The First Steps to Building an Inclusive Workplace

Building a truly inclusive workplace may seem overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be. 

Start by thinking about these questions: 

  • Do all employees have a voice in meetings? 
  • Are all employees taken seriously? 
  • Are all employees involved in decision-making? 
  • Do all employees feel safe to speak up?

If you answered no to any of the above, that’s okay! Recognizing where improvements can be made is half the battle.

A great first step is to consider our six key indicators of high performance. Developing these skills does not only lead to the creation of highly-functioning teams and leaders—training in these areas also forms a solid foundation for inclusivity. 

  1. Communication norms ensure everyone within the organization has a voice and an opportunity to participate in and influence projects—supporting company growth. 
  2. Effectively identifying and managing your emotions while navigating the emotions of others (i.e., emotional intelligence) promotes psychological safety and supports inclusivity.  
  3. Inclusivity requires all of us to be open and willing to learn from one another. Interactive feedback can be used to bridge gaps and foster solutions.
  4. Encourage a culture of accountability—follow through on promises. Such actions demonstrate a commitment to inclusion. 
  5. Facilitate a culture where all viewpoints and opinions are heard. Implement meeting structures and norms; use tools to ensure a balanced form.
  6. To increase team cohesion, encourage employees to explore their unconscious biases. Analyze behaviors and assumptions which naturally builds trust, support, and receptivity among team members.

Find out more: DOWNLOAD (PDF)

Equip your teams and leaders with the skills necessary to build an inclusive workplace that drives collaboration and creativity.

Fostering Connection on Remote and Hybrid Teams

“Remember, true culture is not about perks, proximity of team members, or the processes you have in place, it’s about inclusivity.” 

– from How to Adapt Company Culture for Remote Work

 

According to Zoom’s recent white paper, How to Adapt Company Culture for Remote Work, it’s impossible to go “back to normal.” The dynamics of collaboration have forever changed. The now ubiquitous video conferencing platform suggests we must remember that being in the same building does not ensure employee connection. The key to preventing isolation is to develop a thriving company culture. 

With this in mind, we’ve compiled a list of some of the best workplace activities we’ve seen that promote company culture and connection that can be easily deployed online.

  1. Share and celebrate wins often, even the small stuff! Try our D.O.S.E.
  2. Plan weekly development meetups, where smaller groups get together to work on learning something new together.
  3. Offer professional development opportunities.
  4. Assign a mentor to new employees for 30 minute chats once every week or two.
  5. Organize a monthly online games happy hour (e.g., create your own Jeopardy game, B.I.N.G.O., or try a game pack from Jack Box). 
  6. Create online water cooler chats using a communication platform such as Microsoft Teams or Slack.
  7. Host virtual birthday parties to celebrate team members.
  8. Send out surprise care packages! Have everyone come on Zoom to open them together.

The bottom line? With the shift to remote/hybrid workplaces not everything has to pivot 180°. Leverage the tools at your fingertips to ensure your teams feel connected and valued, regardless of location. Define, activate, and monitor your company culture and be prepared to reflect, reassess, and adapt along the way! 

To help kick-start your workplace culture endeavour, we’ve created a fillable PDF handout to encourage a team brainstorm ‘sesh. Try it out!

Team Goal Setting

Dear Dr. Jim,
Do you have any tips for team goal setting for the New Year?
– Chris*

Hi Chris,
If I was in your shoes, and I am, the number one thing that I would make clear with my team members is: what are our norms and our rules of engagement? How are we going to conduct ourselves? The things we agree on need to be unanimous because they are the rules that we’re all going to play by. Any kind of game that we play, the game of life, football, chess, whatever it is, there are rules. If you don’t follow the rules, things are going to go awry.

The second thing, I tend to like to set 90-day goals around the overarching expectations, big goals, or purpose for the team as a whole. By setting 90-day goals you can review them on an ongoing basis. If you set a goal for a whole year, it’s a really difficult thing to try to do, it’s too long a time.

So go for 90 days. At the end of 90 days, review the following: What went well? What do we need to improve on? What might we be missing? What is it that I need to do more of to help my team fulfill the goals? What would I like more of from the team? You can do this through each month up to the 90 days. Take a look at it, re-jig it depending on what’s going on, things that are happening, etc.

One of the other things to do is as a team—and this is really on the leader—if you’ve got high priority things that you need to do over the next let’s say 90 days, 120 days, 180 days, it is your responsibility to help your team stay focused on those goals and protect them from incursions from outside that may get them off track. Make sure everybody is sticking to goals. Check-in once a month, hang in there, and stay focussed.

