Any opinions expressed within this blog post are those of the author and not necessarily held by Workplaceless itself.
When we decided to dedicate two months of our Networkplaceless events to discussing challenges and solutions to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) in remote work, we knew it would be impossible to tackle everything in that time. We also knew that we needed to tap into diverse perspectives to truly round out the picture and provide tangible advice. With that in mind, in addition to hosting a diversity strategist in December, we reached out to a variety of organizations who are bringing forward opportunities for conversation as well as action. We’re grateful to Power to Fly, LGBTQ+ Workplace, NTI, and Startup Setup for taking the time to share their expertise.
Lauren Hagerty, Senior Manager of Marketing and Community, at Power to Fly, a community and recruiting platform that connects companies to women in tech, sales, marketing and digital, reflects on some of the remote diversity challenges discussed during November, and what organizations can do when it comes to finding and hiring diverse candidates.
Yes, offering remote, flexible or hybrid roles are great ways to bring more women and underrepresented talent to your organization, but by no means does it “solve” diversity concerns. LinkedIn’s Gender Insights Report found that women are 16% less likely than men to apply to a job after viewing it and apply to 20% fewer roles. In order to hire more women, hiring managers need to go where the diverse candidates are instead of posting and praying those diverse candidates will find them. Creating a fully fleshed out diverse talent pipeline is key, and it starts with setting intentions and getting leadership buy-in for these diversity initiatives. Partnering with organizations (like Lesbians Who Tech, BlackGirlsCode, or PowerToFly) that have targeted communities and remote job boards are great places to start. From there, utilizing non-traditional engagement strategies unique to each platform and measuring your outcomes is key. Try hosting targeted virtual events where you can show diverse candidates why they belong at your organization!
Katie Perkins, Founder of LGBTQ+ Workplace Education Center, shares both her DE&I journey within her work and practical advice to address the challenges discussed in for remote workers.
Many organizations mistakenly think that hiring remote workers from across the globe will skyrocket their progress toward achieving diversity goals. Spoiler alert—there are no shortcuts in diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) work. The most effective DE&I goals and initiatives are created before one even considers starting the recruiting process.
As I began my DE&I consulting journey, it quickly became apparent that the LGBTQ+ population is one of the most misunderstood even among highly trained HR professionals. Much of this inclusion comes at no added cost to employers but they simply do not know where to begin with LGBTQ+ initiatives—especially in fully remote workplace settings. Today, I want to share a few LGBTQ+ perspectives and considerations to assist your DE&I strategies.
Questions to ask yourself as an organization…
Would a potential employee know our company is LGBTQ+ inclusive by:
- Visiting our website?
- Looking at our social media?
- Viewing our company culture videos?
- Participating in our onboarding process?
- Reading our policies and procedures?
- Reviewing our strategic plan?
- Our options for professional development?
- Our donations to charity?
- Our featured speakers or programs?
If the answer is “Not really” or “I’m unsure,” reach out to a consulting organization like LGBTQ+ Workplace Education Center and we would be happy to assess your existing culture and make recommendations for improvements.
Listed are a few of the LGBTQ+ DE&I challenges expressed in fully remote teams:
Challenge: How do I reach this group remotely? (recruitment)
Tip: Email LGBTQ+ Resource Centers directly. Let them know about your opening and your commitment to diversity. They will spread the word in their facilities and to their followers. Also, ask what other organizations they recommend you to connect with. While working as an LGBTQ+ Resource Coordinator for a public university, I had a member of a Pride Employee Resource Group reach out to me in this manner and I was able to spread the word to hundreds of students and offer other LGBTQ+ groups to reach out to in the state.
Advice: If you don’t have ERGs, create an LGBTQ+ liaison. Open this position up to the whole company—don’t just ask the one person who has told you they are LGBTQ+. They might not be comfortable being out to the entire company or they may not want to be the go-to person for this topic for many reasons. This position simply helps with communication and advocacy—they should not be expected to be the sole point-person for LGBTQ+ DE&I initiatives.
Challenge: Company culture vs. geographic norms
Each state and country offers different protections for LGBTQ+ citizens and employees.
- Legal discrimination in housing, healthcare, and employment
- Hate crime language that does not protect LGBTQ+
- Adoption policies, marriage, etc.
Advice: create a ‘Commitment to Diversity’ policy that each employee will sign during onboarding that includes more information including acceptable and unacceptable behaviors. Add links for the relevant cultural competency training. Be willing to hire and fire based on your organization’s core beliefs and make DE&I a firm part of your day-to-day decision making.
Are your LGBTQ+ employees shouting out how much they enjoy working for your company? If so, this says a lot about your current culture. It also encourages more diverse talent to look at your organization as a potential future employer.
Examples: Create resource groups, Slack channels, virtual networking (even happy hour) events, etc. to allow LGBTQ+ employees to connect—this helps foster belonging.
