February 23, 2023
How Collaboration Tools Empower a Diverse and Equitable Workforce
Video and other collaboration solutions are helping organizations create more inclusive work environments.
Inclusion in the workforce is personal to me.
My brother suffered a spinal injury in a boating accident. He controls his movements and interacts with his environment while only able to move his body above the shoulders. Yet through the magic of collaboration technologies, he can run his own company, a Twitch streaming channel, and be a leader in groups working to improve assistive living technologies for other veterans.
For many of us, video and other collaboration tools are largely a matter of convenience. But for people who have historically faced hurdles that have prevented their full participation in the workforce, collaboration solutions are truly transformational, opening a wealth of new opportunities.
Here are three types of diversity that collaboration solutions can help support.
Collaboration Tools Enable Participation by Team Members with Differing Abilities
Obviously, employers should do everything in their power to include people with disabilities in work-related and social activities. That said, some people with disabilities may find it easier to connect through collaboration technologies than to travel to the office. The World Economic Forum even states that technology can help “level the playing field” for people with disabilities in the workforce.
The benefits of telecommuting for people with mobility challenges are numerous, but some collaboration tools also include features specifically aimed at supporting users with disabilities. For instance, automated closed captioning can help workers with hearing disabilities to seamlessly participate in meetings. The World Economic Forum notes that remote work helps to create an environment where people focus on the quality of their colleagues’ work rather than on their unconscious biases.
Leveling the Playing Field for Employees of Various Socioeconomic Backgrounds
Some people don’t think twice about taking a meeting in downtown Chicago or Washington, D.C. They hop in their cars, maybe wince slightly at a $45 parking fee and go about their business. For others, these are enormous economic obstacles. Collaboration technologies can help erase these burdens, promoting inclusion for people regardless of their socioeconomic status.
We’ve seen collaboration solutions break down socioeconomic barriers particularly in the K–12 education space. In the past, parents of students with learning disabilities sometimes needed to take time off work to attend in-person meetings about their children’s individualized education programs. For an hourly employee, that can put a big dent in a weekly paycheck. Today, many schools are allowing parents to join meetings via collaboration solutions such as Zoom and Webex. This means that parents can join during their lunch breaks and be full participants in their children’s education, no matter their means.
Technology Can Eliminate Geographic Barriers to Inclusion
The rise of remote work gave companies the chance to hire people from around the country or even the world. Now, some organizations are instituting return-to-office edicts, eliminating the opportunity for their employees to work from home. But business leaders should carefully consider the costs and benefits of such a move.
Imagine, for instance, that a valuable employee in the contact center must move to a new location because a spouse in the military gets stationed somewhere else. Is it really worth losing the employee when he or she can do the job just as effectively from another location?
Organizations across industries have reported talent shortages in recent years. The ability of companies to hire outside their geographical footprints — and the ability of employees to work from anywhere — creates a win-win.
Story by Scott Merritt, a Navy veteran who has been in the technology space for over two decades. In his six years at CDW, he’s had the privilege of working with a variety of customers, from healthcare to theme parks. He now leads a team of technology experts who are dedicated to helping clients achieve their desired business outcomes through the creative use of technology.