Five Tips for Future-Proofing Your Workplace (Blog Post)
What are you doing to make sure your organization will be successful in the future?
That’s what we discussed with 700+ leaders from 250+ organizations at the 2019 Catalyst Awards Conference focused on [email protected] Senior leaders from Walmart, UPS, AARP, Pfizer, PNC Bank, Dell, Sodexo, AT&T and more sparked conversations at sessions that forecast how to ensure that workplaces—and women—are not left behind in our future economy.
Here are five key takeaways, along with ideas for how you can start making change now.
1. How you recruit matters.
“Recruitment is a critical problem looking ahead. It’s arguably the most important business issue [organizations] face.” — Session participant
In a panel discussion called “Rethinking Recruitment: Filling Future Demand for Talent,” participants agreed that how to develop more inclusive recruiting processes was their most pressing concern. Right now, companies are struggling to meet the demand for employees with technical, interpersonal, and leadership skills. But they can increase their odds of recruiting and retraining qualified talent by creating workplaces where a balance of skill sets and experiences are equally valued and maximized.
- Partner with educational institutions: Many colleges and universities offer skills boot camps and certificate training programs, including for mid-career professionals, that can help you find new talent.
- Reflect inclusion: Review your website’s recruiting pages to ensure that photos and stories show the diversity you’re looking for.
- Update job descriptions: Focus on skills, not formal education or job titles, when writing job descriptions and identifying qualified candidates. Make sure you don’t bake gender bias into the descriptions by using terms like “aggressive” or “competitive,” which typically attract male candidates.
- Rethink expected qualifications: It can be transformative to shift from asking from why someone wouldn’t be qualified for a role to instead consider why they would. Does a candidate have potential that might be unlocked with a bit of training?
2. Interpersonal skills will be key to success.
Much has been written about the need to “upskill” employees so they can gain and refresh their technical skills. But the fact is that as workplaces become more diverse and virtual, it’s also critical for them to be able to communicate across cultures, styles, and differences. In the session called “Balancing Act: Harnessing Technology Takes a Human Touch,” panelists discussed how successful leaders will need to not only manage and integrate rapid technological advances, but also simultaneously build inclusive teams where all employees thrive.
- Lead from the top: Senior leaders need to be committed to developing interpersonal skills at all levels of the workplace and changing policies and procedures to reflect their importance.
- Evaluate: Refresh your performance management systems to measure employees’ collaboration skills and their impact on others.
- Emphasize humanity: Advanced interpersonal skills, such as empathy and active listening, will help future workers collaborate with colleagues from culturally diverse backgrounds, and provide the human side that is so hard to automate.
- Facilitate inclusion: Drive innovation by listening, supporting employees, creating an empowering workplace, and demonstrating humility and courage.
3. Enable employees to be their authentic selves.
“We need to talk openly and much more about intersectionality as an achievement for inclusion.” — Session participant
In the session on “My Truths: Recognizing and Valuing Employees’ Intersecting Identities,” panelists noted that all employees bring unique experiences and perspectives related to their gender, race, ethnicity, nationality, age, ability, religion, social class, sexual orientation, and other identities. Savvy employers understand how personal identities intersect and how to honor them to create workplaces where all can thrive, contribute, and succeed. ￼
- Learn the vernacular: The words we use matter, especially around D&I. They can reflect bias or challenge it, bring teams together or divide them. Use this glossary of terms to help you and your teams speak the same language.
- Flip the script: This series offers ways to change how you speak about women, men, transgender individuals, race and ethnicity, sexual orientation, and helps you have tough conversations.
4. Make sure flexibility is offered to all.
“Flexibility, especially when chosen, improves employee engagement and output.” — Session participant
In the session called “Cast a Wide Net: The Benefits of a Geographically Dispersed Virtual Workforce,” participants discussed how organizations unbound by brick and mortar locations can attract top talent by expanding their talent pool from local to global. These days virtual workers can easily collaborate and innovate with remote technologies, allowing them to reimagine what a typical work day looks like and, more importantly, allowing them to achieve better work-life effectiveness.
- Equal opportunity benefit: The way in which people are working now proves flexibility needs to be a benefit for all and not an accommodation for just a few.
- Don’t stigmatize: Catalyst research shows that for high potential employees, women AND men are equally likely to use some flex options.
5. Don’t bake bias into technologies.
“Wider diversity in this space is essential to create and teach artificial intelligence to reflect a diverse and inclusive society.” — Session participant
The session on “Collaboration is Key: Leading and Leveraging Diverse Teams and Technology” focused on the integration of AI into all aspects of our work. Technology-assisted collaboration across AI and human teams can facilitate problem-solving, innovation, and productivity, and this kind of collaboration will be even more essential in the future. But diverse teams need to build these technologies so that unconscious biases aren’t inadvertently replicated or amplified—leading to poor decisions that impact business results.
- Data matters: It’s not only about the technology; it’s also about the data coming out of the new tech. Advanced data analytics skills will be in high demand in every industry—make sure that women are developing their skills in these areas so you have more diverse teams thinking about how to evaluate and interpret it.
- Understand intersectionality: Intersectionality is the defining characteristic for success in today’s workplace. Encourage empathy and listening in order to drive understanding and examine how biases might infiltrate your AI.
The bottom line: it’s vital that leaders are intentional in building a future where 100% of the talent is used, 100% of the time. At Catalyst, we’re committed to helping organizations get to that place. I hope you are too.
President & CEO
Lorraine Hariton is President and CEO of Catalyst, a global nonprofit working with the world’s most powerful CEOs and leading companies to help build workplaces that work for women. Catalyst’s vision and mission to accelerate progress for women through workplace inclusion has been a lifelong passion for Lorraine. She is…