Mercer’s recent inclusion survey ran throughout May, with 58 organisations participating representing just under one million employees. The aim was to provide a snapshot of how employers have approached diversity and inclusion, and how COVID-19 has changed this.
Before COVID-19 hit, 50% of survey respondents had diversity and inclusion and health and wellbeing strategies. The top priority was building a culture of inclusion, second was raising awareness, while the third was improving senior leadership buy-in.
Interestingly, only 45% of organisations had flexible working policies and practices in place before the pandemic. The vast majority of employees either did not make use of the flexible working policy or one was not available to them.
In the current situation, organisations’ priorities have shifted. Around a third (34%) said they have shifted their diversity, inclusion and wellbeing focus to short-term reactions. Participating organisations have been agile and responded quickly to keep employees engaged with a large (91%) increase in use of digital channels to communicate with employees.
Organisations’ top priority in a COVID-19 world is education around mental health. Number two is building a culture of inclusion, and number three is offering more inclusive wellbeing benefits. That said, there is an opportunity to be more inclusive here, as only a fifth of organisations have individualised wellbeing provisions for particular groups of employees that may need more support during the pandemic. For example, financially supporting parents and caregivers with entertainment and education programmes, focussing on occupational health support for people with disabilities, guidance to LGBT+ employees and providing flights or temporary accommodation to employees out of their home location.
The coming months:
Post-pandemic, 97% of the organisations we surveyed say they will change their future ways of working, building on the short-term changes that have already occurred. This needs to be formalised across organisations, not left to chance. A heartening 82% of respondents feel their culture will change for the better.
Half the organisations we surveyed expect to reskill their workforce, or relocate employees to other areas of the business. A combination of an ageing workforce, automation leaving skills unknown, and workforces untapped, the current situation provides an opportunity to look at how diversity meets the needs of the future workforce.
As we start to think about returning to the new normal, there is an opportunity for companies to rethink/reinvent as they move through COVID-19, to do more to build an inclusive culture:
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