July 21, 2020 10:00 AM

COVID-19's Impact on D&I - a Big Setback or Highway to Evolution?

There’s no doubt that the Covid-19 outbreak and resulting near-global lockdown has had a huge impact on the recruitment industry. While some companies are still hiring, the temporary layoffs and introduction of mass remote work has seen many employers shelve their plans for workforce expansion. But what does this mean for diversity and inclusion? Has the outbreak had a detrimental effect on D&I or is it opening doors for proponents of D&I initiatives? 

Is D&I still a major talking point?

Employers the world over understand the true benefits of diversity and inclusion. It fosters innovation and is responsible for boosting revenue. In fact, according to a study by Boston Consulting Group, companies with diverse leadership generate 19% more revenue than those without. 

The truth is that at this point, employers can no longer ignore the value of D&I programs. However, this global pandemic has seen the priorities or many employers shift from a ‘let’s generate more revenue’ approach to one that is decidedly more ‘protect what we have’. 

In our recent post on the The Positive Impact of Remote Work on Diversity and Inclusion, we noted that 27% of companies have put some or all of their D&I initiatives on hold. And while this is by no means a permanent step taken by those employers, it will certainly have a negative impact on the overall progress of their D&I programs. 

Is Covid-19 a major obstacle for D&I?

Given the statistic we just shared and the difficulties employers are currently facing in terms of sourcing and hiring the best talent, the answer would seem to be a resounding yes. 

Diversity and inclusion is still very much a work in progress particularly when it comes to leadership and c-level roles. For example, in the UK, women account for only 7% of CEOs and 11% of executive roles among the companies in the FTSE 100 index. 

The very fact that D&I initiatives (and/or recruitment efforts) have been put on hold will only exacerbate the problem. What was already a slow-moving process has seemingly ground to a halt. 

However, let’s look at it from another perspective. 

The global pandemic has changed the way we work with one study showing that 88% of companies required staff to work from home due to the pandemic. Not only that but 33% of employees feel that covid-19 was a catalyst for remote work

As a result, hiring methods have changed too with remote interviews now an integral part of the recruitment process. The unexpected yet most welcome benefit of this change is that it has allowed candidates from a diverse range of backgrounds to apply for roles they may not have applied for in the past. 

And more diverse candidates means more opportunities for diversity and inclusion in the workplace. 

With all of this in mind, let’s go back to our original question — is covid-19 a big setback for D&I or is it a highway to evolution? 

The answer really depends on your approach to recruitment during this time. 

If your recruitment efforts have been put on hold for the moment, then yes, the pandemic may delay your efforts to ingrain a sense of diversity and inclusion in your workplace. 

However, for those who are still searching out talent and hiring for the long-term, the global lockdown and increased reliance on remote work could be the shot in the arm that your D&I program needed.Challenges with Post-Conventional Diversity in the New Hybrid World webinar

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