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Diversity, inclusion and equity in a crisis
Thriving Together

Diversity, inclusion and equity in a crisis

Read the below on behalf of Tanya Blackmon, executive vice president and chief diversity, inclusion and equity officer

Usually in a crisis we discover in the moment what really matters. We are forced to apply focus on the critical issues just to get through the crisis. What is important is that we learn from those moments so that we can thrive long after the crisis ends. 

So, the question is, where does Diversity, Inclusion and Equity fit into the management of the crisis.  "Maybe", we say, "it is a time to cut back on our efforts. We have a lot of other issues to focus on. More important issues." But…it matters even more3 during a crisis. 

The crisis has profound consequences on people of every race, occupation, age, and gender, etc. Companies may tend to fall into old and familiar patterns, and leadership becomes less diverse, less inclusive, than what our vision of a world or an organization that includes the voices of our communities. 

Seeing what we do through the lens of Diversity, Inclusion and Equity has never been more important. 

We need to do more…not less. We need to do more, not simply the same. We need to do more, because the essential importance of Diversity, Inclusion and Equity can be leveraged to it give us the power to unite in supporting our communities and our businesses.  

When an organization is committed to utilizing diversity, inclusion and equity as a strategic business lever, the test of the commitment is in a time of crisis.   That time is now.  At the moment, the crisis is COVID-19.  

The protective measures that we have to take to keep our team members (employees) and patients (consumers) safe - physically and emotionally, and to maintain the overall financial health of the organization are significant.  But when we come out of this crisis, and we will, what will be the lasting result of how we have acted during this time?

Here are a few questions that we should ask ourselves:

  • What structures are in place (intentionally or unintentionally) that could be an advantage for some people and a disadvantage for other people during a time of crisis?  Those who lean into Diversity, Inclusion and Equity during this time will recognize and mitigate new threats and capitalize on new opportunities for growth.
  • Have you created committees, task forces or gathered input from diverse groups of people to make decisions that reflect the varied perspectives of your workforce and patients (consumers)?
  • What is the positive reputation of the organization in the community that you want to maintain or increase?   And how can you do it? People will remember what your organization has done. The crisis will end, but the emotional toll will linger. Caring for our communities now will pay huge dividends in terms of good will and reputation for years to come.

 

 When there is a crisis, leaders have to make many decisions that impact both the organization and its people.  Below are a few tips to use when applying the diversity, inclusion and equity lens to decision-making. 

  • Complete an assessment of the needs of the organization and your various teams.  Don't assume the status quo will continue to work. Nothing is normal. This assessment requires understanding both the business and the needs of the people of an organization.  How have things changed? What are the logistical, financial and emotional challenges that need to be unearthed and consider what has been missed? 
  • Work harder to incorporate the perspectives of different voices.  It is easy to default to surrounding yourself with voices that have similar perspectives as yours. Create new communication and feedback channels. Use video calls, chats, polls, etc. to bring more people into your circle.
  • Leverage your Business Resource Groups or Employee Resource Groups and other team members to encourage innovation, to obtain suggestions and ideas or reactions related to proposed changes in the organization.
  • Organizations exist inside of communities.  Leverage community partnerships to benefit the workforce and consumers.
  • Debrief and review the interventions, behaviors, etc. both during the crisis and after the crisis to assess what worked well and where there were missed opportunities.  What have you learned that can be valuable information for the future?

 

Our commitment to Diversity, Inclusion and Equity has to be long-term and intentional and a part of the organization's strategic business imperatives. Because this crisis, like all crises is about people.

Learn more about how Novant Health is taking a stand. 

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