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Digital Diversity: The changing landscape of diversity and inclusion

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Carrying on with our digital diversity blog series and the kick-off article How do we become more diverse? by Aileen O’Hagan, Paul Skovron, from 3In Consulting, provides an insight on how diversity and inclusion is fundamental to the success of businesses.

2020 has been a challenging year in many ways. There’s the Covid-19 pandemic, Black Lives Matter, Brexit looming, to name a few. In this blog, whilst the focus is on Coronavirus, the landscape extends wider and many of the considerations can be applied to other aspects of our lives. 

With Coronavirus our lives have significantly changed in ways that will never be the same for so many people. What we once thought of as our normal ways of living and working has been turned on its head. As a result, the way we do things has required us to think and act differently which has had major impacts on health and wellbeing, livelihoods and in many cases careers.

In the early days of the pandemic and lockdown organisations needed to act quickly to continue business, where possible, providing for home and flexible working in an unprecedented and substantial way. This can be considered from two aspects – People and technology. Both can, and should, be viewed with a diversity and inclusion lens enabling action to be taken creating a fairer, more equitable, and inclusive organisation and society.

But how is diversity defined?

Many organisations align their diversity definition to the nine protected characteristics under the Equality Act 2010. However, there are several other different characteristics that are not covered under the legal framework e.g. social mobility, carers, immigrants / non-nationals, neuro divergence (like autism).

When it comes to People there are several areas that have been affected, all of which have a direct or indirect impact on work and need to be considered by everyone in the organisation. In the past, people have often not thought about how personal and social events have business consequences. It might be that only a small group of people need to be aware of a life event but that has changed with Covid-19. 

Thinking about Coronavirus and the diversity protected characteristics, the risk of getting infected and suffering more severe symptoms, and even higher death rates, have been seen in those of an older age, people from an ethnic background, and men.  This could have an impact on the capability of an organisation to continue to operate depending on the workforce and work environment. Research and working groups continue to understand this further.

Let’s start with the someone who has contracted Coronavirus. They may have infected colleagues or customers, they will have required time off to recover, and it could have impacted their job / colleagues in other ways. Research is limited regarding the ongoing effects of having had the virus which could mean ongoing health problems that could affect their ability to do their job.

Consider someone that has had to isolate or look after a person with Coronavirus. There will be carer responsibilities that have a knock-on impact on performing the job. Likewise, a person that has lost relatives or friends will likely affect an individual and their ability to do their work. 

Other People related considerations include home, remote and flexible working. These different ways of working may need people to work revised hours for carer or other responsibilities and whilst this is not new it is magnified during the pandemic. Frequently people with parental responsibilities (typically women but should also consider men) or people with other carer responsibilities look for different work hours / patterns. Before Covid-19 research found that people in younger age brackets without any carer responsibilities were looking for more flexible working opportunities.  

Everyone has a preferred way of working. Some find they can adjust to working from home whilst others prefer to be on work premises or on the road traveling. Changing this modus operandi can have both performance and mental health issues. In some cases, this will benefit some employees and in other cases, it could negatively impact them. 

Additionally, in some cases, it’s difficult to work from home due to living with other people whether it is due to having a large family or sharing with friends. Examples of this could be insufficient space or privacy, a lack of suitable space to work, or where limited technology is available e.g. too many people are accessing the Wi-Fi. 

Linking all this together are the health and wellbeing issues of the current working arrangements, use of tools, stress over job security, and other aspects of mental health. Many people are suffering from different aspects of this pandemic. Whether it affects an employee or a member of their household it still has an impact on their ability to do the job. 

Underlying this is the strand of diversity in recruitment. Companies need to engage and employ people from different backgrounds and experiences to reflect changing customer needs and employee aspirations. Local restrictions do not apply as rigidly as they did before with employers being able to recruit wider afield. Recruitment is undergoing a change as pressure mounts for a reduction in biased practices and more diversity of employees.

Technology has featured heavily in this change in our lives where the ability to log in from home securely and gain access to systems, communicate with customers and colleagues, and have sufficient technical capability is a big priority.

One of the main areas to emerge during the pandemic has been the use of, and increase in, video calls, webinars, online training, and other cyber tools. These can bring benefits to organisations as it allows their employees (and customers) to connect with each other from both a business and social perspective. 

But not everyone is comfortable with these tools and some are unable to use them. People who are unfamiliar with the tools can find it stressful to be using online video and the different ways of interacting together. Others thrive and enjoy this way of working. 

Digital adoption has taken a quantum leap during the crisis. Technology companies are benefiting where companies need to pivot their business or adopt more IT change than ever before. Some of the changes include remote working and collaboration tools, demand for online purchasing services, customer needs / expectations and migrating to the cloud.

There is an opportunity for IT companies in Scotland to advance themselves by helping companies during this crisis. It not only helps individual organisations but helps the wider Scottish landscape – economy, social impact, people and more. 

Getting it right is key. Enabling a culture of collaboration with people from diverse and different backgrounds, cultures, experiences and other characteristics is more important than ever. Supporting each other, whether a colleague or a leader is essential for us all.

Being a leader in an organisation has become even more important during the pandemic requiring people with strong inclusive leadership skills who not only understand, but can relate to their employees, customers and even suppliers. They need to recognise and appreciate the challenges and act on them accordingly.

About 3In Consulting

3In Consulting is a bespoke diversity and inclusion consultancy that provides a wide range of strategic and operational consulting solutions to all types of businesses from small to large. They have comprehensive professional and corporate experience which provides us an insight into the challenges and demands organisations face and enables them to understand their approach to Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (ED&I).

A key aspect of their approach is to customise their engagements with a client’s specific needs, providing outcomes that are unique to each organisation. They know that each organisation has its own complex culture, structure and environment and that they require their own unique tailored solution. There is no ‘cookie-cut’ one size template to implement in organisations.

They passionately believe that partnership and collaboration is paramount to the success of our assignments so aim to work closely with their clients on projects until they are completed.

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