The Right Strategies Can Increase Inclusion In The Hybrid Workplace

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, many of the ways organizations fostered inclusion were designed for a mostly on-site world, including employee resource groups and their sponsorship of in-person events. However, organizations that effectively manage the transition to a hybrid work environment and employ sustainable initiatives can boost inclusion by 24 percent, reports Gartner, Inc. Hybrid work affects four of the elements that make up inclusion—fair treatment, diversity, belonging and trust.

“Inclusion may be compromised in a hybrid work environment due to lack of visibility,” says Ingrid Laman, vice president, advisory in the Gartner HR practice. “In a hybrid work environment, unfair treatment may go unchecked as employees have less visibility into how others are treated; trust can erode due to a lack of transparency.”

HR leaders can enact sustainable inclusion initiatives that focus on addressing elements of exclusion that employees experience on a regular basis. Microaggressions training and reporting are strategies that Gartner recommends including. To address unfair treatment in the hybrid work environment, Gartner says that leaders should start by creating awareness of, and equipping employees with, the skills to identify and address microaggressions. Microaggressions are verbal, behavioral or environmental indignities that insult traditionally marginalized groups. Current training and development efforts largely focus on unconscious bias; however, to truly drive inclusion, all employees need to understand how to empathize with the experiences of marginalized groups, how to spot microaggressions and more importantly, how to prevent and disrupt microaggressions from happening or escalating.

Gartner also points to diversity mentorship programs as an effective approach as addressing the lack of transparency and career support of underrepresented talent is key to fostering inclusion in the hybrid work environment. The most pervasive challenges to increasing diversity are organizational in nature—lack of transparency on career paths, next steps to promotion and lack of mentors/career support make it difficult for underrepresented talent to ascend to more senior positions. Employers need to provide a viable networking infrastructure that enables underrepresented talent to build growth-focused networks and for mentors to better understand the barriers to advancement they are facing.

“At the office, it’s easy to introduce yourself to a senior colleague when you bump into them, but in the hybrid world, organizations must ease the effort required to participate in networking programs and help facilitate connections,” says Laman.

Financial and physical well-being programs can also be effective. In its guidance, Gartner notes that belonging correlates to employees feeling that their organizations care about them and invest in their overall well-being. Gartner research shows that candidates and employees place a premium on being cared for by their organizations. To foster belonging in a hybrid work environment, organizations must identify the needs of different types of employees in order to continue to invest in the right mix of financial and physical well-being programs. Employees who work remotely or in a hybrid arrangement may need to leverage physical wellness programs to prevent them from feeling isolated and overly sedentary. Employees whose families may have been adversely impacted by the pandemic may need to leverage financial wellness programs.

Companies can also promote diversity metrics in their work to increase inclusion. Providing transparency into and reporting on diversity, equity and inclusion progress is one way to improve trust. Over the last 18 months, many organizations formally and publicly committed to increasing diversity, improving inclusion and addressing inequity. Organizations now need to create transparency on how they are progressing towards those goals. Metrics focused on representation, talent mobility, turnover and inclusion help employees—and leaders—understand the current state of their organization and the opportunities for improvement and hold individuals accountable for progress.

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