I’ve even seen visibility examples being used in “Our Culture” videos showcasing what it looks like to be a remote worker for a particular company—in the clip one employee was waving from a home workstation with a rainbow mouse pad and a small rainbow desk flag. Using these few seconds of the clip was very intentional.
These are only a few of the considerations to take into account when creating LGBTQ+ DE&I goals and initiatives for a remote workplace. There are countless opportunities for implementation to be woven throughout the organization and the employee lifecycle. Even if you are unsure where to begin, contact LGBTQ+ Workplace Education Center and we will guide you in the right direction.
Michael Sanders, Associate Director of Marketing, at NTI@Home shares how NTI@Home builds DE&I into their internal practices, as well as with their clients and community they serve.
NTI@Home has its roots entrenched in communities all over the United States, helping individuals with disabilities find remote work they can do within their own homes. Over 25 years, our nonprofit has been working energetically to fulfill our unique mission while remaining committed to finding creative solutions to meet the needs of a diverse and remote workforce. To date, we have assisted over 100,000 individuals nationwide while never losing our focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) in the disability community.
To build upon successes with DE&I initiatives, NTI@Home recently joined the Boston Inclusion Community to continue to strengthen DE&I practices throughout our organization. Partnering with the Community, we developed a plan to foster further a culture of trust, transparency, and accountability between NTI employees and the people they serve.
As part of our inclusive environment, NTI employees know that their ideas, backgrounds, and perspectives will be heard and considered. We encourage input from the clients we serve, other nonprofits, and the public. This input allows us to listen to the things we need to hear and act on those ideas that best serve our mission and purpose. Along the way, it will enable us to provide broader solutions and equal access for both our employees and our customers/clients.
Due to the simple locational logistics that come with a remote workforce, DE&I initiatives don’t happen automatically. Active effort to cultivate and grow diversity and inclusion is imperative, as is a process to review and improve continually. But the work that is required to build and maintain a diverse and inclusive team pays off: thirty-five percent of diverse companies outperform homogeneous ones.
DE&I initiatives within a remote workforce pose challenges for NTI, including the unique challenge of training customer service agents who are then hired directly by NTI’s employer-partners and not NTI itself. But this has allowed us at NTI to help other organizations develop and improve their DE&I initiatives. In turn, we encourage, support, and provide mechanisms to participate in idea-sharing and collectively promote the best ideas. Having tools in place to facilitate open, transparent, connected, and concise information makes remote work not only possible but successful. Through the use of employer approved channels such as collaboration software, video chat meetings, or polls, all employees have the opportunity to be heard.
At NTI@Home, we encourage individuals to become a part of our DE&I effort. To become a part, contact NTI@Home at [email protected].
Tijana Momirov, the Founder of StartupSetup, shares a personal experience of a win-win employment scenario in working with her clients.
When recruiting, I usually invite a selection of candidates to a brief cultural fit call, 15 minutes tops, before we continue to the next level, like a technical interview, etc. On this particular occasion, a UX designer candidate informed me that it wouldn’t be possible due to his hearing imparity. However, unlike a face-to-face situation, written chat comes pretty natural when communicating remotely, so we just continued chatting until at one point I was quite convinced I had my UX designer. As I was recruiting on behalf of the client who already mentioned that they’d like to have a call with my top three suggested candidates, I had to present the new circumstances. The client was a bit reluctant at first, stating that they liked to present their requirements verbally on certain occasions and also value the real time team meetings a lot. So I volunteered to be the bridge: to summarize their requirements and meeting minutes in written form and forward to the designer.
And so they agreed. And so the designer started working. And so I started playing my bridge role.
My bridge role—that pretty soon got obsolete. And here is why: the client realized that by putting there requirements in written form they got to have even more clarity and systematic view of their plans, so they started writing down all the details and arranging them properly in the specs (what was anyway part of my strategy for their process improvement, but the special circumstances just sped it up), answering the questions in context (Jira, Axure, etc.) and, all in all, following the flow.
Not only that the project went well, but I’ve got the same designer on board for the projects of my other clients. It was a success story for all. Due to remote work tools and proper collaboration flow.
Tips for remote leaders
In most of the cases, even if they seem to be extreme (“how can I work with an employee that can’t hear me?”), the usual general management and collaboration principles already work well enough. It’s just a matter of sticking to them. In an offline setting, with standard employees’ abilities, you might be able to get away without following the rules, but it doesn’t mean you should. In the long run, your team and your business will scale better and come out more inclusive if you do follow them. The requirements should be provided in a systematic written form in an appropriate context. Period. That way you don’t need to think if the person sits next to you or on another continent, or if they walk, talk, and hear you. And you’ll gain many talented collaborators that way, guaranteed.
If you have experience to share about actions you’re taking to move the needle when it comes to DE&I in the remote workplace, please reach out to us at [email protected].