Meeting the Needs

Meeting the Needs of a Changing Workforce

Graduation season is here, and many recent or soon-to-be graduates are about to enter the workforce. In fact, it is estimated that companies plan to hire 26 percent more new graduates from the class of 2022 compared to the year before. Meeting the needs of this new workforce is key to successful talent acquisition and retention. 

The world is different than it was three graduation seasons ago. Businesses have needed to adjust the way they approach the hiring process to build strong teams. For these organizations to attract and retain the top talent within the job market, a different mindset and approach are required.

The future of work is now, and it is reliant upon driving change through technology, different ways of working, fresh perspectives, and diverse voices.

The Demand for Flexibility

Flexibility is an unwavering demand of the new generation of workers. In a world that relishes instant communication and expects full transparency, job candidates are more aware of the vast number of organizations that meet their employees where they are. So what does this mean for companies that are looking to hire and retain candidates who are overwhelmed with options? It means that flexibility is a must – not a “nice to have.”

Flexibility means allowing employees to build a schedule that best fits their needs. Many organizations are adapting accordingly as they recognize this level of flexibility is something they must offer their current and future employees. In fact, 81 percent of executives are changing their workplace policies to offer greater flexibility. This is a standard expectation of our new normal. A failure to keep up with these demands means limiting your talent pool and losing even the most loyal of employees.

Flexibility also means empowering employees to choose where they work. Organizations that promote a “work from anywhere” mindset prove that they truly foster an environment of flexibility and a consistent employee experience regardless of where one is seated. Companies have quickly acknowledged that the “work from anywhere” mindset vastly widens their potential candidate pool. These organizations can focus on recruiting candidates with different skillsets or backgrounds that can positively impact the business.

The companies that will win in the top talent competition are those that realize it is not where one works, but rather it is the breadth and quality of the work produced that is critical in allowing their organization to scale to the next level.

Defining Your Purpose and Aligning With Candidates

As Gen Z gains more stake in the workforce, purpose-driven practices will continue to take hold at the forefront and become the foundation of business. This shift has been bubbling under the surface for a few years, but now it sits firmly at the core of candidate requirements.

Organizations that choose to look intrinsically and identify the true purpose behind their work will find that like-minded talent turns their way. Purpose comes in many forms and can be realized in a variety of ways. There is no doubt that the new generation of candidates will not work for a company that does not have a defined and pursued purpose in place. The questions that all organizations must ask themselves are: What is the purpose of what you do? Who will you positively impact? How can you build a workplace that drives this purpose every single day?

The Impact of Technology

The Insurance industry exists largely to serve and support individuals, families, and organizations across the globe in times of need. This institution is comprised of companies that face challenges of how to bring a fresh and modern approach to help drive their purposes. Due to the length of its establishment, it would not come as a surprise if many candidates, particularly new graduates, saw the insurance industry as old school and have not considered it for their future careers. However, the reality is that there is a multitude of career advancement opportunities as technology such as software-as-a-solution, artificial intelligence, and machine learning continue to mature and become a staple within the industry. Insurance is a perfect fit for the new generation of workers who are inherently creative problem-solvers and who also wish to deepen their technology skillsets.

The companies that truly live out their defined purpose and offer the skills and training programs that employees desire will be the ones that gain the talent pool’s attention and thus deliver the innovative solutions that will be disruptive within their industry.

Cultivating Diverse Talent is the Path Forward

The changing workforce is shedding a bright light on the notable differences in how the varying generations approach their line of work. However, one similarity all generations in the workforce share is that employees only feel satisfied within their careers when they are comfortable enough to show up as their true selves and follow and express their passions and beliefs. Organizations that allow individuals and groups to be heard and empowered will win the competition for great talent. Without a doubt, upholding diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) practices are at the forefront of these efforts.

