For months on end, COVID-19 restrictions forced most if us to live a ‘virtual’ life. This ‘new normal’ could be socially and emotionally stressful, it also challenged us to think differently about our approach to teamwork and collaboration.
The question is, while we were all thinking about how to manage teams, meetings and productivity, did we consider how we could also ensure our organizations were inclusive while working virtually? Being inclusive can be difficult under any circumstances, it’s even harder when people aren’t in the same room, can’t read each other’s body language, are stressed and may not be communicating and leading as well as usual.
Upholding vision and values in a changing world
As the world opens up, it looks like working from home (WFH) is here to stay. Despite the changes in the working landscape, every senior leader we have spoken to remains passionate about upholding their organization’s commitment to diversity and inclusion as part of their ongoing cultural transformation. However, the absence of in-person interaction requires a reassessment of how this commitment is upheld.
Reinterpreting inclusion and diversity
Inclusion isn’t just about having a diverse workforce. True business value comes when leadership and teams appreciate and capitalize on the ideas, actions and reactions of each diverse personality and understands that each person approaches their work environment with inherent differences.
Before the coronavirus took over our world, JMJ challenged itself to explore inclusion and diversity at a fundamental human performance and experience level. Through our work helping some of the world’s most respected organizations achieve cultural transformations, we recognized how difficult it is for leadership to create an inclusive and diverse physical workplace. We also knew these challenges would be amplified in the virtual workplace. Below are just some of the potential hazards:
- Inclusive behavior is more challenging when people aren’t in the same room and you can’t see or feel the body language of participants
- Communication styles, approaches, and frequency all are challenged when groups are virtual. How leadership addresses these nuances can either hinder or promote inclusiveness
- Issue resolution is more difficult because access to all the members required to solve complex problems may not be within the virtual meeting. How can this happen effectively and still promote positive inclusiveness?
- Leadership skills are challenged because it requires proactive awareness as well as purposeful, inclusive behaviors and actions
Capitalizing on the ‘new way’
The increase in WFH can be seen as a tough challenge or a wonderful opportunity. Many organizations used lengthy lockdowns as a change to lay the groundwork for greater inclusivity and diversity in a world where hybrid working no longer feels out of the ordinary. For others, it’s time to shift the paradigm and ask yourself some questions about how you and your organization have adapted to a virtual working world:
- Individual check-in: Do I have courage to take a stand and be accountable for my personal actions with regards to inclusion and diversity?
- Team check-in: Within the team, do we know how each person perceives the world? Are we able to spot unconscious biases?
- Leadership check-in: As a leader, am I aware of the individual and team dynamics and am I listening to them?
These are just a few of the challenges and opportunities leaders face as they leaders navigate the waters of remote working. We discuss them in more detail in future blogs on the topic of inclusion
Stay tuned for our continued discussion on inclusion and diversity in a virtual working world:
- Part 2: Effective virtual communication in an inclusive culture
- Part 3: The challenges and opportunities of virtual inclusive leadership
For over three decades, JMJ has been delivering impactful cultural change to help executives, leaders and front-line workers transform safety, sustainability, and business performance. We combine the deep experience of our people with our proprietary Transformation Cloud platform to deliver breakthrough results, making the impossible possible. www.jmj.com
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