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Via CNBC : Here’s how to push for more diversity and inclusion in your office

Diversity and inclusion are becoming increasingly important to businesses.

Public pressure has prompted companies to become more vocal about their equality agendas, and political institutions are introducing frameworks to make sure employers stick to their word. In the U.K., companies with 250 or more employees now have to publish their gender pay gaps under new legislation.

However, it’s not only companies who can drive change. Employees can fly the flag for diversity, too. In fact, according to diversity specialist Julie Gebauer, individuals play just as important a role in changing the status quo.

Gebauer is global head of human capital and benefits at Willis Towers Watson. She broke through the glass ceiling to become the second-most-senior executive at the global advisory firm and has since been a diversity advisor to many large companies.

CNBC Make It spoke to Gebauer to find out her tips for promoting diversity and inclusion in your office.

Ask for the diversity strategy

First off, try asking either your direct manager or HR for an “accurate view” of the company’s inclusion and diversity strategy.

Gebauer suggested finding a constructive way of doing that to avoid sounding confrontational and potentially creating friction with your employer. For example, rather than saying “when will you sort the gender pay gap?” which could sound accusatory, try framing the question as “what is your pay philosophy?”

“Those are less aggressive questions and I think business leaders would be willing to answer them,” said Gebauer.

It’s possible that the person you ask may not have the answer, but it could give them the impetus to take the issue further up the line to press senior management, said Gebauer.

“These are questions that should be asked and it’s about finding the confidence to do it,” she said.

Demonstrate your career aspirations

Apart from figuring out what your employer is doing to encourage diversity and inclusion, you can push the agenda by making your manager aware of your career goals.

Whether you consider yourself a minority or not, it could motivate them to consider you for tasks they may not otherwise have done. Ultimately, this will allow you to input your inclusivity ideals as you rise in the ranks.

Managers can’t be mind readers, said Gebauer, so it’s important to “clearly articulate your career ambitions.”

That can be especially important for ensuring you don’t get overlooked for promotions, if, for example, you plan to take time out to start a family but want to return to work afterwards.

Gebauer said she rejects the idea that you can “have it all,” i.e. excel at work while juggling parenthood and other household duties. However, she stressed that taking a break to have a family is “not a lifelong decision,” and having a frank discussion with your manager can make it easier to come up with a strategy for dealing with such breaks and reaching your long-term career goals.

Get involved with resource groups

Employee resource groups or inclusion committees can provide an excellent way of educating colleagues and advancing your company’s diversity agenda, said Gebauer.

Increasingly, companies are putting those kinds of networks in place. If your workplace doesn’t have one to suit you, Gebauer suggested collaborating with HR to create one, noting that such groups are most effective when backed by leadership figures.

That could be a direct manager, a senior colleague belonging to the relevant minority group, or a mixture of the two. According to Gebauer, having them on the side could also provide a great opportunity for mentorship.

“You can find individuals who really want to share their experience and guide others,” she said. “I find the best are those within your organisation.”

Gebauer said that, alongside inherited diversity — i.e. gender, ethnicity, sexuality — there is also acquired diversity, which results from the kinds of experiences you have in your day-to-day life. You should be sensitive to both, and not make assumptions about who may or may not be interested in joining your cause, she said.

“It’s all about raising awareness and educating others. But you shouldn’t assume that certain people won’t be interested — they may actually provide a new way of looking at things.”

Via Nextgov : Open-Plan Offices Have a Surprising Effect on Workplace Communication

A new before-and-after study led by a Harvard Business School professor might bolster the already strong case against the open office plan.

Unlike previous research, it uses empirical evidence rather self-reported data to show that airy, communal spaces do not a buzzing, collaborative environment make.

Ethan Bernstein, an associate professor of organizational behavior, built the research around a real-life renovation at the headquarters of an unnamed Fortune 500 company engaged in a “so-called war on walls.” He had employees wear people analytics badges that track (but do not record) conversations through anonymized sensors, which gave the professor and his co-author data they could compare against changes in online communication. (To minimize the effects of outside factors, their research took snapshots of two three-week periods that fell at that same point in different business quarters, one before walls were banished, and one after.)

In two studies, the researchers found that conversations by email and instant messaging (IM) increased significantly after the office redesign, while productivity declined, and, for most people, face-to-face interaction decreased. Participants in the first study spent 72% less time interacting in person in the open space. Before the renovation, employees had met face to face for nearly 5.8 hours per person over three weeks. In the after picture, the same people held face-to-face conversations for only about 1.7 hours per person.

