Tapping into Workplace Diversity During the Lockdown and Beyond

16 March 2021 5:46pm

Tapping into Workplace Diversity During the Lockdown and Beyond

16 March 2021 08:45

As South Africa works its way down the five levels of its risk adjusted approach to the COVID-19 lockdown, businesses will need to consider the diversity of employees and their individual circumstances in their Return to Work transition.

The question is, how can leadership harness the power of diversity and ensure processes that encourage inclusion when dealing with scattered personnel, who may not be able to “come back” to work in the traditional sense?

Some considerations are outlined below.

Differing personal circumstances

Keeping communication channels open between employer and employee, allows the development of alternative working arrangements that suit staff members with widely differing personal circumstances. This enables employees to continue operating fully, without neglecting their personal commitments or income during this unprecedented time.

A company’s workforce can include employees who are willing and able return to a regular work schedule immediately, as well as those who cannot, for whatever reason. Perhaps they may be at-risk individuals, a single parent or a caregiver to an elderly family member. Such individuals may be unable or fearful to place themselves or their loved ones in a setting where contracting the virus is high.

For some female employees, who aspire to reach senior leadership positions, COVID-19 presents further obstacles. The pressure of balancing work and family life – often accompanied by deeply embedded societal norms which dictate that they serve as the primary caregivers in their home – are heightened during periods of stress.

These individuals are well within their rights to prioritise the care of family members and themselves, and companies should ensure they have measures in place to incorporate these diverse circumstances where possible during this extraordinary period.

Make No Assumptions

It cannot be taken for granted that all staff have access to the same necessary tools that make working remotely easy or possible, especially in South African society where imbalance is rife.

An employee is more than just a qualification. He/ she is the sum of their experiences, their family journeys, physical capabilities and socio-economic factors.

Once again, this is where a personal touch is necessary.

Ask these crucial questions of your employees:

*           How are you coping?

*           Are you in need of any resources to make this new way of working more manageable?

*           What can we do to help?

*           Do you have any suggestions on how to better this experience?

It’s by using this approach that LexisNexis was able to ensure that employees who required it, have had help on hand during the lockdown and beyond.

Our COVID-19 response has included providing support to vulnerable employees and their families in the form of essential food hampers.

This would not have been possible, had we not taken the necessary steps to engage with our staff in our plans for the way forward and this would have been a disservice to our greatest asset – our people.

Last year, our parent company RELX, created a new Inclusion and Diversity Policy which recognises the importance of inclusion to our future by championing diversity, gender equality, equal pay and a company-wide Women in Technology mentoring programme, among numerous other initiatives.

Engaging people from different backgrounds, experiences and ideas allows us to achieve our main purpose – real innovation for our customers globally.

This arm of our business also commits us to respond to changing working patterns, including actively embracing the concept of flexible working.

There is a productivity adage that speaks to the concept of inclusion in this time of COVID-19:

“You only get out what you put in. Don't expect more, until you do more”.

Putting in the time and effort to care for and listen to the innovation that lives within employees can bring about unique and surprising results for organisations who want to be surefooted and agile in a post-COVID-19 world.

The employee who feels valued and validated will go the extra mile for the company that chooses to put their people ahead of profit during times of crisis.

For further insights around managing your workplace more effectively in this new normal, visit the LexisNexis Virtual Working Resource page: https://www.lexisnexis.co.za/news-and-insights/virtual-working