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Advancing Equity as We Return to the Office

2020 has brought a wide variety of challenges to organizations of all types. Nearly every organization has been impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic, with many offices suddenly pivoting to remote work. And as the national conversation surrounding diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) advances, it’s exciting to see how this current movement will shape the future of work and ensure every employee is recognized and valued.

As offices begin reopening after state, federal and CDC-mandated guidelines called for new work-from-home policies and social distancing protocols, employers have a tremendous opportunity to greatly enhance business performance and bolster brand reputation as they navigate pivotal topics like inclusion and diversity moving forward.

For the economy to rebound, groundwork must be laid for everyone to have an equal opportunity to participate. As we shift from the scariest first few weeks of the pandemic and into a “new normal” for business, there’s a lot you can do to advance equity. Explore key strategies you can implement in your organization during this pivotal season.

1. Understand how advancing equity will improve performance

Improving equity starts with changing the conversation. In lieu of seeing gender diversity as a “requirement” to fulfill, purposeful and forward-thinking organizations are leveraging our post-pandemic world as an opportunity to exercise resiliency, become more adaptable and evolve policies that welcome new approaches to inclusion.

When you cultivate a workplace committed to diversity, you take strides toward addressing skill shortages, improving retention, attracting and retaining high-quality workers, tapping into new markets, fostering creativity and innovation and bolstering your brand’s public perception. Ultimately, your organization’s approach to equity sets the stage for long-term sustainability.

2. Elevate equity within your culture

Recruiting, hiring and onboarding new employees is labor-intensive and consumes revenue, time and resources — which means talent retention is crucial to growth. Creating a culture that encourages flexibility and supports personal obligations can significantly enhance engagement, increase employee morale, reduce turnover and help raise productivity levels. To ensure success, continuously evaluate internal procedures and team structures, encouraging diversity when opportunities arise and providing diversity training to both employees and management.

And empower your c-suite to lead by example. For instance, leave loudly. Too often, leaders try to sneak out the back door or sign offline silently when leaving to attend to childcare or family. Announce to your peers when you’re leaving the office to take your child to a doctor appointment, or logging off for a parent-teacher videoconference. This shows team members that balance is possible and normalizes leaving work to meet family obligations, so no one is perceived in a negative light when they do the same.

3. Onboarding and benefits as a framework for equity

During the onboarding process, and within your culture, ensure all employees have access to leadership and mentoring programs. Men and women should have equal opportunities to share thoughts and input on improving inclusivity, as well as guidance to develop their long-term career paths within your organization.

Review your compensation and benefits packages for growth opportunities. Competitive, equitable compensation and benefits packages empower employees to balance professional and personal commitments. Policies can include parental leave, family-friendly benefits, vacations, mental health days, earned sick leave and similar perks.

In addition, companies should outline and enforce clear-cut policies surrounding bullying and harassment of any kind. Consider adopting practices like shortened work weeks, remote work opportunities and flexible scheduling. For new parents, equity looks like adequate leave time for both mothers and fathers. Similarly, mothers who are breastfeeding need private, comfortable accommodations along with childcare offerings.

4. Advancing equity in leadership roles

When you institute policies that encourage diversity in leadership roles, you lay groundwork for greater employee satisfaction, effective decision making, increased productivity, more innovation and less attrition. So it’s important to establish a workspace where opportunities for development and career advancement are distributed equally, from new interns to tenured executives.

Don’t know where to start? Collect and analyze data surrounding past company promotions and compensation for a clear picture of where your organization currently stands. From there, exercise transparency in advancement opportunities and career pathways. By exposing employees at all levels to leadership settings and professional development training, companies can look forward to a corresponding uptick in employee satisfaction and productivity.

Now that workplaces have experienced the fear and uncertainty of the 2020 Coronavirus pandemic, the push for meaningful conversations and actionable dialogues has become more important than ever. Increasing gender equity in today’s labor force is a vital part of cultural and economic growth — especially in times of crisis. Seize this ideal opportunity in 2020 to take a stand for equity, reduce pay gaps, drive positive change and improve your business for the long-run.

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