The diversity demand, and how HR leaders can answer it

The global workforce is slowly emerging from a period of extreme disruption and uncertainty.

ARTICLE | 4m read
January 26, 2021

The pandemic has ravaged employment rolls around the globe—but what happens when the pandemic ends and hiring ramps up? Businesses that fail to provide a quality employee experience will face a bidding war for talent, as top candidates take advantage of an economy on the upswing, and flexible work models that allow them to work where they choose.

That became abundantly in the recently published Citrix Talent Accelerator report, a piece of opinion research drawing from 2,000 knowledge workers and 500 HR Directors in large, established corporations and mid-market businesses, based in the US.

Over three-quarters of employees (78 percent) and 72 percent of HR Directors believe that location bias will be eliminated post-pandemic, as talent acquisition is no longer restricted by geographical boundaries. And 86 percent of employees believe that a diverse workforce—whether geographically, ethnically, or neurologically—will become even more important as roles, skills, and company requirements change in the future.

As organizations create and refine D&I (diversity and inclusion) initiatives that prize measurable hiring and retention results, they have an opportunity to build stronger, more diverse teams as they enter this new phase of recovery. But it won’t always be easy. To draw top talent, they will need to make their tech work harder and prioritize the employee experience in meaningful, measurable ways.

Use these core actions to capitalize on the diversity demand:

Drive diversity in talent and technology

Overall, employees are more optimistic about diversity than HR Directors are. As mentioned, nearly 90 percent of employees believe that a diverse workforce will become even more important as roles, skills, and company requirements change. However, only 66 percent of HRDs agree.

Employees feel that as technology advances, new roles will value backgrounds and skill sets that may have been underrepresented in the past. One example: Almost three-quarters of knowledge workers believe that neurodiversity will drive a competitive hiring advantage in the future.

On the technology front, there is no doubt that the “Zoom boom” is here to stay. The pandemic has accelerated a new era of tech readiness—but what does this mean for a global talent pool? To enable agile learning, businesses will need to ensure that the latest collaborative technology is in place. This will be the most important factor in recruiting and retaining the best talent: 88% of employees now say that they look for it when searching for a new position.


of employees who believe that a diverse workforce will become even more important as roles, skills, and company requirements change in the future.

66% of HR Directors who agree.

Embrace a borderless workforce

In the new work equation, many roles are untethered from a central office—and location is poised to become even less of a determinant of career success.

Over four-fifths of employees and two-thirds of HRDs think that workers will be more likely to move out of cities if they can continue working remotely. This means that top talent will not be as concentrated as in the past, meaning recruiters will need to cast a wider net.

The movement is already underway. Citrix recently surveyed 2,000 US knowledge workers on the subject to see how their perceptions of large cities have changed in the wake of COVID-19. A highlight was that one in four respondents have already relocated (some away from big cities), or plan to relocate. Of these, 44 percent say the move will be a permanent one.

The year 2020 appears to be a hard reset for city living. Almost one-third (28 percent) of knowledge workers now feel that living in an urban area could hurt their careers. That sentiment may not subside in step with the pandemic: Lockdowns have not just been a catalyst for change, but have proved that productivity is possible from anywhere. A borderless workforce could mean employees are happier, healthier, and more engaged.


of employees who think that diverse talent will be more likely to move out of cities and other urban locations if they can work remotely for a majority of the time.

69% of HR Directors who agree.

Help workers upskill and reskill

In a post-pandemic world, career agility will be a vital method of drawing and retaining diverse talent. But whereas two-thirds of employees predict that their organization will increase investment in learning and development in the coming years, just over half (56 percent) of HRDs agree. Instead, 42 percent of HRDs believe that investment levels will stay exactly the same as they are now.

This is despite 82 percent of employees reporting they will need to reskill or upskill at least once a year to maintain a competitive advantage, whereas only 62 percent of HRDs agree. This disconnect certainly poses an obstacle to D&I initiatives.

Employees are clamoring for more resources to help them grow and develop their careers, but many businesses either fail to act or are unwilling to make the effort. The businesses that do invest will attract—and retain— the best talent.


of employees who predict that their organization will increase investment in learning and development as a way of retaining diverse talent.

56% of HR Directors who agree.

Meeting the demand

Globalization kickstarted a sea change in hiring practices decades ago, and the pandemic has only accelerated it. Flexible work models empower employees to do their best work, from the places they work best.

With more and more sectors going borderless, it’s time to think beyond the constrained hiring practices of the past. Start your own journey by building collaborative technology and investing in employees’ well-being. Then watch as your D&I strategy accelerates.