I am often asked at this time of year for my thoughts on where the landscape of DEI will be moving to over the next 12-18 months. We’d all love a crystal ball to predict what will happen, but if 2020 taught us anything, perhaps it led us to expect the unexpected. For some that may mean planning for the worst and hoping for the best. Or can we be more optimistic than that?
An unknown new world is unfolding
We have the war in Ukraine, global uncertainty and instability where peace is no longer guaranteed. Inflation and political uncertainty are running rife in many countries. There are supply chain issues and constraints on technology components as a result.
The inner optimist in me has a list of desires and hope
We are moving towards a world of ‘Quiet Quitting’ where companies are abandoning their focus on culture and positive people experiences and we are seeing leading blue chip and global tech companies making sweeping statements about getting their employees and colleagues ‘back in the office’ as if that is what it takes to get the work done!
On the other hand, looking back over the lessons of the past two years, #BlackLivesMatter and #MeToo, we are also talking openly now about standing up against violence toward women and girls, employee wellbeing and the rise of psychological safety ‘as a thing’ and there have been other gains.
Time for an improved workplace
What we do know is that the world of work must be better for our staff and colleagues, they expect more. As we see more and more Gen-Z young people entering the workplace and rising through the ranks we need to ensure we are delivering to their needs – they want more freedom, more opportunity to talk about their identity.
They want to work for organisations that value them as individuals and they simply won’t engage if they are not involved in the conversations. I am sure Millennials, Gen-Xers and Boomers can also relate and will want some of that action as well. The inner optimist in me has a list of desires and hopes. Let’s meet back here in a year’s time to see what came true.
How will DEI evolve in 2023?
1. Focus on wellbeing
Companies need to revert to focus on wellbeing initiatives. I understand that the bottom line is under pressure right now, but if they want to attract and retain the best talent, they need to ensure that their People Experience is the top dead centre of their strategy.
You can’t simply hire your way out of your current issues – fix your toxicity and culture first
2. One size does not fit all
Let’s stop the BS on believing that being in the office is a one-size-fits-all strategy that guarantees productivity and learning. It is denying the experience of many who have worked and are continuing to work harder, smarter, and longer with increased productivity in a hybrid or fully remote way. We see many start-ups thriving in a disparately connected way without a central head office. This ‘old school’ leadership style and mentality need to evolve, not de-evolve to keep pace with the leading lights.
3. The DEI focus needs to keep on keeping on
There needs to be more accountability and fewer meaningless performative actions and statements. Uncoordinated training programmes aren’t moving the needle. DEI must have actionable outcomes, measurement, and top-to-bottom joined-up thinking all aligned with the brand and values of an organisation. You can’t simply hire your way out of your current issues – fix your toxicity and culture first.
4. Uncover the root causes of ‘quiet-quitting’
Engage with your people, not just once a year in a pulse survey, but on a weekly or daily basis with micro-surveys or just having a catch-up. Back this up with ‘a you said, we did mantra’ and ethos. Look at the trends and look at the data – act and empower your leaders at all levels with employee experience KPIs and objectives.
5. Focus on your brand
Recognise that sustainability, people experience, and environmental issues are important to your workforce, as is fuel and food poverty together with the risk of homelessness. Trickledown economics isn’t in favour right now so make sure you recognise the challenges of your lower-paid and middle earners.
If you are not continuing to be authentic, then you will be called out on it
If you don’t want to deliver inflation-pegged remuneration reviews, then consider how else can you ensure that your people believe in your mission. We will see a rise in strikes and other employee-led actions over the next 12 months.
Trust is going to play a big part in the employee and candidate engagement strategy for 2023. How can we trust you as an organisation and brand? It’s time to walk the talk and step up to ensure your actual employee experiences match the message being pushed out. If you are not continuing to be authentic, then you will be called out on it.
Here’s to a happy, healthier and more inclusive 2023.