The coronavirus pandemic has enforced a global work-from-home experiment. While the current way of working won’t last forever, executives from Siemens (SIE.DE), Just Eat (JET.L), and Verizon Media (VZ) said that the crisis has actually turbo-charged some positives changes and presented opportunities to make the world of work a better place.
Gathering for a DIAL Global Digital Summit, where Verizon Media is a strategic partner, executives at the world’s largest organisations discussed how companies can lead and win through inclusion and how organisations can craft better inclusion strategies for a competitive edge.
In the second session, entitled “embracing the power of diversity, inclusion, belonging and leadership in the pandemic era,” the executives shared their recent experiences, challenges and key learnings from the COVID-19 pandemic and and how they’re looking to a more inclusive future from a less than inclusive past.
Panellists were: Valerie Todd CBE, human resources director, Siemens, Mira Magecha, chief people officer, Just Eat, and Ramcess Jean-Louis, global head of diversity & inclusion, Verizon Media (VZ), parent company for Yahoo Finance.
Through their discussion, there were key points made about how many of the areas for evolving the workplace has been expedited because of the crisis and this could be a turning point on keeping some positive elements forever.
“As humans we are so interconnected, and the crisis has shown that humanity is an ecosystem and what affects us [in another country] will affect us sitting elsewhere. We can also learn from it,” said Todd, who also sits as a non-executive director on the board for the British army.
“We are not just a society of individuals, we are a society of communities — both local and global. From an employers’ perspective, [it has shown] leaders need to be adaptable and inclusive, and find new ways to engage with people.
“The world of work is going to change irreversibly and we need to look at how to embrace that. Leaders don’t need to change, they need to evolve and be adaptive [to maintain] more inclusive working patterns and expectations.”
Acknowledging the difference in how we are all experiencing the crisis, is also something that could make the world of work a more inclusive place.
“The stress people are under right now is going to change how they view work,” said Todd. “And D&I is at the heart of the agenda — this crisis has not affected us all equally. There is a big step change to lead in a different way.”
Echoing that sentiment was Verizon Media’s Ramcess Jean-Louis who pointed out that “we are all in this together but we are experiencing this differently.” It’s for this reason that there is an opportunity for a sea-change in how we look at diversity and inclusion.
Jean-Louis highlighted how his experience in the D&I space has taken some time to evolve from “multi-cultural marketing” to “diversity” to “diversity and inclusion” to “diversity and inclusion and belonging.” He said that the crisis has expedited a number of areas of D&I efforts.
For example, just being able to understand that this crisis has meant that everyone’s experience is different has pushed leaders and individuals to embrace, more fully, the practice of “platinum rule.”
“We are moving away from the ‘golden rule’ of ‘treat people the way you want to be treated,’ to the ‘platinum rule’ — treat people how they want to be treated,” said Jean-Louis.
Mira Magecha, chief people officer, Just Eat pointed out that the crisis has a presented an “opportunity” for understanding new ways of working practice. She said that 20 years ago, she had worked on a project elsewhere regarding how we should look differently about what employment looks like and two decades later it hadn’t really changed.
However, amid this crisis, we “could open a whole new raft of diversity” by understanding fundamental items, such as do people genuinely need to travel into work or do workers need to have certain educations in order to do their job.
Verizon Media’s Jean-Louis supported that notion by pointing out that the crisis expedited some huge changes in working practices. He said that at Verizon Media, 90% of employees are currently working from home and if the company had tried to move towards this way of working pre-coronavirus, it would’ve taken years of planning.
However, the crisis proved that it could be done — and quickly, and especially with the company’s bosses always maintaining “the number one mission is the safety and wellbeing of staff,” it has created a platform for more conscious inclusion of all staff.