Or... Why Diversity and Inclusion must be a guiding principle through any crisis into longer term recovery.

Before Covid-19 the business case for diversity and inclusion was compelling. It centred around creating a point of difference for both talent acquisition and retention, which led to better innovation and authenticity. Now, as many companies work through the next few months and years coming back from the economic effects of the pandemic, the return from this business case becomes even more critical.

It is a reality that your business will need to be more competitive, more innovative and more streamlined in the short to medium term. You will need to be resilient and flexible to pivot quickly and creatively to cater for the changing demands of your customers or your clients.

It is important to ensure that your inclusive, flexible and innovative culture is not eroded. (And if you don’t have that culture, now is the time to build a great one!) Now, more than ever, the value that diversity and inclusion programs bring will be your golden ticket to drive innovation and help pivot your business into recovery.

Here are 4 principles to keep in mind over the coming weeks and months:

1)    Keep diversity in mind when considering re-sizing

Protect your Unicorns. Most people and companies now know that when it comes to recruitment, we must recognise unconscious bias to ensure an equal playing field and to achieve a strong spread of diversity to enable innovation and future thinking.

The same is true when harder decisions need to be made when re-sizing a business to adapt to current market situations. Just like recruitment, downsizing may also highlight areas of unconscious bias. Businesses may be left with teams who all think and behave in the same way if principles are not first established and communicated prior to decisions being reviewed and implemented.

Employees with different life experiences will provide different options when responding to change and dealing with uncertainty and surprise. When you are working towards survival and then into recovery you will need these different ideas and opportunities to explore different outcomes.

2)    Include your diverse thinkers in decision making

It is easy to rely on a small group of trusted colleagues and advisors when it comes to making big future facing decisions for your team or your organisation. Subjective validation bias will be comforting for these times but essentially there will be little innovation or option in the result.

In most companies there are groups of people who are closer to the decision makers than others. The perception that some people have a voice in the business over others can feel even greater during these times with “in” crowds having the potential to be amplified and diverse groups feeling they have little say or even opportunity to be heard. At worse, your most creative and innovative thinkers may be operating in a vacuum in isolation with failing technology.

Inclusive leadership during these times is paramount as it invites all groups to the table to provide a different lens to the problems a business is facing. In a time when innovation will be everything, left of centre thinking will provide insights and options that may change the roadmap for short- and medium-term recovery.

3)    Seek out and empower your culture builders to build stronger communities

Company culture is what enables individuals to bring their authentic selves to work which in turn enables innovation and the ability to adapt quickly based on changing customer expectations. Culture builders are those agents of change who help create a sense of belonging and community and to help establish new ways of thinking and working so that many different people can come together. It is essential in this time of remote working and physical distance that this sense of belonging to and working towards something bigger is maintained.

Organisations have a responsibility to provide a psychologically safe workspace for their employees. Working from home for extended periods of time coupled with the anxiety caused by these times can be isolating and can lead to mental health issues. Your culture builders are those people who are constantly ensuring that everyone is included, their voices are heard, and an outlet is provided for your employees to express how they are feeling with other employees. Identify who these people are and empower them further to continue to build their communities and support more vulnerable employees through these times. You can usually find these people leading or driving employee resource groups or organising social activities.

Additionally, these are the people you will need to re-build a strong culture quickly when your staff return to work in whatever way that will look in the future.

4)    Innovate inclusively and increase your market share

Now is the time to ensure you are innovating and designing from the edge. Including fundamental inclusive design and human-centred design principles into your work products or service designs provides not only more accessible products or services but a significant increase in market share. The Centre for Inclusive Design released a report last year in partnership with Adobe and Microsoft which details how inclusive design can expand customer reach fourfold. You already have many different unicorns with diverse life experiences within your employees who can help enable this thinking. You just need to ask them to contribute.

There is an opportunity right now to re-enforce your organisational values and Diversity and Inclusion goals. As you are making decision’s regarding the re-sizing or structuring of your organisation ensure a more diverse mix of employees remains by assessing at the holistic level. Ramp up your culture activities by empowering your culture champions and employee resource groups and provide more opportunities for the inclusion of different ideas and solutions through inclusive leadership to really enable innovation at an edge level. Left of centre thinking from diverse employees will help provide the insights and options that may change the roadmap for short- and medium-term recovery.

Selfie taken by Steph Sands.

This article was written by Steph Sands - the Head of Diversity and Inclusion for Capgemini Australia and New Zealand.

Capgemini and Centre for Inclusive Design share a proud collaboration partnership.