5 Diversity and Inclusion Trends to Expect in 2020

In 2020, diversity, equity, and inclusion remain top of mind for human resource departments and research and development professionals. Organizational leaders outside of HR are more frequently focusing on diversity and inclusion, both as a core principle of the workplace culture and as a vital business advantage. The reputation of the workplace as a learning and working community for a more diverse workforce has made all of us more attuned to the need for continued education around diversity, equity, and inclusion.

The workforce today is one of the most diverse in our nation’s history. The definition of diversity in the workplace is both expanding to include more demographic characteristics like race, ethnicity, and gender; and recognizing the importance of the intersection of identities on the employee experience.

While it is clear that a diverse workforce can better business outcomes such as generating fresh, innovative ideas and better business performance; leaders are needing to focus deliberately on the organization’s workplace culture, employee engagement and well-being, and the legal ramifications of bringing together a workforce that is anything but homogenous.

Below are 5 diversity, equity, and inclusion trends we can expect throughout 2020.

1. More Attention on the Multigenerational Workforce

In terms of generational makeup, the workforce is aging and changing. Today there are five, or sometimes more, generations in the workplace ranging from the Silent generation (people born between 1928 – 1945), Baby Boomers (people born between 1946 – 1964), Generation X (people born between 1965 – 1980), Millennials or Generation Y (people born between 1981 – 1996) and the newest group, Generation Z (people born since 1997).

Each generation has a different expectation around topics like re-education in the age of automation, holistic employee wellness programs, connecting work to social influence and purpose, flexible work arrangements, leveraging social media inside and outside the workplace, forming what it means to “bring your full self to work”, and a plethora of other issues that will affect inclusion training in the future.

2. Unconscious Bias in the Workplace and How it Impacts Employees

Implied or unconscious bias, the tendency to process information based on unconscious associations or feelings, is not necessarily a new discussion topic in the workplace. In 2020 we can expect to see a focus on how the biases, especially of managers and leaders, have an influence on an organization’s culture and the growth (or lack thereof) towards a diverse and inclusive workplace. Expect to see more content and information on how our personal biases influence workplace decisions and ways business leaders can reduce the impact of unconscious bias.

3. Policies Supporting Gender Identity and Expression 

Gender identity and gender expression/presentation have been popular subjects in recent years, with an increasing awareness of the difficulties faced by employees who do not identify with their sex assigned when they were born. In 2019, Merriam-Webster recognized “they” as a singular, non-gender-specific pronoun.

Organizations around the country are engaging with issues associated to the use of gender-specific restrooms, many simply offering gender-neutral options. HR departments are focused on providing healthcare benefits that are inclusive of employees who are transitioning. Managers are in need of education around the language and their responsibility related to an employees’ gender identity and expression.

As the journey to recognize and accept transgendered and gender non-binary employees continues, 2020 will probably see more focus on modernizing diversity, equity, and inclusion education along with a need to have internal communications and training around gender-inclusivity.

4. Shifting From Diversity and Inclusion to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion 

The past few years have brought to the forefront that a focus on diversity, or expanding representation of people from various backgrounds, views, and experiences, is only part of the equation. Inclusion, making space and amplifying the voices of all employees, equally, is another focus for employers and organizations. Both of these concepts will remain a key focus for organizations throughout 2020.

Many employers are also focusing on the idea of equity as part of their overall strategy. Equity in the workplace comes to light in a variety of ways from unpacking decision points that lead to pay inequity, exploring equity in talent development investments, and leveraging initiatives like Business Resource Groups (also known as Affinity Groups) as a means to discuss equity continuation preparation.

The focus on equity in the workplace will be a amplified point as companies are being asked to operate with a more profound level of transparency around compensation reporting, board representation, harassment reporting, advancement, and other talent management practices.

5. Diversity of Political Thought and the Election Cycle

The 2016 presidential race apparently changed the practice of discussing politics in the workplace from being forbidden to being common. This shift has created workplace dynamics that can be counterproductive and cause tension among employees. That tension is likely to remain over the next several months as the 2020 election approaches. With a country that is polarized along political lines, and a controversial election emerging; companies should be prepared and proactive about promoting a workplace culture of respectful communication and acceptance of varying perspectives.

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