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The Future of Work is Now—and it’s Radically Inclusive

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This post originally appeared on Launchways.com

The Long-Awaited “Future of Work” Has Come Early, and Brought Surprises Galore

Particularly in the last few years, Thought Leaders have been heralding the approach of “The Future of Work,” imagining a model of what “work” would look like in a world of abundant emerging technologies including artificial intelligence, robotics, and automation. That future vision has typically focused on the need to manage a shift of the workforce to virtual, remote, and alternative models to full-time staff (gig-based, contract-based, and part-time labor, for example).

Enter COVID-19, and the timetable has changed, and brought with it a number of unexpected features. In a matter of weeks, we’ve seen non-essential workers being told to work from home (WFH) while sheltering-in-place. Organizations, in an effort to recalibrate their budgets in tightened consumer and supply chain markets, have done their best to be creative by adapting HR policies and employment contracts to allow for safer working conditions, flexible hours, and many have reduced their workforce resulting in employees being shifted to subcontractors, part-time status, or have simply been laid off, forcing them to seek new income opportunities from home.

Who would have guessed that these disrupting shifts to work-from-home would coincide, hand-in-hand, with equally disrupting shifts to school-from-home, making working parents into teachers as well? And who would have predicted the explosive and breathtaking speed of almost-universal adoption of Zoom and other web-conferencing services?

This is not the graceful, opportunity-driven entrance into the future we may have envisioned. In fact, initial waves of surprises produced longings for a “return to normal.” But, more recently, subsequent waves of signals from the future have pointed toward possible shapes of things to come. Many uncertainties remain, but some things have become quite clear. We most certainly aren’t going “back to normal!” The past has passed, and it is not coming back. Winners and losers will be defined by their agility in adopting new technologies, by the ability to learn and innovate quickly, and by how well they attract and retain top talent.

Competing for Talent in the Future of Work

In a world where more companies’ workforce is remote/virtual, the geographic and financial constraints of recruiting melt away. Suddenly, teams have an opportunity to pursue a truly global talent pool in a more democratized way—allowing them to expand their talent search beyond their local zip codes.

The expansion goes beyond geography. Entire populations of people for whom a traditional office role is challenging, unsafe, or even impossible are finally able to access the labor market in a more equitable and inclusive way. These include, just to name a few:

  • Individuals with significant physical disabilities
  • Individuals who are gender nonconforming or going through a gender transition
  • Individuals with phobias or other mental health challenges
  • Individuals with chronic or acute health conditions
  • Neurodiverse individuals
  • Caregivers, whether for children or aging/ill family members

These types of barriers to workplace accessibility can be easier to accommodate in a remote-work context. Individuals can curate their space and constraints to meet their own needs, particularly if their organization provides proper technology, infrastructure and policies to support them.

The Best Talent is Diverse

The greatest talent in the world includes members of populations who are suddenly gaining access in this new normal. If your organization is hiring the best talent without bias, members of your team will represent a wide array of cultures and identities.

Not only is diversity an inevitable outcome of unbiased recruitment practices, but the data shows diverse teams far outperform homogenous teams. This ROI has been proven time and time again — reports by Forbes, Mercer, the Harvard Business Review, and many more demonstrate that a diversified workforce drives innovation and business growth — bottom line: diverse organizations perform better.

Here’s How: Practice Inclusion and Equity Throughout your Employee Lifecycle

  • It starts with Attraction.
    • Inclusive employer branding, content marketing, events and continuous networking
  • Talent Acquisition and Recruitment.  
    • Engaging diverse talent, identify diverse sourcing opportunities, curb unconscious biases, reduce barriers to application process, create transparent process and develop culturally intelligent communication practices
  • Hiring and Onboarding
    • Transparency, over-communication and personalization can make all the difference
    • Combat bias by building a fair and consistent processes
    • Build interview guides and scorecards that are clear and objective
  • Employer Benefits and Compensation
  • Employee Engagement and Training & Development
    • Make it a regular practice to check-in with your employees. Conduct pulse-surveys that specifically gauge inclusion, equity and belonging. 
    • Cultivate an inclusive culture
    • Offer inclusive and accessible learning experiences and develop clear learning/career pathways
  • Performance Management
    • Here’s your opportunity to acknowledge, celebrate and reward for each team member’s cultural contribution, unique ways of working, and fostering a culture of inclusion!
    • This is also an opportunity to re-evaluate your performance metrics. Some questions you may want to ask yourself includes:
      • Is your process fair, equitable and inclusive?
      • Are your policies unintentionally punitive or do they lean towards corrective action?
  • Foster Community
    • Create, support, and invest in Employee Resource/Affinity Groups

The Future is Yours!

Now is the time to catch the wave of change and surf it to success—don’t get pulled into the undertow of clinging to old ways of working! Here are a few steps to move your organization towards the future of work:

  1. Harness the inclusion capacity of your organization. Identify the innovative, forward-thinking, and inclusion-minded changemakers in your organization. Activate them toward a goal of fostering inclusion. Empower them to set audacious goals and affect disruptive change when needed, and support them with leadership buy-in.
  2. Get help. When you have reached the bounds of your team’s capacity for in-house inclusion efforts, partner with inclusion experts like The Darkest Horse to bring in external support for consulting, training, facilitation, and events/experiences.
  3. Use the right tools. Work with an HR and Benefits expert like Launchways to ensure your HR processes and benefits packages meet the needs of a modern workforce.
  4. Keep learning!

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About the Author(s)

Rada Yovovich, MBA
Chanté Martinez Thurmond, MA, BSN, RYT-200

Co-Founders of The Darkest Horse™