It has been over a year, since Covid-19 struck, but we are still grappling with the daunting and long-lasting impact it has brought in the world of work and the people in it. It is a new world with new rules!

If the year gone by was about losses, this is the year of redemption. Organizations today are fighting back, on their path to recovery, preparing themselves for the post covid era and in the process gauging what it means to be a sustainable business. Diversity and inclusion may have slipped off the radar for organizations last year with focus being on crisis management which might be reasonable then, but now it will have to be a strategic business imperative to focus on D&I. It will be one of the key differentiators for companies to recover from current setbacks and move towards a growth trajectory. And yet, A study by Josh Bersin Analysts have found that HR professionals across organisations are not adequately equipped to support D&I initiatives and related managerial issues.

Innovation and agility are the need of the hour

Those that have invested in developing inclusive cultures and building balanced diverse teams across their businesses will fare better than others.

Companies that are able to re-imagine their business in the new, post-crisis environment are the ones which will succeed. This requires new ways of working, new products,new services, quick understanding of the dynamic market and changing business models. People with new ideas, from diverse backgrounds, will be crucial to these efforts.Only when there is a culture of inclusion and trust where all employees feel comfortable to speak up, new ideas will emerge. In contrast, organizations with cultures based on fear or groupthink won’t be agile enough to survive in the post–COVID-19 environment.

Diverse teams would mean diverse brains leading to diverse conversations resulting in more creativity and better equipped at managing risks and solving complex problems. It is those organizations that are able to draw on a fortune of perspectives in their teams—across generations, genders, cultures and backgrounds—that will ultimately be prepared for our new reality.

Inclusion drives resilience

Organizations need to be resilient to get through the long-term effects of the pandemic. And Companies with inclusive cultures tend to be the most resilient. To create resilience, the culture has to be authentic – lived by its leaders and made real through responses whether it is in areas of employee health and safety or benefits to customer service. All employees need to feel part of, and included by, the culture to contribute and help fight back.

Inclusive leadership will hold together geographically dispersed, virtual teams together

With teams dispersed across locations, connecting virtually, leaders are getting the opportunity to connect with a broader ecosystem. With technology, leaders are now invited to employees’ homes and personal lives making it imperative for them to be inclusive, respect their unique requirements and get them to collaborate effectively across computer screens and physical distance.

Organizations and leaders are gradually taking cognizance of the fact how the pandemic has posed challenges for different groups which could be related to mental health, work–life balance, a missing sense of connectivity with colleagues, oreven concerns about job opportunities. This makes it important for them to become aware that one size of response does not fit everybody. Operating in a Hybrid world, organizational restructuring are common in the new normal. Leaders need to take critical decisions and action them in an inclusive way to achieve the best outcome possible.

Having well equipped D&I Specialists

Having seen the relevance of D&I in current times, the glaring reality is that today D&I is not “just nice to have” but absolutely key for businesses to survive and thrive.

At this stage it becomes important for organizations to invest in identifying and developing D&I champions within the organization, to drive conversations about D&I, create policies and practices, explore ways of creating & developing allies within organization and also train and sensitize others within the organization.

A structured approach to developing in house champions for D&I, who will not only be the torch bearers for the agenda but will carry the whole organisation together in this journey forward and will constructively contribute towards unleashing the power of a diverse workforce and inclusive culture is what is needed. From creating a customized D&I charter for the organization with measurable actionables, to promoting awareness on D&I issues and enhancing inclusive practices and behaviours within the organization. Having said that, one size does not fit all, home-grown D&I specialists will need to be equipped to drive customised inclusive practices keeping the organizational needs and culture in mind. They will not only help leadership teams improve their foresight by spotting valuable signals and identifying opportunities in their journey to be more inclusive. But, also in the entire process not let the muscle memory built around D&I get derailed at any point in time.