If 2022 showed us anything, it was not only how divided we still are but also, tragically, some Americans’ tendency towards cruelty and violence. Domestic terror continued with shootings at schools, grocery stores and nightclubs.
As we enter 2023, our country remains divided; in fact, news outlets reported this summer that 2 in 5 Americans believe civil war is somewhat likely in the next decade. While the poll may seem hyperbolic, it highlights the fact that in 2023 we must do much more if we want to stop this downward spiral and come back stronger going into the second half of the 21st century.
At the same time, we should not lose sight of the fact that the 2022 elections were historic: the first time a sitting president’s party lost so few Congressional seats, which may be due at least in part to the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade. The majority of voters appear to be looking forward toward a better future, rather than rolling back to a more restrictive past.
As we look to 2023, most businesses will think about economics. So, let’s go there first. The outlook for 2023 remains uncertain, due to high inflation and rising interest rates. The Conference Board cited shaky confidence among businesses and consumers, reductions in consumption and investment, and energy shocks caused by geopolitical clashes that could tip the U.S. into recession, although one that would likely be “short and mild.” Goldman Sachs, meanwhile, believes the U.S. will squeak by without a recession, but projects a “mild recession” in Europe and a “below-trend” economic growth rate.
There is more to a stronger future, however, than just GDP. We need to acknowledge, once again, the link among innovation, creativity, and diversity. As Austin Mac Nab, writing as a business co-founder for Entrepreneur magazine, observed: “There is no doubt that fostering a diverse workplace creates a culture that encourages and supports the creative thinking that is key to supercharging company growth.” Well said, although this is hardly the first time any of us have heard this. And yet it bears repeating: DEI serves the bottom line.
That’s why the following DEI resolutions for 2023 make sense for organizations not only socially, but also economically. And why wouldn’t they? Increasingly, those two goals are one in the same.
Build curiosity and empathy with cultural holidays. A high point for 2022 was the declaration of Juneteenth as a federal holiday. While the holiday is a start, companies need to do more to build curiosity and empathy within their cultures by centering the contributions of diverse communities. At Lazu Group, we have made it a priority to highlight the importance of culture, curiosity, communication and connection by marking the calendar with more than just days to be observed; rather, it’s all about why those days are so important for all of us. We believe this should be a priority for organizations in 2023.
Leverage work-from-anywhere to support DEI goals. When companies complain about the difficulty of hiring more diverse people in their city or state, a workable solution is to leverage remote work to attract more talent. Being able to hire from anywhere allows companies to tap into a broader pipeline, without needing to convince talent to move into less diverse areas. While this is a positive trend, it is not a cure-all. As Forbes points out, it’s important to build a strong work-from-home culture that purposefully embraces and celebrates diversity, instead of allowing remoteness to cloak or even exacerbate current biases. This can’t be left to guesswork. A-work-from-home culture audit should be on the agenda for all companies in 2023.
Rethink whether a college degree is really necessary. College education is being dropped as a requirement for hiring by many companies, including Tesla and Google. While a college education is becoming more accessible, it still ends up being an institutional bias in hiring. Moreover, a college degree is not necessarily the best criterion for finding qualified talent, particularly where aptitude, a desire to learn, and passion for the work are far more important. If your company wants to expand its talent pipeline, consider dropping a college degree as a barrier to finding qualified talent.
Engage in corporate activism – your employees and customers will thank you. Companies have been standing up on issues, from protecting women’s right to choose to fighting “don’t say gay,” among other social issues. Keep leaning in on what matters most to your constituents. As Peter Gleason, the CEO of the National Association of Corporate Directors, observed recently, “Companies should work to strengthen relationships with stakeholders to understand their interests and perspectives on current and emerging social issues and their intersection with the company’s mission, vision and values.”
The key part of any resolution can be found in the root of the word “resolve,” which means to find a solution and settle on a course of action. Indeed, for 2023 to show any improvement over 2022, we need to resolve, individually and collectively, to take action – and lead the way.
Malia Lazu is a lecturer in the Technological Innovation, Entrepreneurship and Strategic Management Group at the MIT Sloan School of Management, CEO of The Lazu Group and former Eastern Massachusetts regional president and chief experience and culture officer at Berkshire Bank.