How to Drive Inclusive Culture in the Digital Workplace

Joel Lesko
June 27, 2020

With all the changes brought by COVID-19, employees that have implemented remote work policies are scrambling to ensure employees feel engaged. Jenna Eastman, head of customer success at Beekeeper, shares her top tips for digital workplaces that want to create a more inclusive company culture.

As COVID-19 continues to spread, more and more workplaces are trying to figure out how employees can work — and stay engaged — from a distance. They fear that becoming a digital workplace will mean having disconnected employees scattered around the country (or the world) with little regard for the larger organizations they belong to. But in truth, a robust digital workplace can strengthen a company culture and foster inclusion.

Every employee should feel included at a company, whether he works from home 500 miles away or she’s at the main office every day from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. The same culture and values that exist in a central office should extend to frontline staff members that never set foot in a shared physical space.

When you utilize technological advancements to put people first, coordinate tasks, and maintain secure communications, a digital workplace can facilitate a more inclusive company culture. With all the reasons people work from a distance — health, flexibility, family obligations — a digital workplace lets people learn from each other and embrace their differences while working toward the same goals.

Connectivity Is Key

Connectivity refers to communication, sure, but there’s more to it. Frontline workers need equal access to information as much as they need easy access to colleagues. According to Igloo’s “2019 State of the Digital Workplace,” 56% of remote workers feel they’ve missed out on important information, and 43% say certain people or groups are inaccessible to them.

These concerns are significant hindrances to productivity, and they also hurt morale. How can frontline workers be expected to perform at their maximum potential when they can’t get access to the information or people they need to complete critical tasks?

The best way to overcome these challenges and improve company culture is to get everyone on a single platform. Getting everything in one place enhances efficiency, lets people interact with a more significant number of employees, and connects people across shifts and locations.

The right tools can overcome the toughest obstacles (such as improving language barriers with translation abilities). People can also share pictures along with written content, which encourages engagement and fosters a sense of belonging.

Even people who aren’t directly involved with an exchange should be included whenever possible to build a sense of community. Not everyone can attend meetings in person — and even when they’re physically close, and nothing makes a person feel left out like missing an inside joke. But with an excellent platform, everyone can learn about updates and trust that individual contributions will impact the more significant organization.

Real-time communications are also critical to the success of a digital workplace. When time zone differences are minimal, official office hours make sure everyone is available at the same time. It can be beneficial to set aside dedicated times each week where management is open to frontline employees; managers should be able to encourage feedback, ask questions, and solicit ideas.

Making the Most of a Digital Workplace

Want to ensure your digital workplace will help improve company culture? Try implementing these three key strategies:

1. Generate some buzz early on

Some employees could be hesitant to adopt new technology and might not see the benefits right away. Before implementing any new strategies, do some research to identify obstacles you’ll need to overcome, anxieties people have, and how employees currently feel about inclusion. Collect hard data, so you don’t invest in a significant shift that’s based on a hunch.

A cultural assessment that emphasizes diversity and inclusion will give you measurable insights that can guide your tool and strategy selection moving forward. When you’re ready to implement a change, be open with your team about what to expect and start generating buzz early to encourage everyone to join the new platform before it’s time.

Learn More: Hiring for Diversity? Try the Culture Add Approach

2. Let content be king

If you want people to use a digital workplace, it needs to be populated with relevant content. That’s what will keep users coming back — they’ll see the workplace as a place to engage with their colleagues, get updates from leaders, and find operational information that helps them get their work done.

Start by building out a content plan for your digital workplace that spans three to six months. To ensure you have sufficient content that resonates with employees designates content owners. These people don’t have to be leaders; they can be anyone across the company who is excited to drive change and positive engagement on your digital platforms.

As you progress, periodically review your content-management strategy. Make sure employees have the information they need to do their jobs. Of course, you’ll also want to make sure frontline workers have the same access as in-office workers. Remember that each bit of information only needs to be available on one source. Multiple versions of the same information create confusion that’s easy to avoid. Set up an FAQ page where employees can ask questions and get answers, and establish times for them to share feedback. Define a content strategy in advance so that your digital workplace won’t just have users — it should have the information that makes users want to return.

Learn More: How AI & Mindfulness Can Tackle Age Bias in the Modern Workplace

3. Take a “crawl, walk, run” approach

You might want to hit the ground running, but it’s better to start with small steps. If you provide too many tools at once, employees won’t know which tools to leverage for which purposes. Begin by fostering communication. Then, introduce more as you achieve engagement goals. If you use a platform with a wide range of capabilities, start by implementing just a few communicationchannels, and only add extra channels after you see success with the first ones.

Starting slow creates more opportunities for measurable benchmarks that can outline a clear narrative toward inclusion goals. Everyone starts (and stays) on the same page and works toward those goals together. With trackable data, leadership can quickly identify when something doesn’t work and make adjustments accordingly.

A digital workplace doesn’t have to make employees feel isolated. If inclusion and diversity are priorities for your organization, your digital workplace can be a powerful tool in achieving those goals.

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