April 7 2022 9:35 AM Ilma

Diversity and remote work: How to create an inclusive culture

In a diverse workforce, each person has their own way of thinking, doing and working. Every day is a new opportunity to learn something about someone's culture, background and personality.

The potential for greatness that comes with a diverse group of colleagues only works when everyone feels included, respected and heard.

So how do you nurture an inclusive work culture where everyone feels welcome? It starts with defining clear values, taking on feedback, and creating spaces where people feel heard and understood. Thankfully, there are plenty of practical ways to do just that!

But first…

What is inclusive culture, and why is it important?

An inclusive culture is a space that embraces and values everyone’s differences. Making everyone feel welcome is the right thing to do, and it holds big advantages for your business, including: 

  1. 💡 Increased innovation: In an inclusive environment, people are more open-minded and ready to try new ideas. In fact, companies practising inclusive workplace culture are 1.7 times more likely to become innovative leaders in their industries.

  2. 🤔 Better decision-making: A study by Cloverpop found that 87% of the time, inclusive teams make smarter decisions. Rather than being in an echo chamber, inclusive teams bounce different ideas and make better decisions as a result.

  3. 🙌 Improved job satisfaction and retention: Creating a space where everyone feels listened to and accepted will build trust within the team, and attract the right people. In fact, 76% of candidates believe that working in a diverse team is important.

  4. 💰Boosted revenue: Perhaps due to all of the above, it’s been found that companies in the top quartile of racial, ethnic and gender diversity are 25% more likely to get a higher profit than the national median for their sector! 

The numbers have spoken: an inclusive work environment leads to happy teams and better business outcomes.

Creating cultural inclusion in the remote workplace

When it comes to remote and hybrid teams, inclusivity at work might look a little different. You can’t always meet face-to-face, so it’s harder to pick up on social cues and hints. Plus, it takes extra effort to communicate effectively, stay in sync with each other, and make sure everyone feels valued and listened to. 

Fortunately, there are three main strategies that will help you to build an inclusive workplace culture, even when your team is spread all over the world. Let’s take a look!

1. Company values: The glue that holds it all together

Creating a culture of inclusion starts with your values—and those of the people you hire. Values will show your team what you stand for and how you treat each other. They will help to shape your company’s culture, and they will also attract like-minded people to your team. 

During the hiring process, you need to focus on finding out people’s values, and seeing if they align with your own. This way, even if your views might differ from time to time, you know that you’ll fundamentally care about the same things.

For example, dating app OKCupid recently ran a survey of nearly 35,000 successful couples who met using their platform. They find that a third of these lovebirds similarly answered 3 (apparently) random questions:

  • Do you like horror movies?

  • Have you ever traveled around another country alone?

  • Wouldn’t it be fun to chuck it all and go live on a sailboat?

These casual “first date” questions actually dig into some of the deeper questions in life: Can you have a good time being alone? Are you into adventures? How do you spend your free time? 

Side note: There are some very specific reasons why some people love or hate horror movies. And solo travel fanatics often share the same qualities: they trust themselves, they’re adaptable and self-reliant.

Just as successful couples share similar values, the same should go for successful remote teams. But not every company uses this fact to their advantage, and they will ask interview questions that are interesting but that don’t offer insight into a candidate’s values. 

To find the right people who will contribute to an inclusive workplace culture, you need to:

  1. Be transparent about your values: Make sure they’re clearly defined, and talk about them regularly so that they inform everything you do. 

  2. Publish your values: Then any candidate can access your website and make a decision upfront on whether you’d be a good fit.

Show your values in action: Whether you run a podcast, write a blog or post on social media, make sure you’re regularly sharing your company culture and how you work.

A note about letting people go 

Although no one likes to say goodbye, you also need to be ready to let team members go if you realize that your values differ after all. 

For example, if you have a value stipulating that “we treat each other right”, and then someone shows a lack of respect to their teammates on multiple occasions, you might have to prune them so that the entire tree can flourish. This will build a trusting environment, and the whole team will see that you take your values seriously and stick to them.

2. Encouraging people to speak their minds

Building an inclusive culture means that people need to be aware that their point of view might be different than their co-workers, and that’s OK. The goal is to acknowledge each other’s differences and encourage people with varying perspectives to feel comfortable speaking their minds. 

When a team is too homogeneous, employees outside that group or demographic might find it difficult to speak up and be the odd one out. It’s important to create an inclusive work environment where people share their ideas, discuss their differences and get to learn more about themselves. You can do this by encouraging people to notice what could be improved, voice their thoughts and find solutions—boosting employee engagement.

For example, one remote team recently had a conversation about the use of the word “guys”.

Some team members felt that it would be better to use a more neutral alternative so that everyone felt included, and this generated some healthy discussions on inclusive behaviors and workplace diversity.

There were many different opinions, but everyone agreed to do their best and make sure everyone felt welcome within the team (and also on the outside, when communicating with customers). They even created a Slackbot reminder above, to get in the habit! 

After a while, they turned it off, as it got embarrassing for new employees who replied to a flurry of welcome messages with “thanks, guys!” But even when the Slackbot was switched off, the sentiment was still remembered, and the team continued to use “guys” less, and replaced it with more neutral alternatives.

Working in a multicultural team helps a lot when it comes to seeing blind spots, challenging unconscious bias and gaining a broader view of the world. People are more willing to share their thoughts and raise questions. In a diverse team, it’s good when people are aware of their differences and embrace them, giving everyone a sense of belonging.

3. Creating spaces that make people feel heard and understood

Getting to know other team members is an important part of connecting and growing together. Some people are naturally drawn to each other, while others hardly ever cross paths. Bring people together by creating spaces where they can share their ideas and feel heard. 

Here are some inclusion activities that you can try:

Hand new members the mic 🎤

When new colleagues join your company, ask them to create and present a Pecha Kucha about themselves. Through this presentation, you’ll get to know each other and discover all the TV shows, favorite foods, sports and diverse talents you have in common!

Video call to chat about non-work-related stuff 🎬

Video calls are a great way to connect with colleagues on a personal level. You can see their body language, facial expressions and hear them talk. Encourage your team to have regular non-work-related remote calls. Topics could range from anything to vacation plans, to funny childhood stories—or you could play a virtual game together in real-time.

Participate in interesting Slack discussions 👀

There are lots of other ways to virtually team bond. You could set up several non-business Slack channels to talk about all things movies, games, books, music and more. To generate more discussions, you could even set up a “question a day” channel, with random questions like “What’s your best pizza topping combination?” or “What’s something you’re really bad at?” It’s fun to see everyone’s responses and learn new things together.

Learn more about yourselves, together 🤝

Conduct a team personalities experiment to get to know each other on a deeper level. This will help everyone to have more empathy and better understand how to work with one another—improving employee experiences. Different personalities in a team help to achieve even better results.

Create an anonymous suggestions box 💡

A suggestions box is a place where anyone can anonymously leave ideas and feedback on how to improve your company’s inclusive culture. That way, people can safely share what’s on their mind.

Host regular check-ins ✅

Create a space for mentoring and one-on-one support for each of your employees, at least once a month. You could set up “vibe check” calls with people from your human resources team, and/or have written reviews using a tool like 15Five, to check how everyone in the team is feeling, and take note of any challenges or feedback that arises.

The bottom line

Everyone in your team is different, and that’s a good thing. Use these three strategies to craft your organization’s culture to be more inclusive for everyone, and then step back and enjoy the benefits for both your business and your team! 

How do you celebrate your team’s differences? Share your experiences in the comments below!

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