Companies that promote their DE&I efforts create a culture where employees feel respected, connected, and proud. These organizations that choose to take a stance are more favorable to the new generation of candidates, many of whom will not work for companies that do not have DE&I programs in place. For organizations with customer-facing roles, an increased level of pride from employees leads to an increased level of engagement. Therefore, allowing them to better serve their customers and build stronger relationships with critical stakeholders.

Diversity Fosters Innovation

Organizations with diverse leaders and employees innovate at a faster rate. Diverse thinking and perspectives fuel creative ideas. It also fuels development cycles for new solutions, allowing companies to gain and sustain a competitive advantage by getting to market faster and focusing on the long-term value for their customers. This will in turn drive better business outcomes. 

Recently, our organization held a Diversity Summit to reflect on and discuss the future goals of DE&I in the workplace. It was a transformational three days, and the Summit is the type of event every organization should host more of. The group’s time together was filled with impactful moments that were educational, inspiring, and motivating to our employees. Both on a professional and personal level. 

DE&I initiatives should be incorporated into every part of the business and is not merely a three-day event. Leaders need to make a conscious effort to inspire employees and drive company culture by “walking the walk.” Candidates are not impressed by companies with executive-level and corporate “buy-in”. They are drawn to companies with true executive-level and corporate “believe-in”. An organization’s DE&I stance must stem top-down, and it cannot just be a focus within the HR part of the organization, or it will fall flat.

Every employee at every level within a corporate environment owns the company culture. Every candidate in the talent pool has a vested interest in being a part of an open culture that promotes belonging. 

A Few Final Thoughts

A company’s most valuable asset is its people. 

Companies must regularly reevaluate their hiring and internal processes. These processes are only successful when companies foster programs that empower their employees both professionally and personally and allow them to pursue their passion and purpose.

The companies that do this are the ones that will attract and retain candidates of the highest caliber.

DEI

The Critical Intersection Between DEI and Mental Health

Pandemic-related mental health is undoubtedly top-of-mind. In addition, there tends to be an uptick in dialog about mental health this time of year because May is Mental Health Month. Yet here’s what I’m thinking a lot about recently that extends all year long: the critical intersection between mental health and diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI)

While both topics have grown exponentially in discussions among leaders, they have often grown in tandem. However, it’s important to tie the two together. It’s a junction where belonging, health, happiness, and productivity live. But the key is to understand how they intersect and what that means to leaders who want to foster a positive workplace.

The State of Mental Health

The research and stats continue to illustrate that COVID has propelled us into a mental health crisis. In a report by Mental Health America and Surgo Foundation, “The COVID Mental Health Crisis in America’s Most Vulnerable Communities: An Analysis of the US Cities Most Impacted by COVID-19, Poor Mental Health, and Lack of Mental Health Access”, the researchers hit on an important societal issue. A community and workforce’s access to mental health services – especially for underserved populations – is a DEI issue. Period.

“Mental health benefits: A key component of DEI,” a 2021 article in BenefitsPRO, connects the dots by stating that if an organization is going to be committed to DEI, then mental health benefits must be part of the picture. So, ask yourself, are accessible, impactful mental health benefits part of your organization? And even if you say yes, there is still work to do. And it’s interesting to look back a year later and see what mental health needs were unmet before, during the height of the pandemic, and today.

Create Paths to Help

What has become abundantly clear is that organizational management – and HR leaders, especially – must include mental health benefits, resources, and services with a special lens on underserved and high-risk populations. We expect government entities to pave the way, but every company should also take proactive steps to provide its own inclusive, healthy community. (The article was published under different titles to appeal to various HR professionals, including the aptly named DEI That Ignores Mental Health Is Doomed in HRAdvisor.)

The piece states, “Mental ill-health is often a symptom of lackluster DEI within companies, and specifically among minority demographics… Regardless of their gender, race, ethnicity, or sexual orientation, a majority felt that they had experienced barriers to inclusion. McKinsey’s research supports the argument that certain demographics are more likely to feel less included. Among those groups are entry-level employees, women, and ethnic or racial minorities.”

