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Following multiple waves of the pandemic, leaders across the country are struggling to re-engage and reconnect with their workforces. Bringing employees into diversity and inclusion activities is a meaningful way to connect over shared values, create unique collaboration opportunities, and work towards a higher purpose.
The so-called ‘Great Resignation’ is not just a US phenomenon. In Australia, many organisations report that their employees are disengaging and leaving in record numbers. The talent contest, already fierce before the pandemic, is as tough as it’s ever been.
The shift towards hybrid work has only made the challenge more complicated. While some employees have welcomed these new, flexible ways of working, for others, the loss of human connection and spontaneous interaction has led them to disengage from their colleagues and their work. Given the pandemic has changed the engagement playbook for good, many organisations are now looking for more meaningful ways to connect with their people.
Leaders know that organisations that live and communicate their values and purpose are typically better able to attract and retain diverse talent than those that don’t. A powerful way to demonstrate purpose and reconnect with a workforce is by refocusing on diversity and inclusion efforts. This is particularly important for industries and occupations hit hard by the pandemic and also in sectors facing increased scrutiny over workplace safety and misconduct.
But the ‘way’ that organisations approach D&I really matters. The secret is to involve your employees in the process.
Employee involvement in working groups, change initiatives, and D&I networks, such as a Pride Network or a gender equality network, can add significant value to an organisation. Employees can serve as change champions embedded into different business areas, raise awareness of important topics, provide feedback on proposed policy changes, and bring people together in discussion and celebration. If harnessed correctly, engaging employees in D&I initiatives can also help people feel connected, included and empowered to drive important change.
Having helped clients across multiple organisations and industries to develop their D&I Strategies and Employee Value Propositions, we have seen some great examples of organisations engaging their people effectively. But we’ve also seen cases where it can go wrong, where networks and employees are not sufficiently supported, empowered or enabled to make a difference.
Here are eight key principles to adopt to make sure that employee engagement in diversity and inclusion is a success:
With increased turnover and scarce resources, leaders are under greater pressure than ever to retain talent and foster an engaging and inclusive work environment. One of the best assets to help them get there might be right in front of them. Leaders should harness the passion and interest that many of their people have for diversity and inclusion. Creating genuine opportunities for employees to lead D&I initiatives will not only engage them but also accelerate progress across the organisation. The outcomes benefit everybody.