Author: Lee Daniels
Technology that enables people to work from anywhere can help attract a more diverse workforce with different perspectives, says Lee Daniels, Head of Workforce, EMEA and Workplace, UK at JLL
As more companies back hybrid working, it’s not just employees who are benefitting from greater freedom in their workday; companies are equally finding that it’s supporting their efforts to create more diverse and inclusive workplaces. With increasing investment in workplace technology such as high-speed internet, video conferencing platforms and online collaboration software, the digital transformation of business operations is giving rise to greater flexibility in terms of where and when people work.
Technology has given employees the freedom to work from anywhere, and to engage with their workplace and colleagues in new innovative ways. Precisely because of this, companies are now able to attract a more diverse range of talent with different backgrounds and lifestyles.
By enabling people to collaborate and attend meetings online, for example, hybrid working can support people juggling work with childcare or caring responsibilities. Likewise, companies who allow employees to work from home three days a week open the door to candidates who might not be able to afford higher rents around city centre offices and supports those with disabilities who might struggle to commute every day.
Employers are increasingly recognising the business case for investing in a more diverse and inclusive workplace. It is now well-established that diverse and inclusive workplaces transform company culture, increasing productivity and collaboration, which ultimately drives the success of a business.
Getting the right HR professionals is a critical part of driving change and embedding the inclusive workplace cultures that today’s employees are looking for. Between May 2020 and March 2021, job postings for diversity and inclusion professionals in the US rose 123 percent, while there’s also growing demand for these roles in the UK and Germany.
Although more companies now have diversity and inclusion policies in place, translating these into reality is an ongoing challenge. Data is also playing a growing role in helping employers assess how diverse their workforces are, and where diversity and inclusion initiatives can better support staff.
Surveying employees’ backgrounds, for example, builds a picture of workforce demographics to inform goal-setting while analysing chat platforms reveals whether certain groups are interrupted more frequently or engage less. Analytics tools – such as those used by Schneider Electric – can track diversity and inclusion metrics across jobs and teams so companies can understand where to focus efforts.
Recent JLL research has exposed the discrepancies in employee experience of hybrid working and highlights the need for employers to better invest in office spaces in order to support their employees, create a diverse workforce and retain the best talent. Relaxation spaces, healthy food services and outdoor spaces, for example, top the list in terms of what employees want; yet, currently only 17% of people actually have access to relaxation spaces, 19% have access to healthy food services and 25% have access to outdoor spaces. It is precisely this lack of equity in employee personal situations that employers must recognise and accommodate for.
Designing For All
When employees are in the office, inclusive workplace design is a core part of helping people feel comfortable and do their job to the best of their abilities.
JLL research has found that employers are now expected to build new ‘authentic’ and ‘inclusive’ workplaces anchored in strong human values (a top priority for 50% and 49% of the workforce respectively), ahead of ‘green’ and ‘tech-enabled’ work environments (a priority for only 38% and 36% of employees).
The physical workplace itself must play a key role in supporting employees with a diverse range of needs and must be accessible and equitable to all. Technology plays a pivotal role in ensuring the workplace can accommodate and engage a diverse workforce.
Sensors that monitor how employees use the office, for example, can provide insights into how the workplace can better support people to perform at their best.
Employee engagement platforms where staff can book desks, leave feedback and arrange meetings can indicate overall sentiment – and highlight areas for companies to address – while offering people a seamless way to connect with colleagues.
As hybrid working beds in, the challenge for managers and HR teams will be to ensure people feel part of the team – and the wider workplace community – wherever they’re logging in from.
The question of how to integrate teams who are working in different geographical locations, in a combination of virtual and physical interaction, will be key for businesses. Only through ensuring these teams are fully integrated will companies be able to attract and retain the best staff.
Lee Daniels, Head of Workforce, EMEA and Workplace, UK at JLL