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Recruiting at Hybrid Workplaces: How to Demonstrate a Culture of Inclusivity

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Guest blog by Eric Barrier.

The COVID-19 pandemic gave workplaces around the world a chance to try out remote work. Companies and employees alike learned a great deal about what it means to be productive outside of the office.

As the pandemic ebbs, many of those workplaces are moving into a hybrid office model, in which people work from the office some of the time and from elsewhere some of the time.

Most Candidates Will Want to Work On-Site — Sometimes

It’s nice to be in a work environment that facilitates serendipitous interaction, brainstorming, and idea-sharing. Most people prefer to spend at least part of their workweek in such an environment.

In the summer of 2020, the architecture and design firm Gensler surveyed more than 2,500 workers from several industries in the U.K. about hybrid work arrangements. Some key takeaways from that survey:

  • About two-thirds of respondents said they preferred a hybrid arrangement in which they worked from home at least once per week.
  • A majority of respondents (56 percent) also said they liked going into the office for in-person work with their colleagues.
  • More than a third of respondents (37 percent) said they liked to go into the office for focused work. That means hybrid workplaces must accommodate people’s need for collaborative work as well as people’s need for quiet, head-down work.

Most importantly, this survey demonstrates a diversity of preferred work arrangements. When recruiting candidates, a one-size-fits-all message will not land. Each person has their own reasons for wanting to go into the office on some days and wanting to work from home on others.

Show Candidates That Inclusion Doesn’t Depend on Face Time in the Office

Candidates need to know that they will feel included as part of the team, even if they work from the office less frequently than other colleagues. This is important because research shows some groups are more likely than others to take advantage of remote work. 

Sian Beilock, president of Barnard College at Columbia University, writes in The Washington Post how work-from-home flexibility in theory gives everyone a way to keep working while they handle domestic responsibilities or take care of a loved one. In reality, however, Beilock has noticed that most of that labor falls on women.

This is a potentially dangerous cycle that threatens the strides in gender equity at the office that have been made in the past several decades,” she writes. “Women will miss out on the connections, networking, and mentorship that lead to advancement. Meanwhile, they will experience increased loneliness and the stress that comes from feeling that the division between their work and their home life has eroded.

Another gap that can emerge is a generational one. Chris Underwood, managing director at Adastrum Consulting in London, tells Diginomica that hybrid offices could end up skewing younger because younger employees are still building their professional networks. These employees might feel they have more to gain from coming into the office than their veteran coworkers, and that impulse could be enough to create an in-group/out-group dynamic.

An inclusive workplace will preempt such fissures from emerging. When recruiting, a key aspect of your messaging could focus on how the company does this.

Inclusive Workplaces Do These 4 Things Well

In your recruiting materials, look for opportunities to tell stories that demonstrate a commitment to inclusivity for both remote and on-site employees.

Below are four attributes common among inclusive workplaces. If you have an example in which your company exhibits any of these values, share that story with candidates.

1. Their Leaders Are the First to Ask for Help (and to Admit Mistakes)

Corbette Doyle, a lecturer at Vanderbilt University and an expert on inclusion in the workplace, noted in a March 2021 webinar that inclusive cultures are built on trust, and company leaders are the keys to building that trust.

And that trust flows from their ability to be vulnerable with team members. Leaders need to be willing to say “I don’t know how to do this” or “I screwed up” to earn this kind of trust from their teams, Doyle says.

2. They Foster Psychologically Safe Environments

An inclusive culture is one in which every single person feels comfortable speaking up. They know their ideas will be heard and welcomed, even among colleagues who disagree with them.

One of the telltale signs of a psychologically safe group is your comfort in saying something that is controversial or maybe different from what is currently being done, and feeling comfortable that you will be given the benefit of the doubt for voicing that contrary opinion,” Doyle says.

3. They Keep Team Conversations Asynchronous Whenever Possible

People quickly lose a sense of agency over their time when their managers schedule 9 a.m. standups and lunchtime Zoom meetings and 4 p.m. check-in calls.  

Candidates who need to work outside of typical office hours will appreciate employers that embrace asynchronous workflows. If the content of a 4 p.m. check-in call can be distilled into an email instead, that untethers people from a rigid schedule so they can work when and how they choose. 

4. They Create Overlapping Lines of Communication Between Team Members

Inclusive leaders should look for a variety of ways to check in with each person. Perhaps this means a quick Slack message. Maybe it’s a quick face-to-face conversation whenever that person is in the office. And maybe it is a lunchtime Zoom call.

Doyle notes, too, how important this bridge-building is for new employees. As they are onboarding, they need someone to help them make introductions and build connections throughout the company.

Recruiting for a Hybrid Work Role

There is no single recruiting message that will convey a company’s inclusivity. This is especially true for candidates who seek a flexible work arrangement so they can work from home, or wherever, on certain days. 

For such candidates, recruiters can look for ways to tell stories about their company’s inclusive culture. It’s the same reason recruiters should employ a variety of engagement methods to connect with diverse candidates. The more stories you have to share, the more chances the company’s culture will find resonance in those candidates.

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