When businesses are under financial pressure, it’s not unusual for diversity and inclusion efforts to fall to the wayside. And, as the UK gears up to enter 2023 in a recession, HR need to be prepared to tackle inclusivity concerns more readily than ever…

For most businesses, a financial downturn will no doubt impact day-to-day operations: be it through halting recruitment efforts, salaries being frozen, or even a call for redundancies to cut costs. But, whilst a difficult financial period means tough times for all, the struggle likely won’t be equal across the board.

Here's why HR shouldn’t forget D&I during uncertain times

If history is anything to go by, marginalised employees will be hit the hardest by an oncoming recession. That means implementing an effective D&I strategy should be top of HR’s agenda – for a number of important reasons:

An inclusive team is a resilient team

Increasingly, an organisation’s focus on building employee resilience is a key indicator of how it will fare through stressful periods – and teams with comprehensive D&I practices consistently come out on top.

When it comes to resilience, trust plays an important role. Employees who are recognised and rewarded on an equal opportunity basis, and who are confident in leaders’ commitment to inclusivity, are more likely to take risks, contribute to team discussions, and take part in solving problems.

With increased confidence in leadership and more room for innovation, team resilience soars – making it far easier for to tackle tough periods.

Diverse teams have quicker recovery from financial setbacks

It’s vital to remember that diversity efforts impact every facet of an organisation; from leadership decisions and company culture, to employee experience and customer perception. And in past economic downturns, organisations who have fully committed to diversity and inclusion have proven to have the greatest success before, during, and after difficult financial periods.

What’s more, diverse teams – in organisations which consistently champion inclusivity – have shown increased innovation and problem-solving skills compared to those who aren’t; both key indicators of a business’ profitability and success in the long run.

Inclusive organisations have increased employee loyalty

HR teams that are seen championing D&I are viewed as more trustworthy by their employees. This is incredibly important, as when it comes to retaining staff in uncertain financial periods, building trust should be at the very heart of HR’s priorities.

It’s also important to remember that D&I rarely falls out of the spotlight when it comes to corporate news. Over half of the workforce believes their company isn’t doing enough for diversity, so focus in on inclusivity efforts, and it could bode well for your organisation’s public image – and future hiring efforts, too!

Bringing D&I to the forefront… even when budgets are tight

However steadfast your D&I efforts, there’s no denying that budget cuts are hitting many businesses hard. In fact, our recent survey found that nearly 90% of leaders believe their businesses are or will be negatively impacted by the financial crisis – which could mean scaling back when it comes to expensive management workshops or inclusivity training.

So, what can you do as an HR professional do to practise diversity and inclusion (D&I) effectively, even on a restricted budget?

1. Focus on your company culture

If you’re looking to build a long-term D&I strategy, your company’s culture should be at its heart.

Truly positive and successful cultures offer growth and development opportunities on an equal basis. In addition, a robust code of conduct should ensure employees are held accountable for less desirable behaviours, such as discriminatory comments or microaggressions.

A ‘people-first’ culture means focusing on recognition, equal opportunities, and genuine empathy between employees. It’s also led by example when it comes to the behaviour of management and senior leaders.

With this in mind, ensure line managers are equipped to handle inclusivity concerns – either through signposting resources or HR-led workshops – and encourage leaders to empathise with the unique challenges different employees may be facing in the current financial climate.

2. Know your data

Staff data can – and should – play a key role in informing your approach to D&I.

A data-driven approach to both HR and payroll means more accurately targeting the areas of your business that need the most immediate attention – whether that’s pay gaps, distribution of development opportunities, or even absence trends. What’s more, keeping an eye on your HR data offers up the opportunity to compare trends and metrics over long periods of time – making it easier to track your organisation’s progress when it comes to inclusion efforts.

HR software with in-depth data analytics tools, such as a diversity dashboard and reporting functionality, can offer an efficient way to identify and analyse key metrics such as salary averages, pay gaps, and diversity ratios. If you have the HR software to see important workforce data at a glance, you can focus in on the areas where change is needed most

3. Take on employee feedback

Reaching out directly to employees is among the more efficient ways to find out the most pressing issues in an organisation, straight from the horse’s mouth.

You and your HR team could consider conducting a D&I pulse survey to gather thoughts and opinions about the issues impacting employees most, and use this feedback to create change in the areas most important to staff. Pulse surveys are ideal in gaining quick and accurate information on what employees for you company are really thinking.

When it comes to D&I, a pulse survey can enable you to ask such questions as:

  • I believe the company has an inclusive and welcoming culture. (YES/NO)
  • I feel confident reporting discrimination concerns at work. (YES/NO)
  • How far do you agree that the company offers equal growth opportunities?
Chloe Turner author image

Chloe Turner

Graduating from the University of South Wales, Chloe is an experienced content marketing manager who's worked across the HR and legal business sectors.

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