WHAT DOES DIVERSITY AND ACTIVE INCLUSION SIGNIFY IN THE PRE-VACCINE COVID-19 ERA?
In 2019, according to the Harvard Business Journal, U.S.-based companies spent an eye-popping $8 billion in Diversity and Inclusion training for their staff. Yet, that same study points to an unforgiving and harsh reality that, despite this vast expenditure, the companies lost 40% of their employees due to attrition. Many of the employees cited the primary reason for their exodus was that they were not “actively included” in the culture of the company. In short, they did not “belong or matter,” as that vernacular is now the preferred expression of HR departments across the United States.
In March 2020, the advent of the COVID-19 upended an untold number of lives on a global scale. With no panacea in immediate sight, the medical experts advised the shuttering of businesses coupled with social distancing. Essential businesses such as pharmacies, police and fire departments, grocery stores and hospitals were allowed to remain open to serve the public at large, including those in Houston, one of the most diverse cities in the United States.
The numbers of employees in these employment sectors that, due to their religious beliefs were on a 30 day “dusk to dawn” fasting ritual, add yet another layer of complexity to the stringent guidelines of social distancing and isolation. In respect of their faith, the decision makers of these entities altered the schedules of their “fasting” employees to accommodate their needs so as to minimize the physical exertion during fasting periods while allowing them to continue their work from their place of choosing to further minimize the risk of contraction of the virus. For example, police officers who were fasting due to their religious beliefs, were scheduled to work at night where consummation of food was permitted and assigned. Exposing them to work during the daytime hours in the heat of the day, with no hydration or food intake allowed, would imperil their health.
With full recognition of this reality, the decision makers are sending a clear and palpable message that their diverse employees are valued, belong and matter to the organization. Pharmacies that employ staff that are fasting, allowed their employees to take their allotted vacation during the “30 day fasting” period to protect the employee(s) whom could be asked to deal with a crush of patients without the benefit of having to hydrate due to the prohibition of their faith to drink liquids during the fasting period commencing from dusk to dawn.
For diversity of a work force to be optimized, inclusion should be “active.” And by active I mean with concrete, definitive actions that bring meaningful benefits to the employee(s) and exhibits an acute understanding of the employee’s specific needs. A program tailored to meet those specific needs sends the unmistakable message that the employee(s) matter, belong and are actively included in the body of work force.