With 2023 approaching, I reflected back on the year and in particular on how organization’s purpose, culture and commitment to mental health have defined the ways diversity, equity and inclusion is felt, understood and known by all. For me, 2022 was marked by significant events that have imprinted new approaches to integrate purpose, culture and DEI into organizational practices sustainably. From the continued impact of the healthcare pandemic, to major legislative changes such as the US Supreme Court overturning abortion rights and the effect the war in Ukraine has had on global immigration and workforce development within countless countries around the world, an alignment of people, purpose and performance has become even more critical.
As a result, three (3) key learnings from 2022 have emerged for me to continue to prioritize and cultivate:
How Quickly We Forget: Recommitting a Focus On Mental Health:
We started the year off with a strong focus on mental health, spotlighting high-touch interventions taken by many companies to address issues of well-being. We centered mental health as a part of organizations’ efforts to create healthy work environments that fostered well-being and inclusion largely because of our growing awareness of the full impact of the pandemic on employee’s lives, the emotional stress of the changing social climate across the world with continued racial injustices and radical legislative policy changes affecting every demographic within our society. This focus showed how organizations began to center well-being as a core part of their employee value propositions and the retention and engagement efforts supporting their workforce.
But fast forward to October and November and things began to shift again. Companies like Twitter started demanding everyone stop remote work without provisions or exclusions for those who were struggling with mental health or emotional challenges. While not every company was as aggressive as Twitter, more and more organizations began insisting on in-person work without the necessary care and concern for employees’ mental health. This indeed felt like a minor backsliding of the progress and improvement made on fully supporting mental health.
However, many other organizations were deliberate in taking a more integrative approach and instead focused on creating ‘hybrid’ workplaces that centered collaboration, engagement and teaming as the call for ‘return to work offices’. This progressive approach shifted the effort from being a command and control directive to one connecting the return to work offices to organization’s purpose, boosting employee morale and taking a values based approach to attract, engage and retain employees.
There continues to be an on-going need for companies to refocus on mental health and well-being and provide permanent support systems for employees to leverage when needed. Mental health should always be a priority in every workplace and should forever be a part of the employee value proposition and deeply integrated into the culture and organizational practices seen and felt daily. People need to be supported at work and allowed healthy environments where they can be develop, thrive and succeed. Organizations must commit to maintaining healthy workplaces that promote inclusion, respect and equity for all.
Diversity: What You See Is Not Always What You Get
What does diversity truly mean? The UK has seen two Prime Ministers over the past six months in Liz Truss and now PM Rishi Sunak. Both of whom are seen by the public eye as representing a pinnacle achievement of diversity in the highest public office. However, the same diversity does not show in certain aspects of the public policies they support. Ironically, it could seem that they represent the beliefs, platforms, and the agenda of the most conservative party who at times have not fully embraced progressive diversity, equity, and inclusion institutional practices.
Diversity needs to include supporting people of all backgrounds including different socioeconomic, ethnic, age, sexual orientation and lifestyles. It needs to represent all people, including marginalized individuals and communities who don’t have an opportunity to stand up for themselves. You can’t achieve diversity with people who do not fully embrace and promote equity and inclusion for all regardless of their own personal background and identity.
Expand Your World: An Outside-In Perspective For Progress:
Looking in from the outside has allowed me to provide organizations clear, thoughtful insights and feedback to drive systemic change in an integrated way. This enabled organizations to work across environmental, social and governance efforts to create purpose driven, inclusive and equitable workplaces that allows each and every individual to thrive and succeed.
I realized that although I was an outsider unknowing of internal operating norms, as a trusted advisor, I actually had more impact when I gave unfiltered and objective feedback from an outside-in perspective. It has been gratifying to see the benefits of tapping into my personal, and professional lived experiences outside of my client’s organizations to create significant change and impact in inside of their organization’s walls.
Excited & Encouraged About What Lie Ahead
I am encouraged and hopeful for the future in 2023 and beyond. I have witnessed how my clients and other organizations are now taking holistic approaches to embed purpose, culture and inclusion into the strategic priorities to better serve their customers, clients and stakeholders.
Progress can sometimes feel slow, like taking ten steps forward, then getting pushed four steps back. However, all of us can contribute to upholding the purpose, values and beliefs that will continue to build more inclusive and equitable organizations, communities and societies for all.