For anyone working in a role within the diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) space, it will come as no surprise to hear that DEI in 2022 will be full of new challenges.
What will they look like and how can you prepare for them? That’s exactly what we asked one of WORK180’s esteemed DEI board members, Asif Sadiq MBE.
About Asif MBE
Asif Sadiq is listed as one of the Most Influential Global Diversity and Inclusion Leaders by Hive Learning and the CIPD’s Top 20 Power List.
As SVP of E&I International at Warner Media, Asif works on globally driving the agenda around diversity. He has held senior executive roles at Adidas, The Telegraph, and EY Financial Services, and was honored with an MBE from Queen Elizabeth II in 2017.
To meet the other members of WORK180’s DEI board, visit our about us page.
Three predictions for DEI in 2022
1. Complacent companies are leaving the conversation
From the globalization of the Black Lives Matter movement to the way in which the pandemic has disproportionately impacted women and underrepresented groups, events over the last two years have shone a spotlight on some of the world’s grave inequities. The masses began to demand change and companies responded by joining the DEI conversation, making public statements, and even setting ambitious targets. However, Asif warns that this commitment can and in some organizations is starting to retract, making the role of DEI individuals even harder: “Conversations around DEI in companies in some cases are slowly starting to go back to how they were in the past.”
Q. How can HR and DEI professionals maintain momentum in 2022?
A. Remind, reset, and reinspire
“Chances are your company made big commitments to diversity, equity, and inclusion. Remind them of how much they said they would do two years ago to address social justice and make them aware that pressures and the need for change has not eased:
“Research and reports continue to show a growing expectation from consumers when it comes to companies’ social responsibility. For example, a recent survey suggested around 81% of individuals would not buy from or engage with an organization that, firstly, does not align with their values around sustainability and, secondly, does not align with their values around diversity and inclusion. The case remains that if organizations do not adapt to the changing nature of consumers, they will not have customers, and they will not be around in the future.`”
Candidates care about your company’s commitment to DEI
In a 2021 WORK180 survey of a wide range of women from around the world….
stated that working in a workplace committed to DEI matters to them
agreed that gender equity was an important workplace issue
look for employers that enables them to bring their whole self to work
While a genuine understanding and affinity with the moral case for investing in DEI is important for financial gains to be achieved, Asif says that it’s often necessary to lead with the business case for DEI — especially when talking to CEOs:
“Now more than ever, companies are focused on driving profits and saving on spending. No matter how understanding or well-intentioned a CEO may be, ensuring the success of the business is their primary focus. Sometimes this can cause DEI professionals or advocates to be seen as a distraction or not understanding the business critical needs. That’s why it’s so important to be able to speak their language and communicate the benefits of DEI to the business’s bottom line.”
Gain the company-wide support you need to make a real impact with WORK180’s free Business Case For DEI toolkit.
2. Warning: We’re about to go back on ourselves
Not only are companies getting complacent, but they could even be reversing any progress made so far. Asif describes this initial but unsustained commitment from companies as “the basic DEI engagement” and explains the danger of not progressing from this position:
“They’ve come in, they’ve started gathering data, they’ve done some unconscious bias training, they’ve put the leaders on a leadership course, and so on.
“The truth is, a lot of those efforts have been one-off and isolated attempts. For example, implementing Unconscious Bias Training (UBT), which we know does not work by itself. In fact, it does the opposite; it can get people all worked up and simply communicate the message that they have biases and that’s fine.
“What’s more, many have adopted techniques from countries dominating the conversation, the US or the UK, and failed to tackle topics that are actually relevant to their country or region — and that’s where we can lose engagement.
“Individuals in the DEI space already know it’s about doing the ‘real’ training, the ‘real’ development, the ‘real’ inclusion piece, all of which mean doing more than one-off training. But to achieve this, it’s clear we need to invest more time and effort into engaging with the majority. In this case, ‘majority’ refers to those who are not from disadvantaged or underrepresented groups. For example, straight White men of a certain age group who traditionally hold power (which I do not say in a negative way).”
Asif explains that those who were once simply unengaged with the concept are now beginning to feel criticized and threatened by it. This is building a hostile environment in which any DEI efforts cannot thrive:
“A few years ago, people weren’t engaged and they didn’t care. Now they are aware and they think it’s going to disadvantage them. They feel targeted and that the future we want to build doesn’t involve them and could push them out of a job. Supporting these individuals to see how DEI will positively impact them should be an important focus for any team in 2022.
“It’s important to address this because we can’t create a truly diverse and inclusive organization without successfully engaging everyone. For example, putting women or underrepresented groups on leadership programs will be ineffective if they return to an environment that isn’t set up for them to succeed and, worse, is actively hostile to DEI.”
Q. How can we positively engage the majority?
A. Follow these three steps
The key is to actively include “the majority” in the conversation. Asif provides the following steps to guide DEI champions in this situation:
- Firstly, don’t get wound up: “It’s an emotive topic and people may be expecting you to get worked up and say, ‘you must care about DEI’.”