“When someone’s race, identity, and sense of who they are, are repeatedly questioned and used against them, their mental health is affected. When those kinds of questions and attacks happen within the workplace, the individual and the company suffer.”

Foster DEI to Support Mental Well-Being

Let this remind us that the conversation isn’t simply about COVID-related mental health, although that’s the world we live in at this minute. DEI leaders need to ensure that the workplace always fosters inclusivity to support mental well-being proactively.

Other problems that can impact mental health and a feeling of safety at work for marginalized populations include lack of representation/misrepresentation, microaggressions, unconscious bias, and other stressors that can be hard to see. A solid DEI approach ensures that (1) leaders are trained to watch for these issues and (2) employees have access to resources to manage or mitigate these concerns.

According to Forbes, “Managers can be the ‘first responders to address mental health in a crisis. Training, educating, and empowering managers to lead on both mental health and inclusion – and how the two intersect – can speed up needed support to employees from diverse backgrounds. Managers may be in the best position to handle these sensitive issues with individual employees, helping to answer questions, address concerns, and direct people to the best available resources.”

First, Find Your People

The CDC published data about racial inequities that continue to plague our health care system. “The COVID-19 pandemic has brought social and racial injustice and inequity to the forefront of public health. It has highlighted that health equity is still not a reality as COVID-19 has unequally affected many racial and ethnic minority groups, putting them more at risk of getting sick and dying from COVID-19.”

That information doesn’t require much of a leap to the gap between underrepresented populations and mental health resources. The right DEI strategy should incorporate holistic, proactive approaches to address mental health needs, especially for groups that have never received or considered support.

The Connection Between Mental Health and DEI

So how do we draw this line between mental health and DEI? What’s interesting is that it’s truly about perspective. Reaching rural, LGBTQ, ethnic, religious minorities, youth, and other groups can be challenging. But it can also be extremely fulfilling, allowing a culture of inclusion and a celebration of differences to shape an organization.

You would be well-served to take an audit of your DEI strategy. Where does it address mental health? Is it proactive? Is it realistic? Are there proper communications plans to inform employees about resources?

These questions may reveal what’s next – and I beg you to take more than a quick look. See what’s working and what’s not to take a macro and micro look at how to improve. HOW are WE making mental health a priority for ALL of our people? How can we start at the top and make it actionable throughout the organization?

Tech Innovation Can Help Close the Gap

During the last few years, one noteworthy stride has been an increased capacity by the medical community to interact with patients online. Zoom therapy wasn’t much of a “thing” a few years ago. But improved technologies and a growing savviness for online medical appointments can drastically improve our reach into underserved populations.

A fascinating interview in Forbes addresses the ripe market for a tech disruption in mental health. This points to a promising future for organizations invested in closing the gap between mental health and all kinds of populations. The article covers the importance of how connecting underserved people with the technology they need to stay up-to-date is essential.

Some interesting tech innovations in this area include, “explicit measurement-based care efforts integrated within virtual behavioral health solutions, expansion into other modalities of care such as coaching, and continued consolidation in the space.”

“Additionally, many vendors are expanding their treatment modalities from just teletherapy with a mental health professional to things like virtual coaching. Finally, tons of funding is going into condition-specific startups, including those focused on substance use care, autism, etc.”

Opportunity is Knocking

This topic offers hope. There is a real struggle right now as the fog of uncertainty has not lifted, and mental health aftereffects reverberate like aftershocks. It’s discouraging to know there are underserved populations and people who suffer from depression, anxiety, and other mental health struggles. It’s not an easy task to look at the gaps in our neighborhoods, workplaces, and schools. But we can make positive changes here. Armed with the correct information and a willingness to ask hard questions, organizations can use DEI initiatives to make actual societal change.

