People increasingly want to support and work for companies with values that align with their own. This trend has led to growing interest in and awareness of the importance of hiring for diversity and inclusion (D&I) roles. While this hiring trend has been well established in a handful of sectors for years, it continues to grow in popularity across all industries.
As a result, demand for D&I-focused roles is on the rise. The only issue is the supply of qualified applicants for diversity roles can’t keep up. The disconnect is that, while firms typically seek candidates with 10-15 years of experience, few people have actually worked in D&I-focused roles for that length of time.
In the past, HR roles have often included a D&I function, but D&I-focused roles have been relatively rare until now. For example, job applicants for current D&I roles may have previously led an Employee Resource Group (ERG) alongside a core job or had responsibilities that fell into the D&I space as one part of a previous role. Now, however, many of these professionals are looking to pivot their careers to focus on the growing D&I space.
As employers work to find an ideal fit for skills and experience in newly created D&I roles, it may help to look to the future of work. In the wake of COVID, a remote—or partially remote—work environment looks likely for many companies. Because remote work environments can challenge traditional approaches to employee engagement, the focus on creating a community plays a larger role.
That’s where diversity and inclusion leadership comes in. At Indeed, for example, our D&I teams are focused on creating a sense of belonging and community among employees. In addition to helping us attract and retain top talent, we find that our firm’s dedication to D&I through education alongside taking tangible steps to mitigate bias has a positive effect on the firm’s overall sense of community.
Forming a cohesive work community plays to the strengths of D&I professionals. Companies can capitalize on the valuable tools that D&I professionals bring by shifting the traditional focus of these roles away from a sole focus on leadership development and accountability and towards also ensuring that all employees feel valued and understood.
Here are four diversity and inclusion areas of focus for a remote workplace future:
Focus on behavioral changes throughout the firm with an emphasis on coaching, training, and having crucial conversations with managers. Leaders and managers set an example for the entire workforce. If employees see the behavior of managers or leaders in a negative light, a true sense of community is difficult to achieve.
Broaden the idea of leadership
Representation matters. If leadership roles are perceived as exclusive to many members of the workforce, then a broader sense of belonging will continue to elude many employees. People in leadership roles should reflect the diversity of a company’s workforce. Observing someone “like me” in a leadership role helps attract and retain talent and motivates workers to pursue roles with greater responsibility.
Create policies and procedures reflective of the entire workforce
As you work through new policies and procedures for remote work, be aware of barriers experienced by different populations. Take, for example, the case of family caregivers. More scheduling flexibility for calls can go a long way for employees who share their home workspace with others and must tend to family responsibilities while working remotely.
Commit to accessibility
Help ensure that remote work environments are accessible to all employees. This includes people with disabilities that may make communicating remotely more challenging, or neurodiverse employees who may need accommodations to adjust to the different structure of a work-from-home schedule. Seek to understand each individual’s circumstances, and collaborate on a plan that takes into account their particular needs and sets them up for success.
As we move through this time of uncertainty, one thing is clear: the future of work will be forever changed by our current experience. By focusing on bringing a greater sense of community to the workplace, diversity and inclusion professionals can help bridge the gap between the past and the future of work.
LaFawn Davis is vice president of Diversity, Inclusion & Belonging at Indeed.