As the UK hopes to be coming out of the pandemic, we ask some of the most experienced D&I experts what the single most important business lesson they learnt from the pandemic was and what their top aspirations are for the next 12 months.
Thom Dennis, CEO of Serenity in Leadership:
Lesson: WE MUST REFLECT ABOUT WHAT HAS CHANGED.
“However tough you are, the constraints of the pandemic will have affected your psyche, albeit in different ways for different people. This deserves some clear reflection time to identify what’s changed and whether you want to retain the new habits and mindsets, or work on ways to move on from them. Coaching will be vital for this.”
Aspiration: LEADERS WILL ENGAGE POSITIVELY AND CONSTRUCTIVELY.
“Leaders may be super-busy individuals but their decisions impact so many people and without an actively supportive D&I focus, they may actually be damaging their own people, the company’s reputation and the bottom line.”
Suzie Lewis, Founder and MD of Transform for Value:
Lesson: THE NEED FOR INCLUSION IS GREATER NOW THAN EVER BEFORE.
“People are fundamentally wired for human connection as the pandemic highlighted, so the need for deliberate inclusion is greater now than ever before. There is real learning here about the need to understand human systems and how important an inclusive employee experience is for competitive advantage moving forward. The need to create psychological safety in a hybrid workplace is key to the employee experience, as we move into a phase where new working models and leadership paradigms need to be defined and operationalised.”
Aspiration: A REAL UNDERSTANDING OF HOW POWERFUL DIVERSITY IS FOR THE BOTTOM LINE”
“It can’t be a tick box exercise, or just “HR’s job”. It is a real change journey. I would love to see more understanding of our own mental models and biases, and role modelling of inclusive behaviours and language from leaders at all levels of the organisation. I would like to see people using diversity as a positive lever for change and actively calling out inappropriate language and behaviour to create a norm that becomes part of the working culture.”
D+I facilitator, speaker and coach, Gamal Turawa:
Lesson: A SUPPORTIVE NETWORK IS VITAL.
“The single most important business lesson we have learnt from the pandemic is the power of connecting across multiple platforms and having a supportive network.”
Aspiration: THAT WE HAVE COURAGEOUS CONVERSATIONS.
“To ensure that organisations can recognise the relevance of creating space for courageous conversations that promote the wellbeing and value of what their staff are feeling and experiencing in the workplace.”
Jane Hatton, CEO of Evenbreak, Helping inclusive employers attract and retain talented disabled candidates:
Lesson: IF WE UNDERSTAND THE IMPORTANCE, WE CAN CHANGE.
“We saw more than ever that inequality is rife and built into our systems and employment practices, but it isn’t inevitable, and can change if enough people can see the importance of doing so.”
Aspiration: THAT ANY SILVER LININGS FROM THE PANDEMIC ARE EMBEDDED INTO NEW AND BETTER WAYS OF WORKING.
“The model that all employees need to work full-time, 9.00 to 5.00 Monday to Friday in a specific location has not been fit for purpose for a very long time. Work can be done in a variety of different ways, flexibly in terms of the number of hours, and when and where they are worked, to meet the needs of the employer and the employee.”
Raggi Kotak, Barrister at law and Racial Justice Facilitator:
Lesson: VALUE YOUR SUPPORT SYSTEM.
“Nurture your eco-system ie all that supports you including relationships, resilience and resources. You never know when you will be really challenged, and when you will need to lean into the stability you have created.”
Aspiration: TO SHIFT THE DYNAMICS OF RACISM THAT PLAY OUT AMONGST US.
“Many of us have already taken steps forward. We need to continue to support that journey in a non-judgmental way, knowing that we can all become more aware of our impact to racialised communities and create spaces that are welcoming of diversity in all its forms.”
Joanne Lockwood, a Diversity & Inclusion & Belonging Specialist who also promotes Transgender Awareness to organisations:
Lesson: NO EXCUSE FOR LACK OF ACTION.
“Organisations can adapt quickly; processes and thinking can change rapidly – there is no longer any excuse for lack of action. Employee wellbeing has come to the forefront, mental health and being much more person-centric has been necessary in this topsy turvy year of change. Organisations have also learnt that flexible working is more than dress-down Friday, it is about engaging with colleagues and team members in a way that works for them.”
Aspiration: TANGIBLE EVIDENCE OF LISTENING AND ACTION.
“I would like to see organisations moving from this performative phase, recruiting heads of DEI and putting out bland statements. Organisations need to look at inequities brought in through the lockdown in terms of gender and ethnicity where certain groups have been impacted in a more significant way than others. This next 12 months will be a truth telling for many organisations if they don’t consider their people and listen to their needs at this time.”
Executive coach and co-founder of Lanellsohn, Edward Nelson:
Lesson: TRUST IS EVERYTHING.
“Fundamentally we learnt that you can trust your employees if you give them a bit of space.”
Aspiration: FAR MORE OPEN DIALOGUE ABOUT WHAT DE&I MEANS.
“I think there are a lot of solutions being offered, when we are still grappling to understand the problems and power dynamics, let alone find the solutions.”
Leadership and Organisational Development specialist, James Peal:
Lesson: MEDIA POWER COLOURS THE WAY WE THINK.
“The lesson I have learnt is the power of media and platforms and how that colours our world, both positively and negatively…Also how important fresh air and physical activity is.”
Aspiration: TRANSFORMATIVE LEADERS.
“I would like to create an environment for every leader to be profoundly touched & transformed so they can be a sustaining DE&I beacon and for their organisation.”
Linda Crockett MSW, RSW, SEP, CCPA from The Canadian Institute of Workplace Bullying Resources:
Lesson: ABUSERS FIND NEW WAYS EVEN IN A PANDEMIC.
“Regardless of a pandemic and many working from home, someone who wishes to harass, discriminate, or abuse others can continue. The abusive employees have simply found new ways to do this which means the negative impact is spreading into employees’ home and the cases are becoming more and more complex.”
Aspiration: BETTER TRAINING FOR FIRST CONTACT PROFESSIONALS.
“HR, Leaders, Investigators, Safety, Mediators need to be trained on research-based, best practises re: trauma-informed processes to address complex cases of psychological harassment, or psychological violence. Too many unintentional errors are being made, resulting in more harm.”
If you would like to learn more about the work of any of our expert contributors, please contact Serenity in Leadership.