COVID-19 could be causing a significant problem for diversity and inclusion initiatives with over a third of workers believing the pandemic has delayed efforts to improve D&I in their companies. 

New research from Indeed, a global job site, shows that the pandemic may have set back companies’ efforts in improving diversity, inclusion and belonging.

When surveyed, over a third (34 per cent) of employees believed this to be the case, showing another area which the pandemic has taken a significant toll on.

Worryingly, the report finds that several groups were more likely to report experiencing discrimination whilst at work. Over half of employees with a mental condition (51 per cent), almost half of workers from black or mixed race backgrounds (45 per cent) and almost four in 10 (39 per cent) lesbian, gay or bisexual employees have suffered being discriminated against at work.

This reveals that some groups are particularly susceptible to being discriminated against, especially when compared to only over a quarter of employees overall (27 per cent) experiencing discrimination at work.

Additionally, women were also almost twice as likely to report feeling that their opinions at work do not matter than men (38 per cent in comparison to 21 per cent), showing organisations still have some more areas to improve on.

Almost half of workers (43 per cent) believed that their organisation could be doing more to improve diversity and inclusion at work. Significantly, those more likely to report this were younger workers (60 per cent), ethnic minorities (58 per cent) or employees who are gay, lesbian or bisexual (58 per cent).

Prior to COVID-19, over half of employees (57 per cent) believed that their company was taking steps to improve diversity and inclusion within their company. Now, a third of workers (34 per cent) think that these efforts have been delayed in light of the pandemic.

However, when analysing the impact, almost one in seven (15 per cent) think that minority ethnic groups have been impacted most.

Almost half of this group stated that minority ethnic groups were more likely to have their hours cut (45 per cent), be placed on furlough (30 per cent) and suffer job losses (25 per cent).

In order to counter this, the report makes a series of recommendations to prioritise these initiatives, including:

  • Evaluating your communication – Making employees feel that the company is there for them
  • Inviting ongoing dialogue between employees – Encouraging and fostering dialogue between team members
  • Constantly reassess team priorities – Trying to accommodate team members who need flexible schedules
  • Looking into how the company defines and supports essential workers – Offering support to these critical employees

Paul Wolfe, Head of HR at Indeed, said:

Events of 2020 have shone a spotlight on the importance of diversity, inclusion and belonging and the need to remove barriers to create more equal workplaces and opportunities for all. While our research shows encouraging signs that employers are paying attention to these issues, the reality is that some have pulled up the handbrake on progression.

We know that people and companies thrive when employees feel they truly belong and to create that culture employers need to take a holistic approach. This involves identifying conscious and unconscious biases that exist in hiring processes as well as recognising the importance of educating hiring managers and leaders on the benefits of a diverse workforce.

Thinking more about how to recruit great talent with a diversity of skills greatly increases the chances of creating a workplace that benefits individuals and all of society. 

LaFawn Davis, VP of diversity, inclusion and belonging at Indeed, said:

Employers are rethinking their attitudes and behaviours to make workplaces the best they can be and for that to happen people need to feel that they belong. That’s difficult during a global pandemic when millions more people are working remotely but there are steps leaders and managers can take to embrace and nurture diverse talent.

Building that culture starts from the top and should focus on bringing a greater sense of community to the organisation. That involves creating plans that involve all and are reflective of the entire workforce and the barriers experienced by different populations. Human decency and understanding other individual’s circumstances also go a long way to truly making someone feel like they belong.

While our research shows that in many cases this is already happening, the deficit between words and actions suggests there is still some way to go before all employees feel valued and understood.

*This data was taken from Indeed’s ‘Time for Change DI&B 2020 Report: Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging in the UK Workplace’. This research was carried out between 30th October and 3rd November by Opinium, on behalf of Indeed. 1,500 UK nationally representative adults were surveyed – 500 senior decision makers and 1000 non-senior decision makers.