D&I in a COVID-19 world

Nov 02, 2020

Rachel Power, D&I Senior Manager at PwC Ireland, outlines how a robust diversity and inclusion strategy can help organisations cultivate a sense of calm and control amid the uncertainty.

With over 60 nationalities and a 3,000 strong intergenerational workforce, PwC has long focused on diversity and inclusion. It undoubtedly features on the agenda of many organisations as employees, customers, and investors increasingly demand that the organisations they do business with model the values of equity and inclusion.

Benefits are being seen, now more than ever, in terms of higher employee engagement, increased productivity, better problem solving, innovation, creativity, reputation and competitive advantage. The list goes on. COVID-19 has challenged us all to be more inclusive, even though most office-based employees will operate from a home office for the foreseeable future. While this makes inclusion challenging in one sense, it has also accelerated the need for organisations to think differently about diversity and inclusion, forcing us all to find new ways to connect.

The core elements of PwC’s people strategy remain the same around inclusion, wellness and flexibility, although our delivery vehicles may differ. In fact, our longstanding diversity and inclusion values have helped us navigate this crisis.

And we are not alone. COVID-19 and the overwhelming global response to Black Lives Matter earlier this year have certainly elevated the need for organisations to do better. In a recent PwC Global Survey across 40 countries with over 3,000 responses, we found that organisations are investing at unprecedented rates in diversity and inclusion programmes with 76% now citing it is a value or priority.

More important than ever

Several things already high on PwC Ireland’s strategic agenda have helped us transition relatively seamlessly to the remote working world, where building on our culture of inclusion and belonging is vital. Our focus for diversity and inclusion before COVID-19 was on three areas, and they will persist into the future:

  1. Nurturing an environment of inclusion and belonging;
  2. Living our values, putting wellness and flexibility at the core; and
  3. Leveraging tools and training for the future.

We set these objectives before the pandemic, but they remain relevant. Why? Transforming workforces and the way we work requires diverse, talented people from different backgrounds; people who have different experiences and who bring innovation, creativity and fresh perspectives. But having these people is only half the battle, it is inclusion and giving our people a voice and a sense of belonging that brings the true benefits to the fore.

Connection and belonging are areas of focus right now, not least because we know that a sense of belonging can reduce stress levels. When we feel that we have support and are not alone, we often cope more effectively with difficult times in our lives – something we want to support our people with as we navigate these uncertain times.

While many worked flexibly before the crisis, the approach to flexibility has been taken to a new level. It’s all about balance and finding ways to make it work. Again, this comes back to having inclusive and values-based leaders, who ensure that the right conversations are had to find ways to make it work for everyone.

There is undoubtedly more to do, and the end to this pandemic is far from sight. But values, strategic direction and technology will guide us through the uncertainty and continue to strengthen diversity and inclusion in organisations throughout the world.