- Instead, disarm through discussion: “Let’s break it down. Ask the individual to explain their concern around diversity and to describe the ways in which they believe it will negatively impact them and use facts to support the need for it.”
- Show them why it positively impacts them: “Introducing the concept of intersectionality and the fact that no one has a singular narrative — including the person you’re talking to — is a really powerful place to start.
“They may be part of a homogeneous leadership team but perhaps they grew up in a different socioeconomic background, or their partners are from another culture, or their children have a disability. The moment you show them that inclusivity is all about creating an environment where everyone can bring these different perspectives to the table is the moment they’ll begin to see the importance and potential of building a sense of belonging within the workplace.”
What if this doesn’t work?
Again, we asked Asif that question: “Sometimes, there are people who just will never change and that is a reality. The key is to change the culture around them and they will then have to decide themselves, if they want to continue to be part of the new culture or not.”
3. Employees are going to call companies out
Good intentions aren’t good enough. When companies don’t commit to true progress it can be frustrating, disappointing, and — as discussed above — do more harm than good. Asif warns that these feelings are already prevalent within underrepresented individuals in many workplaces. Staff are talking and will soon start walking:
“Staff from underrepresented groups are awaiting real change. This could be their promotions, to see more representation across varying levels of the company, and — as we return to the office more in 2022 — to feel included in that space. It’s going to be a real shock if they find that nothing has changed to that level.
“I think that will result in staff leaving. The proportion of staff from underrepresented groups from an ethnicity and gender perspective who are leaving organizations is much higher than their male white counterparts according to a number of studies.”
Q. What can HR and DEI teams do?
A. Efforts need to go beyond attracting more candidates: “So many companies are focused on recruiting and getting to that 50/50 gender or 30/70 ethnicity level of representation […] But they’re not then working on ways to retain this talent. What a waste of money, resources, time, and effort.
Top tip: “The biggest change will happen when the responsibility for DEI is spread across different departments. For example, finance must drive change from a finance perspective, which could mean making sure the company is paying people fairly and that they are more equitable around processes. And this doesn’t just mean the team leaders — make 2022 the year your middle managers are made responsible for DEI too.”
Bonus: Three ways to boost your businesses’ DEI efforts in 2022
Asif says, “Your company needs to go beyond what they’ve done in the past and, importantly, beyond what your competitors are doing. It’s time to move away from this all-too-common mindset that companies should be comparing themselves to others in their industry and instead focus on being innovative in the space.”
- Introduce pay transparency
Participants in our survey and various research confirm that women and underrepresented groups often ask for and receive lower salaries. Showing salaries upfront is an impactful way to address this imbalance and, ultimately, reduce the pay inequity. “Transparency around pay is a great way to help reduce gaps, such as the gender and ethnicity pay gaps, and publicly prove your company’s commitment to these endeavors. For some companies, this is no longer a choice. In December, the New York City Council approved a bill requiring local employers’ salary ranges in job listings.”
Feedback from participants in WORK180’s global What Women Want Report 2021:
“I worked for one firm that had amazing pay equity in place but was paying 80% of their competitors. Pay equity doesn’t tell the full story about the company culture.”
“[It’s frustrating] not having access to quality information [around] compensation and other benefits on the front end (having to spend time going through calls and interviews to find out it’s not even realistic).”
“No salary range is a huge frustration and [the application process] can be extremely time-consuming and emotionally draining.”
- Implement sponsoring (not just mentoring)
“Women and those from traditionally underrepresented backgrounds are less likely to be sponsored at work. What do I mean by sponsorship? That’s having someone who is already “in the room” and who vouches for them, mentions their name, and gets them on the project too.”
“I’d like to see that companies not only have quotas on women in leadership roles but are also addressing the company culture to how women (or anyone who has other things in their lives than work) are included in ‘ways of working’ programs and training.”
Feedback from participants in WORK180’s global What Women Want Report 2021
3. Promote human-centric leadership
“From my experience working with companies and my recent discussions with many eminent Business Schools, teams are no longer looking for leaders to be strong and have all the answers. DEI can be a scary, uncomfortable, and uncertain space for leaders and there is inspiring power in leaders saying, “I don’t have the answers, it’s scary, but I’m committed to learning.“
Want to know more about DEI in 2022?
For more up-to-date insights from Asif, be sure to follow him on LinkedIn. You can also get regular HR and DEI resources, insights, and updates straight to your inbox by signing up to WORK180’s free monthly newsletter.
In the meantime, why not get inspired by exploring the supportive benefits and policies trailblazing employers will be offering in 2022? It’s all here in our recent article, Best employee benefits: The policies truly making a difference.
Where should you be focusing your efforts when it comes to DEI?
A successful diversity strategy starts with employee voice.
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