Photo: Meagan Carsience

Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and the Bottom Line

The events of the last few months have brought increased attention to the value that diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) bring to the workplace and to society at large. Increasingly, organizations are engaging in discussions around flexible working, social justice, privilege, equity, and about what this all means for the future of work. 

For those who work in the DEI space, these conversations are not new. The strong connections between workforce diversity, inclusion, and engagement have been documented for years. When organizations build diverse cultures where everyone can succeed and thrive, business results also flourish. 

A recent report from The Conference Board outlines how building a stronger connection between inclusion and engagement initiatives can help human capital leaders improve the employee experience while increasing trust and feelings of belonging. As organizations rely more heavily on team-based models, these links become crucial to driving performance and sparking innovation. 

Yet many organizations still struggle to put DEI into practice. Effective DEI strategies and initiatives often require changes in norms, talent processes, and leadership styles, all of which may encounter resistance. Change is difficult. Hence, this period of turmoil constitutes both an ideal and a challenging time for human capital leaders to take action and strengthen DEI within their organizations.  

It’s the ideal time because DEI is top of mind among leaders. There is strong executive support to create positive change that drives resilience; in many cases business leaders are reaching out to their HR teams for the first time to ask for DEI solutions. It is also a challenging time because these important conversations are happening as leaders juggle multiple considerations around the COVID-19 health and economic crisis, and their business needs — and they often are doing so with fewer resources. 

What can human capital leaders do to advance DEI, build resilience, and drive positive organizational change? Building on insights from executives across industries and regions who participated in Conference Board research, we recommend the following four steps:

1. Create a common vision around what DEI means for your organization, and why it’s especially important now.

Enhance communication and encourage consistent messaging across the organization. Help leaders and colleagues understand how DEI can improve the work environment and increase resilience during times of change.

Practical tips from DEI leaders:

  • Create organization-wide definitions of DEI that align with the organization’s culture and values.
  • Identify measurable behaviors and clear expectations that help hold people accountable for those behaviors.

2. Encourage collaboration and broader participation in your DEI initiatives.

As recent events increase DEI’s visibility, they also amplify opportunities to engage employees and leaders more broadly across the organization. Now is the time to boost interest among those who typically do not participate in DEI, to create shared accountability, and to help ensure that the burden of driving change doesn’t fall solely on underrepresented groups.

Practical tips from DEI leaders:

  • Provide resources on how people can participate and take action both at work and within their broader communities.
  • Communicate and set clear expectations, which can go a long way toward people feeling supported during times of change. Encourage dialogue over conflict and make it OK to make mistakes; this will help build trust.

3. Invest in inclusive leadership skills development.

Inclusive cultures do not just happen by chance. They require intentionality and willingness to change how we work and interact with our colleagues, as well as identifying the inclusive leadership behaviors to help drive your people strategy. At times, this will require leaders to learn new skills and to “unlearn” how they manage their teams in order for them to fully integrate different perspectives. The good news: these new skills can improve both leadership effectiveness and business results.

Practical tips from DEI leaders: 

  • There are multiple models of inclusive leadership to help identify key behaviors. You don’t have to start from scratch, leverage existing models of inclusive leadership in the field.
  • Work with both formal and informal DEI champions across the organization to outline key inclusive behaviors that are meaningful to you. Some organizations may want to highlight how diversity and inclusion improve decision-making, whereas others may focus on the connection between DEI and innovation. The key is to make inclusion relevant to your business and work.

4. Enhance accountability. 

To drive effective change, holding people accountable for their role in creating a more inclusive culture is key. Accountability helps establish clear expectations about how everyone can participate, including specific behaviors (e.g., team or leadership behaviors) and, for people managers, metrics (e.g., diversity representation, engagement). Without clear accountabilities to help us keep the goals in mind, we’re all bound to go back to our “old ways” of working.

Practical tips from DEI leaders: 

  • Ask for input on your strategy from, and conduct regular follow-ups with, leaders about DEI accountabilities and progress. Having a voice helps increase ownership and buy-in.
  • Engage your human capital analytics team to identify patterns, trends, and examine the impact of your DEI efforts. Assess what is and isn’t working, such as by comparing promotion and attrition rates for employees who participate in a program or activity and those who do not.

This is the time for human capital and business leaders to drive positive organizational change, increase DEI, and create more effective ways of working across differences. Follow these guidelines to capitalize on this moment to improve workplace culture and business results.

How to Get The Most Out Of Your Remote Workers

Remote working is on the rise. Virgin Media Business has predicted that 60% of employees will frequently work from home by 2022. Currently, 24% of employees in the US report working from home at least part of the time, while in the UK 13.9% of the workforce is made up of home workers. Businesses are recognising the importance of flexible work arrangements in helping employees achieve a better work-life balance, in potentially improving workplace productivity by 71%, as well as the ability to source staff from a wider talent pool and bring in the skills needed.

If your business has already caught on to the trend, or is at least thinking about getting some staff working from home, how can you make sure your remote workers are motivated and performing at their best?

Ditch Micromanaging

The number one mistake for managers is to try and watch what remote workers are doing all of the time. You should be able to trust your employees and they should respond to that trust. While it’s certainly important to continue face-to-face communication like you would in an office environment, you don’t need to be calling employees up every five minutes. Google Hangouts and Skype calls, or paid software such as Yammer, JoinMe and GoToMeeting, are great for calls when you do need them. Don’t be tempted to micromanage because it will most likely backfire.

Introduce Milestones

One of the biggest pitfalls is inviting employees to work remotely but not setting milestones for what work they should have achieved by a specific date in the future. Even the most productive employees who are getting on with their projects can stumble without set deadlines, and that could have a knock-on effect on other team members who have dependencies. You can simply create an online Google calendar with work milestones, colour coded by department or employee, or even make use of a project management software such as Teamwork or Pivotal Tracker to make this even clearer.

Don’t Skimp On Training

Just because employees aren’t location-based doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t get regular training. Keeping employees up to date and on the ball will make them feel valued and result in increased success for your business. There are plenty of opportunities for training online, from reading research papers, blog articles or watching tutorial videos like those available on Udemy. A good way to integrate this is to ask employees to regularly read a relevant blog during the last twenty minutes of their work day, or to send a video link to a new tutorial each week. Companies can also invest in grander online and even bespoke training courses for employees across the business.

Provide Remote Working Software

I’ve already mentioned providing software for the purposes of communication and project management, but to really get the most out of your remote workers it’s worth rolling out software for every aspect of the work day. Dropbox and Google Drive can be used to store and share work files, apps like Hubstaff can be used log work hours and take screenshots of work being done, and online software such as OneTouchTeam can keep track of staff absences and manage annual leave. Don’t be tempted to over complicate the software available to your remote workers but do make sure to have a well-organised system in place.

Getting the most out of your remote workers doesn’t need to be rocket science. Keep them in the loop, give them the tools they need to organise them and make sure they’re clear on what work needs to be achieved by when.

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