Lifting Morale and Inclusion for your remote team

For many of our clients, the coronavirus pandemic is a crisis unlike any other in recent times. 

Over this past week, I’ve spent some time talking to leaders across a variety of industries to understand the unique ways in which their businesses are facing such uncertain times and how I, as a global diversity & inclusion consultant, could support them.

What I found was that one of the most common questions leaders are asking in these testing times is this: how do I maintain morale and continue to build a culture of inclusion for my (mostly) remote-working team?

It’s a question that I’m sure leaders everywhere are asking themselves so we want to de-silo this question as culture is the secret sauce to happy teams and high-performance but is often the first thing to go in times of crisis. 

To ensure that your teams not only survive this but thrive as a well-functioning team who sees obstacles as opportunities, I suggest these seven practices:

1. Break large teams into smaller daily check-in groups

Daily check-ins are going to be crucial in these early days to stay focused on priorities and maintain team morale and collaboration. We hold 20-minute daily ‘stand-ups’ at 11.15 AEST via Google Hangouts where each team member shares their priorities for the day as well as openly discuss what support is needed. We find this to be an easy and highly effective exercise and suggest no more than 8 people but this isn’t a hard and fast rule. 

2. Establish traditions and routines that work for you

Small things can make a huge impact on lifting team morale. A few of the simplest ways that we’ve implemented tradition and routine within our own team are:

  • IM everyone when you start and finish the day (we use Slack)
  • We’ve created a collaborative Spotify playlist that captures the office mood (it’s super energising and is full of female artists – you’re welcome to listen and add to!)
  • Share photos on your different workspaces for the day or GIF’s to lift the mood – who doesn’t love a GIF
  • Encourage everyone to bring food into to “eat virtually around the table”
  • Hold virtual “Friday drinks” – or whatever that end-of-week team activity is

3. Daily Video Check-Ins

Turn on the webcam. Being able to connect and see people is critical to remain connected and maintain a sense of trust and morale. It also enables leaders to pick up on signs of overwhelm or disengagement much easier than otherwise able to.

4. Be transparent about the impact on the business and what it means for them

In times of uncertainty, our brain grasps onto certainty. Don’t assume your team aren’t already thinking about what the impact of COVID-19 means for them within the business.

Empower your team to speak up honestly about the current problems they see, provide reassurance to the team on their job security (where possible), clearly communicate the impact on the business and help them to prepare for what’s next. Without these steps, it’s all but impossible to know what to fix and how to fix it.

Clarity trumps ambiguity every time. 

5. Set aside time for worry – for yourself and your team. Isolate the time aside to process your stress, anxiety

It’s healthy to take time to hit pause, step away from the desk & do whatever it is that helps you regain clarity. Something I suggested to my team does the day the pandemic status was announced was to take the remainder of the day off to feel all the emotions – free of work pressure. 

Compartmentalising feelings that don’t serve us as leaders is an incredibly powerful way of taking back control over this otherwise volatile situation.

6. Maintain both wider team connectivity and also time/space for 1:1 personal

Be people-first. Your team wants to work for a company that has them personally and their wider community’s best interests at heart. Let your teams know that they come first by fostering connection as a team and 1:1, then work together to maintain business as usual.

7. Support the middle managers 

It can be particularly hard for middle managers as they worry about disruptions to the workflow they are accountable for, and some may feel the most at ease to coach their team if they are physically present as they are still learning how to engage workers from a distance. Make sure you’re checking in with middle managers to ensure they’re not only ok personally, but to check on how they’re managing their reports too.

We’ll be working over the next few weeks to bring leaders of all levels, practical tools to help lead your team effectively while maintaining the standard of excellence you’ve been working towards. We will be sure to share these as soon as available. In the meantime, I welcome you to reach out to me directly if you’d like more specific guidance on what I’ve discussed above. 

Until then, take care of yourself and your teams. We look forward to continuing to serve our community now more than ever. 

The power of you in D&I

Our Head of Innovation & Growth, Taylor Hawkins, was invited to Gartner Sydney for their International Women’s Day panel to discuss how diversity and inclusion initiatives can be effectively implemented into organisational culture. 

Gartner is an international leading research and advisory company that aims to provide senior leaders with insights, advice and tools to succeed in the future of business. The session fleshed out a number of great insights, providing practical examples of how to effectively incorporate diversity and inclusion practises from the individual to company-wide level.

You can make a difference

A common misconception around diversity and inclusion is that “it’s an HR issue”. The result of this is that individuals shirk responsibility for their own behaviour and the impact that it has. At the end of the day, an organisation is made up of its people, so consider the difference between an organisation who’s employees act in an inclusive way, compared to one who’s don’t. For organisations to truly be ahead of the curve, it is not enough for policies to be implemented at a HR level, they need to be implemented & adopted on the individual level too.

On a day-to-day basis, it is our own small actions that make others feel included. Consider the language that you use both in casual conversations and meetings; inclusive language acknowledges diversity and is sensitive to people’s differences, is respectful and promotes equitable opportunities. Be mindful of the way you respond to others, particularly when they share feedback or utilise flexibility.

