The COVID-19 pandemic has been incredibly disruptive to organizations, with many having to make the difficult decision to reduce their workforce as a result of lost revenue. Companies that are going through layoffs have to contend with a multitude of complicated issues, and often neglect to take into consideration the impact those actions will have on diversity and inclusion in the workplace.
Research shows that women and minorities have historically been disproportionally impacted during layoffs, and that during the first half of this year, unemployment is rising fastest for women and people of color1. The net result is that layoffs, while undertaken to strengthen a company during a period of crisis, ultimately pose a substantial reputational risk given growing pressures for actionable D&I policies and commitments in the wake of widespread unrest over racial inequality and injustice.
These risks can be mitigated through approaches that incorporate and even elevate D&I objectives while simultaneously helping the company reduce headcount and manage expenses. When performed thoughtfully and transparently, companies making the difficult decision to let employees go can emerge with a re-formed organizational structure that capitalizes on the benefits of having a diverse workforce.
I had the pleasure of assisting Azra Gul, Ruben Hillar, Diana Horn, Tina Shah Paikeday, and Eric Wimpfheimer with the development of this paper, which was published by Russell Reynolds Associates.