These employees were emailing and IM-ing much more often, however, sending 56% more email messages to other participants in the study. This is how employees sought the privacy that their cubicle walls once provided, the authors reason. IM messages soared, both in terms of messages sent and total word count, by 67% and 75%, respectively.

The second study compared dyads, or conversational partners, among 100 employees on the same floor of the building. It found that people who sat near each other spoke more to those in their pod of six or eight desks when they were no longer in cubicles. Overall, however, face to face exchanges decreased.

Humans are not like insects

The authors call the social withdraw they captured in data a “natural human response” triggered by a change in environment, but they acknowledge their findings contradict an established theory about collective intelligence. When forced to share space, humans behave much like swarms of insects. This has appeared to be true in a range of contexts, the authors note, citing studies involving the U.S. Congress, college dormitories, co-working spaces, and corporate buildings.

However, as far as we’re aware, hornets and wasps are not as psychologically and socially complex as people. For instance, they do not regularly switch between their front-stage self and back-stage self, managing the impression they’re making, per a longstanding theory about humans.

People are better at rote tasks, rather than creative ones, when we feel we’re on display, and part of our mind is therefore preoccupied by social pressures, Harvard’s Bernstein has suggested. Knowing that others are watching us limits the degree to which we might creatively solve a problem, and therefore be more productive, according to a study he conducted with factory workers. “Do I look busy?” becomes more important than “Am I doing my best work?”

Importantly, the new study also found that when spatial boundaries disappeared, employees didn’t simply take their usual in-person exchanges online. Rather, they began emailing more with some people and communicating less with others. In other words, an open office can reconfigure employee networks, which obviously can change the way teams work.

Social media versus social offices

Bernstein believes the new study reinforces an existing argument that says intermittent social interactions, rather than constant ones, optimize our ability to work out complex problems. Spatial boundaries, he writes, help people “make sense of their environment by modularizing it, clarifying who is watching and who is not, who has information and who does not, who belongs and who does not, who controls what and who does not, to whom one answers and to whom one does not.”

Keeping an eye on all of these things in a sprawling, open space can lead to overload, distraction, and poorer decisions.

It’s perhaps a bit strange we haven’t adapted better to this, in an age that has many of us openly sharing vast portions of our lives on social media. But as Bernstein once told workplace strategy consultant Leigh Stringer, in an interview on her website, “We want people to follow us online, but not necessarily motion-by-motion in the office.”

Via Computer World : The future of collaboration: all roads lead to channels

Faxes, pagers, email, instant messenger, channels – each have been the progression of business collaboration.

n the timeline of business communication – from fax, to email, to cloud computing – each new technology evolves to be better and more helpful than the last at sharing documents, completing projects, or asking colleagues for advice. Three main trends have driven the majority of improvements in this space: personal tools inspiring professional tools, a hyper-competitive race to be faster and more productive, and a yearning for truly constructive, inclusive, informed and effective teamwork.

Now, the convergence of these trends has inspired the development of a new set of enterprise applications – collaboration hubs – that are vastly reducing time spent sending email and, by 2025, will likely become the primary way we work.

The consumer leads the way

A trendy phrase – “consumerization of IT” – describes how the technology we first adopt at home or school paves the way for improvements in workplace technology. This trend is not new. Take web portals and social networking sites, for example.

In the late 90s, consumer portals like MyYahoo and MyMSN pulled customizable information from disparate sources into an approachable, always-updated personal site. Shortly thereafter, corporate portals sprang up to store and share proprietary information among employees, for the first time introducing workers to all the information needed to do their jobs from a single access point.

Some years later, consumer social networking tools like Facebook and Twitter laid the groundwork for professional platforms like Yammer and Salesforce Chatter, which brought the ease of personal networking and information sharing out of the home and into the office. What’s changed recently is our use of consumer tools such as Lyft, Kayak and Dropbox in the workplace. Enterprise software is no longer inspired by consumer software; instead, professional apps need to compete with the utility and usability of personal apps on our smartphones.

The speed of now

The unrelenting demand for real-time communication has been just as influential in driving change as consumer trends. When email made its debut, everyone scrambled to claim at least one address. It was the fastest, easiest, most accessible way to communicate ever devised, quickly conquering corporate life. (The average office worker receives nearly 200 emails a day.)

