August 6, 2021

How Companies Can Promote DEI in Remote Working Situations

By: Andrea Wade

The promotion of DEI is essential in all modern businesses, and has increasingly been recognized as a necessary challenge to take on. While we’ve seen some progress in this area, though, changes in working environments over the last year and-a-half have presented new difficulties. With everything from recruiting, to training, to everyday work now occurring remotely in many cases, companies have to ensure that their DEI initiatives remain effective.

Here are a few ways companies that are still dealing with altered working environments can continue working to promote and expand DEI.

Broaden Hiring Pools

First and foremost, companies can (and should) broaden their hiring pools specifically as a means of embracing our new, remote-work normal. This speaks to an idea posed in an Entrepreneur article on remote work and DEI, which suggested that remote work can actually naturally promote more diversity. The article points out essentially that removing physical and local restraints on companies opens the door for them to hire people from “all walks of life” and from all over the country (or the world for that matter). Companies now have the excuse if not the obligation to broaden their hiring pools and consider a greater range of candidates — which in many cases will bring about greater opportunity for diverse and inclusive hiring.

Diversify HR Departments

We know that more diversity in leadership and positions of authority leads to greater DEI in companies and industries more broadly. Accordingly, greater diversification among HR managers and teams can make for a good start toward making a business environment more inclusive. One positive development we’re seeing in this area is that even before the pandemic, growing opportunity to study business remotely and online is making this and other, related fields more equitable. Online universities are more accessible than in-person institutions, and are therefore giving a more diverse range of students the chance to study for careers in business leadership (among other fields). And per Maryville University’s look at business administration career paths, this is poised to help the field of HR management grow by some 9% by 2026. This means more candidates and more diverse candidates available for HR work as a result of remote education, and it gives businesses broadening their hiring pools (per the above point) the chance to be more inclusive in filling roles that can directly influence DEI.

Promote DEI Mentorship

There is sometimes a misconception with regard to DEI, which is that efforts stop at a certain point when specific missions are accomplished. Diversifying staff and teams, however, is not the sole point of DEI efforts. This is conveyed particularly clearly in a piece on DEI staffing by a University of Kansas associate professor, who argues that her school’s downsizing of a DEI unit would impact even those with existing posts. That is to say, decreasing DEI efforts wouldn’t only have an effect on new applicants (in this case students) — but would also result in less mentorship and on-the-job training for professors who have already been hired. It’s an important point for companies to recognize as well, particularly in a new, remote-work environment in which mentorship in general may be harder to come by. Diverse teams need to have access to similarly diverse leadership and examples, and companies will have to find ways to facilitate that access moving forward.

Continue to Offer Incentives

Finally, companies should consider incorporating DEI incentives in their executive pay plans. According to Robin Ferracone, CEO of Farient Advisors, an executive compensation, performance and corporate governance advisory, “in our recent research entitled,  ‘Use Of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Metrics in the S&P 500’, we found that companies are improving their DEI efforts through the use of non-financial and financial stakeholder metrics.  This year’s proxy season highlighted several Fortune 500 companies that are now including DEI metrics as part of their executive pay plans. This is a significant step forward.”

To this end. DEI initiatives continue to gain traction. Whether working in a traditional office environment or remotely it will be interesting to see how organizations approach this new hybrid model while providing opportunities and inclusion to a diverse set of candidates and employees.

Andrea Wade is a freelance writer who covers modern business practices.