For professionals leading on diversity and inclusion (D&I) in their organisations, day-to-day work often revolves around interacting in-person. Whether it is meetings with senior executives, collaboration with employee resource groups, interviews or networking, meeting people is a key part of a D&I specialist’s role.
In the current climate, with social distancing and lockdowns in operation across the globe, many employees are working from home or on furlough, events have been cancelled until further notice and businesses are having to make tough decisions about their operations, finances and staffing.
Meanwhile, much is being written about D&I, including warnings that now is not the time for businesses to ignore D&I; concerns that the pandemic is more likely to negatively affect underrepresented groups; and suggestions that there may be long-term benefits in terms of flexible working practices being more widely accepted.
Those working in this field may be finding it challenging to address the above, drive progress, embed initiatives, obtain buy-in and plan for the future, without the valuable in-person interactions that are normally at the heart of these activities.
The situation has forced everyone to look at new solutions, communicate in different ways and embrace digital more than ever. With D&I being behind other business areas when it comes to digitalisation in some aspects, now is the time for the community to develop their digital approaches for the benefit of their business in both the short and longer-term.
Most of us will now have experienced frequent Zoom calls, virtual happy hours and increased social media activity, but companies’ approaches to their D&I strategies and ways of ensuring all staff feel valued and included – whether they are still working or furloughed – must go further than this.
For diversity and inclusion professionals, conferences are a mainstay of the calendar, providing insight and inspiration. D&I conferences, talks and panels allow best practice sharing, as well as the chance to connect with peers and hear from people leading the way in D&I. While the amount of digital events has clearly increased over the years, physical D&I events have remained the norm. Of course, this makes sense due to the nature of diversity and inclusion, but timely digital events for the D&I community would certainly be a good alternative, not only to bridge the gap but hopefully to encourage more digital events in the future as well.
Interactive events hosted online have many benefits for both the organiser and the attendees. It is a chance to continue learning from each other and sharing successes, and a way to connect with others working in D&I worldwide – not just those who can attend a physical conference on a set day and location.
Connection and communication are absolutely essential during this uncertain time, and D&I practitioners are well-placed to support their business and colleagues with this. With digital tools being a simple and effective way to connect on a large scale, it is important that we focus on digital upskilling and strategies to ensure that D&I objectives can still be achieved.
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