By Laurindo Garcia, Content Lead – Catalyse Consulting
The future of work has been a catchphrase for people managers in Asia over the past couple of years. In fact, the future has already arrived at many companies where automation and augmentation of business processes is already in full swing. Meanwhile other companies are at their beginning of their journey to improve productivity through the latest technologies.
But if you think that the future of work is merely about gearing up with robots and artificial intelligence then you are missing another significant trend that has emerged from the conversation: the urgency of diversity and inclusion in business.
On one hand, the rise of new and emerging markets across Asia, Eastern Europe, Africa and Latin America means that companies face increasing expectations to reflect their diverse customers and suppliers in order to secure business. On the other hand employees and job seekers in Asia increasingly expect employers to lead with inclusive values, offer flexible work arrangements, provide on-the-job training and imbue a strong sense of corporate purpose that is in sync with a socially-conscious world.
If your company has yet to embrace a future of work that is more diverse and inclusive here are five quick wins to help start your journey:
Ensure everyone is on the same page: When thinking about introducing something new at your company consider how your workplace culture has reacted to change in the past.
For example, reflect on past situations where new tool, a new supplier or other organisational change was introduced. In the process of introducing change what worked and what did not work? How would you describe your company’s appetite for curiosity and risk? How does appetite change from team to team? Guided by insight from past experiences communicate the business case for inclusion in Asia at your organisation.
Start small: Make the first steps on your inclusive business journey small and achievable. Invite participation from your team to help you build momentum through a small project.
For example, plan for a workplace seminar, a recruitment drive for diverse talent, a fact finding mission on new markets or other small initiatives to get started. Ensure that your small initiatives are designed with clear time-frames that aligned with direct business outcomes. Illustrate your vision for translating your pilot into a full scale program that adds value to the company. Be explicit about limitations, potential risk-factors, positive and negative outcomes.
Encourage diversity of participation: Every initiative has a variety of actors who help to conceptualise, build, execute and evaluate the test. Consider how a diversity of perspectives can add value to your project idea.
For example, are your project teams typically dominated by men? Consider how are other genders, ages, personality types, cultural backgrounds and other positions in your company’s structure could be better represented in new initiatives.
Blind spots and unconscious bias are commonplace in any project. Having a diversity of perspectives on your team will improve your ability to identify blind spots and interpret valuable results that your company can capitalise upon. Be cognizant that diverse teams are most effective if a common ground of mutual respect is established among all members.
Listen, improve and repeat: Things rarely go according to plan. Rather than solving everything through a top down approach consider how feedback from across your organisation can add greater value to future improvements to your business.
Imagine a scenario where a new deal renders favourable results for the company, but implementing the deal came at a high personal cost for your employees. Would you pursue gains for your company at any cost? How empowered are your employees to give feedback in this situation?
Failure to invite and listen to constructive feedback means that problems get swept under the rug and risk hurting the company down the track. When inviting feedback remember that power dynamics in your company may lead women, people with disabilities or other underrepresented groups to feel that their opinions will not be valued. Employees have more faith in providing feedback when multiple channels for providing constructive input are established. Moreover leadership must commit to listen feedback shared. Garnering feedback from diverse perspectives gives you the best chance of identifying a replicable and sustainable solutions.
Form a diversity council: Augment your business strategy with input from experts with diverse perspectives.
For example, establish a council of customers of diverse ages, genders, abilities, races and cultural backgrounds to perform an advisory role for your team’s business strategies and product or service design. Having regular input from structured diversity council in an invaluable asset that helps your company identify blind spots, new market opportunities and new sales channels.
To be sure, some people say that the future of work means that technology will render many jobs obsolete. While this argument may be true, it fails to consider the jobs created through diversification of customers and markets.
In summary, continual learning and improvement, underpinned by an inclusive workplace culture where diverse perspectives are valued, are the key components for any team wanting to build resilience for the future.
While we wait for the future to unfold, implementing inclusive business practices today is a small but significant step towards future proofing your company.
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