Inclusion is two-way

Inclusion is circular and runs both ways – if we want to be included we need to be inclusive ourselves. If your workplace is not stepping up to inclusion, you should step up and stand out to make yourself heard. More and more we are seeing real change and progress with diversity and inclusion initiatives coming from the ground-up in organisations.


Feedback is essential for inclusive cultures but being empathetic in your feedback does not mean failing to be direct – to be clear is to be kind. Growth requires constructive feedback, it is how we develop and improve, so we need to nurture organisational cultures which encourage effective feedback to be given and received. When providing feedback, ensure you are as specific as possible and try to suggest an alternative or recommendation, rather than just making a general statement.

Social contracts

A great way of making progress within a singular team is the creation of social contracts, being an explicit agreement laying out the ground rules for team members’ behaviour. It provides the opportunity to have a conversation and agree on what team members stand for, while consecutively creating a tool to hold each other accountable.

The whole conversation

Increasingly, we are seeing that the effectiveness of inclusion initiatives are undeniably enhanced when the conversation is (mind the irony) inclusive. This means that if the conversation is about gender diversity, men need to be involved, not just women. Further, senior leader buy-in to the conversation is essential. For any initiative to be effective, it needs to have company-wide support, without this, what we refer to as artificial harmony is created – a state of dissonance in an organization where harmony appears to exist on the surface, but underlying disagreement around key cultural pillars pervades.

While the effectiveness of diversity and inclusion practises requires adoption and commitment from the entire organisation, the practical application begins at an individual level. It is crucial for organisations to consider early on the potential challenges and resistance that may arise through the implementation of new practises so that they are equipped to effectively respond to and overcome them.

Qantas Talking Business Podcast

Our Founder & Managing Director, Sarah Liu, spoke with Alan Kohler on his podcast series Talking Business, on the business cost of failing to implement effective diversity and inclusion practises.

Sarah elaborates on how executives can break down invisible diversity and inclusion barriers and the importance of fostering ambition amongst emerging female talent.

Now available on all Qantas flights and you can listen to the full podcast below!

Leading practise for D&I in 2020

Over the last 8 years, The Dream Collective has made a habit of stepping ahead of the ‘comfortable curve’ on our approach to creating inclusive cultures and advancing more women into leadership. And, it appears that 2020 is no exception to that. 

Recently, I had the pleasure of speaking at an event full of recruitment professionals looking to improve their approach to D&I. At this event, I shared a few key insights that leading practice for D&I must be built on in 2020 and given the overwhelmingly positive response I received, I wanted to share them with our wider community. With that in mind, here are three key principles that are underpinning our approach in 2020 and you might pick up that they have a bit of a theme. 

Everyone has unconscious bias

As our wonderful Head of Programs, Brooke Taylor, often says: ‘if you have a brain, you have unconscious bias’. This is because it is a primitive survival instinct that we cannot eradicate. Despite this, we too often create a narrative that unconscious bias is an ailment only suffered by men, and this is woefully incorrect. We all bring our own bias to the table and it affects both ourselves and those around us. We must keep this in mind with how we approach discussions around unconscious bias to ensure that we don’t vilify those who admit to having it, but instead help equip them to mitigate it. 

Everyone needs to bring respect, curiosity & empathy to the table

Genuine progress is often hindered by a lack of respect, curiosity & empathy. I truly believe that we must maintain our passionate commitment to agitating for change in the gender equality landscape, but too often the sentiment stops here, and that is our downfall. We need to be sure to temper this with an understanding that the majority of the population does not want to actively resist progress and rather, simply need to be given the space and grace to understand what they might be missing and given the opportunity to learn. 

Any teacher in the world will tell you that an environment in which you feel defensive or attacked is not a good environment for learning, and it certainly won’t lead to someone wanting to open up about the things they don’t understand.

Therefore, to create the best possible environment to have conversations about diversity and inclusion, we need to bring the same respect, curiosity & empathy that we wish to see in others

Everyone needs to be brought on the journey with us

I have heard it said (and said it myself) many times that ‘it’s ridiculous to ignore half of the human populace!’. This has often been in reference to organisations with little to no female representation in their leadership, or the dreaded all male panel. 

Now, if we apply this same rationale to the work of organisations such as The Dream Collective, who are working to see more women advance into leadership, the same question should be posed. This is why we have decided to tackle this challenge head-on, taking our years of knowledge and leading practice expertise, and channeling it into investing in advancing men’s inclusive leadership capabilities. By doing this, we are able to address both sides of the capability building that is needed to resolve the rift in our leadership pipeline. 

The true success of diversity and inclusion initiatives hinges on the active involvement of everyone, not just segments of the population or organisation. Bringing everyone along on the journey toward more equal and inclusive workplace cultures is the key to driving real progress.

Written by Taylor Hawkins, Head of Innovation & Growth, The Dream Collective

The Growth Manifesto Podcast

In this Growth Manifesto podcast, Sarah discusses how The Dream Collective works closely with businesses to help them attract, retain and advance their top female talent. She speaks about the inevitable presence of our unconscious biases and the role that 4 common biases play in the workplace. She then delves into leading practise around firstly, acknowledging and then reducing their potential negative impact.

