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The world is finally emerging out of the Covid-19 pandemic. While a total end to the crisis may still be some time away, global economies are already on the recovery path. The final days of the pandemic have opened an excellent opportunity for us to re-imagine life and build better, more empathetic workplaces. Organizations, having seen the worst over the past two years, are now seeing things in an entirely new light. The idea of diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) has moved from casual boardroom conversations to more tangible business implementations. Business leaders have realized that DE&I helps to unlock innovation, forge better corporate culture and usher in success for everyone.

Diversity in the Global Village

We live in an increasingly interconnected and complex world shaped by technological advancements and globalization. Diversity is now the fabric of a modern, digitized society that is no longer limited by distance or time. Businesses are keener than ever to scale their DE&I programs, cutting across geo-cultural boundaries, and have joined the “talent war” to attract marginalized talent segments. Achieving success at a global level calls for cross-cultural initiatives besides pursuing sustained efforts to weave in diversity and equity into an inclusive work environment that is in line with an organization’s broader growth vision. This has opened a never-seen-before opportunity for businesses to access a diverse talent pool and spearhead growth globally.

The importance for companies to have a globally diverse labor force cannot be overemphasized enough. A workforce founded on DE&I principles drives innovation and enhances creativity. At the same time, it challenges the traditional, often draconian, business assumptions and ideas. After the pandemic struck, a number of businesses expedited major structural changes covering key areas of operations, marketing, and hiring and retention.

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The DE&I Market: What the Numbers Say

According to a recent report by San Jose-based research firm Global Industry Analysts (GIA), the international market for DE&I is expected to grow to $15.4 billion by the end of 2026, growing at a compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) of 12.6% over a 7-year period under review. Over the analysis period, GIA estimated a 12.1% CAGR for employee resource groups.

The GIA report also reveals that diverse companies generate 2.5 times higher cash flow per employee and that inclusive teams are 35% more productive than their homogeneous counterparts.

According to a 2018 study by Harvard Business Review, companies with above-average employee diversity report 19% higher innovation revenues and 9% higher EBIT (Earnings before interest and taxes) margins.

Put simply, companies that embrace DE&I experience better business outcomes.

Millennials to Steer DE&I

The Deloitte Millennial Survey indicates that by the end of 2025, millennials are expected to account for 75% of the global workforce. This means they will be the majority in leadership roles over the next decade and beyond. Millennials and Gen Z will be responsible for making key decisions and shaping the overall workplace culture. Their perspective of DE&I is different from that of the older generations. While the latter considered equality and representation as diversity, members of the future workforce will continue to see DE&I as an intersectionality of diverse backgrounds, individual perspectives and varying experiences in a supportive and cohesive environment.

Looking Through the Crystal Ball  

The world of work is set to grow exponentially faster than it has in the past. The pandemic has forced companies across the globe to go back to the drawing board and produce new plans to adapt to a rapidly changing environment. Innovations have been fast-tracked, and the trend will continue. Streamlining of businesses will open opportunities for leaders to embed DE&I in core corporate culture, educate teams about the benefits of inclusion and reconnect with customers with greater empathy and better solutions. In a fiercely competitive world, it’s the people who give a competitive edge. Every business, regardless of its size and area of operation, needs people. And when they come from diverse backgrounds, the result is a melting pot of innovation, creativity and collaboration.

Diversity is a given. Inclusion is a choice. With the uncertain economic times likely to last for months even after the pandemic is well and truly over, DE&I could prove to be the potion of growth and stability.

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