As workers and companies continue to embrace flexible arrangements, including a mix of in-person and remote work, the focus is often on enabling job functions from a technical perspective. But intangibles like ethics also need to remain a focus. Asha Palmer, Skillsoft’s senior vice president of compliance solutions, offers tips on creating an ethical, equitable environment regardless of where your team sits.
How can organizations ensure that their employees are set up for success in making ethical choices, while also empowering them to speak up when things go sideways? The key lies within building a team of ethical leaders — or individuals that lead with emotional intelligence, active listening and personal accountability. But how exactly does this change in today’s age of hybrid work?
While leaders rely on different tactics for encouraging their teams to do the right thing — which our recent CSR at Work Report found was the biggest influencer of organizations’ corporate social responsibility priorities — the strategies often boil down to a few common themes. Building more ethical leaders includes showing teams what good behavior looks like, being transparent about mistakes, giving team members opportunities to be role models and providing employees time and space to make informed, measured decisions.
Let’s explore three additional considerations.
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Applying ethical leadership principles
In the past, leaders were able to influence teams directly within the office. However, more organizations than ever are turning to remote work — in fact, a recent McKinsey survey said that 58% of Americans work from home at least one day per week. But, before hybrid employees can do “the right thing,” employers must show them what good behavior looks like … from their homes. And give them opportunities to be role models … from their homes. All while acknowledging that they have their own personal lives to contend with while working … from their homes.
Managers must adapt their leadership styles by creating new practices, fostering a sense of purpose for each employee and instilling a sense of belonging. Additionally, enterprises may require leaders to have two to three years of experience successfully managing hybrid working teams given the unique challenges this presents. Finally, organizations should give leaders the opportunity to experiment in creating better best practices and exploring new ways of thinking.
Accommodating hybrid work and creating equity
While hybrid work is not necessarily new, there is a growing spotlight on the inequities it can cause. If the model has not been carefully crafted and leaders have not been appropriately trained to navigate this new world of work, organizations run the risk of toxic cultures and a divide of “haves” and “have nots” forming, meaning those remaining remote may feel at a disadvantage compared to those in office. Now, more than ever, organizations need to be critically mindful about inclusivity and hybrid equity, or face retention risks and a decline in employee engagement and happiness.
Hybrid equity is really another important DEI exercise, and managers and supervisors must understand how to foster psychological safety where all employees feel equally supported. Leaders within organizations must understand that leading virtually and leading in person require different skillsets. The onus is on organizations to provide the resources needed for them to acquire that knowledge. To navigate this, we’re beginning to see a trend of organizations hiring for job titles like chief remote work officers or chief workforce officers, leaders solely dedicated to ensuring consistent work equity. Regardless of title, however, this mindset of equity must be consistent across all levels, with each employee having access to training opportunities on how to navigate this environment.
Leaders should also adopt the following tactics:
- Find ways to also create in-person touchpoints with remote employees
- Provide an open and safe line of communication
- Take advantage of larger talent pools
- Democratize the promotion pool where remote workers are no longer subject to stigma
Address inequity head-on
Employees bring unique strengths and talents to the workplace, but they can lose visibility in hybrid environments. To empower them and drive success, many leaders are embracing the components of DEI programs to promote employee respect, diversity and equity.
Steps that can help leaders acknowledge DEI across hybrid teams include:
- Ensure that all team members have equal access to information and can communicate effectively with one another. This might include video conferencing, instant messaging, email or other tools that facilitate real-time communication.
- Establish clear expectations for how team members are expected to participate in meetings, contribute to projects and communicate with one another. Make sure that these expectations are equitable and take into account the different needs and constraints of remote and in-person team members.
- Provide training and resources to help team members develop the skills and knowledge they need to work effectively in a hybrid team environment. This might include training on virtual communication, project management tools or other relevant topics.
- Create a culture that values diversity and inclusivity and that encourages all team members to contribute their unique perspectives and ideas. This might involve setting up affinity groups or other initiatives to help build connections and foster a sense of community among team members.
By taking these steps, you can help to ensure that all team members, regardless of their location or work style, have an equitable and inclusive experience working in a hybrid team environment. Even if physical office presences are dwindling, taking these steps will ensure your employees can show integrity, do what’s right and thrive as ethical leaders in a hybrid workplace.