Can hybrid working help to make companies more inclusive?
Technology that enables people to work from anywhere can help attract a more diverse workforce with different perspectives
As more companies back hybrid working, it’s not just employees who are benefitting from greater freedom in their workday; companies are equally finding it’s supporting their efforts to create more diverse and inclusive workplaces.
With increasing investment in workplace technology such as high-speed internet, video conferencing platforms and online collaboration software, the digital transformation of business operations is giving rise to greater flexibility in terms of where and when people work.
“Technology is empowering people to work from anywhere, and engage with their workplace and colleagues in different ways. This is increasing opportunities to attract a wider talent pool with different backgrounds and lifestyles,” says Saadia Sheikh, Vice President Brokerage & Innovation at JLL.
By enabling people to collaborate and attend meetings online, for example, hybrid working can support people juggling work with childcare or caring responsibilities. Likewise, companies who allow employees to work from home three days a week open the door to candidates who might not be able to afford higher rents around city centre offices, and supports those with disabilities who might struggle to commute every day.
Employers are increasingly recognising the business case for investing in a more diverse and inclusive workplace.
“Diverse and inclusive workplaces maintain and grow company culture, increasing productivity and collaboration – things that drive the success of a business,” says Sheikh.
By embracing a greater range of ideas and perspectives, more diverse workplaces also foster a working environment where more people feel empowered to speak up, which often translates to improved innovation and business performance, according to McKinsey.
Getting the right HR professionals is a critical part of driving change and embedding the inclusive workplace cultures that today’s employees are looking for. Between May 2020 and March 2021, job postings for diversity and inclusion professionals in the U.S. rose 123 percent, while there’s also growing demand for these roles in the UK and Germany.
Although more companies now have diversity and inclusion policies in place, translating these into reality is an ongoing challenge. Global corporations such as General Motors and Salesforce, have implemented diversity programs to train staff, reduce bias in the recruiting process and foster an inclusive environment.
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Data is also playing a growing role in helping employers assess how diverse their workforces are, and where diversity and inclusion initiatives can better support staff.
Surveying employees’ backgrounds, for example, builds a picture of workforce demographics to inform goal-setting while analyzing chat platforms reveals whether certain groups are interrupted more frequently or engage less. Analytics tools – such as those used by Schneider Electric – can track diversity and inclusion metrics across jobs and teams so companies can understand where to focus efforts.
“It’s imperative companies measure progress towards diversity goals and ensure workplace technology supports their strategy for diversity and inclusion,” says Sheikh.
Designing for all
When employees are in the office, inclusive workplace design is a core part of helping people feel comfortable and do their job to the best of their abilities.
“The workplace plays an important role in diversity and inclusion, as a space that can be accessible and equitable to people of all ages, backgrounds and needs,” says Sheikh. “Enabling the workplace with technology is key to retaining talent, because it helps support employees with different needs, ultimately creating a workforce that is diverse and engaged.”
Sensors that monitor how employees use the office, for example, can provide insights into how the workplace can better support people to perform at their best.
Employee engagement platforms where staff can book desks, leave feedback and arrange meetings can indicate overall sentiment – and highlight areas for companies to address – while offering people a seamless way to connect with colleagues.
As hybrid working beds in, the challenge for managers and HR teams will be to ensure people feel part of the team – and the wider workplace community – wherever they’re logging in from.
“When some people are working away and others are collaborating in a physical environment, businesses need to pay attention to how they are integrating all members of staff,” says Sheikh.
“It’s how companies will attract and retain the best staff in a highly competitive jobs market.”