Creating a safe and inclusive work environment has never been more challenging and important as companies grapple with preparing for the future of work. When employees feel a sense of inclusion and belonging, they are much more likely to make real connections with team members. In turn, they are also more committed to their work and to the organization as a whole.
Remote Work Aids Diversity but Hobbles Inclusion Efforts
According to PwC’s Global Diversity Survey, organizations are committing to D&I at higher rates than ever, with 87% of respondents indicating that D&I is a stated value or priority for their organization.
However, despite this commitment, even those who lead and execute their organization’s D&I programs acknowledge there is a long way to go. Nearly half of respondents agree that diversity is a barrier to employee progression at their organizations.
Evidence shows that remote work could be good for diversity, because of increased access to a wider pool of candidates. However, the same forces that have a potentially positive impact on diversity have dealt a huge blow to equity and inclusion.
Remote work makes it harder than ever to build a safe space where all employees have a seat at the table, both to contribute and to get what they need. If you have employee resource groups (ERGs), remote work is going to make it harder for those ERGs to function efficiently as well.
Read our free ebook on how to encourage inclusion and belonging in the workplace.
A Few Definitions
It might be useful to define our terms here. According to Diversity for Social Impact:
Inclusion is about each person feeling valued and connected. Everyone thrives in an environment where our inherent worth is recognized. We need to be safe to express our authentic selves. We need to know we belong to something bigger.
Diversity is about a rich mix of differences. It encompasses all the dimensions that make each person one of a kind, including ethnicity, race, age, style, gender, personality, beliefs, experiences, sexual orientation and more. It acknowledges the psychological, physical, and social differences that occur among all individuals. A diverse group, community, or organization is one in which a variety of social and cultural characteristics exist.
Equity levels the playing field. It is the guarantee of fair treatment, access, opportunity, and advancement for all, as well as the attempt to identify and eliminate barriers that have prevented full participation of some groups. Tackling equity issues requires an understanding of the root causes of outcome disparities within our society. Equity is the process of ensuring that processes and programs are impartial and fair, and that they provide equal possible outcomes for every individual. Equity is promoting justice, impartiality and fairness within the procedures, processes, and distribution of resources by institutions or systems.
How Can We Create a Safe and Inclusive Work Environment that Promotes Belonging?
One clear way to foster equity and inclusion is to give everyone access to the collective intelligence of the larger group.
Too often, employees just don’t have access to wider conversations or the expertise of leaders and peers. This is especially true for those that might otherwise be excluded or marginalized. Even when intentions are good, it’s easy for people to be excluded.
Many companies have started ERGs to create an inclusive work culture. However, a remote environment may be severely restricting members’ ability to connect, collaborate, share knowledge, and support each other.
Moreover, employees that are in a minority often feel less willing to ask for help, worrying that they will look incompetent or unqualified. We have to create space for these employees to request help with a high degree of psychological safety. We need to make it a corporate value that they are recognized and acknowledged, rather than penalized.
Inclusive Knowledge Sharing Can Create a Sense of Belonging at Work
ERGs are important when it comes to creating an inclusive work environment. But TRUE inclusion means giving people a sense of belonging outside whatever group they associate with.
We recommend three approaches:
- Create inclusive networks where all employees have access to the advice, information, knowledge, and resources of the organization.
- Network individual ERGs into larger, collaborative groups that share advice, information, knowledge, and resources with each other.
- Create knowledge sharing groups for members of larger ERGs to contribute within the safety of an affinity group.
Always Measure Success
In a past life as CEO of an analytics company, I used to say “you can’t manage what you don’t measure.” I still say it.
In addition to promoting equity and inclusion, we should make efforts to measure the success of those efforts. Measuring equity and inclusion can be difficult. However, it is important that we begin to measure the success of our efforts so we can continue to improve. In these ways, we start to “walk the walk.” We go beyond hashtags and social media posts. We make a meaningful commitment to inclusion and equity in a world that demands it.
Give and Take is helping organizations prepare for the future of work.
This is post #2 in a five-part series on the Future of Work:
- Remote Team Collaboration
- Equity, Inclusion and Belonging (this post)
- Building Culture
- Learning and Development
- Knoweldge Sharing (coming soon)
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