Inclusion and diversity are at risk in the COVID-19 crisis says McKinsey and Company. But the management consultants argue that both are critical for business recovery, resilience, and reimagination in a new paper called Diversity Still Matters.

Furthermore they note, “Our research and the research of others suggest that when companies invest in diversity and inclusion, they are in a better position to create more adaptive, effective teams and more likely to recognize diversity as a competitive advantage. Meanwhile, other companies might struggle.”

According to McKinsey and Co, “The lessons from previous crises tell us there is a very real risk that inclusion and diversity (I&D) may now recede as a strategic priority for organizations.”

McKinsey and Co says the change in emphasis might be unintentional as businesses focus on immediate and existential threats or move to adopt measures around new ways of working; workforce capacity; productivity, and the physical and mental health of their employees.

However, their advice is that the best approach followed is to acknowledge that the qualities of diverse and inclusive companies—notably innovation and resilience—are precisely what will be required during the recovery phase post-pandemic.

Indeed they argue that companies that reverse course on inclusion and diversity will put themselves at a disadvantage, risking a backlash from customers and talent now, and limiting their potential for growth and renewal down the line.

The key point of the paper is that the benefits of inclusion and diversity are clear and will not change because of COVID-19.

“Over the past five years, the likelihood that diverse companies will out-earn their industry peers has grown. So have the penalties for companies lacking diversity.” Indeed an upcoming report from the consultant’s Latin American group will once again demonstrate the “Strong correlation between gender diversity and positive behavior directly related to better organizational health—which, in turn, is associated with better business performance.”

According to the authors of the paper, Kevin Dolan, Vivian Hunt, Sara Prince, and Sandra Sancier-Sultan, “Our previous research found that women tend to demonstrate, more often than men, five of the nine types of leadership behavior that improve organizational performance, including talent development.

They say that women also more frequently apply three of the four types of behavior—intellectual stimulation, inspiration, and participative decision making—that most effectively address the global challenges of the future.

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