As we head into 2024, we continue talking with organizations of all sizes about their hopes and dreams for creating a truly inclusive culture within their workplace. This post highlights some of the major themes we’re seeing.
First, it’s worth noting that starting mid-year 2022 through a good portion of this year, we saw a decline in prioritizing DEI in the workplace. CDOs were leaving, DEI teams were being dismantled, DEI consultancies that spun up in 2020 and 2021 shut down or pivoted, and companies started pursuing the same goals they did before the summer of 2020 – a short, one-time training that felt more like a desire to check a box than to dismantle inequities. That being said, even though this attitudinal shift has become more prevalent as of late, we have been fortunate enough to partner over the years with many incredible organizations who remain committed to this work and continue to strive to achieve meaningful change, recognizing that it’s incremental and requires a long-term commitment.
Here are some trends we’re seeing for 2024:
- Generative AI is going to have an outsized impact on DEI in 2024. If you or your organization isn’t aware of what AI could mean for your industry, you’ll fall behind. AI has the potential to root out and mitigate biases in the hiring process as well as in everyday online workplace interactions. Here are some examples: Textio uses AI to detect biased language in job descriptions, and InclusiveBot uses AI to bubble up non-inclusive language in Slack. There are also inherent dangers of bias to be aware of with AI. Just as seat belts are less effective for women because women weren’t part of the creation process, and racial discrimination occurs in facial recognition technology because people of color weren’t part of the creation process, AI bias is already rampant, again because we need a significantly more diverse set of people, particularly with marginalized identities, to build and use it.
- Hybrid – and therefore flexibility – is here to stay. While there’s been an enormous push to return to the office, employees simply aren’t interested in your traditional 40-hour work week, 5-days-a-week situation. From a DEI perspective, flexible work styles will continue to be a priority for employees. Companies that focus on a ‘butts-in-seats’ mentality will lose quality hires to those who create spaces that allow employees to control their schedules and produce great results.
- Managers will need more support. Thanks to Gen Z (and the pandemic!), we’re all taking more stock in what working in a corporate environment means and what we want out of work, especially as we see demands from leadership increase, inflation skyrocket, and compensation stay relatively flat. Something has to give, and this tension translates to a lack of passion for moving up the corporate ladder. From a DEI perspective, managers will likely need much more support than they’ve received in the past. Soft skills/manager training, more compensation, and support from leadership to get them the resources they need to manage effectively and compassionately will be even more critical in 2024.
- Mental health support will be even more critical. There is the possibility that, for the first time in our history, a convicted felon could become the next president of the United States. This person continues to use fascist language and has promised a next term filled with revenge and hate. To say this doesn’t have an impact on the workplace is folly. We’re all humans, and many of us are truly scared. We would argue that whatever side of the political spectrum you’re on, it’s a scary time. Violence, hate, and fear, coupled with an increase in climate change catastrophes, again, are creating an opportunity to ask ourselves questions such as, Why are we doing this work? To what end? And, if we aren’t going to be financially secure when we’re unable to work, what needs to change so we can be more secure when that time comes? We have to find ways to balance being productive so that we can support ourselves and our families and also find time to process everything happening in the world. From a DEI perspective, simply recognizing the humanity in all of us and acknowledging that we need to take breaks while still moving forward will be critical. Mental health and wellness support have started to fade away for companies. 2024 will be a year where it’ll be crucial to double down on this support.
- DEI Teams and Employee Resource Groups mature and evolve. 2020 saw a significant increase in the creation of DEI teams (councils, committees, and the like) and employee resource groups (‘ERGs’) in workplaces. More than three years later, we’re seeing an evolution of these groups from meeting/processing spaces to thought leaders within their organizations on policy and programming. Leaders are looking to employees passionate about creating a genuinely inclusive workplace for guidance; this will be the year these groups will have more influence.
- Leaders who don’t care about DEI will have difficulty attracting quality talent. The younger workforce is more interested in ensuring they’re working for organizations that do more than pay lip service to DEI within their workplace and are happy to go elsewhere. While the tech industry has been a prize place to work for the past few decades, an increase in layoffs has tech workers looking into other sectors to find a home. In reality, most companies are some version of tech these days, and workers no longer have to work for companies with a startup mentality. Working for a company with more stability, a steady paycheck, and a longer history of inclusion support might be a better fit. After all, ERGs didn’t start in the tech startup world of the 2000s.
- DEI takes a more global/local approach. While there are some common themes in DEI (we’re all human, after all!), the understanding of DEI is very different depending on your country and region. We explore this more in our post about supporting your workforce’s global DEI initiatives. 2024 will see an increased need to understand the cultural differences between regions and how we can work together effectively and inclusively.
If past years are any indication of the future, we’re in for a wild ride in 2024. The workplace will continue to evolve as our needs do. What do you think will happen in 2024? Write to us. We’d love to hear from you!