If there is one thing that DEI professionals can expect in their line of work, it’s constant change. The modern workplace is undergoing significant shifts, and it’s important for companies to prepare themselves and their people for the future.
With teams and companies settled into their pandemic-era routines and offices looking to reopen with hybrid work models, 2022 presents an opportunity to reshape the workplace of the future and apply foresight to DEI functions. Now’s the time for DEI leaders to be asking themselves these questions: What worked really well in 2021? What am I most proud of? How do I take the best of that and bring it forward to reimagine engagement in 2022? What is my biggest wish?
Seramount advisors for Diversity Best Practices (DBP) members have issued a set of predictions on the outlook of DEI leadership and how shifting workplace culture will influence the role of the CDO. Here’s what to look out for in the year ahead:
Over the past two years, Employee Resource Groups have expanded their reach and membership in a virtual environment, especially globally. This coming year will present an opportunity to uncover what that broader reach can do for engagement. ERG leaders will be challenged to maintain what they’ve built and to find ways to bring the hybrid model forward.
“I think it’s going to be difficult,” says Marcelo Vasquez, Senior Advisor for DBP members, “but the good news is that we have experienced both worlds: in-person and virtual. Now it’s up to ERG leaders to find the best of the two environments to continue to break geographical barriers and ensure that everyone has a voice.”
Historically, “remote workers” were seen as outliers who refused to relocate for their careers and were often penalized when it came to career trajectory. With flexibility as our new normal, we expect a changing definition of remote work and revised policies.
To ensure equity in the hybrid work environment, companies will have to be proactive and intentional about the way they approach their talent development process. Employers will need to develop strategies to guarantee that virtual workers don’t get left behind or lose visibility.
Employee engagement is “the highest for those who work in a hybrid workplace, at 81 percent, versus those who are fully remote (78 percent) and those who are fully in-office (72 percent),” according to Seramount’s recent insight paper.
It will be crucial for managers to take the time to understand the differences between their employees who are staying virtual and those who are returning to the office and to find ways to keep both groups equally engaged. To understand where employees are in terms of returning—or not returning, it can be beneficial to get a pulse check via surveys or gain more in-depth understanding through Employee Voice Sessions.
Throughout 2020 and beyond, there’s been an increase in the number of CDO roles and Heads of Diversity at both large and smaller organizations. They were tasked with developing DEI strategies to advance inclusive and equitable cultures at their companies, and now they need to be prepared to answer questions from the C-suite about the return on investment.
“In order to maintain resources and ensure DEI isn’t the first thing that is defunded when budgets get tight, it will be imperative for CDOs to approach their role from a business leadership and change-management standpoint and to find a holistic approach to meld DEI with the broader strategy,” says Bridgette Scales, Senior Advisor for DBP members. “Our DEI leaders are battling ‘diversity and inclusion fatigue’ right now, and if we are not intentional about melding DEI with business impact, we will lose momentum.”
Seramount thought leaders predict that CDOs need to be thoughtful about developing strategies to ensure that DEI becomes a sustainable, inevitable part of a company’s ongoing business model.
“The ROI conversation is coming,” says Vasquez, “and if CDOs are not intentional about putting tools for measurement in place now, there will be no answers.”
With The Great Resignation upon us and employees reevaluating their current roles and searching for new opportunities, Seramount expects the war for diverse talent to last for the next three to five years. In the past year, we’ve seen a rise in “stay interviews” when companies are worried that a person is at risk to leave, but leaders will need to be proactive and do more. They’ll need to build a long-term strategy to develop talent for senior positions. “What we’re seeing right now is an employee’s market,” says Bridgette Scales. “Employees are in the position of power and looking for corporations that are mission-driven and truly authentic and that serve their community. Employers need to be ready to prove themselves.”
For recommendations employers should consider when developing your 2022 talent strategy, read “Combat The Great Resignation with Your Return-to-Office Plan.”
After the death of George Floyd in May 2020, many leaders across corporate America spoke out against systemic racism. They issued statements, awarded financial power to anti-racism causes, and pledged to make DEI a priority within their organizations. Those pledges ended up backfiring a year later when statistics showed that they had not acted on a strategy that would allow them to live up to those promises, which made them seem ingenuine.
In fact, Seramount’s 2021 study, “From Pledge to Progress: Corporate America One Year After George Floyd’s Death,” showed that a staggering 79% of executives who say they are committed to helping companies fight racism think corporate efforts on DEI are overblown. In the future, Seramount advisors predict that we will see companies take a more holistic approach to crisis management with a focus on transparency and making commitments they can keep.
We are experiencing a unique moment in history when change in the way we work is imminent. It is up to DEI professionals to be proactive and intentional in their efforts to ensure that the workplace is equitable for all.
Become a DBP member to gain access to our resources and the expertise of our advisors. Interested in learning about our new CDO Collaborative? Contact us today.