The Silent Threats to Your Diversity and Inclusion Program
How A Lack of Time Management and Project Management Can Sink Your D&I Goals
Consider this: You’ve slogged through two or more years of the pandemic, and as a result you’ve built a new hybrid culture that allegedly allows people to work when and how it fits their lifestyle. But, does this new culture offer the same advantages to every employee? And what can you do to ensure this flexibility does not hinder your diversity and inclusion efforts?
Key Challenges In Your Organization That Can Be Improved Through Time Management and Project Management Practices
Professionals differ dramatically in how they communicate and participate
Hybrid and seemingly flexible cultures can disguise practices that inhibit inclusion. For example, company cultures that rely heavily on transparency and open expression in public settings can cause some individuals (including those with less outgoing personalities, anxiety disorders, certain physical challenges, and even cultural expectations about public speaking) to be left behind because they are unable to participate in a manner embraced by the organization. In addition, always using video platforms such as Zoom, especially when “cameras on” is required at all hours, can limit participation by creating an unwelcome intrusion into a multigenerational home or caretaker duties, or exacerbate audibility concerns or vision challenges. Finally, the lack of inclusion felt by certain protected classes, such as older workers and women, can create a foundation for discrimination claims based on things like failing to promote, improper discharge or performance plan, or the culture’s impact on a term, condition or privilege of employment.
The sandwich generation and the unique needs of caregivers
The “sandwich generation” is often composed of key target groups for diversity and inclusion, who also happen to be members of protected classes, such as those “over 40” and women, who still hold a much larger percentage of caretaker roles (as explained here: https://www.caregiver.org/resource/women-and-caregiving-facts-and-figures/).
Many individuals are squeezed between childcare and parent care issues that limit their availability at unplanned times, especially during extended hours, and can minimize their ability to adapt to irregular travel for offsite meetings. For these staff and leaders, a flexible and hybrid environment without time-focused ground rules can lead to frustration, burnout and ultimately, a negative impact on the individual’s career or contribution.
How to protect diversity and inclusion through strong time and project management practices
Make time management a priority for the team without reducing flexibility
It is the wild west when it comes to how an organization sets expectations. Are people in the office? Hybrid? Mostly remote?
In any setting, ensuring that leaders are setting specific expectations about core operating hours, when (and when not) to expect peers to be available or to respond to invitations and correspondence, and defined meeting practices, goes a long way toward good time management. Be vigilant! You may even discover that leaders in your organization drive to their own time preferences, use the hybrid opportunity to have meetings in the evening or during atypical business hours, require extended hour “lock-in” sessions and dinners to ensure that the team is in the office or together at least a day or two per week to “build relationships,” or even do the majority of their own work during non-peak hours so that they can utilize peak hours for their own career networking. These practices can lead to disappointing results and detract from your efforts to attract talent and build a more diverse and inclusive workforce. By encouraging time management and the utilization of the most inclusive hours possible (recognizing outside responsibilities like caregiver duties and education, public transportation limitations, and focusing on the time needs of the team as opposed to the leader), organizations can balance any unwanted consequences of a hybrid or highly flexible model.
Basic project management as an expectation of leadership and the most valuable transferable skillset
The inadvertent result of enhanced hybrid flexibility can be a culture focused less on time management and project management because of the “always on, always available” mentality. Instead, drive a culture that embraces basic project management, where most initiatives operate on a schedule and are measured by quality execution with clear milestones along the way.
Defining the expected result but offering flexibility in the “how” as well as the “when” is the most empowering environment for all employees.
A departmental or team project calendar allows the team to plan around certain days and times where workload may be higher, and to identify areas where timelines converge with a small subset of staff. This can allow the team to stagger competing initiatives rather than burn out a few key people, and can also lead to stronger performance because everyone on the team understands how their individual delays or missed deadlines impact the larger mission. In addition, adopting strong project management practices allows individuals to work together to set expectations of availability, plan for effective “stand up” meetings as opposed to marathons without agendas, and make the necessary preparations for team members to participate asynchronously, via phone, video, in writing, and in person concurrently. Finally, using project management techniques that include (1) gathering and validating requirements across the team, and (2) asking for feedback about potential risks, issues, and opportunities ensures that those who may not be able to vocalize their thoughts in open settings or at certain times can still contribute their expertise and viewpoints for a better result.
Rewarding and incenting strong time management and project management practices (which typically can be measured and observed by meeting deadlines without extensions, clear delivery expectation setting with various constituents, a focus on priorities, quality execution results without Herculean efforts of a few team members, and a documented vision and strategy) goes a long way toward creating a culture that values prioritization and ultimately recognizes the need for good time management to achieve those priorities. When leaders minimize the value of planning and reward only those individuals who are or at least purport to be available “24/7,” they will miss out on a number of critical voices to their business. Those voices will in turn find a new employer that does not create an environment that excludes them.
When leaders model, value, and encourage a behavior or practice, like time management and project management, it is more likely to become integral to the culture. By valuing these skills, and encouraging them in every role, it is another way to elevate your business through quality execution while respecting the needs and individual differences of the team.
#diversity #timemanagement #projectmanagement #leadership
A CHASER FOR YOUR COFFEE
Limitations to public transportation can impact your team’s availability outside of typical or planned business hours
Availability of public transportation to the workplace is a critical factor in attracting and retaining diverse talent. When work hours or expectations of “in person” appearances extend beyond the typical public transportation schedule, it can be difficult for individuals who rely on that transport system to thrive and elevate in the organization.
For more on public transportation and its impact on business, as well as diversity and inclusion, check out the following:
In many cities, white, highly educated, and high-income residents have greater access to public transportation, and wealth differences by race and ethnicity make it easier for white residents to purchase a car, allowing for increased access to jobs…And a lack of transit options, particularly at off-peak hours, means that people who work irregular schedules often have no safe or affordable way to get to work. (The Urban Institute, https://www.urban.org/features/unequal-commute, 2020)
“...public transit service may not be available at all the relevant times of day or may be available in such a restricted fashion that commutes are prohibitively long. In these situations workers, and particularly low-income workers, can face difficult choices.” (American Public Transportation Association, https://www.apta.com/wp-content/uploads/APTA_Late-Shift_Report.pdf)
In addition to time management and project management practices, follow this link for some great tips on Zoom accessibility, which will further protect your diversity and inclusion goals:
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Timely article on time management for leaders: https://www.calendar.com/blog/effective-time-management-for-leaders/