How Automation and Flexible Schedules Can Uplift A Diverse Design Force

Fredrik Thomassen is the CEO and co-founder of Superside, an agile design company focused on helping enterprise teams deliver design at scale. 

The workplace of 2050 is going to look quite different than that of 2000, 2010 or 2020. Edelman forecasts that by 2027, more than 50 percent of American workers will be independent contract workers, up from 36 percent in 2017.

 There’s no question that the future of work is much more remote, but at the same time, diversity and inclusion have become a new business imperative. What’s more, there is compounding evidence that suggests diverse companies help drive higher revenue.

 So how can you go about building a diverse workforce without sacrificing the design quality that you or your customers expect?

 If you’re struggling to get started, here’s a few successful tips I’ve learned from creating a new type of labor platform that’s proven great for diversity, equal opportunity as well as giving designers a way to earn more stable and predictable income.

  • Champion remote working. If you’re leading a design team and are not ready to throw yourself completely behind the remote-worker concept allow your team to test it occasionally or during holiday weeks when people often travel. You’ll be amazed how many people – women, single parents of all genders, people caring for elders – eagerly embrace this flexibility. With the vast majority of today’s design tasks performed on a computer, most of this work can be done remotely anyways. Most aspects of a project that may need more responsive human interaction can be easily accomplished through collaboration tools like Slack and Trello, and flexible schedules benefit workers in more difficult life situations, which is a great way to build trust and accountability throughout your organization.

  • Adopt blind hiring practices. This is where automated hiring can give you an edge. Automated platforms allow people and systems to hire without bringing their own biases to the table, ensuring diversity hiring is not simply an afterthought. Designers can input their skills and experiences into the database and allow the system to find the most qualified person. Blind systems – that strip identifying information such as a candidate’s name and college graduation date from resumes – allow candidates to compete for work they are qualified for and provide equal opportunities to compete for higher wages using analytics and results-driven performance.

  • Look outside your home country. Seek out talent in places where other businesses don’t bother to look. There’s an abundance of well-educated workers with fluent English skills in Africa, Latin America and Southeast Asia. We have found that pools of skilled designers are emerging in some of the world’s most unexpected places. If you already allow remote working, there shouldn’t be much of a barrier to hiring the best people across borders and time zones that can create their even greater efficiencies at scale.

  • Make clear communications and accountability part of your culture. While trying to coordinate and maintain a remote workforce, it is easy to forget to build an inclusive culture that reinforces your company’s values. Using video calls to keep employees apprised of ongoing business decisions and company activities is key to maintaining their trust. For example, once a month at the company town hall, we make it a point to showcase people’s work and efforts; we celebrate successes as well as discuss company-wide challenges. We’ve learned that regular and authentic communication helps to unify teams, builds a culture of accountability and helps them deliver their best work.

 By providing flexible work arrangements and the opportunity to work remotely, we have opened up job opportunities in marginalized communities around the globe, amassing a global taskforce of more than 135 creatives from over 40 countries, spanning 6 continents and 45 unique nationalities. On top of that, 56% of our workforce is made up of women.

 To quote Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff who spent $6 million to adjust for gender and ethnicity based pay disparity: “There’s no finish line when it comes to equality.”  That’s something I wholeheartedly agree with, and there’s no one silver bullet to get it right.

I’ve found that maintaining diversity goes beyond good intentions, and care needs to be taken to build a workplace that values equality and also works for those in more difficult circumstances.

By tapping into automated staffing for projects and pulling from a global talent pool, we’ve seen diverse groups around the world (men and women) earn up to 5x more than what they typically make in their country – that’s a major stepping stone towards a more inclusive labor model and something I’m incredibly proud of.

Are you looking to promote more diversity in your design teams? I encourage you to join me and together we can carve a new path forward for our industry.