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How Does Remote Work Impact Diversity and Inclusivity Efforts?

The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic added further fuel to the already explosive growth of remote work in the United States. This trend has altered the American workforce at large in many ways, while other outcomes remain to be seen. One expected outcome is the potential facilitation of greater inclusivity in the workforce, as a result of ease of access, as well as several other factors. 

The Effects of Remote Work on Company Diversity

Remote work is both causing and facilitating many changes in the workforce, some positive, and some negative. Many of these effects are related to diversity. 

 

Positive Impacts

Potential positive impacts on diversity and inclusivity prompted by remote work include:

  • Improved physical accessibility for people with mobility disabilities;
  • Improved work flexibility for parents, people with poor access to transportation, people with disabilities, etc.;
  • Fewer opportunities for exclusion or discrimination based on profiling;
  • Fewer opportunities for physical harassment.

 

Negative Impacts

Potential negative impacts on diversity and inclusivity prompted by remote work include:

  • A more distanced relationship with a diverse work community;
  • Barriers to work based on technological literacy;
  • Barriers to work based on access to hardware, software, internet, etc.

Cultivating and Supporting Diverse Remote Teams

While increased diversity can be a natural product of a remote workplace, it is also still important for management to actively cultivate diversity in their remote workforce. These initiatives should ideally be approached from many angles. 

 

Be Open to All Kinds of Diversity

Backgrounds, identities, and personal circumstances that should be taken into consideration for diversity initiatives and cultivation include, but are not limited to:

  • Age;
  • Race;
  • Gender;
  • Disability.

An important first step for promoting diversity in the workplace, of course, is to be open-minded regarding inclusivity and diversity. While this may seem like an obvious measure, it is worth mentioning because management should approach these issues as an ongoing learning opportunity. Management should be open-minded regarding a wide array of initiatives regarding diversity, including those that they may not already be familiar with. To that point, whenever possible, management should actively seek to educate themselves on these topics, rather than simply reacting to them as the concerns become relevant to their organization. 

Rather than simply accepting and supporting employees of varying backgrounds and identities, management should act as advocates for their employees in these areas, and update relevant policies on an ongoing basis. 

 

Change Your Recruitment Tactics

Once your management team has adopted an open mindset as it regards diversity and inclusivity, you should launch specific diversity initiatives at the recruitment level. A few basic adjustments to your recruiting strategy and outreach efforts can help your company make great strides in the realm of diversity. Some measures you can employ include:

  • Reaching out to a broader audience through your recruitment ads.
  • Identifying and utilizing platforms frequented by diverse audiences for recruitment outreach.
  • Encouraging employees to refer people within their network.
  • Using blind hiring practices to combat implicit bias
  • Utilizing artificial intelligence and applicant tracking systems to reduce the effects of human bias.
  • Constantly reevaluating what characteristics you are prioritizing in the hiring process, and adjusting accordingly if you identify potential areas of bias. 

Culture Add vs. Culture Fit

It is also vital that a company adjusts its company culture and policies at large to both attract a diverse workforce, and to treat all candidates and employees ethically. Surface-level attempts to reach out to diverse job candidates will likely not be as effective if they are not supported by earnest attempts to create a more inclusive business model at large.

“Culture fit” is the concept that it is beneficial to find candidates for your company who will fit in well with your company culture. However, this concept can stunt diversity and inclusivity initiatives, as it can undermine the evolution of company culture and promote workforces with homogenized demographics. 

In contrast, the concept of “culture add” promotes a more adaptive approach that values current culture, but also values and incentivizes additions and changes to that culture that can result in hires with unique and innovative outlooks and backgrounds. This more readily adaptive approach is also more compatible with the flexibility of a remote workplace. 

 

Encourage Participation

While much of the responsibility for promoting diversity and inclusivity in the workplace needs to fall on the shoulders of management, it is also important for employees to understand how they can lend support to diversity goals within the organization. This is an integral factor of employing “culture add” in the workplace, as you cannot effectively facilitate a work culture that evolves organically without earning buy-in from employees. This can be done by ensuring employees understand diversity goals and initiatives, enacting mentor-mentee relationships, and hosting digital culture events.

 

Be Thoughtful About Development 

“Talent development” is a view of employee onboarding, training, growth, and retention as a singular process that should be cultivated at every stage with future stages in mind, rather than viewing them as completely individual, isolated stages. Essentially, an employer should work with recruiters to create a comprehensive plan and to support protocols related to finding individuals, cultivating their talents, and encouraging retention through appropriate benefits and opportunities for development. This promotes diversity and inclusivity by retaining talented hires who have unique perspectives to bring to company culture, as well as creating a healthy and comfortable foundation for the company to evolve with. 

 

Ask for Feedback

One of the best ways that you can identify issues or opportunities for growth in your initiatives for diversity and inclusivity is by directly asking. Regularly ask your employees for feedback. This feedback should include information about the hiring, onboarding, and development processes, as well as opportunities to freely speak on any concerns at large. As opposed to more traditional performance reviews, these opportunities for feedback should be offered often, and should be guided by the employee more so than the employer. 

Staying engaged with workplace and recruitment trends can also help you gain insight into what matters to employees, how leading organizations retain and support their teams, and what kinds of diversity initiatives work in different industries.