The current coronavirus outbreak is something that has impacted all of us. For many, we are working remotely for the first time.
We are balancing being a teacher, a parent, or supporting loved ones alongside our normal working life. In the first few weeks of a nationwide lockdown businesses had to look at how to adapt, how to commence with remote working and, embed remote working into the way we now do things.
Remote working was, for many organisations, on the horizon prior to Covid-19. The last 12 weeks since lockdown began, has perhaps only served to accelerate more of us working from home and adopting technological advances such as eLearning and video calling. It was perhaps inevitable that we would use technology more and move away from an office environment. Now, we have been forced to do so.
So, what does this mean for inclusion?
If you are serious about diversity and inclusion, the first thing any business needs to do is have a clear strategy around diversity and inclusion; one which is supported by senior leadership. Without a strategy, you risk doing lots of activities which, on the surface appear to be worthwhile in your quest to become a more inclusive organisation however, if this does not form part of a clear strategic direction, how will you measure the impact?
So, before you do anything on diversity and inclusion, here are some important points:
Do you already have a plan or strategy in place around inclusion? If not, what are the challenges you may face in creating something?
You need senior leaders within the organisation to support the inclusion agenda and develop a leadership tone and commitment to driving things forward. As uncomfortable as this may make you feel, sometimes to get leadership buy in and support for diversity and inclusion, you are going to need a business case. And with any good business case comes a fundamental reason, so consider this - if we have a boardroom full of people from similar backgrounds with similar life experiences who think in the same way, we are not likely to get innovative solutions. Being able to approach a problem and utilise the power of diverse thinking can lead to strong business benefits. Diverse thinking allows your business to better meet the needs and desires of a wider customer base and has the potential to increase your competitive advantage.
You will need to invest more than just time in developing a truly inclusive culture. Don’t rush out and sign up to charters and membership organisations unless they clearly contribute to your overall strategic goals and ambitions. Make any investment decisions with all the facts in front of you and decide how you will measure the return on any investment
Due to the current Covid-19 outbreak we have a great opportunity to consider inclusive ways of working. So, here are some things to consider going forward:
Look to embrace a diverse employee base. Step out of your comfort zone and consider how you can be more innovative in attracting diverse talent.
Focus on serving the needs of your customers, and consider how you could open up the talent pool to attract the right people to your organisation.
Technology is here to stay and will become ingrained into our working lives. Since the start of the Covid-19 outbreak we have seen the use of video calling and team working platforms explode at a rate previously unimaginable. Businesses have adopted video calling and remote working overnight. Many of us have used such technology to continue with our social interactions and for many businesses it has been an essential element to their survival. And the thing is, using technology can not only be more cost effective and time efficient, it may mean that you are open to a wider and more diverse pool of talent.
Consider how your approach to the working day could be more inclusive. What could you do to support people with disabilities joining your workforce? What can you do to show greater flexibility?
Perhaps the most important thing is to have an open dialogue with your employees. Whether you are talking to employees about returning to work, the measures you are taking to be Covid secure or, if you are changing the way in which people will be working, talk to your employees, share your thinking, share the results of your analysis, and be ready and willing to listen. It’ll help make sure that you are taking a long-term strategic approach to diversity and inclusion.
One thing I can be sure of is this; we will never return to how things were before. As we adapt to change and we begin to accept the inevitable long-term impact of Covid-19, now is a better time than ever to consider how we can use the opportunities that technology makes available to us, and how we can use it to support our diversity and inclusion agenda.
Embrace the opportunities that remote working and alternative approaches to our work can bring. During lockdown, many people will have been considering what is important to them. People might be looking to make changes to their lives, they may want greater flexibility and freedom, and some may even have realised that a new career is going to be beneficial. Placing your business in a position that empowers employees to work remotely, have greater flexibility and a greater work-life balance, is going to form a key part of how you will thrive in the tough weeks, months and years ahead.
Be prepared to put diversity and inclusion high on the agenda, move beyond a tick box mentality and value the role that diversity and inclusion can play in business success. Embed it into the way in which your organisation makes people feel, and above all, make sure you are measuring your work on diversity and inclusion. Ensure that your employees, suppliers and community know that it is a priority for you. Once you do this, and you have a growth mindset around diversity and inclusion, you will see powerful and sustainable results.
If you would like to discover how we at Texthelp could help you and your remote working teams, explore more about what we do, and how we can support you at this time.
About the author
Richard Shakespeare is a leading Diversity Consultant and the Managing Director of Workplace Diversity Solutions Ltd. Having lived with a disability since birth, Richard can offer a unique insight into the challenges faced by consumers with a disability. Richard works with businesses across the UK to help them to understand how they can create an improved experience for customers with disabilities, people from different communities, and embed a culture of inclusion within the businesses he supports.