Further, the episode explores the importance of treating diversity and inclusion as a strategic business imperative, as well as the variety of different challenges businesses face throughout implementation of effective D&I strategies. It is imperative for organisations to create psychological safety and bring everyone along on the journey, to ensure success across 5 key pillars: hiring, training, evaluating, promotion and flexibility.

Serious about diversity & inclusion: Here’s how your small biz can compete with the corporates

It’s a common misconception that diversity and inclusion is an issue exclusive to large organisations that employ huge teams across varied corporate sectors. Big business garners a lot of attention because, from a historical perspective, vast groups of society have been excluded from the workforce. In reality, diversity and inclusion is a societal issue for all – a behavioural consideration of how we move through a globalised world. 

Increasingly, large organisations are waking up to the inherent diversity and inclusion biases that exist not only in the workplace, but in the world – resulting in an influx of funding for initiatives such as training, development of diverse talent pools and structural reform. 

For small businesses, it can be easy to fall into the trap of believing that diversity and inclusion is a job for big businesses; citing capital, size, location or industry as an excuse. However, SMBs account for 97 per cent of businesses across Australia, meaning diversity and inclusion is just as important, if not more so, within these organisations. 

Small businesses are uniquely positioned to embrace a diverse and inclusive culture as they are able to facilitate less rigid routines and structures, leaving greater room for experimentation. Small businesses learn as they go, with the freedom to find out what works and what doesn’t. In big businesses, a barrier to growth can be attributed to a legacy problem where established organisations measure their success based on what or who has been before – which naturally suppresses the desire and capability for change.

With continually shifting political, social and economic structures – change is the only constant. Small businesses have an advantage over large organisations because they can adapt to change, having less, or even no expectations of how things should be done. 

So how can small business owners not only keep up with but compete against large corporates? The answers are simpler than you might think.


When looking to grow your team, consider how the world sees your business. Everything from your website down to what your employees say contributes to your employer value proposition (EVP). For example, when writing a job advertisement, factors like requisite education, emphasis on travel and the tone used have a considerable impact. Nuances such as gender neutral wording and not overstating required experience or expectations can extend your pool of talent beyond a homogenised group.

For SMBs that aren’t hiring, inclusivity can be applied to everyday behaviours. Any member of a team can provide a diversity of thought, personality and life experience – inclusive practices can be encouraged by highlighting these differences and altering behaviour to nurture them. Whether that’s asking the quietest person in the room for their opinion or inviting dissent in team meetings, these small adjustments can make a tangible difference to team culture. 


Keeping talented and skilled workers around is vital to a business’ success. Retaining talent from a diversity and inclusion perspective comes down to considering what it is that various people need from their working environment – essentially, what they need to feel secure and welcome. We’re on the cusp of embracing a largely millennial workforce who value company culture, flexibility, recognition and opportunities for growth above all else – so we need to welcome unique working conditions, or risk losing high potential staff. 

Speak to your people – create a safe environment for workers to share their ambitions, concerns and preferred routines. Make this a space where diversity and inclusion can be freely spoken about too, grounding every discussion in respect. Accommodating the needs of your employees, and creating a culture where vulnerability is encouraged promotes a greater sense of belonging, and will keep talent around for longer. 


For established businesses with legacy problems, there’s a risk of recognising high potential talent in a singular personality type or set of traits. Leaders look for replicas of predecessors who have been successful, falling into a cycle of promoting the same archetype over and over, leaving no room for diversity of thought or experience.   

For small businesses, it’s crucial not to echo this behaviour by searching for learnt dominant traits represented in society. Consider how high potential talent can present in different personalities across different roles – and what tools you can give employees to advance and show their potential. 

As Australia aims to establish itself as an innovation hub on the global landscape we need to support the 97 per cent of our workforce that is made up of SMBs and establish strong foundations across leadership, diversity and inclusion. Small businesses’ advantage is their agility – they have the power to set new standards to not only survive but prosper in an increasingly globalised economy. 

Originally posted on Kochie’s Business Builders by Taylor HawkinsHead of Growth and Innovation at The Dream Collective.

Novartis, Société Générale, Suntory latest to join 2020 campaign

Novartis, Société Générale, Suntory latest to join The Dream Collective’s 2020 Japan Book Project, “Together, She Shines”.

They join an already all-star partner lineup, including:

  • adidas
  • Grand Hyatt Tokyo
  • Johnson Control Hitachi
  • LVMH
  • Manabicia
  • Robert Walters Japan
  • Konica Minolta
  • Burton
  • Bristol-Myers Squibb

with more to be announced soon.

About the project:

The Dream Collective are uniting 20 CEO’s, leaders and advocates of change from some of Japan’s most established brands to:

  1. Contribute to our book to be released in 2020 “Together, She Shines Brighter” containing personal stories from business leaders on how they empowered, mentored, sponsored or supported women in their lives to reach their full potential and;
  2. Collectively sponsor 100 high-potential young professional women into leadership development training


We are collecting final expressions of interest. For more information + to receive campaign updates, visit the official campaign website here or get in touch with us directly here.