Remote working is the new normal. McKinsey’s American Opportunity Survey reports that when given the chance to work flexibly, 87% of employees take it. Remote work offers employees time savings and greater flexibility. Likewise, organizations can benefit from lower overhead costs and access to a wider range of talent. However, there are also challenges, especially when it comes to diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I). To ensure all staff thrive in their new virtual environments, employers must build an organizational culture that champions a diversity and inclusion strategy.
Why is DE&I important for team cohesion in the virtual workplace?
In my experience, creating a team culture of DE&I in the virtual workplace will have a positive impact on your organization. It can help your business:
Attract Top Talent
Showcasing a culture of DE&I is attractive to job seekers as staff are more likely to feel welcomed and respected. Diverse organizations also create an ecosystem for creativity, innovation and organizational agility—something most candidates will find appealing.
Improve Team Performance
A diverse group of people bring different life experiences and professional perspectives related to marketplace trends. This can encourage open and honest communication and help teams identify problems from different angles, leading to innovative ideas and better solutions.
Boost Financial Performance
Organizations with high levels of diversity report better financial performance than their less diverse counterparts. McKinsey & Company found that businesses with ethnically diverse leadership are 36% more likely to have greater financial returns. Likewise, gender diversity in leadership may also achieve better financial outcomes.
How can leaders promote a culture of diversity and inclusion?
Establishing a DE&I culture in the remote-hybrid workplace is a continuous process that starts with leaders and requires company-wide commitment. A leader articulates the vision for the organization’s culture that includes values and behaviors that team members believe in. They ensure work processes, rewards and development match and reinforce those values.
Here are a few tips to help you get started:
Educate Your Team on the Benefits of DE&I
In a rapidly transforming business landscape, establishing a culture of learning is imperative. Start by facilitating conversations around CEO action for diversity and inclusion that identify the benefits of having an inclusion plan in the organization and how it helps the company meet its goals.
Secondly, create programs that teach your team how to promote diversity and inclusion in the workplace, such as collaborative learning. This is especially important for your senior leaders, who often play an active role in recruiting new talent and modeling behaviors.
Adjust the Hiring Process to Promote Inclusivity
Examine the hiring process to identify hiring biases. Consider competency-based assessments to make sure candidates are evaluated based on their skills and capabilities. Ensure that remote interviews are conducted in an environment of respect and trust by using role-playing scenarios with diverse interview panels.
Create Organizational Culture Around Core Values
Your commitment to DE&I is reflected in the core values that make your culture. Core values are behaviors that foster an inclusive culture resulting in respecting diverse backgrounds and recognizing everyone’s contribution.
Core values should be discussed regularly so everyone understands the organization’s values, what behaviors support these values and how they can contribute. Make it clear that any kind of discrimination or microaggressions won’t be tolerated. Provide access to opportunities for every member of the team, regardless of race, gender or background.
From time to time, revisit your company values and ensure they continue to reflect and uphold the company’s commitment to DE&I.
Assess the Current State of Your Organization Company
It’s easy to assume that everyone is on the same page regarding diversity and inclusion, but you won’t really know until you ask. Regularly conduct employee surveys to measure employees’ perceptions of your organization’s current state of DE&I and to identify areas that need improvement. Anonymous surveys provide a feedback loop so employees can share what they see and how they feel about the organization’s DE&I initiatives.
Create measurable goals for your DE&I initiatives that are tracked with action plans to ensure everyone is on the same page when it comes to DE&I results. Hold everyone in the organization accountable for these goals and ensure progress is celebrated.
How does a culture of DE&I drive engagement?
Besides the benefits for company performance, fostering a team culture of DE&I is also good for employee engagement. For starters, inclusive cultures help employees feel respected and valued and, thus, they’re more motivated to do their best work. Diversity and inclusion also helps employees feel like they belong and can contribute to organizational goals. Diversity of thought is the pearl of creativity and innovation. An excellent example of leveraging diverse points of view to create, innovate and problem solve is the inclusive practice of peer-to-peer learning through collaborative inquiry. The Socratic method of asking questions without having to defend answers can allow team members to share experiences, create collective intelligence, build upon ideas and challenge existing operating mental models.
In conclusion, an organizational culture that embraces DE&I is key to ensuring your remote workers enjoy the same benefits as their colleagues in the office. Taking steps to promote DE&I in the workplace can create an environment where everyone feels valued and engaged. This, in turn, will help you reach company goals faster while enabling your remote workers to thrive.
Dr. Andrew Rahaman is the co-founder of bluSPARC™ a learning and development company with executive coaching at its core. Drawing on extensive experience in curriculum design for executive education, Andrew is a trusted advisor and coach in talent management, leader development, and executive coaching both domestically and internationally. He works with clients to develop leadership capacity, high-performance teams, and provides tools and processes that enable organizations to meet their strategic initiatives and maximize growth opportunities. Andrew holds a doctorate from The George Washington University and is a contributor to Forbes Business Council. Andrew can be contacted at email@example.com.