Best Practices to Advance DEI Initiatives in Any Work Environment
Remote and hybrid work is here to stay, forcing employers to adapt and evolve on multiple fronts. In this new era of work, how do workplaces avoid reversing the progress made towards diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI)?
It starts with a shift in focus about how we perceive “work.” Work is no longer a place we go, but something we do. With that new mindset, here for consideration, are best practices that will advance DEI initiatives in any work environment.
Best Practices to Advance DEI Initiatives in Any Work Environment
Leadership must proactively reaffirm its commitment to DEI, communicate this commitment, and lead by example to ensure that DEI is part of new work models. We know that organizations with inclusive cultures are more successful financially, have higher-performing teams, and are more innovative. It makes sense to continue observing, measuring, and tracking DEI efforts and current programs, and altering approaches as needed. In new work models, ensure that remote and hybrid colleagues are experiencing the same level of engagement as in-person employees. Leverage technology to support your DEI efforts and provide a voice for all whether they are in person or remote.
Empower Your People
In today’s new work environment, there is no “one size fits all” approach. Those returning to the office will most likely experience a sense of belonging that they missed while working from home. Work cultures will naturally evolve and may look vastly different than they once did. As a result, your organization also will need to evolve to ensure that all employees are provided equally with choices and flexibility. Give your people the power to determine how they work best. If you allow your employees (particularly underrepresented groups) to have input into how their work environment is structured, you contribute to the sense of belonging and sense of value that encourages retention and job satisfaction. Providing an environment that is open and inclusive empowers employees to feel they can safely contribute diverse and innovative ideas across the organization.
Measure Inclusion and Mitigate Biases
Proximity Bias, or Office Bias, is the tendency to favor those we see more often and is one of the challenges resulting from remote and hybrid work. A study by SHRM revealed that 67% of the supervisors surveyed admitted that they considered remote workers more easily replaceable than onsite workers, 62% believe full-time remote work is detrimental to employees’ career objectives, and 72% would prefer all their subordinates to be working in the office. Evaluating and measuring inclusion in new work models will be key to continuing your organization’s DEI journey.
Tracking and measuring promotions, professional development, advancements, and other data among different demographics can uncover existing biases, as well as prevent those that can arise as the workforce continues to evolve. Are those working on site receiving more promotions or advancing faster than those that are remote or hybrid? Are there demographic differences? Be sure that those who are remote, hybrid, and flex have the same access to career opportunities, personal and professional development, and mentorship as those working on site. Unconscious bias training, while beneficial for all employees, enables managers and future managers to recognize and become more aware of biases, so that they can work to mitigate them.
Rethink Learning & Development
Learning and development (L&D) is essential to employee growth and successful DEI initiatives. Has your L&D strategy evolved as our workplaces and work models have changed? L&D professionals and leadership need to meet the changing needs of learners by developing, managing, and structuring solutions around the new flow of work. Consider the accessibility of training and what technology is used as it relates to our new working environment. Give your employees tools and training to communicate effectively and feel that their voices are heard, and you will pave the way for a more engaged and inclusive workforce.
Recruiting strategies reflect commitment to DEI. Ensure your organization is taking advantage of the flexible work models and the diverse talent pool to recruit and hire inclusively. Having flexible work models gives organizations the ability to cast a wider net and capture a broader range of candidates. If possible, incorporate a flexible work schedule policy in your organization.
Focus on Health and Wellness
With the variety of work models in play today, revisit strategies for promoting a healthy and inclusive workplace. Having an inclusive culture is a key element to employee well-being, and so is your benefits program. Ensure benefits are flexible and meet the diverse and changing needs of your employees. Childcare benefits or eldercare may be important to some, while mental health benefits and leave policies may be critical for others. Be creative, innovative, and inclusive in promoting health and wellness – it will have a positive impact on your employees and your overall corporate culture.
Meet In-Person for Key Events
Work is not just about individuals, it’s about groups, shared decision-making, and conversations. Forming relationships and deep connections is hard to do over Zoom. New hires may not have met anyone on their team in person. Virtual meetings are great, but they don’t replace human connection and the trust built through personal interactions. Encourage in-person presence for team meetings, client working sessions, trainings, and other key events whenever possible. Bringing employees together helps build relationships and fosters collaboration in a way that virtual simply cannot.
When employees feel valued, respected, and have a sense of belonging, they will be more engaged, more productive, and less likely to look elsewhere. New work models challenge DEI initiatives. By revisiting approaches to them, employers can continue the momentum of DEI initiatives and increase their effectiveness.
Does your organization need assistance navigating DEI efforts in the new era of work? The team at Fahrenheit can help! Contact us today at Experts@FahrenheitAdvisors.com and let’s move your organization straight forward.
About the Author
With more than 25 years of experience, Katherine Zampolin provides a broad range of experience in leadership development, coaching, corporate culture, and talent management. Through her authentic and practical approach, she partners with organizations to help them strengthen their culture, engage and develop their employees, and reach their goals. Katherine has facilitated a broad range of training programs across all levels, with topics ranging from leadership skills and organizational change to diversity and inclusion and team building.