What Are The Biggest Lessons We Learned From 2021?
A great diversity recruiting plan always starts with looking back. DEI and talent experts reveal the biggest lessons they learned from 2021.Download Full Guide
1. Your Employees Come First
Without employees, organizations cannot and will not survive. The emphasis in 2021 was on fostering happiness and fulfillment among employees. Businesses realized that it is vital to prioritize their employees. And if you don't, your chances of keeping your employees are slim.
Torin Perez, Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Consultant shares this sentiment, "Always put your people first, because if you fail to put your people first, they will leave."
He shares a story about a company he knew, stating, "They forced their employees to come back to the office, no ifs, ands, or buts about it. The HR team had been advocating heavily for a hybrid model with more flexible work arrangements, and once the executive team gave a hard no, 75% of the HR team resigned. Hit with the reality of this great resignation, the company decided to make flexible work arrangements an option for their employees."
Zynga, Inc's Vice President and Chief Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Officer, Dr. Vijay Pendakur, agrees that employees are your most valuable resource. He explains, "2021 reminded us that we have to constantly innovate how we take care of our people, often in the face of historically unprecedented challenges."
2. Candidate Experience Is Everything
2021 was the first full year of the pandemic and organizations adjusted. Similar to the power shift from employer to employee, we also saw the shift in power to candidates. And in order to attract new talent, companies had to elevate their hiring experience.
John Graham Jr., VP, Employer Brand, Diversity & Culture at Shaker Recruitment Marketing and author of Plantation Theory, echoed this viewpoint. He shares, “You’ve got to step your game up in all facets. Your offers have to be better and your candidate experience has to be more inclusive.” Competition is higher than ever and if you want to stand out John suggests focusing on brand and employee value proposition (EVP), as these will continue to trend into 2024.
3. We’re Having a “Great Awakening”
We’ve heard it all — “The Great Resignation,” “The Great Reshuffle”, etc., but Carta’s Head of Inclusion, Equity, and Impact, Mita Mallick, prefers, “The Great Awakening.” In 2021, we saw candidates and employees realize their worth and their own potential.
4. Retention Has Entered The Building
Last year we saw the conversation turn from hiring diverse teams to retaining diverse teams. Companies that had hired untapped talent were now realizing they couldn’t ignore the topic of retention.
Jenn Tardy, Diversity Recruitment Trainer, Career Coach, and LinkedIn’s Top Voices, mirrors this thought, “With the Great Resignation and the Turnover Tsunami, the recruiting teams are starting to learn that retention MUST be a part of their conversations or at minimum, recruitment must have a seat at the team around the retention conversation. There is no possible way to increase diversity if people are leaving your organization as quickly as they are entering.”
5. Employee Burnout is Real
2021 was a year of burnout for many. We were all feeling it — managers, employees, leaders, and candidates. Sophia Dozier, DEI Consultant, emphasizes the importance of businesses being keenly aware of this burnout. She reveals, "Employee burnout is real and as an employer, if you choose to ignore feedback, you too will be part of “The Great Resignation”. We have to be the guardians of our Affinity/ERG leaders. It is our job to not only make sure they have a platform and are visible, but it is also our duty to make sure that the business doesn’t take advantage of their passion for change."
Instead of putting our foot on the pedal, Sophia recommends slowing down. She says, "We need to be the voice of reason helping them slow down and ensuring they don’t burnout. We saw employees burning out this year, but we also saw ERG Leaders incredibly exhausted, with Sr. Business Leaders continuously asking for more."
6. Diversity And Inclusion Cannot Be Overlooked
2021 taught us that there is no denying the importance and necessity of DEI work. The sentiment is shared by Khalil Smith, Vice President, Inclusion, Diversity, and Engagement at Akamai.
He explains, “I would hope the biggest lesson we’ve learned from 2021 is that diversity and inclusion, and the constituent elements like fairness, justice, equity, and belonging, are not side notes to running a business, but rather that they are inextricably tied to our ability to build healthy and resilient organizations.”
He continues, “Far from being only about a certain demographic or ideology, these ideas are increasingly simply being viewed as good leadership and responsible stewardship.”
DEI work is not only integral in creating sustainable companies, but it also greatly impacts your employees. Lakuan Smith, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Manager at Justworks, shares how even the act of acknowledgment is powerful. He explains, “Over the last year, there have been a series of events that have struck our society at its core. Oftentimes we were watching and did not know what to do next. We found that when we acknowledge the situations going on in the world, it empowers our employees to share their feelings, thoughts, and concerns, all in a respectful way.”
7. Diversity And Inclusion Cannot Be Overlooked
Alex Suggs, Head of Consulting, Assessment, and Strategy at Collective DEI Lab, is no stranger to helping advance diversity, equity, and inclusion within Fortune 500 companies. Alex reveals the biggest lesson we have learned in 2021 is that trust is critical.
Alex shares, “This work moves at the speed of trust. If trust is not felt at every level of an organization, this work will continue to fall flat and potentially even continue the cycle of harm that we’ve seen again and again in our workplaces."
She continues, “Your systems can be the most effective, equitable systems that have ever been stood up in an organization, but if people don’t inherently trust the people who are operating within these systems, you’ve only won half the battle. And trust, by the way, is built through a series of repeated actions. It takes time.”