Future of Work

Making the Future of Work More Inclusive

Credit: Photo by Brooke Cagle on Unsplash

The celebration of Pride month in June and recognition of challenges faced by the LGBTIQ+ community has never been more significant than now for the technology industry.  According to The Center for Talent Innovation’s (CTI) business report, LGBTIQ+ Inclusive companies better attract and retain top talent, win critical customer segments as well as drive market innovation.    

Even in an industry that relies on inclusive branding for both customer and employee retention, the lived experience of underrepresented staff is often challenged by behaviors and norms systemic of monoculture.

As the world celebrates Pride 2022, we are faced with fundamental shifts in the world of work. The future of work, albeit ambiguous, is flexible, agile and employee led. A recent Gartner study found that executives are worried organizations’ culture will suffer or change in a virtual-first or hybrid world, and they’re not sure how to maintain the same cultural ideals when employees don’t consistently work together in one place. 

However, this is a counter opportunity to create new inroads in inclusion and re-create new spaces free from bias.

New organizational business models and evolving attention to worker preferences are contributing to the emergence of new forms of work that depart from the norm and allow for a new level of individuality and expression.

Additionally, it gives businesses the chance to unlearn and re-evaluate behaviors and bias. Key to this is strong and authentic communication, which has been the make or break of allyship and inclusion. 

Here are three ways the future of work is recalibrating communication and can pave a path for stronger and genuine allyship agendas.

1. Life away from the water cooler

As hybrid work becomes the normconcerns are growing that culture is being diluted. The vibe of an organization is seen and felt by watching and listening. Remote and hybrid models challenge that.

First impressions, group dynamics and water cooler chats are no longer shaping the feeling of comradery and inclusion within an organization. Instead, there is a new level of presence required in a remote and hybrid world.  Meetings can seem less glib, more intense and key causes of discomfort and exclusion like microaggressions, body language and exclusive dialogue are more pronounced in a virtual setting.  

The absence of visible group cliques can create a comfort that fosters new ideas. Above all, in removed settings, employees are afforded a new space to listen, learn and reflect.

2. A new awareness of passive inclusion

It is arguable that diversity is passive, whereas inclusion is active. The notion that policies and rhetoric qualify an organization as diverse and inclusive are challenged more in a remote or hybrid work environment than ever before.  

As the tech industry looks to embed new models around talent acquisition, onboarding and employee communication, inclusion can be recalibrated to be thoughtful, systematic, and above all, highly intentional.

In building new communication and operational models for the future, organizations who understand and measure the delta between lived employee experience of belonging and organizational acceptance can rectify cultural nuance and create a truly inclusive environment.  

3. A new space for awkward conversations

One of the key principles of a more inclusive workplace is allyship, and core to that is uncomfortable conversations. A key tenant of allyship is dialogue. 

Human nature shows that many people feel far more comfortable discussing their personal struggles with identity and marginalization in a dedicated safe space than in an exposed setting like work. Public forums and even team environments can be intimidating for many. Conversational context is key, and the future of work is creating new spaces for conversations to take place.

It is bringing new levels of authenticity to life and allowing people more individual expression from a self-chosen location. As we see into people’s homes, personal lives and even fashion choices, we allow for new conversations on who we are holistically. In virtual teams, there is room for a heightened focus on 1:1 engagement and understanding that can pave a path to honest conversation, allyship and in turn inclusivity. 

This year’s Pride festival is an opportunity to consider the world of 2022, against a backdrop of two of the toughest years since the great depression, a global competition for talent and a ‘great resignation’ like none before.

There has never been a greater time than now to understand the cultural needs of employees and move the dial on diversity and inclusion past rhetoric to empower a workforce that feels safe, respected, appreciated and heard.

The world of work is changing and there is an opportunity to create new spaces and mechanisms for employees to be heard and seen in a new way, a way which fosters inclusivity with purpose.

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

Gemma Allen

Gemma Allen is the vice president of B2C technology at IDA Ireland, the agency responsible for the attraction and retention of inward foreign direct investment into Ireland. In her current role with IDA Ireland, she is responsible for building relations with business leaders, political stakeholders and key industry players furthering foreign direct investment into Ireland. Allen is based in New York City and has over 15 years’ experience working with the world’s largest technology companies in the U.S. and Europe.

Read Gemma Allen's Bio