.”
The past year has played host to many unsettling displays of existing or increasing inequality in our society. But along with that discomfort comes increased awareness, and this can help companies recognize opportunities for improvement. As HR professionals, we can be agents for change and increased awareness to help make our workspaces and workforces more equitable, diverse, and inclusive.
The Needs of Many vs. The Needs of Individuals
The answer for inclusivity in the past has often been affinity groups or employee resource groups (ERGs). Need more women in leadership? Make a group for that. Want to ensure that company initiatives are LGTBQ+-friendly? Make a group for that, too. The problem is that you can’t make a group for every possible delineation, but every individual member of your organization still has unique, specific needs and perspectives that aren’t addressed through ERGs. Instead, we strive to align our actions with holistic principles that provide opportunities to really consider and meet the needs of each individual employee while also addressing group needs.
To get an idea of what we mean, here are a few examples of DEI efforts at BambooHR:
- Inclusive hiring practices: Our HR and talent acquisition team is deliberate about how we write and where we advertise job ads to ensure diverse candidate pools. We continually measure the balance of diversity in candidate pools and make adjustments when necessary to ensure the pool is diverse. BambooHR trains all interviewers through a multi-part class that covers hiring discrimination and removing unconscious bias in hiring. We also work with hiring managers to build scorecards that create consistency in evaluating multiple candidates and eliminates potential bias.
- Pay and advancement equity: To provide everyone equal access to internal job advancement, we have an internal job board. We give employees career insights for other internal departments by providing defined learning material and role requirements. All pay decisions for new and existing employees are made based on our compensation model with position grading and salary pay bands for consistency in earning potential.
- Culture of belonging: We believe people do their best work when they’re in an environment where they feel valued, empowered, and included. Many of our company values speak directly to this, including:
- Do the right thing: We do the right thing because it’s the right thing to do. Even when it’s more difficult or uncomfortable.
- Be open: We give and receive feedback at every level, honestly and without hesitation. We’ve learned that open communication solves problems and sheds light on new opportunities.
- Grow from good to great: We believe in giving all our employees opportunities to grow both personally and professionally.
- Lead from where you are: We believe everyone at BambooHR can inspire others, earn recognition, and influence our direction, regardless of their position.
We like using BambooHR’s company values to guide many of our initiatives, including our DEI efforts. Our practices are designed to meet the overarching needs of our many employees while also spending time with individual employees regularly to ensure we are providing the most inclusive environment possible. Our DEI programs are living programs that adapt as we learn, and we weave them into the fabric of our organization and culture.
What You Can Do to Create a More Diverse, Equitable, and Inclusive Workplace
As leaders of our organizations, we have a responsibility to open ourselves up to understanding the potential for inequality. Through that understanding, we’re better equipped to take steps to ensure that the organization we represent is not a source of that pain and inequality.
While our approach at BambooHR is unique to our culture and employee population, there are consistent areas to evaluate in any organization to ensure that, as the world settles into a new normal, your organization’s new normal is continually more diverse, equitable, and inclusive.
Employees who do the same work and have the same level of experience should be compensated equitably. Clear job descriptions and performance expectation metrics are central inequitable compensation models. Decisions about raises and promotions should be supported by employee merit, ability, and accomplishment.
Your organization as a whole (as well as your leadership team) should be a good reflection of the population in which you’re based. If it isn’t, assess your candidate pool sources and introduce interview practices that look for specific skills and weed out biases.
Your company culture is a reflection of the actions and attitudes of all of your employees. Make sure your mission, vision, and values-all align with DEI principles and that they are exemplified by employees and leaders at every level of the organization. In the same vein, be thoughtful about the best ways to proactively address actions that aren’t inclusive or fall short of the experience you want for all employees. Inclusion is a journey for each individual and they need organizational support to do their part in the best ways.
Learning and Development
The entry-level employees of today are the leaders, managers, and executives of tomorrow. Consider, providing meaningful training opportunities for all your employees to ensure that your corporate ladder is accessible to all.
When developing your benefits package, remember the differing priorities of your employee population. Some care more about time off, while others want affordable insurance for their family. You can’t provide everything to everyone, but you can strive to understand what benefits move the needle in terms of adding to employee satisfaction.
- Emotional and Mental Health: In addition to thoughtfully selecting mental health coverage in your health insurance and offering an Employee Assistance Program (EAP), look at opportunities for engagement and education to drive adoption and utilization. Oftentimes, employees don’t understand or are hesitant to use these benefits and education efforts could be the key to achieving positive outcomes.
- Parental Leave: Socially and economically, Parental Leave is increasingly important for both men and women. For females, compensation discrepancies may develop with extended absences from the workplace. Both pay progression and flexible working options can be important for employees to find success in both personal and professional endeavours.
Be the Change
Even the best organizations in the world with unending budgets for diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives aren’t perfect, and the work will never be done—there is always an opportunity to improve. What matters is that we integrate inclusive thinking into our cultures and be a catalyst for lasting change in our organizations.
The past year has provided plenty of opportunities to reflect on who in our society is vulnerable. By considering the needs of the individuals in your organization and letting overarching DEI principles guide your actions, you’ll be able to create a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive organization.