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Simon Reichwald, Strategic Lead for Talent at MyKindaFuture, the HR tech company specialising in engaging and onboarding underrepresented talent, explores the lasting effects of the pandemic on underrepresented talent in the UK.
The current situation
As is often the case during economic downturns, the pandemic has disproportionately affected underrepresented individuals.
You need look no further than the statistics to see just how stark this disparity is. For example, the employment rate for people from minority ethnic groups slumped 5.3% in the year to September 2020, compared with a 0.2% decrease in the number of employed white employees. Similarly, young people are almost three times as likely to be unemployed than older workers.
There are several reasons behind this concerning trend. Most significantly, there are a disproportionate number of individuals from underrepresented groups working in the industries that have been most affected, such as hospitality and retail. With the furlough scheme still protecting millions of people working in these industries from unemployment, concerns are rising that these figures are only set to worsen when the initiative comes to a close.
However, despite the ongoing challenges for those industries affected by lockdown, the past 18 months have also seen some incredibly positive progress when it comes to businesses’ approach to diverse talent. The explosion of the Black Lives Matter movement in May 2020 was successful in placing diversity and inclusion firmly back on the agenda for business leaders across the world. As a result, there is plenty of reasons to remain optimistic when looking ahead at the future of underrepresented talent in the workplace.
Progress to be built upon
At MyKindaFuture, we have been thrilled to see a genuine sea-change when it comes to diversity and inclusion policies across many of the businesses that we work with.
Over the last year, we have seen organisations building upon the D&I work that they had begun before the pandemic and progressing this further. One of the biggest shifts has been to focus on I&D, as opposed to D&I. The idea behind this is to think inclusion first, diversity second. Whilst the difference may seem subtle, it’s significant. Employers are increasingly realising that you can hire enough diverse individuals to reach your targets on paper, but unless an organisation is truly inclusive, this progress is essentially meaningless. It’s crucial that businesses create a culture where individuals of all backgrounds can thrive. Only then will they benefit from the huge value that a truly diverse workforce has to offer.
New research from Bridge Group emphasises the importance of treating inclusion as a priority. The study 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, level up their workforce and enable every worker to flourish.
Changes to Working Patterns
As well as an increased focus on inclusion, the growth of remote working has also been beneficial to many underrepresented groups who previously faced barriers to entry in traditional working environments.
For example, for many parents and carers, it simply isn’t possible to be in an office 9-5, five days a week whilst juggling other commitments. The same goes for those with disabilities that make office working challenging. The acceleration of flexible and remote working sparked by the pandemic has removed this barrier and opened up opportunities to thousands of talented individuals who were previously unable to access them due to their circumstances.
What’s more, the shift towards online, virtual working has been incredibly beneficial to those who have previously missed out on opportunities due to geographical barriers. For instance, at MyKindaFuture, we have worked alongside many of our clients to increase the reach and scale of their work experience programmes to offer improved access to diverse talent across the UK. These schemes have been hugely successful in opening up vital opportunities to underrepresented individuals, as well as introducing businesses to talent that they would previously have been unable to reach.
Whilst COVID-19 has posed huge challenges to many underrepresented groups, the past year has also brought with it some positive progress, with many new opportunities beginning to open up for diverse talent.
At MyKindaFuture, we believe that the pandemic has offered a fantastic opportunity for businesses and entrepreneurs across the UK to build back better. We are confident that, if businesses continue to capitalise on the progress made so far, the future of inclusion and diversity in the workplace will be incredibly positive.
To find out more about the impact of COVID-19 on diverse talent, visit https://www.mykindafuture.com/2021/06/09/the-impact-of-covid-19-on-diverse-talent/
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Simon Reichwald, Strategic Lead for Talent at underrepresented talent specialist MyKindaFuture, reflects on the progress of diversity and inclusion (D&I) in UK businesses in 2020 and offers his advice for sustaining momentum as companies continue to deal with the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
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