Catherine Drysdale FCA, Consultant with Barden recently attended a thought-provoking event hosted by The Irish Times, which featured two enlightening panels. The first panel, consisting of Dr. Tatiana Andreeva, Siobhán McKenna, and Dr. Théophile Munyangeyo, delved into the theme of ‘The challenges of creating an equal, diverse, and inclusive workplace in a hybrid world.’ They explored the impact of increased flexibility on Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) in the workplace.
The second panel, comprised of Tina Raleigh and Adam Harris, discussed ‘The shared experiences and valuable lessons: challenges and successes of creating an inclusive and diverse workplace culture.’ Together, they offered insights into the journey of building an inclusive environment and shared their experiences and successes in promoting EDI within organisations.
Here Catherine shares the key themes that were covered in the event, along with her key takeaways from the event…
Hybrid Work and Its Impact on EDI
One of the central themes of the event was the examination of hybrid work, which emerged as a response to the COVID-19 crisis. The participants acknowledged that it is still challenging to definitively determine whether hybrid working supports or hinders EDI in the workplace. With limited data and often subjective opinions, the jury is still out. The current state of opinions is frequently based on “intuition” or “feelings.” Getting the balance right between a sense of belonging and physical and mental well-being is critical to retraining and attracting talent. Organisations will need to define what that means for their organisations to ensure inclusivity, flexibility, talent retention and attracting.
Winners and Losers in the Hybrid Work Environment
The conversation revolved around the potential “winners” and “losers” in the hybrid working landscape. Some employees benefit greatly from the flexibility it offers, while others face barriers, depending on their unique circumstances. Questions were raised about the importance of physical presence in the workplace for career progression. Are remote workers at a disadvantage when it comes to advancing in their careers? Overall, Opinion generally sided with the fact that being present in the office was generally thought to be more advantageous for both visibility of profile & creating opportunities for promotion compared to those that worked fully remote.
Gender Balance and the Impact of Flexibility
A significant discussion point focused on whether the flexibility offered by hybrid work has risked the progress made in other areas of EDI, particularly in terms of gender balance. Mothers, in particular, might seek remote work options to balance their parental responsibilities, potentially affecting their career advancement. This highlighted the need for a nuanced approach to remote work policies to ensure equality.
Creating an Inclusive Workplace Culture
The event also emphasised the importance of creating an inclusive workplace culture, where EDI is not just a policy but is deeply embedded in the organisation’s DNA. Several key takeaways include:
- Training Line Managers: Line managers, who interact with their teams daily and make hiring decisions, must receive proper training in EDI principles.
- Inclusive Hiring: The inclusive culture should extend beyond the hiring process to ensure that all employees feel welcome, regardless of their background, race, gender, or neurodiversity.
- Equal Opportunities for All: Organisations must provide support to create equal opportunities for everyone, breaking down barriers that may hinder progress for marginalised groups.
- Clear Vision and Accountability: EDI efforts need a clear path and vision within the organisation. This involves having ownership and accountability at the right levels, ensuring that these initiatives receive the necessary focus and resources.
- Inclusive HR Practices: Human resources teams need to adapt their approaches to create an inclusive environment. This includes adopting a skills-first approach and considering flexibility in job structures.
- Belonging and Trust: The importance of fostering a sense of belonging and trust among all employees cannot be understated. These elements are the bedrock of an inclusive culture.
Flexibility is Key
A resounding message from the event was that flexibility is more important than hybrid work arrangements. There is no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to EDI and work arrangements. Organisations should be flexible and adaptive in their approach to accommodate the diverse needs of their employees.
The event was very informative and gave a deeper understanding of the complexities surrounding Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) in a world where work is evolving. The challenges and successes discussed served as a reminder that the pursuit of EDI is an ongoing commitment that requires adaptability and a willingness to embrace change in an ever-evolving workplace landscape.