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Building Relationships and Embracing Diversity at Work

July 14, 2021

Top Competencies for the Reshaped World of Work – Part 1This 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 shared 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 organizations will embrace a hybrid model of working on a permanent basis. A recent McKinsey survey reported that executives in many organizations had seen a rise in productivity, engagement, and customer satisfaction. However not every organization 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 analyzed 122 billion email interactions and 2.3 billion meeting interactions globally during the pandemic and found that the communication and collaboration dropped substantially with networks outside of 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 “water cooler” 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 Relationships - being 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


Globalization 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 organizations, and this has only been magnified by recent movements and events such as #MeToo and Black Lives Matter.

At an organization 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 organizations 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 organizations.

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 Diversityrespecting 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.

  • Look 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.

To read more about how building relationships and embracing diversity at work could rise to prominence over the next decade, please download our research report below.

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Dan Hughes Dan Hughes is the Director of International R&D at PSI. Dan has a passion for evidence-based psychology and helping organizations to improve employee performance and well-being. He has worked for several HR consultancies and has 23 years’ experience in the research, design, implementation, and evaluation of psychology solutions for business. Over his career, he has developed a wide variety of different psychometric tools spanning volume hiring, talent assessment, leadership, and people development.