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How to Harness Your Hybrid Work Environment to Build Diverse, Inclusive Teams

With diversity, equity & inclusion (DE&I) woven into so many of Rural Sourcing’s strategic goals, it’s important that we use the hybrid work environment to help us achieve them, instead of seeing it as something that stands in our way. Hybrid work has the potential to offer a higher level of flexibility, better work-life balance and a more uniquely tailored employee experience. All of these things can have an overwhelmingly positive impact on our DE&I efforts if we’re able to harness their potential. Using data from a recent McKinsey study on DE&I as a guide, here’s how to take advantage of a hybrid work environment to help you build diverse, inclusive teams.

Encourage a Healthy Work-Life Balance

McKinsey research on DE&I efforts showed that of their respondents, 60% ranked work-life support the number one thing that they wanted their employers to work on. This was across 17 different inclusion practice areas. Employees are clamoring for greater support across areas of their basic needs, responsibilities and interests outside of work. So what can we do as employers to respond to this information? Half of the respondents in the survey said that focusing on things like parental leave, sick leave, flex hours and even permanent work from home options and opportunities will allow them to have a much better employee experience.

Find Ways to Build Connections

In looking at the McKinsey research across the 17 different inclusion practice areas surveyed, the second most important area for improving inclusion is in team building. As much as employees value the benefits of a hybrid or work from home model, the unintended consequence of that flexibility is that it often leads to isolation, or even in some cases, depression, when the cohesion of that team isn’t present. So as leaders, we need to think about how we build and create those teams so that there’s a sense of connectivity among groups. In order to build psychological safety, which is a foundation of any high-performing team, we have to think about offering team-building activities at the beginning of those stages. Whether it’s virtually or in-person, create the space and time for those moments to get to know each other as individuals, not just as coworkers.

Remember That Everyone is Human

The third most important aspect that respondents of the McKinsey survey said was most impactful for building inclusive teams is mutual respect. In the hybrid world that we’re working in today, social and casual interactions become limited. Even just real-time back and forth banter in a conversation can be limited. What this often leads to is a lack of connectedness to the other humans that we’re working with, which unfortunately can lead to miscommunication at best and at worst the robotization of your work experience. So with those challenges in mind, how can we go about improving upon these interactions and building tighter bonds with our teammates? One way is to think about our teammates as humans first. We need to keep in mind that there’s a life outside of work and emotions can be affected positively or negatively by what’s going on well outside of our influence. Give your teams grace if they’re having a less productive day than usual or they need some extra space temporarily.

Leaders at all levels should be asking the tough questions, taking action and viewing the flexibility of creating a work experience not as an end game, but as an evolving set of expectations that will have to be adjusted over time (and maybe even individually tailored down to the singular employee level). I believe that if we can focus on putting these practices and policies into place going forward, we’ll build a much better and more inclusive workforce.

About the Author:

As Chief Executive Officer, Monty Hamilton leads the executive team and drives the overall strategy for Rural Sourcing. Monty is responsible for leading the strategic direction and the growth of Rural Sourcing and is leading the team in their goal to launch 10 new high-tech hubs over the next few years. Each facility will have 200 colleagues in low cost of living, high quality of life locations. He is a sought-after speaker on the outsourcing and domestic sourcing topic and has recently been featured on CNBC, BBC, NPR radio and at various industry conferences including IAOP, Gartner, Digital Georgia and others. In addition, recent articles depicting Rural Sourcing’s innovative outsourcing model have appeared in Business Week, CNN Money magazine, CFO magazine, and CIO magazine.

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