Early this year when Sundar Pichai announced work from home (WFH) till June 2021 and Twitter announced WFH being more permanent, it created quite a stir amongst all corporates – many started to follow suit. However, companies like Netflix, who are known for their culture, were completely against it – citing reasons such as missed opportunities of strategizing together and networking more spontaneously. As we move along this journey of WFH, realizing some of its pitfalls and advantages in equal measure, a new ‘hybrid’ model of working is under consideration.
This model has its own set of pros and cons – largely revolving around saving costs by not having large office spaces, but at the same time risking true idea generation, which comes from spontaneous, and almost serendipitous conversations.
However, as someone representing Diversity and Inclusion efforts at my organization, I worry, if this hybrid model will further deepen a divide between the office-goers and those working remotely? This in-group and out-group bias has shown reduction in collaboration and increase in conflict. In addition, could this potentially magnify the gender gap, as women are disproportionately expected to take on home-based caring responsibilities.
On the other hand, there are also immense benefits of the hybrid model that help the cause of inclusion by letting the people decide their ‘when and where’ when it comes to work.
So, what are some key points to consider when we arrive at hybrid models, at a time when Inclusion is more important than ever in the history of D&I?
In this age, when we are faced with dilemmas difficult to solve on our own, we often look at technology and data to give us some answers. With people analytics becoming stronger with each passing year, there are many great tools available to enhance our efforts towards inclusion – in the HR domain, these technology solutions can be found in the areas of talent acquisition, development/advancement, engagement/retention and analytics.
According to the research by a People Analytics expert, David Green, the first area to leverage the D&I technology is talent acquisition (as per their research, 43% of total technology efforts are in this area). Some organizations who have used tools such Textio, that helps in writing job descriptions that are more inclusive, have experienced attracting great candidates and even a 12% increase in the number of applicants that identified as women.
The space of Learning is increasingly improving efforts to make learning more ‘personalized’ and therefore more inclusive. One such example was learning behavioral skills in a VR environment that allowed learners to encounter situations and scenarios they face in the real world every day, that makes learning more engaging and relevant.
Though these give the D&I teams/leaders an edge to show more measurable outcomes or eases some of the pressure to just rely on Inclusion workshops, I strongly believe that Technology and Data are still the ‘supporting cast’ in this movie on rapidly changing times.
Who then is the hero, you may ask? It all starts at the top, what leaders say and do makes up to a 70% difference as to whether an individual feels included. It further elucidates on behaviors and says that leaders’ cognizance of bias when combined with high levels of humility, can increase the feelings of inclusion by up to 25%. Furthermore, when you add empathy/perspective-taking to it, it can increase feelings of inclusion by up to 33%.
Here are a few practical ideas to be an inclusive leader that I took away:
- Have a group of ‘trusted advisors’, preferably peers, who you meet often; these trusted advisors can give you feedback on everyday interpersonal behaviors that support or inhibit inclusion, such as, are you giving everyone equal time in meetings, do you refer to one gender when giving examples etc.
- Be vulnerable to share your own learning journey about recognizing and addressing biases. Have an exclusive time in team meetings to discuss “moments of inclusion” to enable everyone to share what they have learned that week about diversity and inclusion.
- Get out of your comfort zone and experience diversity first-hand – simple measures like finding opportunities to talk to groups your work wouldn’t usually require you to interact with. Be genuinely curious to understand their world by asking open-ended questions; exposure helps expand horizons and disrupt pre-conceived ideas.
In summation, at best, technology and data can help reduce biases, but when balanced with more emotionally intelligent and human leaders, it will be a more sustainable journey towards Inclusion.