Building relationships and embracing diversity at work

Written by Dan Hughes, Director of International R&D
Previously published by PSI Talent Management or Cubiks, prior to becoming Talogy.

This is part one of a three-part series that takes a deeper dive into PSI’s research report and the competencies that are emerging as most important as we continue to move our businesses forward.

In our recent report Key Success Criteria in the Reshaped World of Work, we described seven competencies that, based on research, we anticipate will be critical in the future of work.

In this blog post, I will explore two of these top competencies which relate to how we communicate, gain support, and collaborate with people: Building Relationships and Embracing Diversity at work. Why will they be important, and what are some simple tips to help develop these valuable soft skills?

Building Relationships

As we emerge from the pandemic, it is likely that many organisations will embrace a hybrid model of working on a permanent basis. A recent McKinsey survey reported that executives in many organisations had seen a rise in productivity, engagement, and customer satisfaction. However not every organisation experienced these improvements. The companies who saw higher productivity were also often those who actively worked on supporting small connections (or “microtransactions”) between colleagues – sharing ideas, networking, mentoring, etc.Interestingly, in their 2021 Work Trend Index report, Microsoft analysed 122 billion email interactions and 2.3 billion meeting interactions globally during the pandemic and found that communication and collaboration dropped substantially with networks outside employees’ immediate teams, while it increased with close team members.

While the hybrid working model will bring flexibility and an element of choice to the reshaped world of work, it may place different requirements on individuals in terms of how they make new social connections. Building and maintaining their networks while establishing strong, productive relationships based on trust will look different. With a reduction of opportunities for traditional, informal “office kitchen” conversations, people will need to be much more proactive at finding opportunities to interact, share ideas, and bond with colleagues in a hybrid world.

The future of work will require people to develop their capacity for Building Relationshipsbeing able to connect easily with others, gain trust quickly, and maintain effective relationships.

Tips for Building Relationships

  • Make time to connect with new people or colleagues you deal with less often. Invite a new colleague or a colleague you don’t know very well to a virtual or face-to-face coffee meeting and learn more about them. Find out about who they are as individuals – what do they enjoy and what are their interests?
  • Focus on developing a rapport with new people that you meet or work on projects with. Ask them about themselves and what they are doing. Show an interest in their activities. Try and develop an understanding of their perspectives on issues.
  • Actively maintain your contacts and try not to lose touch. Make a point of speaking or meeting with them at least once or twice a year to keep in communication. Drop a message or email to people you haven’t spoken to in a while as an easy way of staying connected.

Embracing Diversity

Globalisation and advances in digital communication mean that the world is more interconnected than ever before, with greater cultural diversity in workforces and customers. Also, Diversity & Inclusion has become a critical topic for organisations, and this has only been magnified by recent movements and events such as #MeToo and Black Lives Matter.

At an organisation level, a research study by McKinsey, Diversity wins: How inclusion matters, reported positive evidence that more diverse companies – in terms of gender, ethnicity, and culture – outperform other organisations financially. There are also potential benefits in terms of better team decision-making and performance. However, the McKinsey report notes that progress on gender and cultural representation has still been slow in two-thirds of companies surveyed, and many employees are still experiencing a lack of inclusion within their organisations.

When people speak about diversity, they typically mean demographic characteristics such as gender, age, and ethnicity, which are immediately visible and can be considered “surface-level.” However, it is valuable to think about harnessing diversity more broadly from the perspective of “deep-level diversity” – individual differences in terms of personality traits and cognitive style. In a meta-analysis of studies incorporating a total of 2,832 teams, researchers found that deep-level diversity in cultural diverse teams was positively associated with team creativity/innovation, whereas there was no relationship with surface-level diversity of teams.

These findings highlight both the importance of building fair, inclusive workplaces as well as proactively seeking out and harnessing diverse perspectives, opinions, and ideas to support innovation and solve business challenges. Over the next decade, this means leaders and employees will need to focus their efforts on Embracing Diversity – respecting and appreciating individual differences, cultures, lifestyles, and traditions, actively including diverse individuals and perspectives, and treating people fairly, regardless of background.

Tips for Embracing Diversity

  • Make a conscious effort to proactively solicit input from people of all backgrounds and embrace the value of their different perspectives on relevant topics. Colleagues or customers are more likely to feel comfortable working with you if they feel you truly value what they have to offer and are willing to consider their opinions.
  • Seek to understand different perspectives by asking open questions. Try not to place too much emphasis on your own assumptions and beliefs and keep an open mind. Have appreciation of and consideration for different perspectives, personalities, and cultures.
  • One of the keys to working within diverse groups is learning not just to treat people as you would like to be treated, but to treat them as they would like to be treated and being aware of cultural differences in social norms. Show curiosity and interest in other people. When another individual offers to share insights into themselves as well as their culture and beliefs, listen and ask questions to find out more about them.

Changing success criteria

What will be important and why?

The world of work is constantly evolving: from the digital disruption of the Fourth Industrial Revolution and the seismic impact of the recent pandemic, to a long-overdue focus on building diverse and inclusive organisations.

To deal with this continuous disruption and change, your workforce will need to be able to cope, adapt, and perform in different ways to be effective, and your hiring strategies need to align accordingly.

In this report, you’ll learn:

  • The seven core competencies repeatedly cited in the review of over 10,000 assessments as key for success across a variety of roles over the last ten years
  • The seven competencies that will be critical for success over the next ten years
  • Why these competencies will be required for future organisational success

Are you ready to discover which competencies are essential to survive and thrive in the reshaped world of work?

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changing success criteria in the reshaped world of work cta research report cover