Can remote work really improve workplace diversity?
Many parents choose to live in areas that have the best schools. They research test scores and determine what district and neighborhood they think their children will receive the best education.
I chose to live where the schools had the most slices in the pie chart for diversity. I understand the value of thought diversity and being exposed to differences at a young age. And I’ve seen the positive impact from this choice as my children navigated college and entered the working world. They were able to have a broader perspective, are more open to diverse ideas and add more value to conversations.
Diversity matters. A recent McKinsey & Company report reinforced the link between diversity and company financial performance stating, “Gender and ethnic diversity are clearly correlated with profitability but women and minorities remain underrepresented.”
As a Black woman leading a company that has operated fully remote for more than 12 years, I’ve seen many of the benefits remote work has on diversity and recognize the opportunity remote work provides to improve workplace practices.
When looking at diversity practices, location is often left out of the equation, yet it can be a huge factor in reaching diverse talent and building a diverse workforce. As adults, many of us choose where we live based on the job we get. We don’t get the luxury of comparing diverse pie charts or choosing locations that add value to our lives. Many of the most desirable companies are in expensive, unaffordable markets and within areas with minimal diversity.
The top 10 most expensive cities in the U.S.—listed recently by Investopedia—are also the hubs for many coveted career industries such as tech, marketing, and finance.
Even if these companies have robust diversity practices, life outside of work can be difficult for people of color. As companies recognize the value of diversity, they also need to understand the impact of location bias, the challenges of attracting diverse talent, and where remote work fits in to help the process.
Here are a few key areas to consider to improve diversity as companies build out a more remote workforce.
FOCUS ON RECRUITING
Without the restriction of location, companies can recruit talent from nearly anywhere. This eliminates location bias, expands the talent pool to reach diverse candidates previously not accessible, and creates opportunities for more inclusive hiring practices.
Begin with a focus on creating more inclusive job descriptions and postings. Language matters and there are nuances to be aware of both culturally and geographically. Ensure the use of diverse hiring teams and interviewers and focus on performance outcomes.
INCLUDE COMPENSATION MODELING
Remote work allows for employees to choose where they live based on cost of living preferences and environments that add the most value to their lives, holistically.
Companies can offer more competitive pay without the additional overhead. As the hiring manager, your compensation strategy should include calibration tools that remove bias and ensure equal and fair pay.
For example, at our company, we calibrate our compensations quarterly to ensure they are aligned with market rate and check for pay disparities to avoid unintentional discrimination. Our executive team also reviews talent and compensation cross-functionally to account of unintentional bias.
ADJUST TO CULTURE ADD VS. CULTURE FIT
Many companies are evolving to focus on a culture add versus a culture fit. Instead of seeking people who “fit right in” with everyone else, look at what perspective gaps are missing and who adds this much-needed value to the team. When companies are restricted to a location, trying to get people to relocate or find the best culture adds can be difficult.
It is to your benefit to take advantage of remote work and its ability to tremendously open up the talent pool.
It’s important to understand how belonging fits in. It’s not just about the “numbers” and increasing the ratio of diversity but ensuring employees have a true sense of belonging and that their diverse perspective is welcome. Many companies worry about culture in general in a remote environment. There are many tools that can help to foster engagement and close-knit environments with a distributed workforce.
It’s not just the tech tools, those are basics for remote work. It’s important to provide tools and resources that foster communication, understanding, and connection.
For instance, we use behavioral assessments, both on a group and individual level, from Predictive Index, to help our employees better understand themselves and each other to foster better communication and more collaborative environments. We have employee resource groups for BIPOCs and allies, as well as, for family matters, finance, and other areas our employees may need support in.
At our company, we have weekly “life hack” and “family fun” calls where we get to learn about each other, get our families involved, and connect on the things we like to do outside work. Ensuring diversity, inclusion, and belonging are anchors as you set up remote business practices are key to a positive, productive workforce.
This year, many companies were forced to fully rely on remote work capabilities, and as a result, a good number of these companies are expanding their models to permanently offer remote work options.
Remote work creates the opportunity to build strong thought diversity across levels, functions, and teams. Candidates bring diverse perspectives from being in different locations, as well as coming from diverse backgrounds. These perspectives are important across not only working teams or management but in key roles that impact company practices such as human resources, finance, and tech. Building these types of teams and integrating diversity across key roles are factors in the positive impact on company performance.
With the addition of diversity to cost-saving and productivity benefits, your company will improve its overall performance.
Corean Canty is the COO of digital agency Goodway Group. She has worked in media and advertising for over 20 years with experience in radio, digital, and e-commerce working with top brands such as Walmart, Target, and Home Depot.