The Learning Accelerator Blog/DEI Work Is More Important Than Ever. But How Do We Do It Remotely?

professional development virtual & hybrid learning

DEI Work Is More Important Than Ever. But How Do We Do It Remotely?

by Jin-Soo Huh on July 14 2020

This piece was originally posted on EdSurge.

Widespread protests, sparked by the killings of Black people at the hands of police, have led to a global conversation on racial discrimination. How can companies take action to meaningfully foster diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) after many rapidly converted to operating remotely due to COVID-19?

One resource is the Remote DEI Toolkit, which was developed by a group of seven remote educational organizations to support DEI work without having a centralized physical office. The toolkit focuses on developing internal capabilities of staff members so that these can be translated into their work with educators and students. The challenges highlighted in the toolkit include:

Building relationships and trust. DEI depends on strong relationships, vulnerability, and trust, which can be hard to foster in remote environments with fewer organic relationship-building opportunities like water-cooler chats.

Navigating conflict. Working remotely can result in significantly fewer touchpoints than working in an office setting, which can result in a prioritization of harmony and avoidance of difficult conversations that are needed to address microaggressions and unconscious biases.

Hiring, recruiting, and onboarding. Often, in hiring, the type of people that remote organizations tend to recruit are those who have a dedicated workspace, those who have high-speed internet, and those who are able to troubleshoot technology.

Optimizing organizational culture. A remote environment can negatively affect organizational culture by encouraging more independently and less collaborative work, which can lead to a competitive atmosphere. It can also reward those who are more strongly connected, leading to an unfair distribution of responsibilities.

Advice for Organizations Thrust into Remote Work

Connect DEI to your organization’s purpose. Revisit why you exist as an organization and be able to clearly articulate why DEI is fundamental to accomplishing that mission.

Listen to your employees. Lead with empathy and listen to employees — especially those who don’t have access to power or who come from marginalized backgrounds. If not, they may privilege the voices of those in positions of power when making decisions.

Get started. Don’t wait for things to return to normal. DEI is more important now than ever. Resources for building trust, meeting design, small-group strategy, and decision pauses as good starting points for organizations.

While the toolkit provides steps for organizations to help employees reflect on their team’s practices and grow on their DEI journeys, ultimately structural changes in the organization will be needed for systemic equity to build upon that foundation.

About the Author

Jin-Soo Huh is a Partner at The Learning Accelerator. He brings over a decade of experience implementing and scaling innovative education models that incorporates blended and personalized learning.