Is the D&I Manager an Essential Role??

The short answer to the above question is, Yes, for the reasons that our “Future of Work” Mastermind group discussed at a recent Roundtable. We hope highlights of the discussion below will help you and your organization if or when the question comes up.

Just as more organizations were embracing Diversity & Inclusion (D&I) in the workplace and taking concrete steps towards it, the world turned upside down! Now companies large and small are scrambling, and making the often painful decisions necessary to keep their companies functioning in the present, and viable in the face of an uncertain future. This can lead to hasty decisions and costly mistakes in the long term.

Learn from History 

In an effort to cut costs and streamline operations, many will be tempted to cut back on their D&I efforts. Historically, this has proven to be a big mistake. In last week’s Mastermind Roundtable, experts shared examples of previous crises when some major companies later paid a heavy price in terms of employee turnover and difficulty attracting new talent, compared to those who remained focused on the diverse needs of their employees and emerged from the crisis stronger than ever. 

According to the Great Place to Work CEO, Michael Bush: "During the Great Recession, the S&P 500 suffered a 35.5 percent decline in stock performance; however, companies whose key employee groups had very positive experiences posted a remarkable 14.4 percent gain." In difficult times, current employees, future hires, and customers watch carefully to see how your company handles the crisis and treats your people as you get through it. Your D&I Manager can be the voice that keeps this important lesson front and center, as corporate reputations change based on how they handle the crisis and its aftermath.

Understand and Honor Everyone’s Unique Experience

Even though the Coronavirus has caused a global emergency unlike anything companies have faced before, don’t make the mistake of thinking your employees will be having a common, shared experience of this crisis. As long-time HR executive and human capital management expert, Joe Bosch, pointed out: “In 9/11, depending on where you were, employee experiences and reactions were very different. With COVID, even though it's a global crisis, individual experiences are very different.” 

Listening to the voice of your employees, previewing and providing feedback to employee-related actions with a D&I lens, and collecting specific information about diverse employee experiences and needs, is a key role that your D&I Manager can play to help you avoid mistakes. An unforced error at this point, from a tone-deaf memo to a poorly handled round of lay-offs, could have repercussions for your business long after the crisis has passed.  

Maintain open Lines of Communication

It is crucial that companies maintain open lines of communication with employees at all levels of the organization, as well as with other key stakeholders. Your D&I Manager could be an essential part of your efforts in this area. As Masterminder member Patricia Neuray of Tangelo Media pointed out: "D&I Managers can reach out to employees and ask them what the organization can do to improve their experience and help them feel included during this time. They can find internal champions to participate, make it grass roots, rather than top-down." 

Focus on the Data

This economic “downtime” is an opportunity to strengthen the bonds between your company and its employees and other stakeholders, while elevating your company’s brand and reputation. Susan Burnett, senior executive and CEO of “Designing Your Life,” reminds us to also keep crunching those numbers: "Data and analytics are your friends. Your D&I Manager can make sure you keep sight of the trends and impacts of your decisions as you make them, so you can course-correct and modify next steps as needed.” HR Executive, Mike Kohn, adds: "You can use the cuts you’re making and the way you bring people back to help reduce the persistent gaps you have been dealing with." The D&I Manager’s focus on this data and the actions being taken is invaluable when all other leaders are struggling with making difficult decisions very quickly.

As you get through this crisis, making difficult decisions and drastic cuts to everything from programs, products and future projects to employees and real estate, we recommend that you consider the D&I Manager role as an essential part of your team to avoid long-term and costs mistakes. 

But don't despair if despite all your efforts, you find that the internal D&I Manager role or some of your D&I initiatives need to be cut. There is a backup plan, as Sonya Sepahban, CEO of OurOffice, explains: “We expect that post-COVID more companies will need  “D&I as a Service” which provides the organization with a D&I Manager and the insights they need to maintain their D&I focus at a fraction of the costs of in-house capabilities. We have special offers through the remainder of 2020 to make it even more affordable for them.”