Why Workplace Diversity May Be About to Have a Watershed Moment

May 21, 2020

Woman working from home with two kids playing nearby

Today is International Diversity Day, and the right way to celebrate seems like a multilingual chorus of “Hooray!” It’s also the ideal time to re-examine diversity in light of many new workplace realities and to consider whether a shift to remote work might create an opportunity to build a more diverse workforce.

Given that many businesses are facing existential questions — when can we reopen? which of our products or services are still relevant? can we survive? — some companies may be considering shifting focus away from their diversity efforts.

But those challenges, some of them quite daunting, are exactly the reason businesses need to double down on their workplace diversity efforts rather than walk away from them.

“The challenges facing organizations right now are unique and variable and the uncertainty demands our best ideas and thinking,” says Rosanna Durruthy, LinkedIn’s global head of diversity, inclusion, and belonging. The businesses that can quickly change course and nimbly solve their challenges are likely to be those that have teams with a rich diversity of perspectives, backgrounds, and experiences. The business case for diversity is both clear and compelling. Research shows that diversity can drive revenue, profitability, and creativity.  

It seems probable that remote work will become a permanent fixture in the post-COVID world of work. Companies now have the technology, policies, and processes in place to make distributed work a long-term solution rather than just a short-term stopgap. And a more widespread acceptance of work from home offers a critical opportunity to talent acquisition teams to build more diverse workforces.

“The shift to remote work,” Rosanna says, “will undoubtedly open new pipelines and expand talent pools enabling companies to make meaningful progress in the work of diversity, inclusion, and belonging, ensuring the perspectives and experiences of all groups are designed into the new world of work.”

Brendan Browne, LinkedIn’s global head of talent acquisition, enthusiastically agrees. “One of the biggest upsides of a remote working world,” he says, “is you can recruit and hire awesome talent wherever they are. For years, TA teams have tried to convince executive teams to open offices in cities with vastly more diverse populations. That can be challenging — high cost, long timelines, competition. But now the energy can shift to sourcing, nurturing, and recruiting incredible people where they live. As a recruiter, it’s incredibly exciting.”

As devastating as COVID-19 has been, the disruption it’s caused has given businesses a chance to reimagine the world of work. Take International Diversity Day as an opportunity to think about how fostering the diversity of your team can help drive the post-pandemic recovery and success of your company.

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