Really important: norms and rules of engagement. Discipline. Discipline gives you freedom. That’s one of the absolute aspects of life. The more disciplined one is, the more freedom you’re going to experience. Tough to do. Hang in there, take care.

– Dr. Jim

*names have been changed

Digital Visibility Tools and Techniques

It’s not fun to have to track people down or be tracked down. Increasing digital visibility among your remote or blended team boosts productivity and reduces stress. With a bit of structure and accountability to digital transparency, your team will thrive.

According to our blended workforce poll, a whopping 75.9% of respondents are now working remotely at least some of the time (55.2% of respondents are working at home only, while 20.7% are working at home and in the office). That’s why it’s so important to consider the structures and tools available to help your remote and blended team succeed!

Business Communication Platform

Visibility into projects can greatly decrease errors and communication breakdowns. Does your team use something like Slack or Microsoft Teams to share information about clients or projects? If not, it’s worth investigating.

At Vivo Team, we share what our priorities are for the day in a Slack channel called daily updates. This can also be accomplished in a quick huddle. Our norm is to set ourselves to “away” if we need to be away from our computer to save our team members the hunt. 

File Sharing

If you are sick or on vacation or even unavailable because of meetings, do you have a way to access shared files that your team members are working on? This again can be a huge productivity stuck point for remote teams. Whether it’s an intranet or Google Workspace (formally G-Suite), there are lots of options for increasing file sharing capacities within a team.

At Vivo Team, we have a carefully organized file system in Google Workspace for project files, documents, spread sheets and more that the entire team can access.

Shared Calendars

If you are working on a remote team, there is a good chance that it will be time-consuming to book a team meeting. By sharing calendars, this time can be greatly decreased. It might be that you only show business times, but that in itself is a huge time-saving.

At Vivo Team, we are able to access all team members calendars so we can easily see when people are available for meetings. Our norm is, if the time is open in my calendar I am available for a meeting. We are able to book team or project meetings without sending a single email!

Popular Tools

Our poll indicated that the most used tools are Zoom (69%), Microsoft Teams (48.3%), Google Meet (27.6%) and Slack (20.7%). However, it’s less important what the tool is, the agreement is what is important. If you are in a smaller company who doesn’t have a business communication platform, the team can instead agree to share information in other ways, such as via email or through a huddle.

Has your remote team worked out ways to increase your digital visibility? If not, there’s an opportunity here – establish your norms today and stay accountable!

The Bigger Picture

Dear Dr. Jim,
I’m feeling disconnected from the bigger picture of the organization, I imagine many others are as well. How can I better connect with my team and my work? What is it all for!?!
– Jeff*

Hi Jeff,
Great question! It’s always good to have clarity in terms of what we are doing, why we are doing it, and how that contributes to the success of the organization. The first thing you could do is ask your manager one-on-one, or you suggest a team meeting to discuss how what we are doing—and why we are doing it—fits into the larger picture of the organization.

Explain that a better understanding and clearer picture will help you stay motivated and productive! Hopefully they will be willing to do that and you can get together virtually have a conversation that will get everybody clear and in the same boat, all moving in the same direction.
– Dr. Jim

 

Connection = Cohesion

Dear Dr. Jim,
How can I build a cohesive team when some are back in the office and some are still (and maybe will continue to be) working from home?
-Gwen*

 

Hi Gwen,
We at Vivo Team recommend that at least three times a week virtually get together for no more than 10 to 15 minutes, depending on the size of your team, and do a check in.

What you do is a quick go round, every says what they are working on or what their priority is for the day. Then you do another round where everyone says a stuck point, what’s getting in the way of getting stuff done today. Lastly, every goes around and says a win they have had.

I would also encourage people who are used to working closely with each other in the office, that both of you go on Zoom, and you can actually be side-by-side if that’s something you need.

The other thing to do is to make sure that you have, a least every quarter, a 15 minute meeting with your manager. What you are going to talk about is: What you have accomplished in the last thee months; What you still need to accomplish; and one item that you would like to work on to improve your professional development.

Sometimes what people are doing as well, is on a Friday having a virtual get together to just chat and talk about what’s going on. Once people get used to it you’ll feel quite connected, quite cohesive. It doesn’t have to be a barrier if you have discipline. Discipline is the key.
-Dr. Jim

*names have been changed