Q1 2023 has already been plagued with discourse about the state of DEI and whether the golden momentum from 2020 has passed. But in an interview with HR Dive regarding HR layoffs and ethical offboarding, Cat Ward, vice president of employer mobilization at Jobs for the Future, dropped a hopeful gem.
Many of her clients have hiring freezes and contractor layoffs on the horizon. The labor expert said she had been worried that headcount reductions would lead to “backpedaling” on the investments that lead to more equitable outcomes and career mobility.
“And what I’ve been hearing has actually heartened me,” Ward said, explaining that CEOs are not backing down from prior racial equity commitments. “That’s one thing that’s coming out strong,” she said.
This anecdote is worth considering, in a news cycle dominated by reports of the opposite. (Although one DEI expert recently told HR Dive that inclusion and belonging work isn’t dead — it just needs a revival.) In a report published Jan. 25, DEI leaders told Gartner that C-suite executives continue to drop the ball on representation, equity and inclusion progress.
Ward suggested that pulling back on hiring can free up HR’s time and attention to focus on existing talent: “If we’re looking ahead to the potential cooling and slowing down of hiring, it creates room for people to just breathe a bit now — to say, ‘Let’s do this right.’”
To Ward’s point, McLean and Company published some guidance on Feb. 15 — in honor of Black History Month — regarding HR’s role in both DEI and engagement, in the form of aiding employee resource groups. The first best practice: HR should seek to understand the current state of ERGs.
Second, McLean suggested HR create formal structures and processes to support ERGs. This framework can include an application process for organizational support, and an outline of expectations for executive sponsors.
And lastly, McLean suggested HR establish metrics to monitor DEI progress — and methods for sustainment.