Divers and inclusive work environments have proved to bring immense benefits. Your company will perform better financially, there is a higher chance of understanding your client’s needs, and your employees are more likely to have innovative ideas, just to name a few. However, having extremely diverse teams will take more work and preparation to manage them and to reach an agreement. People must work harder to communicate their own ideas, and they need to expand their own views to be able to understand and consider the perspectives of others. But this work is significantly valuable and will pay off once you realise that you have a leading edge compared to your competitor. Having to work remotely – no matter whether you are forced to because of Covid-19 or because you prefer to have a distributed workforce – does not make it easier for diverse teams to collaborate and you should not underestimate the challenges that a diverse team brings with it.
Put yourself in the shoes of your team members
Imagine you are the manager of a team. Your daily responsibility is organising and distributing tasks as well as keeping track of the performance and deadlines. Your functional background is business, the main software tools you are using are Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Outlook. By nature, your communication skills are great, and you don’t have an issue expressing yourself.
Now, put yourself in the shoes of one of your team members. Let’s imagine he is a designer by education, the main software tools he is using are specific graphic software programs to render design pieces. Your team member is usually very quiet and would not speak up in a team meeting if she does not have to.
For this kind of setting, it is very important that members in this team communicate very openly and increase transparency. Especially if there is no physical proximity. It is particularly important that there is a common understanding between the team members of the diverse functional backgrounds and – associated with that – the very different tasks within the team.
On the one hand, a designer might have difficulties to appreciate the effort in managing and organising tasks without seeing actual outcomes. On the other hand, a manager might not understand how much time investment it takes for a designer to create a design from scratch and that creativity can’t be measured in a number of hours.
Establish regular round tables
In this situation, it is critical that the team leader establishes a regular virtual round table during which room is created for the team members to share their struggles, challenges, worries and of course also, success stories. There might be a team member who already went through the problems someone else is facing right now and can share how he/she dealt with it. This way, the team members are able to understand each other’s situation better and take someone else’s perspective. That way your employees can learn from each other and find solutions together.
Have you also established virtual round tables for your teams? What are your experiences in discussing failures and success stories openly with your co-workers?