Hiring Bias

Hiring Bias – Create a Fairer Hiring Process

Bias can be a powerful factor in the recruitment process. In 2019, researchers from the University of Chicago and the University of California, Berkeley, began secretly auditing some of the top companies for implicit bias in the hiring processes. Their results showed a significant bias against resumes that included candidate names likely to be associated with Black applicants. In other words, even at top-tier employers, bias appeared to be repeatedly popping up in the hiring process.

This may surprise some people who believe that the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Act wiped out bias in hiring. After all, it’s illegal for employers to discriminate against potential employees based on gender, race, religion, age, national origin, or disability. Nevertheless, bias in hiring is still an issue.

The Root of Bias in Hiring and Recruitment

When it comes to recruiting, bias is the brain’s subconscious way of labeling a candidate as a “yes,” “no,” or “maybe” according to the recruiter’s subjective feelings about a candidate’s observable characteristics. This means that the recruiter can be biased toward or against a candidate (for example, a male recruiter preferring a male candidate), which can lead to unfair assessments. Given this understanding, it’s clear that bias can show up in almost every step of the hiring process.

Consider a recruiter reviewing dozens of applications for a job opening. The recruiter can show bias when judging candidates. Anything from gender and personal pronouns to alma maters and home addresses can spark common hiring biases. Many recruiters aren’t even aware they’re being biased because many of these judgments happen subconsciously.

Even after the resume review stage, hiring teams can again display bias during interviews. A number of studies over the years, including some from Princeton and New York University, have concluded that it takes less than a minute to form a first impression of someone. That first impression could be based on an unfair preconceived notion — related to anything from previous personal experience to common stereotypes.

For instance, a recruiter may expect candidates to be energetic and cheerful during the initial screening. Under those circumstances, a more thoughtful, serious, or reserved applicant could be removed from consideration before getting a chance to warm up to the discussion. While this immediate impression may have some truth to it, the candidate may need time to truly show what they have to offer, which may be far more beneficial to the organization in the long run.

The good news is that it’s possible to mitigate the effects bias can have on the hiring process. And it all starts with having conversations to acknowledge, understand, and address this issue.

Common Types of Hiring Bias

According to ThriveMap

  1. Affinity bias
  2. Confirmation bias
  3. Halo effect
  4. Horn effect
  5. Illusory correlation
  6. Beauty bias
  7. Conformity bias
  8. Contrast bias
  9. Non-verbal
  10. First impression

Reducing Implicit Bias in the Hiring Process

In my years in the recruitment industry, I’ve encountered some excellent, reliable ways to temper bias. Below are a few recommendations.

1. Implement an applicant tracking system.

An applicant tracking system, or ATS, is a centralized platform used to streamline recruitment and consolidate candidates. A robust ATS can collect, analyze, and review hiring and recruitment data objectively, and can provide an overview of all touchpoints and data collected along the candidate’s journey. At any time, a recruiter can retrieve key information about an applicant from the system.

Not surprisingly, one of the biggest benefits of an applicant tracking system is the ability to reduce bias. Certainly, recruiters can tailor candidate searches by inputting keywords such as “developer” or “Harvard.” Nevertheless, an ATS has the potential to be more impartial than most humans.

Another advantage of an automated applicant tracking system is time savings. An ATS can match up candidates with remarkable speed. At the same time, most applicant tracking systems are customizable and can integrate with other platforms such as marketing tools.

2. Remove identifiers.

Applicant tracking systems remove a lot of unconscious bias from recruiting. But, they can’t conduct interviews for you. Instead, get creative in implementing different methods to decrease the chance of discrimination before and during interviews.

One method I learned that proved successful was to scrub identifiers (such as applicant name, education, address, gender, and related fields) from every resume. As a result, your hiring committee can compare candidates on the basis of their experience — nothing else.

For example, in a previous role, I was tasked with building out the DevOps team. I presented candidates of diverse ethnicities and genders, but the hiring manager kept rejecting them no matter how technically adept they were. When I brought up the high rate of rejection, the hiring manager explained that they were only interested in bringing on male applicants of a certain ethnicity.

