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Workforce Diversity in the COVID-19 and BLM Era

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Just like the rest of the world, American businesses are struggling to come to terms with the two most transformative occurrences of our generation. To sustain operational continuity and eventually flourish, companies need to implement the lessons the Black Lives Matter movement has illuminated and avoid allowing COVID-19 from sidetracking diversity and inclusion initiatives.

As has been demonstrated over and over, workplaces that employ diverse employee bases are better prepared to withstand crises and adapt to social and market upheavals. From an operational standpoint, they also have proven more profitable, flexible, and innovative. They are more adept at devising creative and custom solutions to their business challenges and customer demands.

Diversity & Inclusion Initiatives Vulnerable to COVID-19

Maintaining that nimbleness is a goal worth striving for, as businesses transition from survival mode to the recovery stage and on into prosperity. To accomplish this aim, organizations must be aware of the extra challenges to maintaining a diverse workforce inherent in working through the health crisis. To prevent COVID-19 from derailing the strides your company has made in recent years in recruiting and mobilizing diverse workers, guard against these threats:

  • Siege Mentality – When outside influences disrupt our routine and jeopardize our security—whether physical, financial, or career—we are programmed to hunker down, to embrace what is familiar and unchallenging. Too often, that means associating with and hiring people who share a common viewpoint and whose problem-solving techniques mirror our own.
  • Rigid Decision Making – Fifty years of evidence shows that the often-followed “last in, first out” employment policy works against minority, younger, and female workers. Black workers, in particular, are hit harder by unemployment caused by crises and weakening economies. Minorities hired through recent diversity programs likely will be among the newest employees and therefore are at risk of comprising the early round of laid-off workers.
  • Classifying Diversity as “Nice to Have” – Decreased revenues send managers looking for ways to cut costs. Too often, hiring, training, and educational programs that help eliminate bias and support career development for diverse populations are not considered “must-have” programs. Cuts to these initiatives in the interest of “belt-tightening” can be devastating, interrupting the pipeline of workers from underrepresented communities. Even if the programs restart after the recovery, the discontinuity sends the wrong message to job seekers and can hamstring the business for years.
  • Allowing “Out of Sight” to Become “Out of Mind” – As most organizations instituted or expanded work-from-home policies to combat the spread of COVID-19, they may have inadvertently excluded some workers. Less tech-savvy employees, those living away from cities and their inherently speedy internet service, and introverted personalities may have been unable to connect with managers and colleagues as frequently as others. Without proactive engagement, these contributors could be excluded from work, social, and educational activities.

Keeping the Focus on Diversity

BLM’s resurgence is forcing companies as well as individuals to reexamine their attitudes and policies regarding race. Most successful companies believe inclusion and diversity make their organizations more successful and foster better working environments. Still, they may not have fully understood their impact on long-term success. Remaining focused on eliminating hiring biases, ensuring that marketing materials depict diverse customers, and building relationships with minority suppliers and vendors will give companies the advantage moving forward. Not only will they expand their talent and customer pools, but they will also position themselves to recover more quickly from the pandemic. The post-COVID economy will demand resilient, innovative approaches to workflow and market dynamism, qualities that only manifest when you involve people with varying cultural, economic, geographic, ethnic, gender, and generational perspectives.

COVID-19’s ravages will pass soon enough, but the lessons of the BLM movement will live on. Companies should not allow the hardships brought on by the former derail the progress they have made. Here’s how to stay the course and expand programs that ensure your firm will have access to the competent, dedicated, diverse workers who will lead your company through the pandemic and help you meet the challenges on the other side:

  • Be Purposeful – Your diversity recruitment initiatives may mandate special attention be given to minority and women candidates who happen to apply. That is a start, but it’s not enough. A thoroughly inclusive recruitment program actively seeks out and asks for members of underrepresented populations to consider working for you. Boost your social media presence on sites popular with professionals of color. Schedule virtual recruiting and interviews at Historically Black Colleges and Universities.
  • Promote and Retain – One of the best ways to ensure you keep a healthy diversity in your workforce is to keep the mix of women and racial, ethnic, and other minorities you have already hired. Do this by showing them viable career paths, offering appropriate training that will help them achieve and advance, and promoting deserving and promising workers regularly to management and executive positions.
  • Screen Using “Or” Rather than “And” – As companies increase dependence on automation, they program resume screeners to flag resumes containing specific keywords for further analysis. This saves time but often restricts less-obvious candidates and applicants with non-traditional qualifications. Guard against disqualifying viable minority candidates by crediting “alternate” experiences. Instead of insisting on a four-year degree, for example, consider also accepting associate degrees and a year’s experience.
  • Neutralize Job Descriptions – The wording of employment solicitations can send subtle messages about the kind of person who should apply. Biased phrasing is usually unintentional, resulting from the use of imprecise words or colloquialisms. In other cases, job requirements indicate that females need not apply. For instance, describing the ideal candidate as “clean-cut” says you’re expecting men to apply. Moreover, it conveys that men who wear facial hair or dreadlocks for religious or cultural reasons would not be welcome. Adjectives such as confident and competitive could be construed as “men only,” while compassionate and nurturing could be viewed as favoring women applicants. 

Metasys Technologies helps companies of all sizes build and maintain diverse workforces. We leverage industry expertise, an expansive supplier network, and an innate desire to create a more inclusive world. We’re a minority-owned business, so we understand the rewards businesses can achieve by grooming and nurturing relationships with underrepresented vendors and employees. Contact us, and let’s work together to create a workforce management program that will maximize your productivity and establish your firm as an employer of choice among people from all walks of life.


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