Engaging a Diverse Workforce, Remotely
The ongoing pandemic has brought on a formidable level of disruption for organisations around the world. While exploring new norms for remote working and mainstreaming workplace strategies like working from home, many companies are discovering the advantages of nurturing a workforce based on diversity, equity and inclusion.
“Diversity is being invited to the party; inclusion is being asked to dance,” Myers said. Taking a step further many organisations have embraced the concept of belongingness, which means that after being asked to dance do people get the space to dance freely in their own style. Just be themselves.
While research has consistently shown that diverse teams are more innovative and adept at handling marketplace changes, the current new normal has demonstrated it first-hand for many organisations with a diverse workforce already in place. Organisations who have managed to withstand the curve in these uncertain times are the ones who believe in diversity and inclusion. They are the ones who have trained their managers to be more self-aware of unconscious biases, as teams cope with the new environment. They are also the ones who have implemented diversity recruitment initiatives as well as mentorships for women and people with disabilities or orientations.Moreover, with the introduction of efforts around belongingness organisations can help teams perform 50% greater and impact 75% less sick days as per a study by HBR
Today, engaging a distributed team remotely has gained paramount importance for such progressive organisations.
What is Workforce Diversity?
An organisation that acknowledges, accepts, listens and values the differences of its workforce across the hierarchy, expertise, age, gender, disabilities and so on is a truly inclusive organisation. Companies who embrace inclusivity have the potential to yield greater productivity at work and more competitive advantages in the marketplace than those who do not.
The key challenge in such a virtual scenario is about extracting the very essence of diversity for improving the organisation. Across progressive organisations, diversity and inclusion best practices include, among others:
- Fair treatment, continue conversations and learn about team
- Dignity at the workplace, equal screen space
- Opportunity to ideate and share
- Opportunity to experiment and fail fast
- Educate unconscious bias pitfalls
- Engage everyone with clear expectations and governance
Diversity and inclusion offers business competitiveness to progressive companies, because their organisational culture helps them to outperform their peers financially, while creating shareholder value. Inclusive companies, such as OLX for instance, have embraced various progressive practices like the following:
- Listening to groups who working unnoticeably in the shadow
- Maintaining equality in opportunity and benefits
- Handling grievances by setting up speak up lines, chatbot, and internal committees for sensitive gender and unconscious bias issues at the workplace.
In fact, women represent a significant percent of the overall workforce in OLX India and they are continuing to increase the participation of women in the organisation by 10% YOY.
How to Engage a Diverse Workforce Remotely
For progressive businesses to maintain their organisational culture, the need to re-evaluate where and how they must be strong and/or flexible is of prime importance. Particularly in these unprecedented times, some of the best ways to engage with distributed teams remotely is by bringing in the following changes at the workplace:
Focus on connection & communication: The most important step towards engaging a diverse workforce remotely is by heightening focus on maintaining the connection and communicating constantly. This ensures cultural consistency for teams working remotely. This is also the time to invest in training captive workforce as well as new recruits in communication skills. Such skilling should include internal and external communication, as well as client-facing capabilities.
Re-imagine performance frameworks: Successful businesses need to follow more objective and fact-based performance frameworks that are not bound by annual appraisal but rely on real-time feedback. The focus should be on building managerial capability with empathy in digital mediums of communication.
Foster an inclusive culture: To operate in the new normal, organisations will need to provide unconscious bias training for their managers. Build a better understanding of inclusive behaviours. Show empathy, provide the space to perform by setting clear expectations will empower managers to be more successful with distributed work without active supervision but more involvement instead
Respect ‘life–work’ balance: This begins by acknowledging that this is not about maintaining a “work-life” balance, but instead about integrating work into one’s life. For a diverse workforce of women and persons with disabilities to perform at their best, teams will need to be given space for their lives and social responsibilities.
Make work fun: A healthy way to keep diverse teams engaged remotely or virtually is to engage them with fun experiences so that work becomes fun. Ensuring that distributed teams are attuned to the company culture, while also having a good time is crucial for keeping up team morale.
If a distributed and diverse workforce can become truly location agnostic, progressive organisations have the potential to support economically challenged cities, small towns, and rural India by bringing’ work to people. If implemented with the right spirit, diversity initiatives can offer a wide range of opportunities to address the nation’s inequality issues. Flexible work optionis a significant enabler for persons with disabilities. Remote working can also enable fluid workforces, such as freelancers and often consumers themselves. But above all, for remote working to be successful leadership intent, inspiration and communication are unconditional expectations from a company. Distributed teams work best when they have a shared vision with a clear strategy in front of them.