Is Online Collaboration the Secret to Workplace Diversity?on 7 February 2017
Most companies are looking for ways to meld different cultures and improve gender equality in the workplace. The modern workplace combines employees from different generations, genders and ethnic backgrounds. Now online collaboration software offers new potential for companies wanting to improve their diversity.
The struggle to maximise workplace potential is not new. Many organisations have spent enormous amounts of time, money and effort trying to find ways to take advantage of workplace diversity. Mentoring programmes, networking, expanded parental benefit, and flexible workplace options have been tried to accommodate workers. In spite of these efforts, women account for just 3% of Fortune 500 CEOs and make up less than 15% of corporate executives worldwide. Ethnic minorities remain a very small portion of upper management.
Even cultural differences between generations have caused challenges for managers. Variations in values and workstyles are often not perceived by individuals as diversity. Instead, people tend to judge others by their own set of values. This leaves diverse workers being undervalued by their managers, not due to work performance but rather based on superficial differences.
Teamwork into Diversity
One of the best way for diverse workers to find new appreciation for each other is for them to work together in teams. This allows new perspectives and a chance for projects to combine the best of unique perspectives. One problem with team projects is trying to avoid endless rounds of meeting and to coordinate different schedules. Flex hours, work from home, and geographic separation may make it a challenge to bring teams together.
One thing researchers have found is that people tend to set their expectations based on their local setting. These expectations often become biases as they are used to evaluate others. Any differences from clothing and tattoos to needing to leave work to pick up children, can be interpreted in a negative way. By working together on teams, employees can begin to see what other workers bring to projects. The projects, themselves, also benefit from the injection of more perspectives and ideas.
Online project management and teamwork can be one way to bring more workers together. With the right software, workers from different physical locations and with different work hours can share information, work together in teams, and communicate on their own schedules. The hope is that this type of online collaboration and teamwork will lower biases and give more opportunities for workers to excel. Online, people can be more easily judged by their work contributions rather than their genders, race, or factors that aren’t related to work performance.
Any type of teamwork is expected to help promote diversity. There is a concern, however, that the combination of people from different backgrounds and perhaps located in different geographic areas could be more likely to lead to misunderstanding. Project management software can help keep everyone on track and provide an avenue for open communication. By having each part of a project clearly documented and tracked, confusion and the potential for misunderstandings is greatly reduced. Ongoing communication throughout the project is made easier and keeping all the documentation and ongoing communication together with the team project makes it easier to keep on schedule.
One common complaint of those working on projects is a lack of clear communication. This can quickly go sideways when conversations are conducted by email and don’t include all the project participants. Even when everyone is included, a large volume of emails about the project can quickly lead to annoyance and/or key pieces of information being lost in the flood of correspondence. Providing a central location for project information can remedy both of these problems and save team members from having to sort out the information for each project.
Planning for Diversity
Keep in mind that diversity doesn’t just happen. Corporate culture plays a huge role in making diversity welcome. Leadership must come from top management in order to get support from all ranks of the company. Expectations must also be managed. If workers feel the purpose of working with those who are different is so that the newcomers can learn the “right” way, then they won’t approach their co-workers as equals. When seeking diversity, the intension should never be to “excuse” those who are different.
The point is to appreciate how a great variety of perspectives, backgrounds, and ideas enriches the company. At the same time, it is critical to make sure that existing employees aren’t put on the defensive. It is important to embrace the diversity of existing employees, even if they are typical for your area. They also provide unique perspectives.
Glasscubes is a user-friendly collaboration software for teams. Connect everyone that you work with in an online workspace that improves the way you share files, manage projects and communicate with each other.
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