Last week we shared the first of five key differences between Best Workplaces and the Rest in the face of the pandemic, building a trust-based agile culture. The second key difference that emerged from our analysis is inclusive leadership.
Best Workplaces have inclusive leadership practices that create psychological safety and promote a sense of belonging to bring people through rapid changes effectively, while limiting stress.
Inclusion, Belonging and Psychological Safety
In our Great Place to Work study of Asia companies in 2019, we found that creating an inclusive work environment was critical in enabling psychological safety and belonging. To examine inclusive leadership in 2020, we looked closely at how employees rated their workplace experiences with regards to the factors of Inclusion, Belonging and Psychological Safety.
In times of uncertainty, Inclusion can be critical as management decisions in response to the crisis can impact employees differently based on demographics such as job type, income and organization level. This was true in 2020, as we read about differences in experiences for employees who had to work from home compared with those working on-site and on the frontlines. For example, employees who were working from home and were parents of school-aged children, caretakers for elderly parents, or both, may have required greater flexibility to take unscheduled breaks during standard work hours, compared to those who were not.
Leaders who created an inclusive environment, by connecting with all their people and understanding their diverse needs, were in a better position to manage the changes resulting from COVID-19, and anticipate and respond to potential disparate impacts.
With the move to work from home, Best Workplaces saw their people managers needing to quickly adapt to managing split teams and a remote workforce, while they adjusted to their own personal changes. Best Workplaces anticipated this change and were intentional in supporting their people managers to be inclusive and empathetic leaders, by providing on-line guides and training resources, and conducting virtual workshops and forums for people managers to learn, share and problem solve together.
Spotlight on Best Workplaces
Salesforce was intentional about communicating with their people leaders to ensure they were set up to lead with trust and empathy, and enable focus and contribution. This included hosting bi-weekly ‘All Leaders Calls’, and issuing a ‘Lead the Way’ email update to help deliver relevant guidance and resources. They also held ‘Manager Circles’ – peer-led roundtable sessions where managers could learn from and support one another in finding new solutions to managerial challenges.
Cisco supported their ASEAN-region people leaders by holding an engagement session on team well-being, to discuss what exemplary leadership looks and feels like, and what resilience means in the face of great uncertainty.
As Singapore workplaces reopen and COVID-19 restrictions are relaxed, leaders will not be able to simply revert to their old ways of managing teams. The more inclusive approach of leading others in a way that celebrates diversity, fosters belonging and ensures psychological safety, will likely be expected as a new norm. Perhaps one positive outcome of the pandemic will be a stronger focus on creating a great workplace for all.