The pandemic has changed things for workers and bosses alike. But how have diverse talent groups been affected? Simon Reichwald explores the issue, detailing the importance of inclusive organisations and the role that mentoring can play in facilitating them.
The impact of COVID-19 on diverse talent
Unquestionably, the impact of COVID-19 on diverse talent has been massive.
The employment rate for people from minority ethnic groups slumped by 5.3% in the year to September 2020, compared with only a 0.2% decrease in the number of white employees. Similarly, young people are now almost three times as likely to be unemployed when compared to older workers – a big jump from what was the case pre-pandemic.
This, in part, can be put down to the fact that there are a disproportionate number of individuals from underrepresented groups working in the industries most affected by COVID-19, such as hospitality, retail and manufacturing.
However, the explosion of the Black Lives Matter movement in May 2020 put diversity and inclusion firmly on the agenda for businesses of all sizes across the world. This has meant that despite the overwhelming challenges put upon workplaces since the arrival of COVID-19, we have seen some promising progress in the D&I space.
It’s also worth noting that the rise of flexible and remote working has been welcomed by some underrepresented groups, such as parents with young children and those with disabilities. This new way of working has opened up opportunities for thousands of talented individuals who were previously unable to access them, owing to a need to be in an office, 9-5, five days a week.
You might be able to hire enough diverse individuals to reach targets on paper, but unless an organisation is truly inclusive, this is essentially meaningless.
And while young people have struggled to find employment, the rise of virtual work experience has at least opened up training and development opportunities while negating geographical barriers that might have existed before.
For example, a young student in inner city Manchester can now reach a business in London. This change in how workplaces do things has introduced businesses to talented individuals that they might have been previously unable to reach.
A focus on inclusion
Many businesses are revisiting their D&I strategies, spurred on by the ongoing global conversation concerning equality.
What has been particularly pleasing to see is a step further focusing on I&D – ‘inclusion first, diversity second’. This is a subtle yet crucial difference that reframes the focus away from just diversity to elevate the importance of inclusion is an important move.
Put bluntly, you might be able to hire enough diverse individuals to reach targets on paper, but unless an organisation is truly inclusive, this is essentially meaningless. Organisations need to create a culture where all can thrive and progress if the business is to truly benefit from the huge value that a diverse workforce brings.
And this value is undisputed. Amongst the raft of evidence confirming the benefits of creating a diverse workforce is a 2017 Boston Consulting Group (BCG) study* that identified diversity as a key driver of innovation, finding that diverse teams produce 19% more revenue.
The need to address inclusion is demonstrated by research from Bridge Group which found that employees from lower socio-economic backgrounds take 25% longer to progress through a company, despite no evidence of poorer performance.
This increases to 32% for those employees who also identify as Black. By focussing on inclusion as well as diversity, companies have the power to reverse this trend and level up their workforce.
Mentoring and inclusion
Mentoring plays an enormous role establishing inclusive cultures in the workplace.
The aim of mentoring programmes for I&D is to support and empower underrepresented groups in their careers, providing individuals of all backgrounds with valuable skills and networking opportunities so they can thrive. These can commonly involve senior employees pairing up with their more junior colleagues to diversify talent pipelines within organisations.
Mentoring throughout the candidate journey before diverse individuals enter a business, truly sets them up to succeed. And in the virtual climate, technology can be leveraged as a force for good in delivering outstanding mentoring programmes that make a real difference to the progression and retention of employees from all backgrounds.
A renewed focus on inclusion has been great to see and can be taken one step further if more organisations realise just how valuable a mentoring tool is in creating a thriving workplace culture.
A key predictor in successful mentoring is a good fit between the two parties. That’s why Connectr for Employees uses a sophisticated automated algorithm to match mentors with mentees, whilst still providing the element of choice.
Connectr includes mentoring goal setting and a resource hub to empower your people to own their progression and development. The live reporting dashboard allows for tracking both the scale and impact of mentoring programmes.
Whilst the impact of COVID-19 on diverse talent has been significant, the past 12 months have also seen some positive progress. A renewed focus on inclusion has been great to see and can be taken one step further if more organisations realise just how valuable a mentoring tool is in creating a thriving workplace culture.
Through harnessing talent to learn and grow together, to share experiences and knowledge, and level up across the board, mentoring is such key tool in a company’s learning and development strategy. It’s a real way to support a truly inclusive workforce.
MyKindaFuture is committed to helping businesses create truly inclusive and diverse workforces. To find out more about how its talent experts help employers to attract, engage and onboard diverse candidates, while retraining and developing their employees, click here https://www.mykindafuture.com/contact
About the author
Simon Reichwald, Strategic Lead for Talent at MyKindaFuture the UK’s leading HR business fostering a sense of belonging within underrepresented talent.