If there’s one thing the pandemic has brought into clear focus, it’s what each of us considers important—especially at work. Diversity, equity and inclusion, and our changing perspectives, are influencing how people work together and the way businesses operate.
“It’s forced us all to change,” said Hope Bailey, the global presales lead for SAP SuccessFactors solutions. “We all continue to think differently and more inclusively.” During a recent SAP Think Tank radio show, Bailey and other HR professionals from SAP and PwC had an intriguing discussion about changing perceptions in the workforce, and the value of including diverse perspectives as organizations move forward.
“It can’t just be what the business needs, it also has to be what the employees need,” commented Bailey. “As we move forward and propel organizations along their growth path, an engaged and empowered employee base is critical.”
“I think in the past year, organizations have been forced to look at things from a different perspective,” added Greg Selke, vice president and HXM value advisor supporting the SAP SuccessFactors solutions North American HR Cloud team. “Diversity, equity and inclusion is here to stay, rightly so, and will impact huge change in business.”
These changes are happening at the same time that millions of women drop out of the workforce, long-term unemployment numbers climb sky-high, and social justice movements continue to underscore the importance of diversity, equity, and inclusion.
As business leaders attempt to rebuild the workforce, they need to have a clear understanding of what is important to people, and devise policies and plans that focus on these areas. “Organizations are recognizing that candidates are not just looking for jobs,” said Cyrus Salazar, an HR transformation director at PwC. “They’re looking for values that align with their own perspectives.”
Some businesses and HR organizations have the wrong perception of what diversity truly means. They mistakenly focus on reaching certain quotas rather than recognizing the value and variety of different perspectives.
“Diversity, equity, and inclusion, which is a passion area for me, isn’t just about having a balance of males and females and different ethnicities,” said Bailey. “It’s about a whole different way of thinking.”
When it comes to diversity, equity, and inclusion, organizational leaders need to recognize that different perspectives are not simply based on appearance or group affiliation. Employees from similar demographic or societal groups can have different perspectives based on their career experience, personal background, stage of life, and role within a business, as well as many other factors.
Even within organizations themselves, various departments and corporate levels see things from different perspectives, and this corporate diversity is valuable in driving business innovation forward.
Business and HR leaders need to be proactive to realize the benefits of a diverse business culture. Rather than looking for employees who fit an existing corporate culture, they should look for diverse employees who can help create a better business culture. This means shifting mindsets away from how HR practices worked in the past.
“When I worked on the talent management side, we were starting all these personality tests so we could find people that fit our culture, when we should really be looking for people who are different and can bring new and different voices,” said Bailey.
The impetus for changing corporate culture needs to come from the top, but sometimes that can be a hard sell if executives have certain misconceptions about their workforce. For example, according to a recent SAP Insights article, corporate executives shared a common perception: that adaptability and resilience are talents that people possess, not skills that can be learned. COVID-19 drastically challenged that perception, as people have adapted and demonstrated profound resilience throughout the pandemic.
“Everything’s different now,” said Selke. “I think the past year has shown us how capable humans are for change, and organizations as well, because we’ve gone through tremendous change and done it very well.”
Despite employees’ resilience and the push toward more inclusion, it can still be challenging for some business leaders to change.
“A lot of concepts around change have still been fantastically unpopular in the boardroom,” said Bailey. “But I think as we, as a global society, have been forced to change, that now opens the door for us to truly change. This means being open and finding ways to be inclusive.”
“As an organization, to actually pursue change you need to be a change agent,” added PwC’s Salazar. “You have to go get it. You can’t be a passenger. If you want something, go get it – period.”
Many HR professionals are now taking the lead on creating a vision for the workforce of the future with more flexibility, diversity, equity, and inclusion. According to CHRO insights from PwC’s Our Workforce Pulse survey of 1515 US employees, Chief Human Resources Officers (CHROs) are considering how the world has changed and what employees want. Almost half (49%) of the HR leaders surveyed said they’re driving inclusive leadership at their organizations by stepping up efforts to create more inclusive cultures, and empowering employees to make a difference.
Technology can play a role in helping businesses seek out these opportunities. “We can use technology to really drive success,” said Bailey. “Use machine learning to find people who think differently to work on a project team, or use different tools to surface the candidates you would have never looked for. Challenge yourself to do things differently, because that creates enormous value, not just in how you bring in different perspectives, but through the openness you create in your environment.”