What's been worrying is that among the many disruptions caused by the pandemic, gender gap actually widened. Image Credit: Supplied

Many companies are thinking about the design of the workplace, including organizations in the Middle East and Africa who are exploring avenues to meet employee expectations while improving business outcomes. As companies continue to roll out - and test - hybrid work models, organizations have leveraged the opportunity to reimagine their workplace culture and usher in a new era of productivity, possibility and opportunity.

It's a journey we have been navigating at Microsoft too. We have been walking alongside our customers and partners in the race toward the hybrid workplace, with the intention of designing a model that best fits our organization, our business needs and our people. We placed extra emphasis on creating a culture of innovation that fuels business resilience and long-term success.

We recognize innovation is the key to responding quickly to market challenges and opportunities, so we have been working to drive an innovation culture across every team in every office throughout an organization.

Building blocks

Key to this effort has been the clear understanding that to achieve a culture of sustained innovation, four key principles need to be considered: People, data, process and technology. Digital transformation across every piece of the organization is paramount to achieving success in the digital age. The insights that can be gained from data and analytics tools to drive informed decision-making can go a long way in optimizing the work of any team – from HR to sales, marketing to customer service.

And redesigning processes is vital to create a systemic approach to continuous innovation. It’s the ‘people’ part that needs more attention as organizations begin to shape the digital age – particularly in the area of gender diversity. There is still a huge amount of work to do to achieve gender equality and, according to the World Economic Forum, the time it will take to close the gender gap has grown by a massive 36 years in just 12 months. This means it will now take an estimated 135.6 years for men and women to reach parity.

Addressing this imbalance and creating a culture that can promote better gender equality for women to be able to develop is vital to not only design the workplace of the future, but the entire digital era.

Bridging gaps

Studies prove that highly gender diverse companies deliver better revenue than less gender diverse companies. Tapping into the skills of more people also gives companies access to a wider talent pool, which can make have a massive impact on productivity and the business’ bottom-line.

Having an inclusive culture also plays a significant role in driving morale and opportunity among employees, both of which are key to improving staff retention. This is a particularly important fact to consider as the world continues to face the Great Resignation and the Great Reshuffle.

Opportunity gains

Indeed, to truly get the most out of any workforce, all organizations need diverse, skilled individuals to bring their different backgrounds, life experiences and perspectives to the table so we can create products, services and experiences that are for everyone - not just a select few.

Business has the transformative power to change and contribute to a more open, diverse and inclusive society. Just as the pandemic fast-forwarded other critical trends such as remote work and digitization, attracting and retaining women to the workforce needs to be a top focus as well.