How Diversity Helps Tech Teams Work Better in the New Normal

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By Shubhra Mukherjee Jan 12, 2022
How Diversity Helps Tech Teams Work Better in the New Normal
How Diversity Helps Tech Teams Work Better in the New Normal

Imagine…

What would a world devoid of diversity and inclusion be like? It’ll be a world where everyone shares an identical life, doing exactly the same things, without a splinter of difference. We all get up at the same time, dress up in similar clothes, read the same books, and eat exactly the same food. From belief systems to working standards - if everyone would follow a singular trajectory, there would be no space for debates, discussions, ideas, or innovation.

Bring in diversity and inclusivity - everything changes

We live in a diverse society and that being said, it is one of our biggest strengths. If we look at organizations as mini-nations, then maintaining a good diversity and inclusivity ratio becomes the primary task. When done right, diversity can drive innovation. According to McKinsey’s 2019 report ‘Diversity wins: How inclusion matters’, the most diverse companies will more likely outperform less diverse competitors on profitability.

Since the pandemic, the idea of diversity is under question again

The pandemic presented unprecedented challenges that pushed organizations to rapidly adopt the new normal norms of the workplace. In the shift from the physical to the virtual, businesses not only have hastened their digital transformation journeys but also reworked on providing the same level of diverse and inclusive culture to employees now working remotely.

Working remotely demands adherence to living by the rules of the new normal, supported by a consolidated workforce capacity, keeping up the same productivity levels as before, maintaining a sense of connection, as well as physical and mental health well-being of employees. The new working order displaced the sense of teamwork and collaboration that existed; something that was an integral part of day-to-day work life.

The need of the hour is a hybrid work culture

In the new normal, hybrid work culture is one that allows professionals to work remotely as well as go on-site as and when needed. Research shows that employees who have a healthy mix of both working styles have better mental health, develop stronger work relationships, and holistically perform better at tasks. Therefore, employees are now seeking a workplace culture that is digitally equipped to support remote working, plus allows them the flexibility to work on-site, just like in pre-covid times. According to Accenture’s Future of Work report, about 83% of employees prefer a hybrid working model and about 63% of high-growth companies have already adopted the idea and model of being productive from anywhere. Gartner forecasts that by 2022, about 31% of employees worldwide would be remote.

Therefore, the question arises - what can companies do differently to help their diverse tech-teams work well?

  1. Establishing Connections by Creating an Integrated Workspace

    One of the greatest innovators and inventors of all time, Steve Jobs, said: “Great things in business are never done by one person. They’re done by a team of people”. Several times, when he was questioned about his work and genius product lines, he never failed to mention the significance of teamwork and how, despite several clashes and differences, they were able to chisel out some of the finest and innovative tech products and solutions ever.

    An idea can be borne out of a singular source, but it requires the cumulative cognitive efforts of distributed teams to turn it into reality. Studies have shown that high-performing teams are composed of different individuals who have a sense of high social sensitivity, people who take turns to speak, and people who respectfully listen to others when they speak. Such teams noticeably innovate faster, achieve higher productivity, catch mistakes more quickly, and are able to find a better solution to a problem.

    But the pandemic has limited this experience to only being virtual. On a business level, diversity is defined by the people, their culture, and the level of technical expertise they leverage. The right mix of diverse minds reflects the broad user base of an organization, which leads to a better understanding of their customers and how to serve them better. Therefore, diverse digital support becomes an important factor for organizations as it enables them to create and maintain an inclusive work environment.

    For this environment to sustain, organizations need to equip their workplace with adequate tech capabilities. Communication tools like Slack and Zoom, project management tools like Trello and Asana, and an integrated work platform, help create the ideal space for seamless interaction and knowledge sharing. According to Daniel Sanchez Reina, Senior Director Analyst at Gartner, “there is a correlation between innovation and diversity”. When diverse teams are given the required tech support, it reduces the pressure of working remotely and reignites a sense of connectedness.
  2. Create the Culture You Want by Laying Down Strong Guidelines

    Diverse tech teams mean diversity in ideas. And, at times, ideating leads to a lot of back and forth discussions. Thus, a culture that defines the organizational DNA and helps teams function effectively, whether remotely or onsite, needs to be established. It is essential for the culture to make people feel safe mentally while expressing themselves professionally. Organizations have to create an open and inclusive environment, where an individual is not judged for making mistakes, rather receives the help and opportunity to do better. So, given the remote working setup, organizational culture needs to be extended virtually.

    Creating a single guide of reference that defines culture is a sure-shot way of manifesting it and creating the foundation for diverse tech teams to work better. At Srijan, the idea of ‘people first’ is reiterated in the minds of our employees. There are five principles that we aspire and adhere to - being authentic, responsible, vulnerable, long-term, and a guru. These five principles holistically provide a platform for employees to express themselves, learn from each other, learn from their mistakes, take responsibility, and deliver what is best for the clients and the business. The guidelines help employees feel connected to their organization and colleagues.
  3. Let’s Talk Growth and Improvement with a Feed-Forward Approach

    Feed-Forward is a combination of feedback and the possible best solutions to apply to tasks to create better results. We all need feedback on our tasks. Feedback should encapsulate a critical analysis of the work, it should talk about the good parts and the areas of improvement. The suggestions regarding how to improve in the future is where the idea of Feed-Forward comes in.

    The Feed-Forward approach is a solution-oriented system of providing feedback. This approach sets the tone for how one needs to share suggestions on solving problems, without highlighting the mistakes of the past; rather advising on how to improve future performance.

    Working remotely has changed how knowledge gets transferred and shared across an organization. The shift to virtual has prompted professionals to learn and better themselves individually, without support. Adopting a holistic practice of providing feedback with feed-forward helps employees not only learn from past performance but also be advised on how and what to do to improve present and future performance.

    At Srijan, we practice the approach of providing both. We believe that this practice helps in the 360-degree development of professionals and equips them to ideate better and work towards a defined career path. With feed back-and-forward, we are able to provide insights about the performance and share the possible adaptable solutions to help them improve their performance, achieve further goals, and accelerate their growth.

A Culturally Rich, Collaborative Confluence of Innovative Thinkers

Diversity has always been a top priority for organizations while personifying the brand or business. Organizations have come a long way in modifying their work cultures to make them more inclusive and supportive from every aspect. However, the pandemic presented uncertain challenges that prompted businesses to adopt a different route to maintain the culture of diversity. The challenge was to make it transcend the physical boundaries and still make employees feel connected, appreciated, and supported.

A diverse environment flourishes when it is supported by a culturally rich, collaborative system that provides a platform for innovation. This environment allows employees to be vulnerable and discuss their mistakes with each other, without the added pressure of being embarrassed. Therefore, to make diverse tech teams work well, organizations should be adopting inclusive practices that allow people to belong, connect, and deliver.

In return, when an employee feels valued and supported by the organization, even while working remotely, it brings in a sense of ownership, accountability, and loyalty. This would eventually lead to lower attrition rates, better performance, and an increase in innovation. Therefore, it is imperative for businesses to realize the importance of having a diverse workforce, as it strengthens their outlook in the market, and also with different backgrounds, come different learnings and fresh perspectives on innovation and growth.

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