Diversity of thought and action has come out to be one of the distinctive features for innovation and organizational success. According to a 2018 study by Harvard Business Review, companies with higher than average diversity had 19% higher innovation revenues. Therefore the case for workplace diversity is well accepted today. However, the benefits of having a diverse workforce comes with its own set of challenges. To begin with, managing a diverse team requires a considerable amount of mediation. It might come at the cost of delayed decision making because different minds seldom see eye to eye.
While managing a diverse team has been a challenge in the conventional work culture, the new normal with a virtual workforce has made the process even more difficult. For one thing, the connection and communication is lagging behind due to which diverse views are going unheard. At the same time, employees have very limited regard for others during virtual calls. Thus, managing a diverse team remotely requires business leaders to transform their people practices.
Managing a Diverse Team Remotely: Top 5 Strategies
New challenges towards managing a diverse team demand new practices and strategies to combat the same. Here a few practices that most forward looking organizations have been quick to adopt.
- Facilitate team communication, preferably with video
One of the best ways towards managing a diverse team is by facilitating communication between diverse employees. Communication is not only reporting to the manager and keeping a track of work progress. Rather, the onus falls on leaders to facilitate collaboration between diverse team members by assigning group tasks and projects. However, it is also important that such diverse groups are given access to requisite tools like Slack, Trello, etc. for effective collaboration. In addition, video interaction, beyond work, between different employees can be a great tool. Here employees can share their diverse experiences and opinions, beyond work, albeit in a safe space.
- Be mindful
Managing a diverse team requires business leaders and managers to be mindful and don a blanket of empathy. It is very important to understand the different set of challenges that each employee is facing and personalizing the approach to team management. A cookie cutter approach of expecting everyone to work at the same time and deliver the same output together might be an overstretch. Since your employees are also facing considerable challenges working remotely, managing diversity would require being a little extra flexible and gauging the unique employee pulse and mapping the way to work accordingly.
- Create virtual Employee Resource Groups (ERGs)
Employee resource groups are common to almost all organizations today that lead in managing a diverse team. However, transitioning to a virtual ERGs is the need of the hour. There are several ways to go about this. For one, organizations could simply take their existing ERGs online. They can continue functioning in the same way, albeit online. At the same time, there is sufficient opportunity for organizations to lead the way for newer and smaller ERGs which were previously shunned off because of capacity constraints. With the flexibility to join sessions from home, such ERGs will see an increase in participation from both those who identify with the cause, but are shy of participating in person and allies too.
In addition, virtual team building activities which require team participation could be leveraged, pairing up diverse minds. Finally, organizations need to step up their tech game by providing these ERGs with the right tools like Zoom to conduct virtual sessions and meetups.
- Encourage digital training
Managing a diverse team requires significant training to deal with individual and collective biases. As the workforce is going remote, organizations need to move such training to digital platforms. It might be a good idea to experiment with HR tech tools that help employees in the identification of bias and offer best practices to combat the same. Such tools can be calibrated to match the personal pace of each employee. At the same time, they can ensure complete anonymity of biases and help employees navigate their way out.
- Lead by example
Finally, managing a diverse team and inspiring collaboration in them rests with the team leaders and managers. And, the best way to accomplish this is through leading by example. This means that team leaders need to keep their bias and comfort at bay when dealing with team members remotely. Firstly, ensure an open door policy to inspire confidence in different team members to approach you for anything without hesitation. Secondly, do not fall back on certain favorite employees just because it is easier to collaborate with them remotely. Additionally, do not be too liberal with some and too stern with others. Give each of your team members the same treatment even when they are working from home.
Managing Diversity: An Organizational Imperative
There is no doubt about the fact that successfully managing a diverse team is the route to a positive employee experience. When each employee feels valued and receives a fair treatment, the engagement quotient is bound to soar high. Managing diversity is particularly important for a remote workforce, because remote work augments the chances of isolation and feeling of being left out. Thus, organizations need to step up their efforts and manage a diverse team to reap benefits of innovation, belongingness and engagement.