COVID-19 sent the world into a new normal that included a remote work transition at most non-essential companies. And so far, this experiment is going well – at least operationally. But when it comes to maintaining diversity and inclusion efforts during remote work, experts report that true success still remains to be seen.
All around the world, business executives are asking a crucial question: does diversity and inclusion matter in a remote working world? The short answer is yes – and for many reasons. It's important to remember that just because there's not an "office culture" that would normally be the showpoint of DE&I efforts, that doesn't mean a remote culture doesn't need the same attention. In fact, it may be even more important for remote teams to practice providing a diverse and inclusive space for employees – and it is vital that they do this with intention and purpose.
Diversity and inclusion are the backbone of hiring, onboarding and creating a work environment in which all employees feel valued. A lack of DE&I efforts may negatively impact employee performance and lead to departures and unmet hiring goals. Plus, an added concern for the time we're in: diversity and inclusion are also an important jumpstart to business recovery after coronavirus, some experts say.
We get it, though – tending to DE&I can be a challenge when the entire company is working remotely. That's why we've compiled our top tips for maintaining diversity and inclusion efforts during remote work. Check them out below.
Start with your existing inclusive workplace practices and take them digital.
Your first step to creating an inclusive remote workplace is to make sure these values are clearly expressed by your company. Similar to having a remote work policy, your company should outline a policy about what it means to be a diverse, equal, and inclusive workplace.
To do this, write up a short blurb explaining your company’s views on DE&I and how your company plans to embody them. This is an easy and impactful way to show that everyone is welcome and accepted at your company. Then, post this policy everywhere for potential and current employees (and customers!) to see.
Of course, posting isn't enough – you must also act on your values and initiatives. To start, make sure there’s diversity within your team -- and at every level. Your new hires should come from a well-rounded mix of candidates, and white men shouldn’t hold all the executive-level positions. Then, make sure the culture is one that supports all different viewpoints and backgrounds.
Equip employees with the tools and technologies to have their voice heard.
When you're working remotely, it's easy for voices to get lost in the mix – especially when employees do not have the proper tools or channels to share their thoughts and ideas. Consider investing in a messaging platform that will help keep teams organized, and be sure there are forums for conversation that's unrelated to work as well. Some channels we recommend include personal development, women in leadership, LGBTQ, diversity and inclusion council and working parents. Consider hosting a cultural day or theme day in one of these non-work channels to get everyone involved.
In addition to putting the correct technologies in place, foster an environment where everyone feels comfortable speaking up. Make it clear throughout your meetings and other messages that you value everyone’s thoughts and viewpoints.
Give everyone a chance to speak their mind, and make sure you and your team members genuinely listen and hear what everyone has to say.
Empower employees with virtual meetups.
Remote work impacts employees in different ways – especially during COVID-19. Some are balancing expanded childcare responsibilities, while others who live alone may be experiencing feelings of isolation. Keep these challenges in mind, and consider creating a more inclusive environment via virtual events that give employees a chance to connect virtually. For example, host happy hours at the end of work days, schedule full-team lunches, encourage one-on-one coffee chats, or get employees involved with recurring yoga sessions.
Make sure meetings and presentations are accessible.
Even as employees work remotely, make sure you continue to account for possible disabilities and learning differences. This is especially crucial during meetings and presentations so that differently-abled employees feel equipped with the same knowledge as others. For example, real-time closed captions (CC) can help meeting participants who are deaf or hard-of-hearing, aren’t fluent in the language being used or are unable to adequately use audio. Also, provide a phone dial-in option for those without strong internet access. Or, make video optional for participants so they can turn off their camearas to improve the connection.
When creating presentations, use a large font size and high contrast so that everyone can more easily see images and read text. Slides are a useful tool, but not everyone may be able to see them. Consider providing alternatives within the presentation to convey purely visual information, like a verbal or written summary. Finally, when it comes to images, find ways to show diversity in race, skin tone, size, cultural background, name, hair type, ability, gender, age, geography and beyond. The people you use in your presentation images should represent diverse backgrounds.
And of course, keep hiring with diversity and inclusivity in mind!
Just because hiring has gone remote doesn't mean it shouldn't receive the same attention towards diversity and inclusion that your in-office hiring process once had. The way you hire and onboard new employees sets the tone for your DE&I efforts. Be sure you are continuing to write inclusive job descriptions, advertising jobs across multiple channels, conducting better remote interviews, tracking and assessing candidates based on their skills, and onboarding employees effectively. That way, you can attract top talent with your hiring efforts – and then back those efforts up on their first day when you showcase a remote working culture defined by diversity and inclusion.
Brilliant Hire by SAP provides companies with an innovative way to build diverse and inclusive teams. It offers an efficient, unbiased applicant screening solution powered by a network of experts. With a mission to remove unconscious bias from the hiring process, Brilliant Hire has been trusted by countless talent acquisition professionals to cut down on screening time while ensuring every applicant has an equal chance of moving forward. Check out our blog for more information, or request a demo here.