November 7, 2018 — Some women and men present themselves better through phone calls than in conference rooms. Some people from underrepresented groups feel there are unwritten rules they aren’t privy to and extra burdens they have to bear which create barriers for them at work. And since Millennials are now the largest group in a US workforce that still includes baby boomers and Gen-Xers, there is a growing need for employers to find ways to cater to every employee’s needs and work style. Making your workplace safe and comfortable for all employees will only become more critical to retaining great talent in your organization.
To facilitate this—in addition to implementing policy changes in your organization—you can take advantage of some of the dozens of tech tools that are now available to make it easy to include everyone. Here are just five of them:
1. Chat Platforms
The 21st-century workplace is designed for extroverts, with open design plans, regularly scheduled meetings, and plenty of “team events.” However, to have an inclusive culture, it’s important that you cater to introverts as well. This allows all leaders and peers to connect in the format that feels most authentic and comfortable for them.
When it comes to inclusion, chat tools serve as a platform for employees who do their best problem-solving outside of meetings or share their ideas on the fly. Examples of chat platforms include Slack and MS Teams.
“Both introverts and extroverts will work best in an environment that complements their capabilities… Create a culture where ‘personal flow’ is respected. And design the internal communication in a way that lends itself to focus at work as much as productivity,” says Elena Carstoiu, co-founder and COO of Hubgets.
Simply implementing a chat platform isn't enough. It only works if everyone in the organization agrees to use it. Leadership should make a point of adopting the chat tool to role model its use and allow employees to feel heard by those who matter most.
2. Virtual Feedback Tools
Feedback is a critical part of your business, but not everyone gets feedback on a regular basis. In fact, 63% of employees polled in Office Vibe’s “State of Employee Engagement” survey said they don’t feel like they get enough praise. To create a more inclusive workplace, it’s important to let employees know how they’re doing and how their work is benefiting the rest of the company.
This is especially important for those remote or introverted employees who may not have as many opportunities to share their successes and may therefore get fewer in-the-moment pats on the back. There are dozens of virtual feedback tools to choose from, including TINYpulse, Culture Amp, and Know Your Company. Some build company goal-setting into the platform and encourage weekly check-ins, while others prioritize peer feedback and recognition.
3. Real-Time Polling
Not every employee wants to attend a happy hour after work every Friday, or go on a go-cart adventure for your quarterly team event. Instead of assuming what your employees want, or accidentally favoring the preferences of one group over the other, poll them. This allows you to be totally inclusive with events, lunches, and more, taking every employee’s opinion into account before making decisions.
Real-time polling is easy to do in the office, and there are many tools available, both paid and free, that you can use to facilitate it. For example, Google Forms can be used as a survey tool to poll employees. It’s easy to use from the employee side, and easy to digest from the management side. You can even add your own logo and choose different question formats within the same form—an open text box for one question and multiple choices for another.
4. Video Conferencing
It’s easy for remote employees to feel left out. Creating a more inclusive environment for them requires one simple tool: video conferencing. But don’t just bring your remote employee(s) in on a video call with everyone else in a room together. If you’re having a meeting with multiple people, get everyone on the video call. Lauren Moon, a blogger on Trello, explains why:
“When a group of people is sitting around a table in the same room they can provide each other with facial cues as to how they’re feeling, and easily see when someone else is about to speak. These sort of micro-interactions are crucial to smooth communication during a meeting. The folks who are piped in as giant chat heads on a big screen cannot easily distinguish a group of people sitting in a room.”
This helps you prevent a common issue for those dialing into a meeting: not being able to get a word in between in-person conversations. Remember, however, that even with your video conferencing nailed down, it still takes work on the part of managers and team leaders to invite remote employees to meetings and events as often as possible. While it may sound silly, including remote employees on Google Hangouts during a company happy hour can make them feel more included and involved.
5. Internal Social Platforms
Heads-down employees and remote workers may not be as “in-the-know” as those who talk with their coworkers in-person often throughout the day. That shouldn’t be a reason for those employees to miss out on culture announcements, company updates, and the like. An internal social platform makes it easy for these updates to be shared with everyone in a single, easy-to-find place. Rather than sending “all-staff” emails, announcements can be posted like any other social media update.
Facebook recently released an internal social media platform called Workplace by Facebook to be used within companies, allowing you to tap into that social media format. There are many other options available for every budget, so you just have to find the one that fits your company culture and needs.
In many cases, however, your internal chat platform may already provide this social outlet and you don’t need to add another tool to mix—just create specific announcement channels so everyone knows where to look.
Encourage Inclusion in Your Workplace
If you’re ready to make your workplace more inclusive, start looking for the tools that will make that possible. An inclusive workplace helps remote employees feel like they’re part of the team, and is helpful for those who are less likely to speak up but have ideas and opinions to share. Use these tools to take your company culture to the next level and create inclusivity within your workplace.