How to build a diverse workforce remotely

Remote Work & Culture

Studies have shown that diverse teams are simply better for business. But how can you build a diverse remote team? Here are 5 tips.

Marissa Taffer
July 1, 2021

If you own a business or oversee hiring, building a diverse workforce should be a priority. Studies have shown that diverse teams are simply better for business, like in the Harvard Business Review article titled Global Teams That Work, where Tsedal Neely writes about the benefits and challenges of building a diverse team. 

She says, “managers who actually lead global teams are up against stiff challenges. Creating successful workgroups is hard enough when everyone is local and people share the same office space. But when team members come from different countries and functional backgrounds and are working in different locations, communication can rapidly deteriorate, misunderstanding can ensue, and cooperation can degenerate into distrust.”

So, what can you do to build your diverse remote team? We offer 5 tips below.  

5 tips for building a diverse team remotely

1. Over-communicate

Due to differences in time zones, communication styles, and cultural differences in communication norms, it is important to communicate with your team more often and using more channels than if you were all in the same office. 

Try to find a good time to do an “all hands” meeting at least once a quarter, or ideally once a month to communicate updates to the team. This could include a report out on KPIs, updates on the direction of the company, introductions of new team members, or providing status updates on projects. Make sure to leave time for questions too!

Employees should also have regular touchpoints with their department and manager. Both 1:1 and as a functional team or workgroup. Having consistent communication can help people feel connected, aligned and valued. When working remotely it can be hard to stay connected, so schedule communication via email, Slack, and videoconference regularly so no one ever feels in the dark. 

2. Provide time for conversation and connection

One thing that people consistently report liking about in-person meetings and working in the office is the spontaneous connections and conversations that come from casual and impromptu interactions. Those spontaneous chats by the coffee maker and before a meeting, or popping out to the shops to grab lunch? Those help employees bond and form deeper relationships. Which in turn can boost employee engagement and engaged employees generally stay with the same company longer.

By working fully remotely, you lose some of these connections and casual conversation, but you don’t have to. It might take a little more planning, but giving people time to connect is still possible. Consider scheduling a virtual coffee break or lunch and learn. To make the most of the time, make sure you have someone to act as the host and a good topic to keep the conversation flowing. While some icebreaker activities can feel forced or cheesy, they do help people share their voices so if you are having trouble getting things going, don’t hesitate to try one.

3. Share values and create company cultural norms

If you own a business, go ahead and try this exercise. Ask a few of your employees to tell you the company values. See how close they get and what they say. You can also ask them about the company culture, or “the way we do things around here”. They will hopefully say things like, “we’re really collaborative” and “my opinion matters here.”

If you get vague answers or no two team members say the same thing, you will know this is an opportunity to get clearer.  It might be a good exercise to bring together members of your team to brainstorm what you want your values and norms to be. Your values might include honesty, transparency, collaboration, or anything else you like. As far as norms go think about things like how you collaborate, what meetings happen regularly, or even how you celebrate milestones and birthdays as a group.

4. Use the ‘right’ technology

With collaboration software gaining in popularity there are more choices than ever before for team collaboration. From messaging through Slack, Microsoft Teams, or Google Meet, to video chat like Zoom or it is easier than ever to communicate with individuals or the whole team. When you add in project management tools like Asana, Trello, and ClickUp and virtual whiteboards like Miro, there isn’t much that you can’t do virtually.

Remember that not everyone likes to be on camera and be mindful of time zones when setting up meetings and calls. For teams that are really distributed, offer asynchronous communication when possible. This can include pre-recorded videos, written updates for team members who can’t join calls, and options for discussion using Slack threads or even polls.

5. Set a good example and point out what you see in others 

As a leader, it is important to set a good example and use all of these tools and techniques to help your team develop. When you see a team or small group collaborating well, share the example with the rest of the organization. Focusing on and building from what is working will empower your teams to continue and improve upon it.

Valuing the unique talents and skills that each person brings to your team will help your employees feel more engaged and help them to do great work together for your company.

At Panther, we help you work with a truly diverse and talented team by allowing you to employ anyone, anywhere.

Find out why Panther is your best ally and schedule a demo today.

Photo by Christina @ on Unsplash

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