Why diversity and inclusion still matters in a crisis

Hear from Group HR Director Clare Martin as she explores the importance of diversity and inclusion at times of crisis.

There’s a number of news articles that have stuck out for me recently. The first has been the reports that the COVID-19 pandemic will set gender equality progress back by decades as women bear the brunt of extra childcare, housework and carer responsibilities.There’s also been for some people what may deemed as controversial reports, which shows that those countries with female leaders have handled their response to the pandemic more effectively.

With June being Pride month, it’s important that we remind ourselves the benefits of an inclusive culture have been clear for some time and don’t change just because of a crisis.Research has repeatedly shown that inclusion and performance go hand in hand. The latest report from McKinsey & Co Diversity wins: How inclusion matters, reinforces the business case.

So, what can be done to ensure businesses don’t lose traction on any progress made or indeed use this moment in time to define a more inclusive culture that enables all talent to shine?

  • Take a flexible approach. One thing we have certainly learnt through the crisis is that flexible and remote working is absolutely possible and extremely effective. As we bring colleagues back into the business sensitively addressing any personal challenges they may have, then empowering and encouraging managers to change their mindset and be flexible, is key to retaining talent.Remote working doesn’t need to erode a company’s culture or impact on performance, I believe it can actually enrich it by helping colleagues to feel trusted, valued and motivated at a time when they feel most vulnerable.
  • Look for those people who showed resilience throughout the crisis. Over the last few years, we’ve been on a journey within the leadership team at Jardine Motors to look more closely and take greater care of our mental wellbeing. Last year, we shared the approaches and techniques we had learnt with our 400 senior and line managers. Themed around how to develop, adopt and maintain a resilient attitude, we’ve been ensuring that our colleagues are equipped and able to cope with change with a positive mindset, and the crisis has certainly put our teams to the test. But in the darkness of the pandemic, stars have shone through demonstrating a true ‘one team’ approach, being more attuned to emotional needs and resilience.
  • Use technology to reimagine team dynamics. What I have observed is that confidence can be a barrier to participation in meetings, but we’ve found with all our meetings being virtual ones since we went into lockdown, colleagues have become more open and feel like they have a voice.The use of technology to hold virtual meetings is actually flattening our hierarchical structures, as it’s clear colleagues feel more confident and less intimidated when a senior person is not in the room.
  • Bringing your whole-self to work.I truly believe that having an inclusive culture means ensuring everyone feels comfortable to be themselves and one thing’s for sure with the pandemic and being in lockdown, we’ve certainly got to know our colleagues better. Glimpses inside people’s homes, the interruption from pets and kids joining in with video meetings and the (very) casual dress code, has meant there is only space to be genuine. (No pyjamas though!)

Another benefit of using technology such as Microsoft Teams for meetings is that we’ve been able to broaden and diversify the group of colleagues involved in conversations. Before we were restricted by travel times, diary availability etc, but now we can simply gather people together, have a discussion, make decisions and work more agile, having had a diverse-rich conversation.

As a business, we had already started to adopt Microsoft Teams as a way to collaborate and communicate, but once in lockdown and forced to isolate, Teams became a stable part of daily routine and not just for meetings. A quick phone call to a colleague has been replaced with a casual Teams video call as we craved the facetime with others as a way to stay connected and it’s definitely brought us closer together. Long may it continue.

There are many positives we will take from the way we’ve operated through the COVID-19 crisis to make further progress in our diversification and inclusion strategy #WeAreJMG.While Pride month has had to go online this year with Pride Inside due to social distancing, we remain committed to working with our partners Stonewall and our colleagues through our JMG United network, to ensure we continue to make our business welcome to all talent.