Yet despite the near-magical power of email, it still wasn’t fast enough. Instant messaging applications like AOL Instant Messenger and Yahoo! Messenger enabled live, casual conversations between friends and family, and soon people expected the same of their coworkers – thus, corporate IM was born.

IBM first introduced corporate IM with Lotus Sametime, then Yahoo announced a corporate instant messaging version of Yahoo! Messenger as part of its enterprise portal business. Soon thereafter AOL responded with Enterprise AIM, then Microsoft unveiled MSN Messenger Connect for Enterprises. By the end of 2002, an Osterman Research report found that 82 percent of all organizations were using some sort of IM application.

Instant messaging meets our needs for real time one on one, or one to few, communication, but falls short for group real time communication.

Less bullhorn, more drawing board

Concurrent with this rise of instant communication was the creation of team collaboration tools. This software sought to combine the best bits of the technology that came before it – databases, email, portals, wikis, social – and capture what has proven to be an elusive goal: truly effective teamwork outside the top-down information sharing model.

In the 1980’s, as corporations were rolling out personal computers, email was the medium for connecting people, departments and information spread across the company. By their very nature (even the word itself) “inboxes” created information silos.

Lotus Notes was the first to bring email, phone books, and document databases into a single environment. Despite being difficult to use (and initially only compatible with the IBM operating system), Lotus Notes sparked the idea that successful, globally adoptable software doesn’t need to be functionally siloed, and that digital platforms were in everyone’s future.

In the late 1990’s, a slew of enterprise portal vendors aimed to solve email’s siloed nature by centralizing information and application access through a vendor agnostic approach. The shortfall of portals was the heavy cost of customization and content curation.

Wikis, which allow anyone to add, delete, or revise content on any topic using only a web browser, were first built to help virtual teams research, brainstorm, and collaborate. In the early 2000’s, soon after enterprise portals proved to be too rigid for team or project-based collaboration, the concept of wiki’s or communities spread in the workplace via applications such as Jive and Microsoft SharePoint.

Wikis created the model for topic-based information dissemination – multiple people communicating in different groups organized by team, topic or project. Curating information was easy but searching across the hundreds or thousands of communities within an organization was deeply flawed. At the time, the common joke was that if you want to secure a document, upload it into SharePoint, no one will be able to find it.

Around 2010 vendors like Yammer and Socialcast popularized enterprise social networking as a means to share and find relevant corporate information through a central activity stream. These tools brought a sense of fun to the workplace with easy sharing of pictures and video but lacked practical workflow support and efficient archival search. For enterprise technology to be truly collaborative, team members must be able to work creatively, in real time, quickly switching between various projects or topics, connect to a vast set of enterprise applications and data and effortlessly recall information.

Enter channels-based communication

Channels, a core innovation of new collaboration hubs, describe the place where multiple people can communicate and learn in groups organized by team, topic or project.

For example, one could create a channel for the accounting team, where accounting conversations and files would live together. One could also organize channels by project – like for a product launch – so that everyone involved in an initiative has a single place to share their work and track the work of others. One could similarly organize channels by subject matter, so people specializing in one aspect of the business have their own space for discussion. This facilitation of teamwork has Wiki genes, but reflects the conversational way that people actually work.

With channels, team members are never left out, and information doesn’t get lost – everything a team needs is in the same place. Channels make it possible to share, archive, and search; to keep information organized, updated, and transparent, taking inspiration from 90s-era corporate portals but with a far better experience and far more functionality.

Channels become an even more critical hub for employees’ workflows when integrated with other popular workplace apps like Google Drive, Zoom, and Envoy. Through these integrations, employees can pull reports, start calls, file tickets and more, all within modern-day collaboration and communication tools.

Plus, thanks to artificial intelligence (AI), if information is posted in public channels, it can be parsed to better understand what’s going on in an organization. AI can point people to messages that might be of interest to them, or suggest channels that might be beneficial to join, all in the service of making the workday simpler, more pleasant, and more productive.

Making work better

The historical advances we’ve made, driven by the desire to improve collaboration and productivity, have led us to today, when it’s possible to share, archive and search to keep a team organized, up-to-date, and on the same page. With channels, the right people have the right information when and where they need it, and collaboration becomes much more efficient and effective.

Faxes, pagers, email, instant messenger, channels – each have been the progression of business collaboration. By 2025, everyone will be working on platforms that offer this functionality, or something similar, because channels are the best place for work to happen.

