Diversity and Inclusion in the Workplace: Trends for 2021

Diversity and inclusion in the workplace are undeniably important. But after one of the most challenging years in decades, it’s become even more sought after. The pandemic combined with an economic recession and calls for social justice and racial equality prompted many businesses to establish, re-examine and ramp up their diversity and inclusion initiatives for 2021.

Despite going through such a tumultuous year, businesses seem more eager than ever to create a work environment where employees are valued and can achieve their potential, regardless of their gender, disability, ethnicity, sexual orientation or background.

With such an increased appetite for promoting positive change within their teams and a renewed enthusiasm for diversity and inclusivity, it looks like we’re in store for an exciting year ahead. Here are some of the biggest diversity and inclusion trends we think businesses are most likely to embrace over the next 12 months to help them reach their D&I goals.

Supporting a Multigenerational Workforce

Did you know that there at least five generations actively participating in the workforce right now? From Gen Z and millennials right the way through to baby boomers and the silent generation, the workforces generational makeup has never been so varied. To make this diverse combination successful, businesses will need to gain a better understanding of their workforce’s unique life experiences, cultural ideas and skillsets, in addition to their needs and work expectations.

Businesses will need to design and implement workforce strategies that are tailored to and celebrate an individual’s attributes and strengths. This will not only show an appreciation of what each generation’s working style and abilities, but it can also help to foster awareness and create a common language between colleagues.

Shift to Diversity, Inclusion and Equity

The concept of diversity and inclusion will continue to be a top focus for businesses throughout 2021 and beyond. But many forward-thinking businesses have now started to add equity into the mix to make their diversity and inclusivity efforts even more impactful.

While diversity focuses on increases representation and inclusion promotes value and appreciation, equity acknowledges the advantages and barriers that can exist for each individual and works towards making a more level playing field for all. Employers should be just as conscious of equity as they are diversity and inclusion when creating or updating policies and workflows. Things like offering gender-neutral toilets, making interview panels more diverse and eliminating discriminatory language in company literature are all fantastic examples of equity in action

Hiring Diversity Professionals

In recent years, more and more companies have chosen to hire dedicated, full-time diversity professionals to help them enhance their diversity and inclusivity efforts. This is a trend that shows no signs of stopping in 2021. In fact, recent studies have found that demand for these roles, which often combine HR, recruitment and leadership responsibilities, surged by 106% in the UK back in 2019.

From managing employee complaints of harassment or discrimination to hosting seminars on promoting diversity in the workplace, these professionals are being recognised, particularly by larger organisations, as a valuable asset to have.

Just last year, Zoom Video Communications hired its own Chief Diversity Officer to oversee its global diversity and inclusion strategy. Social media giant, Facebook also has a Global Chief Diversity expert who develops new strategies for recruiting and supporting people from underrepresented groups at the company.

Increased Transparency

A report from McKinsey last May found that while overall employee sentiment on corporate diversity was 52% positive and 31% negative, sentiment on inclusion was markedly worse, at only 29% positive and 61% negative. These figures show that more intentional steps need to be taken by businesses in 2021 to improve inclusivity within their teams.

A necessary component for improving inclusion within the workplace is increased transparency of diversity and inclusion data and targets. While this might be fear-inducing for many, there is power in sharing, setting goals and measuring your progress with your team. It can not only drive change but also inspire honest conversations. This can provide an opportunity for employees and leadership teams to share their experiences and explore potential solutions together.

Opt-In Learning Opportunities

Increasing the number of opt-in learning opportunities for employees is another workplace diversity trend that will continue to grow in 2021. In the past, many businesses have facilitated mandatory diversity and inclusion training sessions, often as a reaction to a negative incident or as a compliance measure.

However, recent studies have found that this mandatory approach has a counterproductive effect on employees, causing feelings of animosity and resistance. To overcome this, businesses are now considering opt-in learning opportunities which allow employees to engage in diversity and inclusion training at their own pace.

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Josh Carter-White

22nd January

Industry Insight