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Webinar Recap: DEI During the Coronavirus Pandemic

The coronavirus pandemic has had an unprecedented impact on people, communities, and organizations around the world. In just a few short months, “business as usual” has been thrown out the window, and DEI, HR, and people leaders are operating in a new world. 

On March 24, Paradigm’s founder and CEO Joelle Emerson hosted a webinar to discuss how to navigate DEI during the coronavirus pandemic. A candid conversation between Joelle and attendees revealed that a few common challenges were top of mind for organizations across industries:

  • What role should DEI play during this time? How can DEI leaders make their voices heard within their organizations? 
  • How can organizations maintain inclusivity and employee morale in a remote environment?
  • How can organizations help combat the increase in racism and xenophobia?
  • How can organizations support working parents who no longer have access to childcare?
  • How can executives lead inclusively and foster psychological safety at this time?
  • Should organizations reduce overall expectations on productivity during this time? How do they communicate those changes effectively?
  • What should ERGs and ERG leaders do?
  • How can organizations effectively onboard employees remotely?

Throughout the webinar, Joelle and attendees shared a variety of actionable tips to address these challenges and other barriers brought on by the pandemic. You can download the webinar here, and you can read a summary of the crowdsourced tips below. 

As you read this extensive list of tips below, you’ll notice that they reinforce two key points Joelle makes on the webinar—DEI is more important today than ever before, and DEI practitioners are already experts on the topics that matter most for workforces right now. 

If you’d like to delve deeper into any of the topics covered on the webinar, or need support evolving your DEI strategy in light of the coronavirus pandemic, we’d love to help—just email us!

DEI During the Coronavirus Pandemic: Crowdsourced Tips From The Webinar 

Supporting Working Parents & Caretakers 

  • Create more time off; either stop counting PTO during this time so employees aren’t forced to sacrifice future time off for caretaking, or open long-term leave options.
  • For employees who cannot be home with their kids right now (e.g., healthcare workers), assist with backup daycare if possible. 
  • Anyone contributing to FSA Dependent Care plans may have the option to lower those contributions if the kids are no longer in daycare. Any money saved can help right now—check with your FSA administrator.
  • Survey parents to better understand their needs/wants right now.
  • Have parents share pictures of schedules they’ve made for their kid’s daily routines, and be sure there is representation of single-parent schedules.
  • Use your technology systems to crowdsource and share resources for homeschooling, including inks to livestream events—for example, create a Google Doc and share it broadly. 
  • Actively engage with parent ERGs—some are hosting “community chats” for parents to dialogue and connect outside of Slack and team meetings.
  • Host playtime/storytime on Zoom, or invite kids to all hands. 
  • Shorten meetings so caretakers can navigate home needs.
  • Consider other types of caretakers. For example, how are you supporting employees who have to care for elderly parents remotely?
  • Here are additional helpful links shared by webinar participants:

ERGs and DEI Councils 

  • Provide more support for ERG leaders. They may feel pressure to step up while navigating their own challenges. Survey ERG leaders on their needs, and how the company can help.
  • Involve ERG leaders in the development of communications to the company. Leverage their experience, ideas, and perspectives to make sure communication is culturally appropriate and inclusive.
  • Help ERGs facilitate ways to connect. For example, one company’s Latino Employee Connections group is holding a virtual ‘Spanish speaking table talk’ lunch for those who want to learn Spanish, with bilingual ERG leaders who help people practice in a fun environment. Others are hosting digital happy hours, fitness sessions, recording videos with favorite recipes, and bringing in external speakers. 

Combating Racism & Xenophobia 

Managing Employee Stress & Anxiety 

  • Share online resources on mental health and remind employees of any relevant Employee Assistance Programs. Some companies have developed intranet page with resources particularly useful to COVID-19 responses
  • Bring in external speakers who can speak to topics like growth mindset, resilience, and allyship.
  • Offer mental health hotlines and counseling services. 
  • Start a mental health ERG.
  • Do weekly challenges that support mental health, from meditation to physical movement. Some companies’ employees are hosting virtual fitness sessions. 
  • Explicitly reduce expectations on productivity. Determine what is essential versus desirable and load sharing/re-balancing, and encourage all teams to have these conversations regularly.
  • Some companies are pausing performance reviews, while others are providing guidance on adjusting goals based on shifting work.
  • Survey your employees on their personal and professional needs related to the coronavirus pandemic. Paradigm can help!
  • Share apps and tips for staying connected with friends and family. 
  • Here are additional helpful resources shared by webinar participants: 

Remote Inclusion 

  • Host a weekly virtual discussion on a DEI topic and use this time to do DEI training, either live virtual sessions or self-paced eLearning. 
  • Remote work and norms around cameras can reveal class inequities within organizations. Don’t require people to be on video—give everyone more agency to choose what works for them, while still stressing the need for continuous communication and collaboration.
  • Do more frequent check-ins and, when possible, 1:1s.
  • Do personal check-ins at the start of each meeting. Coach people leading virtual meetings on how to  make sure everyone has a chance to speak up.
  • Start an ERG for remote employees. 
  • Ask leaders to host virtual office hours. Some leaders are keeping their video conferencing open at all times so people can “drop by their desks” whenever they need to.
  • Create opportunities for employees to connect with virtual happy hours, coffee chats, etc. One company did a virtual pet parade. 
  • Here are some tips from Paradigm on remote inclusion and effective virtual training.
  • Helpful technology platforms include:

Interviewing and Onboarding 

  • Share “how-to” tips with candidates on how to interview virtually. 
  • Re-scope your new hire orientation. One company is transforming it into bite-sized chunks over several weeks now, giving new hires something to look forward to each week with specific milestones/benchmarks.
  • Provide training and task lists for employees tasked with new onboarding efforts to ensure they are set up for success. 
  • Check out this great resource from a webinar participant.

Coaching Executives to Lead Inclusively 

  • Coach leaders on how to engage and foster a sense of safety with remote workforces. Help them with talking points, and utilize company all hands and broad meeting forums to hammer these points home.
  • Help leaders expand their definition of inclusion—in this environment, emphasize transparent decision making, sensitivity to the unique situations of their employees, and not just relying on “go-to” people. 
  • Here is an interview with Amy Edmonson, Professor of Leadership and Management at the Harvard Business School, on how leaders should think about psychological safety as they confront the coronavirus pandemic.

Overall Support 

  • Remind employees of the company values and mission in a realistic, tangible way to provide focus and improve morale. 
  • One company is considering offering all employees $100 per month for anything regarding the coronavirus pandemic: apps, delivery, childcare needs, etc.
  • Another company is using the power they have as a tech organization to support local service industries, donating the food they would have brought onsite for employees to food banks/ shelters. Others are offering employees paid volunteer hours, or donating products.

April 1, 2020

If you like to learn more about how Paradigm can help you navigate DEI during the coronavirus pandemic, contact us today!