Over the last few years, there has been an increased focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in the media, but what does that mean for our industry?

First and foremost, the top priority for many professionals is that our business continuity plans are enacted to ensure everyone can make it home safely. While there is much focus on race and gender when we talk about DEI, there are other categories we should be taking into consideration, especially with some of the shifts in the workplace since the beginning of the pandemic. There has been an increase in the awareness around neurodiversity, generations in the workplace, disability, and gender identity and expression, among other topics.

If we are tasked with ensuring people are safe in our workplace, especially during a crisis or incident, these plans should be accessible to everyone in our organization.

Neurodiversity has risen in visibility in the past few years as there has been more access to people who are no longer masking and asking for accommodation in the workplace to be more productive employees. Having more neurodivergent people in the workforce may mean we must shift around how plans are created or how exercises are done to be more equitable to the people responding to events. We may need to provide information differently than how it has always been done, which is fine.

Updating and changing our practices is a good thing, and there should always be a review to ensure the plans still meet any company or certification standards while also ensuring plans are practicable for the people and teams working on the plan. Reducing long passages of text, when a checklist would suffice, is a change that allows for the information to be consumed by more groups. It has been said many times, no one is reading the plan. Is the text overwhelming when one is given information and asked questions from all directions? People can consume information in various ways. How can we, as professionals, ensure people get information in the easiest ways to consume?

One of the most significant changes is that we now have five generations in the workplace, ranging in age from 16 to 75. Those five generations all have different experiences and how they want to interact and be treated in the workplace. Generation Z, which is the youngest in the workplace, is much more digitally native to the Baby Boomers and the ones in the silent generation who are still working. How all those people want to receive information is different; some may still want paper plans, while others expect it to be in an app if it isn’t automated, the action that needs to take place. Navigating these differences in generations while ensuring safety is highly important because if there is a misunderstanding, that could mean a difference in how quickly operations can return to normal.

As continuity professionals, the average age tends to skew older, so how do we continue to bring new people to the fold to ensure they feel like they can learn and be respected in the industry? Students need to be made aware this is an industry they can step into. Unfortunately, many already have experience seeing active shooter drills as the norm. They may have never organized one, but they have participated in many of these drills in school. Why not take advantage of that experience for the students who are interested in this field? Taking their advice could make exercising like active shooter or weather events less traumatic.

Listening to their experience – doing it for at least 13 years – gives them a lot of insight from even Millennials who grew up at the forefront of school shootings, but not actively exercising what to do if it happens while in school. These future colleagues’ insights could change how we do specific exercises and events to benefit everyone. Still, there must be openness to new and fresh ideas and treating them with validity instead pushing them off due to their age and experience.

Similarly, people with disabilities have always been vocal about their needs. However, are we listening to what they are saying about their needs? Inviting them to the table to be active participants in the planning allows them to have their agency if a crisis happens and a building needs to be evacuated or moved to a safe location. When was the last time you invited people who may have a different consideration than other employees to the table to check in and see what they need? Not asking and guessing what they need could means employees lose their agency and may lose faith they are treated the same as others in the company.

Studies show that by 2050, the amount of people who have a disability is expected to double, which means more people will have varying needs. This is something that will have to be thought and planned for in our plans. It may mean working closer with human resources to ensure the needs of all employees are taken care of within our planning. Working with human resources may allow employees who feel comfortable with disclosing to come to the table to ensure we think will enable them to have and keep their agency even in critical events.

The last population of people I want to speak about in this article are transgender and non-binary people. In our plans and exercises, there are easy things that can be done by just updating the language from gendered “man” or “woman” to words like “people” or “employees.” Updating language allows everyone to feel seen and validated in our documentation. It is also easy to update during each review cycle, so it doesn’t all have to be overhauled at one time.

Additionally, we have to think about the safety of all of our employees. Over the last couple of years, more places have become unsafe to certain communities, like the transgender community. If an incident calls for a team to be deployed to a state or area of the world that has passed laws to regulate their existence, that could cause additional harm to the individual. Teams may need to be reformulated to ensure an organization isn’t creating additional harm by how a team may be configured. Employees shouldn’t be put in an unsafe position.

There are so many different aspects to DEI that impact continuity and resilience, and these four topics in the article are a few of many things which need to start to be incorporated into our plans and exercises. From working with neurodivergent people, to having more generations in the workplace, the number of people who have disabilities in the workplace, to the impacts some of the respective laws are having on transgender and non-binary people are all things we have to think about because it does have an impact on our plans and exercises.

Our jobs are to ensure the safety of people and that operations can continue. Embracing diversity, equity, and inclusion as part of resilience will allow employees to feel seen, they are a part of the organization, and ultimately make responses easier as they will know they are active participants instead of having rules forced upon them. Ensuring employees are a part of the process wherever possible is just the right thing to do.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Ray Holloman

Ray Holloman, MBA, MS, CBCP, CCRP, MBCI, is a senior program manager for enterprise disaster recovery for F5 Networks. He is also the founder and CEO of Holloman Solutions.

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