C-Suite Agenda

3 ways to Foster Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DEI) in the Hybrid Workplace

Heather R. Younger, author of The Art of Caring Leadership

In just 12 months, we collectively embarked on a remote working experiment. The needs of B2B and B2C customers also changed overnight. Individuals, teams, leaders, and entire organizations no longer had the option of reverting to their default processes and strategies. The world had changed forever, and a more inclusive culture was required to ensure the hybrid workplace builds sustainable and resilient success.

Successful teams are now exploring new ways of collaborating. Many are also learning how the more diverse their workforce, the easier it is to communicate with their diverse range of customers or clients. Remaining competitive and responsive to their evolving needs is now top of mind for every CEO. But the path to greater diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) will require emotionally intelligent and human leaders.

Lead the whole person

Before the pandemic, many leaders were only interested in how their employees performed in the workplace. They had little interest in their lives outside of the office. But after a year of videoconferencing calls, we have all seen a more human side of our colleagues. We have been invited into each other’s homes and regularly get a glimpse into their home life, where pets and children often become the star of a corporate meeting.

Regardless of our role, we all want to be seen and feel like our voice matters. When leaders attempt to see the world through the eyes of those they lead, they can unlock value from their insights and experiences while also understand the challenges in their way. Leading the whole person involves building individual relationships with our people and paying close attention to the details of their lives.

By investing the time to understand what drives and motivates every individual, caring leaders can give them the tools they need to succeed. When they thrive, so does your organizational performance. In my book The Art of Caring Leadership, I explore how you can uplift your team and organization by leading with the heart.

Creating a listening culture

Unfortunately, many leaders aren’t listening or paying attention to the voices of those they lead. In a hybrid working environment, where some new employees have yet to meet their colleagues in person, you will need more than an annual employee engagement survey to engage with your employees meaningfully.

The good news is that you can help change your corporate culture by creating focus groups and culture team. Then, use the feedback you receive to improve your culture. Be careful to ensure that your groups represent employees from various backgrounds, roles, and remember to include people with disabilities. In large organizations, it can be difficult to believe that your opinion means anything. Caring leaders go out of their way to ensure that every employee has a voice.

A listening culture that is both responsive and supportive will empower every individual to improve the workplace for all. But listening alone is not enough, and employees will only be able to thrive when leadership teams act on their feedback. When everyone is united on solving the big challenges in your organization, it will open a whole new world of opportunities.

Provide employees with safe spaces

We all want to feel safe at work—emotionally, physically, and mentally. Leaders are responsible for creating an environment that enables anyone to express their opinions, concerns, and ideas freely. But creating a safe space is not as simple as announcing it in a group-wide email. You cannot change the culture within an organization before earning the trust of every employee, so they are not afraid to show up.

Bringing a diverse range of people together makes it much easier to identify and eradicate microaggressions in the workplace. These can be hurtful slights against your underrepresented employees that can lead to isolation and apathy. When we help those we lead feel safe, we earn their trust and empower them to be the best version of their unique selves. In doing so, they will move mountains for you and deliver powerful results for the team and the organization.

Ultimately, people need to feel trusted, supported, and included wherever they are working. There is a critical responsibility emerging to foster a new environment that transforms the company culture. To bring this to life, every organization needs a more caring approach to leadership where diversity, equity, and inclusion delivers ROI throughout the organization and beyond.

A diverse workforce will play a critical role in how an organization serves a diverse range of customers. It’s not something that the loudest voice can achieve in a meeting room or a team of employees with a similar set of demographics and backgrounds.

However, by creating a listening culture, providing a safe space, and leading people as individuals, you can ensure that everyone has a voice. That’s where something magical happens, and your diverse voices will focus on generating innovative ideas and helping your organization thrive. Not just by listening to your employees but by speaking to your diverse audience.


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Heather R. Younger
Heather R. Younger, author of The Art of Caring Leadership—is an international speaker, consultant, adjunct organizational leadership professor, and facilitator who has earned her reputation as “The Employee Whisperer.” As a champion for positive change in workplaces, communities, and our world at large, Heather founded Employee Fanatix, a leading employee engagement and leadership development consulting and training firm, to inspire others by teaching the kind of caring leadership that drives real business results.

Books by Heather R. Younger:
The Art of Caring Leadership: How Leading with Heart Uplifts Teams and Organizations.
The 7 Intuitive Laws of Employee Loyalty: Fascinating Truths About What It Takes to Create Truly Loyal and Engaged Employees Jun 29, 2017

Heather R. Younger is an opinion columnist for the CEOWORLD magazine. You can follow her on LinkedIn.