DEI has become a core value and contributor to organizational success. Throughout this past year, we saw the emergence of many considerations—both internal and external, cultural and sociopolitical—that will factor heavily into the 2022 DEI landscape. In the spirit of putting human resources (HR) and diversity leadership in the best position to succeed, we have outlined here the three most pressing diversity, equity and inclusion trends we see coming in 2022. If you haven’t already, take a moment to first understand what diversity, equity, and inclusion really mean.
1. An expanding and evolving remote workforce
To say that the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted the global workforce is a bit of an understatement. Many have had to adapt to new remote working environments, with ever-shifting return to office dates. While some will eventually return to office environments once the pandemic subsides, employees are now calling for a permanent move to remote workforces.
McKinsey conducted a global survey and found that around three-quarters of employees would like to work from home two or more days a week. Workers have been through a lot in the past eighteen months, and many people are reevaluating what they want their career to look like. For those currently working remotely and front-line essential workers alike, the call for remote work is deafening, with 64% of people preferring to work from home over a $30K compensation increase.
From a business perspective, moving toward a “distributed” model can make a lot of sense; less business travel, lower risk of outbreaks that might disrupt operations, and far less overhead without the need for a brick and mortar workspace.
From a DEI perspective, however, businesses will need to take an equitable approach to this new WFH paradigm. Consider:
- Can everyone from your team work from home? For employees with on site duties, are there tasks that can be performed from home during select days of the week?
- Will everyone have the same access to the workspace, time, and technology that they need to perform their job function?
- Does everyone have the option of some form of asynchronous work schedules?
Remote work can be a great option for promoting diversity in the workplace. Remote work allows hiring managers to expand their search outside of your immediate geographic location for a wider pool of talent. Some demographic groups prefer the flexibility of working from home and face less systemic bias, such as working mothers, marginalized groups.
From a networking and mentorship standpoint, HR teams will be tasked with finding creative ways to build a company culture online and bring remote teams together in inclusive and equitable ways.
2. The lasting impact of COVID-19
As of August 11th 2021, 50% of people in the US, 75% of people in the UK, and 64% of people in Canada are fully vaccinated. With the Delta variant a rising concern around the world, vaccination rates are rising along with it, but the return to normalcy still remains in the unknown future.
Many medical and infectious disease experts predict that it will take more time until enough people are vaccinated that we can return to normal ways of work and life. Up until that point, and even beyond, coronavirus will remain top of mind, as will precautions that help prevent spread.
In this diversity, equity, and inclusion trend, we can already see companies preparing for this ongoing healthy and safety policies around coronavirus in a number of ways. For example, some companies are instituting special time-away policies for people who have to care for loved ones suffering from COVID-19—or who have contracted the virus themselves. Others are rolling out flexible WFH policies, leaving the option open for people who are uncomfortable about returning to the office.
It’s a start. But how are we accommodating workers who have to pick up the slack at home for a spouse or family member who cannot participate due to quarantine? What about people who choose to vaccinate, and those who don’t? It’s one of many COVID-19-related dynamics that, because it impacts various communities, people, and families differently, will undoubtedly raise questions about workplace equity. This is something talent teams and HR leaders are going to need to start thinking about, and eventually creating policies surrounding this new normal.
Some tips for HR leaders to help decrease employee burnout and support your people:
- Offer PTO for when employees have caregiving duties, or need to take time for mental and physical needs
- Nurture a culture of compassion and empathy
- Be intentional about communication, from check-ins to collaboration
3. Artificial intelligence in the hiring process
With an economy strained by the throes of 2020, many businesses are tightening up operations. Margins are thin. At the same time, the need to source top talent is at an all-time high. In 2022, the ability to efficiently scour a high volume of candidates to source and hire top-tier talent will be a distinct competitive advantage.
In 2022, it will be incumbent on HR professionals and recruiters to find ways to build highly efficient, highly personalized candidate experiences. To do so at scale, however, so that recruiters aren’t spending hours per day on manual processes, will require the assistance of AI-powered software solutions.
Why automate? By creating automated workflows, stages, assessments—by simplifying the review process—you can free up talent and recruiting staff to focus on higher-value tasks. These include building a customized candidate experience, one built on a robust DEI framework that helps support these important initiatives. We know that 67% of job seekers consider workplace diversity important while evaluating potential employers. To attract and keep this kind of talent, companies will have to use automation to ensure a diverse environment.
Moving forward: How to build foundational DEI
While we predict that remote work, coronavirus, and automation will be the most pressing diversity, equity, and inclusion trends facing HR professionals in 2021, this is by no means an exhaustive list. In the United States, the pandemic has amplified a time of intense political division and social unrest. The discourse around gender identity, including workplace rights protected under the law, will continue to evolve. And maintaining compliance under the Americans with Disabilities Act and other legislation will remain imperative for organizations large and small.
To build a strong culture and efficient processes around DEI, one capable of withstanding and adapting to constant change requires more than just a mission statement. Instead, HR professionals need to first learn how to make DEI a priority. They then need to find solutions that not only support robust DEI programs—from talent screening and hiring to employee retention—but provide actionable insights backed by data.