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Don’t Let Downsizing or the Need for Layoffs Threaten Your DEI Efforts

For decades, diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) efforts were considered nice-to-have (if they were considered at all). If they were, they tended to fall into the realm of initiatives that would be possible to pursue if the company was operating successfully and there were some surplus resources.

But when tough times emerged, these efforts were often among the first to fall by the wayside as companies sought ways to conserve resources and cut budgets.

DEI Efforts Proving Valuable

Today, businesses are increasingly aware of the critical importance of DEI efforts on business performance as well as recruitment and retention, and such efforts are decreasingly seen as merely discretionary.

Don’t Let Cutbacks Diminish That Value

Unfortunately, even in an era where DEI is increasingly values, it’s still the case that DEI efforts are often put on the back burner during hard times. Widespread layoffs, themselves, can negatively impact a company’s DEI efforts—initially by negatively impacting staff diversity. While a company might be actively recruiting and hiring diverse talent, if that diversity is disproportionately represented in layoffs, it’s two steps forward, one step back.

Cost Savings Can Come at the Expense of Inclusion

“While there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to determining who will be impacted by downsizing, decisions often occur at the top of the organization, driven first and foremost by cost-savings goals,” write Corey Jones, Dana Middleton and Rebecca Weaver in an article for Harvard Business Review.

“By focusing on cost savings at the expense of inclusion, leaders risk undermining the great work they’ve done to build trust and connection with their employees, particularly women and employees of color,” they say. It’s important for organizations to take the time to think through the potential impacts of downsizing or rightsizing efforts. This is important not only to avoid legal risks but to avoid negative impacts on building an inclusive culture.

“Who gets laid off can have long-term unintended consequences for the people who remain,” Jones, Middleton, and Weaver write.

Take a Long-Term Focus

Business leaders may feel they have their hands tied when it comes to balancing goals during layoffs. The prevailing mindset is often one of short-term crisis mode; but it’s important to remember that companies will be worse off in the long-run if they completely disregard long-term goals like diversity, equity, and inclusion. In the end, though, it may be more expensive to make up the lost ground squandered in a hastily planned layoff without due consideration for DEI.

Be inclusive—even in tough times!

Recommended Reading


Are you tired of workplace diversity training that does not link to business? Are you tired of tactics that don’t drive business results? InclusionINC has inclusion and strategic consulting that link inclusion to employee engagement, productivity, innovation and retention, moving inclusion beyond tactics to a critical business strategy.


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