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Recently, at Circa’s 4th Diversity Symposium, there was an in-depth panel discussion regarding diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) and the future of work. In terms of the labor market overall, we’re in a much different place than many thought we’d be early in the year. Just within the first two months, the US labor market has added more than 800,000 jobs, although we’re still experiencing one of the lowest unemployment rates we’ve seen, which can make it difficult to hire talent.
In the outlook for 2023, interest rates are rising historically fast, layoffs are returning to pre-pandemic norms, and hiring and quits are expected to normalize throughout the year. In fact, LaborIQ predicts that HR professionals will stay quite busy this year with a projection of nearly 69 million hires. Plus, employee expectations have changed.
So, what does this mean for DEI in the workplace? We’ve compiled our primary takeaways from the discussion to demonstrate what employers and HR leaders can expect throughout the year.
With the rise of “quiet quitting” and workers fearing layoffs, strategic organizations are actively and quickly going after top talent right now. Rather than only interviewing people who are coming from another position, hiring managers are also interviewing those who are currently unemployed. This makes the turnaround for talent hunting very rapid. If hiring managers are slow to get people on board, those potential candidates will look elsewhere and be swept up by competitors faster than in previous years. HR leaders should aim to stay in regular contact with candidates during the decision process, as it can make the difference between top talent and acceptable talent.
With the adaptation of remote and hybrid workforces, hiring and recruiting now looks quite different. Managers can now hire outside their local market, and the virtual world provides much more flexibility in interviewing and reaching a large audience of candidates.
Opening the hiring net from local to national has been one of the biggest disruptors of the remote/hybrid workforce. Not only because hiring managers have access to a wider range of talent, but also because candidates have access to a wider range of employment opportunities and salary options. For example, an area with a higher cost of living like the coasts could hire an employee from a Midwest area that has a much lower cost of living for what would be a considerably higher salary for the candidate.
Considering that there is a lot of underlying fear of being laid off circulating the labor market, it is critical for employers to be as transparent as possible with their employees. This means being straightforward and having constant communication regarding KPIs, ongoing business strategy, etc. so employees understand why certain decisions are being made.
For example, if employees expect a certain level of merit-based pay increase each year and that won’t be possible for the organization without creating layoffs, leaders need to express this to their team members so they are included in the conversation. This creates a level of inclusivity and gives them the ability to financially plan as well as work through the process as coworkers. Building this confidence in loyalty and trust between the employee base and the company helps mitigate fear surrounding uncertainty.
When we talk about the labor force, that means anyone who is currently employed or actively seeking employment. The labor force has seen some significant shifts among underrepresented groups — for instance, there are more women in the labor force for the first time since the pandemic. However, the ratio of women returning is still not as high as that of men.
Additionally, almost all of the additional gain in the labor force was in the non-white sector. With that being said, those numbers tie back to the occupation and the demographic population within said occupations. Plus, the unemployment rates of different occupations will be a primary factor in those statistics. For example, 13% of the US labor force is black, but on the contrary, only 6% of all software developers are.
We’ve also seen the hybrid workplace impact individuals with disabilities, where there has been improvement particularly in remote positions. Often to many people’s surprise, roughly 12% of the workforce has at least some form of disability. The good news is that not only is hybrid work positively impacting inclusivity for those with disabilities, but an improving market and finding new ways to bring talent into organizations has cause the unemployment rate for people with disabilities to decline from 10% to 7.6%. This is an excellent statistic, but the challenge remains that this is still double the unemployment rate of the overall labor force.
These statistics are a great opportunity for employers and HR leaders to focus on reanalyzing and adjusting their diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) strategies to be suitable for all types of individuals. For example, there is a large lack of access to certain recruitment processes, such as automated applicant tracking systems that may make it difficult to use a mobile device when applying for a position. Essentially, it’s crucial for employers to recognize and mitigate artificial barriers, especially in remote and hybrid environments.
The future of work and DEI is always evolving, and employers need to keep this top of mind as their organizations and overall goals also evolve. At Circa, we specialize in helping companies diversify their workforce, make the environment welcoming and engaging, and improve processes in an authentic and inclusive way. Reach out to our team to learn more and be sure to check out our library of resources.