The importance of diversity and part time leadership in the workplace

27. October 2020

By Jan Hoffmeister, Chairman and Co-founder of Drooms


 

The digital revolution has removed barriers and changed the way we work. Disruptive technologies have allowed even small and mid-sized companies to employ teams part time and across the globe while staying connected.

 

Creating more diversity is key to success

 

Aside from being the right thing to do, studies have consistently shown the benefits of having a diverse team. Cloverpop’s research into diversity and inclusive decision-making has shown that multicultural teams deliver 60% better results than teams without varied representation. Furthermore, research by business school INSEAD showed that diverse teams to be more creative and outperform the latter. The data is supported by a 2015 McKinsey report that cited multicultural task forces as being 35% more likely to have higher than average returns.

As a founder of what was once a small business, which continues to believe in gender and cultural diversity, I can guarantee that inclusion goes hand-in-hand with financial performance. An inclusive workforce fosters a more welcoming environment, increased learning, innovation and collaboration, happier and more challenged employees who identify with the company mission and vision, heightened productivity, better staff retention rates and attracts top talent. To date Drooms employs 29 different nationalities among 151 employees. We have found that our diversity helps better cater to our client base. Connecting with our customers globally in their multinational environment is important.

In the face of change and its benefits, companies should focus on ensuring diversity is at the core of how it operates. However, experience has shown that leading a cross-cultural team is not the same as managing homogenous groups. This means employers and team leaders have to be able to approach leadership with new eyes and understand the need for intercultural sensitivity and awareness in the workplace.

 

Three simple steps for small and mid-sized companies

 

Small and mid-sized companies don’t have the same resources available as larger organisations. This can make it harder to implement proper awareness and sensitivity programs. For larger organisations, early ingredients and significant indicators of future success include:

  • Mentoring programs
  • Career counselling and guidance
  • Training and diversity groups
  • Inclusion goals and charitable donations

Smaller organisations can still take important steps, however. Notably they can:

 

1. Acknowledge the unknown and the uncomfortable

 

Hiring and integrating talent successfully can be a challenge at the best of times. Add to that, individuals who may or may not have the competencies or soft skills required to ensure diplomacy in the workplace and things can get uncomfortable quite quickly. In such situations, acknowledging the unknowns and awkward situations is paramount. As long as there is company-wide understanding of the importance and advantages of diversity, obstacles will be much easier to overcome. When dealing with people from different backgrounds and cultures, it helps to acknowledge your limited understanding rather than trying to avoid the topic altogether. 

 

2. Make a conscious decision to improve diversity

 

It’s not enough to think about diversity. Companies and managers should make the conscious decision to learn about it and implement an inclusive approach to leadership.

To enforce the above management should:

  • Include minority hires in human resource discussions and be open to feedback
  • Have a written policy promoting a multicultural approach and ensure everyone within the organisation is aware of it
  • Create situations which promote co-operation and ensure diversity is discussed and examined

Just thinking the organisation is culturally aware is not enough. Humans have a tendency to fall back on their own social circles and may have unconscious biases. The goal is to create an environment that allows and guarantees staff to discuss and share ideas with each other in an efficient and relaxed way.

 

3. Establish diverse communication networks

 

Communication is key to solving many workplace issues and plays a huge role in diversity management. Many cultural differences originate from differences in communication – not only in terms of the language spoken but also in how people approach communication in the first place. Some people for example, are more open and direct than others.

It’s important for teams to have various communication networks and opportunities available in the workplace. The focus should be on:

  • Allowing people time to prepare: Staff should be given the time to adequately respond to important queries and prepare for scheduled meetings
  • Implementing different communication methods: This allows people to opt for channels that might feel the most comfortable, from face-to-face to instant messaging

The above recognises and responds to issues surrounding language barriers and differences in communication style. It promotes dialogue within a given team and  fosters trust, leading to better cohesion among employees.

 

Adding value through part time leadership

 

Part-time employees can be of great value to organisations, both big and small. Many businesses are starting to realise the extent to which part time employees are an untapped resource. Skilled professionals can be very difficult to attract at the best of times. Offering a position that fits the needs of those that have taken a career break and are looking for a bridge back into employment can be a win-win. It also makes a business more agile, decreases costs associated with staff working overtime, avoids the undesirable effects of stress and exhaustion and contributes to a family-friendly working culture. Inclusion in turn increases recruitment and retention.

Companies who may not need more full-time staff or may not be able to afford it, should consider a part time hire who can still help grow the business and bring a wealth of experience. It normalises flexible working something that current and future employees appreciate.

Here at Drooms we have been able to expand our talent pool by offering a variety of different working models and mobile working arrangements. Most of our part timers across departments, including Finance and Marketing, have small children. Unsurprisingly we have found that this group are extremely motivated, altruistic and very well organised. They understand that there is a life outside of the office and as a result, tend to have less time for politics.

 

Priorities when recruiting and managing part-time workers

 

1.Positions must match part time working practices

 

Despite common belief, a fair amount of work needs to go into devising roles for part time workers to ensure that expectations are met on both sides and that the individuals fulfilling the roles know what is expected of them. Think about what tasks are required, and the time needed to accomplish set goals.

Considering how the part time employee will fit into the existing structure of your business and ensuring that the expertise and personal qualities required to perform the role successfully are met is important.

 

2.Recruitment processes must be user friendly

 

It goes without saying that during the recruitment phase, job descriptions need to be just as detailed as the ones for full time workers. When marketing roles, consider how you can attract experienced individuals who may not only be parents with young children but also older people looking for a new opportunity. Just like the positions you are offering, be flexible when scheduling interviews. The evening may be the only convenient time for those interested in the job.

 

3.Communications must be circulated effectively

 

One of the biggest challenges can be when part time workers, through no fault of their own, are kept out of the loop. Like everyone else these employees need to receive all staff communications and should be notified of any important decisions impacting their job. Hold meetings (whether virtually or in person) at set times during the week when all staff is present. For those who aren’t able to attend on a given day, make sure that any outcomes are shared accordingly.