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Unlocking the Benefits of Diversity in the Digital Workplace

January 13, 2022 Digital Workplace
Kaya Ismail
By Kaya Ismail

Diversity has been a growing area of interest for organizations in recent years. With increased pressure from stakeholders and communities, companies have been forced to re-examine their workforce composition and implement strategies to fill the diversity gaps.

Amid the Great Resignation, companies face a double challenge: finding skilled talent and finding it in candidates from a variety of backgrounds. Remote-friendly companies have the advantage of being able to hire individuals from anywhere in the country and even around the world. This enables them to broaden their search and unlock the full benefits of a diverse workplace more easily.

The Digital Workplace and Diversity

It may be common knowledge to many by now, but operating in a digital workplace with a remote or hybrid model has several benefits for diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging. 

Access to a Broader Talent Pool

Remote organizations have access to an entire globe of talented employees. This means they don’t need to be restricted to the available talent pool in one city, country or even region to find talent. With millions of potential candidates, remote organizations have a better chance of finding diverse, high quality talent that fits within their existing company culture. 

Focus on Merit and Performance

Having access to a greater talent pool means remote companies can hire candidates fully based on merit. "When individuals are hired keeping merit foremost, it builds an environment where intellect can flow and creativity can prosper," said Vartika Kashyap, chief marketing officer at Walnut, Calif. project management software company ProofHub.

Related Article: 8 Steps to Build Meaningful Diversity and Inclusion Analytics

Greater Cultural Awareness

Hiring diverse talent also provides an opportunity for companies to increase their cultural awareness. This can turn into a positive educational experience for employees, enabling them to develop a greater appreciation of individual differences.

Increased Productivity

A diverse, distributed workforce across regions and countries can lead to higher productivity.

"Being able to hire from different areas in different time zones allows the company to become a 24/7 shop while not having people work late hours,” said Guy Baroan, president of Baroan Technologies, a managed IT services company in New Jersey. Teams can divide up major projects between employees in different locations, ensuring they are completed more efficiently, he said.

Related Article: 5 Ways Diversity and Inclusion Changed in the Last Year

5 Steps to Overcome the Challenges in the Digital Workplace

Having a diverse and distributed workforce provides advantages, but there are challenges to overcome to ensure it yields the intended results.

Rethink Job Requirements

To achieve diversity, HR leaders and managers need to rethink their hiring practices, all the way from job descriptions to the candidate review process. The ideal candidate is no longer one who checks a series of boxes pertaining to professional experience and hard skills.

This is particularly true in today's dynamic workplace, where companies are constantly disrupted by emerging trends and shifting market conditions. The best teams are versatile, agile and flexible. Finding the right employee is never easy, but the broader talent pool that remote companies access can make it easier.

Kashyap said these organizations "should capitalize on this opportunity by making amends in their sourcing, screening and shortlisting process."

Identify and Remove Bias in Hiring

Biases are part of human nature, but HR can help drive a less biased hiring process.

"Organizations need to make fundamental changes to their processes to minimize or remove the opportunity for bias," said Claire Williams, director of people and services at Marlow, UK-based HR software firm CIPHR. "This relates to both the attraction of a diverse workforce and then the ongoing efforts to create a truly inclusive culture."

To weed out these biases, she suggested companies acquire appropriate software tools and processes. Recruitment software that helps make candidates anonymous during the initial screening and assessment, for instance, is a great place to start.

Train Staff to Implement Processes

Organizations can "use screening and assessment tools to take away personal prejudice and introduce gender and diversity quotas from the interview stage, providing regular, in-depth equality training and diversity, equity and inclusion data to identify potential areas for improvement," Williams said.  

Kashyap said companies need to pay "special attention and care to developing a healthy diverse hiring process that achieves what it has set out for." As a result, HR leaders and recruiters may want to obtain additional training before starting a diversity-focused hiring process.

Related Article: Is Your Recruiting Algorithm Biased?

Consider Local Payment and Tax Rules

One critical element of a remote workforce is how employees get paid — and the tax implications for hiring in different geographical areas. "A company may have a difficult time navigating the different rules in different countries for taxes, benefits and other requirements,” Baroan said.

Before hiring begins, companies should seek expert advice to make sure they understand the requirements related to hiring from another state, region or country.

Account for Language Barriers

Most companies have a common language, but hiring from other countries may introduce some language barriers. This shouldn’t deter organizations from embracing a diverse workplace, but it is an issue to address early on.

Overall, when implementing a diversity mandate, companies have a responsibility to ensure it is accomplished fairly, respectfully, efficiently and productively.

 

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