By Barb Ward

If refining the culture of your organization was only about finding your way forward after the COVID pandemic, even with the continuing uncertainty, you could focus intently on the task at hand and find a successful path for the future. However, today’s environment requires much more than that. 

Over the past year as a society, we have experienced not only the most crippling pandemic we have seen in our lifetimes, but also volatile political and racial unrest. As a result, many organizations are at a loss about how to reassure a workforce that has been shaken to its core by the pandemic, while also addressing the complexities of diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workplace.

While each of these cultural issues impact your organization, it can be overwhelming to try to address all of them in one swoop, so first, let’s discuss how to reassure, reassess, and redefine your path for moving forward post-COVID. Then, we’ll talk about how to respond to the rapidly changing diversity, equity and inclusion landscape. Rest assured, there is a way forward, and as change often does, it has the capacity to make us all stronger, more resilient, and more successful long-term.

Reassure, Reassess and Redefine your path forward post-COVID.

  1. Reassure. As we attempt to move toward a new future, it is paramount to rebuild trust among your employees. Transparency and communication will be key in your ability to quell concerns about job security and what the future looks like for the organization. 
  2. Reassess. Your organization may be one that has chosen to transition to an all-remote workforce, or perhaps, you’re eager to return to the collaborative and creative space of an in-person office environment. Whether your organization remains as a virtual office, or you return to an in-person space, creating an environment that offers connection, collaboration, and support reinforces and re-establishes your employees’ commitment to you, your leaders, and your organization. This increases employee engagement and retention, productivity, and profitability.
  3. Redefine. Pre-COVID life no longer exists, yet somewhere in your minds, you may still long to return to those times. To help maintain positivity and resilience in your workforce, ask yourself and your staff to reflect on those things that have made an impact on them during this time. What things emerged that they would like to keep? Work to find a path to redefine what your workforce looks like in light of these discoveries. This can help you and your staff re-focus on what is and what can be.

Respond and act to address the changing diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) landscape.

Employees are looking to their leaders to make a real difference. Gen Z and young millennials now make up 46% of the workforce and a diverse and inclusive organization is one of the most important aspects they desire in a workplace. Organizations have an ethical responsibility to respond and react to the changing environment, and in many cases, requirements are being put into place to support diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workplace. It is no longer an option to treat these issues as a simple training program your employees go through and then move on. What’s more, how your organization responds will impact your leaders, employees, customers, and ultimately, your bottom line.

So, where do you start? Here are three tips that will get you started down the right path.

  1. Make DEI integral in your organization’s VALUES. This means your leaders and your employees must understand, believe, and live this value. If you say diversity, equity and inclusion is important to you then your organization, your leaders, and your employees must behave in a manner that supports this value. If you are successful in living your values, then your customers feel it.
  2. Integrate DEI in your talent acquisition and business practices. Research shows that more diverse teams are more productive, innovative, and achieve better results. To be effective, in addition to your values, you must also align your hiring practices, collaboration methods, customer service strategies, service delivery operations, and other policies and procedures to support DEI.
  3. Require DEI from the top down. Your leaders must be role models for inclusive behaviors and be given the tools to build their staff and their departments to support diversity, equity, and inclusion. This can include professional development, employee recognition programs, providing pathways for promotion, and more.

The hardest part is taking the first step toward change for the future. However, the bottom line is this, addressing the issues surrounding both the post-COVID fallout and the issues of DEI to redefine your organization’s culture is essential to your productivity, employee engagement, profitability and ultimately your success as an organization. 

Additional reading:

It’s time to consider your company’s culture

Nurture your culture to thrive beyond a pandemic

5 questions to make your company more inclusive