The PESA Inclusion & Diversity Business Champion program, the first of its kind in the oilfield services sector, brought together participants to identify opportunities for inclusion, equity and diversity growth.
To prepare for the discussion, participants were asked to read “Adapt Your D&I Efforts to the Reality of the Crisis,” an article by Lily Zheng in the Harvard Business Review explaining why inclusion and diversity is important because of COVID-19 and should not be considered non-essential. Participants discussed the author’s point that inclusion and diversity is necessary to respond to COVID-19 correctly and cited many examples to reflect its significance.
“Leaders need to understand that some of the immediate obstacles they face are also critical DE&I challenges.” Lily Zheng, Harvard Business Review
The participants also examined Zheng’s identification of middle management playing a key role in crisis management. Several attendees emphasized that supervisors need to manage the mental health of employees, especially since many people are working longer hours remotely. Managers should encourage team members to take time off even if they are working from home.
Middle managers should also schedule time for themselves to think and to have individual interactions with staff. While some employees enjoy remote work, others are eager to get back to the office. Both need to be recognized in different ways. Some employees may feel isolated while working from home. Managers should work with HR to identify employees who need additional touchpoints.
When encountering pushback from employees on new in-office policies and procedures, the group suggested emphasizing that changes are about the community, not the individual. It is also important to communicate that social interaction will be different as people transition back to work. Office environments will be different until the pandemic is controlled.
Participants agreed that consistent and clear messaging are critical components in crisis communications with employees. Flexibility and adapting to changing circumstances are key, and companies should welcome questions. Management emphasized that regular team meetings and communications are important to prevent employees from feeling left out or uninformed. When returning to the office, companies should provide the appropriate guidelines and PPE that will ensure their safety. Back to Work FAQs for employees are helpful.
The pandemic has changed how companies are looking at remote work options, participants said. Organizations have learned people can be successful and productive working remotely. Most said productivity has improved and that outreach to colleagues is more focused and intentional. In addition, employees and managers appreciate having more access to leadership.
One challenge is that “water cooler” conversations have diminished. To keep the group connected, companies have implemented informal chats, video conferences, games and happy hours. Remote platforms may create efficiency and cost-cutting in the future, and remote events can engage people globally. Participants also noted that working remotely has “humanized” the workplace and workforce. Team members are displaying more empathy toward colleagues and customers and are making the effort to be more respectful of others’ feelings.
Prioritizing knowledge is also an important factor when incorporating inclusion and diversity in the COVID response. Participants emphasized the importance of gathering information on pain points and opportunities through tools like surveys, polls, townhalls or Slido — anonymous ways to ask questions and get authentic feedback.
The group discussed meeting the new challenges by matching problems with specialists. It’s important to provide employees with resources they need, as well as training and education critical to specialized problem-solving.
Companies are working to manage challenges around manufacturing employees feeling resentment because they must go to company facilities, while office employees work from home. The group consensus was that managers should have upfront conversations delivering a strong message that those coming in are a critical part of the company’s infrastructure and are key to assuring business sustainability.
Key Take-Aways from participants’ discussions:
- Working during this time and transitioning to a “new normal” has humanized everyone, including senior leadership, and has opened the door to communication at all levels.
- I&D needs to be considered part of the global culture. It should not just be a program, otherwise it will be cast aside during a crisis.
- As companies are reorganizing, they need to consider how I&D initiatives are being incorporated into the new organizational structure.
- The pandemic has given companies an opportunity to explore flexibility.
- Employees have built connections, created bonds, and created invaluable teamwork while working remotely.
- Recent events around racial inequality provided opportunities for companies to provide company-wide messaging addressing I&D across the board and address cultural growth opportunities.
- Although OFS companies may not be hiring over the next several months, they should focus on creating a culture that makes people want to join and want to stay.
- Several silver linings identified:
- Leaders have learned how to drive and lead with empathy to be successful
- Executives have learned to be humble. They have voiced personal challenges, personalizing messages and thanking employees, and it’s resonating with team members.
To learn more about PESA’s Inclusion and Diversity Programs, contact PESA Director Membership Services Carolynn Henriquez.