With the work-from-home trend continuing for many organizations, ensuring that diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) efforts are relevant and effective for remote employees is one of the challenges for managers — and it may remain so beyond 2021. A recent survey by the Society or Human Resource Management (SHRM) of 1,000 US employees found that 52% said they prefer to work from home permanently.
How can organizations continue to advance DEI while maintaining a remote or hybrid work environment? Here are 5 steps that managers can take:
- Set the stage
Managers can set the stage for an inclusive remote work environment by establishing clear expectations for what is acceptable and unacceptable behavior. Employees need to know that DEI is part of the organization’s remote work policy and is woven into other workplace programs, processes and practices. And, of course, managers must lead by example and reflect a commitment to DEI in their day-to-day interactions and decisions.
- Check in regularly
Managers should make it a habit to check in regularly with remote team members, who may be located in different cities, states and countries. While there’s no substitute for impromptu interactions around the coffee machine, organizations should invest in the right tools, platforms and programs that enable managers to communicate and support remote workers.
- Encourage questions and feedback
To help counter feelings of isolation and exclusion that remote employees may experience, managers should ask for and listen to their feedback and concerns. Engaging in one-on-one conversations, establishing focus groups and roundtables and using formal communication channels and engagement surveys help managers stay connected to employees and get a sense of how they perceive the organization’s DEI progress.
- Promote the value of online diversity training
Diversity training can’t be a once-a-year task. To be effective, training should be part of an ongoing DEI training and education program that keeps pace with changes inside and outside the organization. Behavior-based training that is relevant to the organization and employees’ experiences should address a wide range of topics that impact an inclusive culture, such as unconscious bias, microaggressions, cultural competency, empathy, bystander intervention and psychological safety.
- Support individual and team growth
A remote work environment makes it especially important for managers to recognize and remove barriers to building inclusive teams. Establishing mentoring programs that focus on developing diverse employees into diverse leaders, offering cross-functional opportunities, creating employee resource groups (ERGs), seeking out different voices and new approaches to solving problems and measuring progress all contribute to moving the DEI needle from awareness to action.
With more employees working from home — some indefinitely — frontline managers play a critical role in fostering inclusion among remote employees and ensuring they understand how the organization’s DEI strategy and goals apply to their experiences in the evolving world of work.
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