Via BizTimes : A comprehensive plan makes workplace change easier

Ease relocation stress by engaging staff in the planning process.

When it’s time to make a significant facility change for your business, whether it’s remodeling or re-locating, setting expectations and controlling perception is key to employee satisfaction with the new environment. Engaging in a detailed information-gathering process that includes listening sessions with employees is a great start to facilitating change and making employees feel valued. Embrace input from employees­—your staff knows what is needed to achieve great results. Engaging your staff early in the planning process is critical to helping them be more accepting of upcoming changes as they transition to a new environment.

Change doesn’t come easy. Humans are creatures of habit and our environment is an important element in our daily routine. A lot of our time is spent at work, an environment we become very familiar with, where we know what to expect. We also know the best route to take to get to work, the time it takes, and where we make stops along the way to manage our life. If you’re relocating, this all changes and creates understandable stress.

Address employee concerns

It’s helpful to work with a consultant that’s experienced in various methods to understand the attitudes and readiness for change within your company. These methods include, among other things, understanding the company vision and mission, employee surveys, an evaluation of current conditions, and pilot programs to test new strategies. The consultant assists in creating an action plan that includes addressing concerns, anxieties and expectations of the people affected. It’s important to focus on what employees gain, not what they will give up. A comprehensive communication plan should be specific and have an honest tone in messaging. It needs to answer who, what, when, where, why, and how.

This is a group effort. You will want to use the influencers within your own organization to help convey the message. Meet with them, explain what you’re trying to accomplish, and ask for help. Company leaders need to model new work behaviors desired in the new environment.

Create an action plan

When it’s time to get ready for a move, you need a comprehensive move plan that addresses phasing and logistics. You will need to identify move champions and coordinate team meetings to define things like how to purge, how to clean, how to pack, and the schedule for everything, including the actual move. It’s important to know the building rules and regulations and check the lease expiration for office equipment and services. There may be long-term storage, disposal or de-commissioning needs as well.

An experienced consultant will provide your team with valuable insight and checklists to guide them through the process and take some of the pressure off key members of your organization, minimizing disruption to normal workflow. The consultant’s expertise will help you increase employee satisfaction, maximizing the return on investment you’ve made for workplace change.

Via Digital Signage Today : 3 ways digital signage can improve communication at the workplace

If we are completely honest, we have to admit we regularly ignore or miss important emails. A study by The Radicati Group found that in 2015, the average employee sent and received 122 emails per day. The study also expected that number to increase to 126 emails by 2019. With so many emails flying back and forth, it’s easy to see why that important email regarding a company get together or a change to the 401k can go unnoticed. Perhaps a better solution to this communication overload is to provide a more convenient source of information: digital signage. There are three key ways digital signage can boost communication in the workplace: convenience, interactivty and culture.

Convenience

An email inbox is a cluttered place filled with spam, important emails, advertisements and distractions. Digital signage, on the other hand, can deliver clear messages in a concise fashion, if done properly.

A business could deploy digital signage, for example, in the lunch room in clear sight of anyone sitting down or heating up their food. It could be used to advertise a key benefit, such as a health app, that an employee might not be aware of. A company could also use it to remind employees of key rules and regulations at the workplace.

Advertisers often measure the revenue per impression to examine how much impact an ad makes on its audience. In order to make more revenue, obviously the ad needs to create a large number impressions among the target audience. The same principle applies to corporate communication. Digital signage can help create more impressions among the audience to ensure that employees really get the message.

Interactivity

Digital signage also opens up the road to two-way communication and interactivity. For example, employees could submit accolades for colleagues or submit suggestions to increase productivity. This feedback could then be integrated as content into the displays.

It can be tempting to turn digital signage into a one-way communication tool, but this ignores a key opportunity for employees to truly interact with and improve the overall content. Employees could, for example, submit images from company or family events to share with the entire workplace. They could also provide wise or funny sayings to help get people through the Monday blues.

Culture

One final way digital signage can aid corporate communication is by building or improving company culture. As mentioned above, by encouraging employees to interact with the digital signage, they can help add to company culture.

If your company, for example, has a more laid back culture, employees could share funny memes on the displays or inside jokes. A company with a family orientated culture might regularly share baby photos or kids’ sporting events.

By using digital signage as a true two-way communication tool, you have the opportunity to build a richer company culture that engages employees more than a barrage of emails.

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