Though that explanation was genuinely upsetting, I suggested the method of removing identifiers from applications, and we agreed to try it. From that point forward, I presented only candidates’ qualifications, and the acceptance rate went from near zero to over 95%.

3. Involve a hiring panel.

It’s common in recruiting to conduct a final panel-style interview. This is the opportunity for the candidate to meet their potential teammates and vice versa. Someone on the call may have reservations or be impressed just based on their initial perception of the candidate. Rather than letting this bias influence the interview, let the candidate’s qualifications and cultural fit come into play.

One way to mitigate bias with panel members is to ask them to listen in on calls with candidates rather than join by video. Just listening helps panelists focus on the substance of candidates’ answers rather than their appearance.

Final Thoughts

Everyone has biases, whether they realize it or not. Rather than allowing those biases to unfairly affect the hiring process, set up guardrails to guide the process toward more equitable outcomes. You’ll end up making more appropriate hiring decisions and, ideally, improving the candidate and employee experience.

Ways to Help Veteran Employees Thrive

Ways to Help Veteran Employees Thrive

Sponsored: Orion Talent

I am a staunch advocate of veteran hiring. It is a smart business decision with a positive impact on everything from profitability to innovation to competitiveness. Not only are you hiring men and women with state-of-the-art technical skills and proven leadership skills far beyond that of their civilian peers, but you are also accessing resilient soft skills. Combined, these skills will help shape the future of your company.

While many of you are already on board with hiring veterans, I know retaining veterans is an entirely different animal. In a recent conversation with Meghan Biro, we talked about how many companies don’t transition service members to civilian roles very well. According to SHRM, the average annual employee turnover rate is around 19% making it a formidable hurdle for talent acquisition leaders. When we consider veteran employees, the percentage jumps to nearly 50% leaving their first post-military position within a year.

Much of this turnover can be attributed to a lack of support. Or, an undefined career path, feeling uninspired, or skills misalignment. But this doesn’t have to be the case. Luckily, these issues can all be addressed through a well-planned veteran onboarding and retention plan.

Help Military Veterans Thrive with These Five Strategies

1. Mentorships 

Mentorship is an excellent way to provide your new veteran employees with a connection to another veteran. They can serve as a resource, guide, and advocate in their new role. The U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs offers a wealth of information on retaining veterans, including information on setting up a successful mentorship program. 

Listed among the benefits of veteran mentoring are an increase in morale, and productivity. In addition, retention, better adaptation to workplace culture, better career development, and promotion of diversity. These voluntary relationships are also a great way to transfer institutional and cultural knowledge.

Technology powerhouse Siemens has been successfully executing its veteran mentorship program for years. Orion Talent has worked with Siemens to hire nearly 2,500 veterans since 2010, and among their veteran retention best practices is a military peer mentorship program. Mike Brown, Global Head of Talent Acquisition of Siemens, explained their program.  “When other military come in now, they get paired up. And I think that really helps with their transition.” 

2. Employee Resource Groups

Similar to the retention benefits of mentoring veterans, creating Employee Resource Groups or Veteran Affinity Groups also offers increased employee engagement and job satisfaction. The VA calls these voluntary groups a “critical element to retention advocated by study respondents”  in their Veterans Employment Toolkit. ERG programs can also include career development, advocacy, community service, and social activities. Make sure to give your veteran employees the time and space to participate in these groups, especially as they onboard.

An additional benefit of veteran ERGs is that they help build your company’s reputation in a job market where candidates, veteran or civilian, are seeking purpose-driven work. They also increase workplace agility as your org chart is flattened in an ERG. Collaboration and innovation often follow!

3. Career Pathing

When I speak with men and women transitioning into the civilian world, their desire for a clear career path stands out. Their military career progression was clearly laid out, with defined goals and requirements. In civilian terms, you can think of this as career pathing. When you hire a veteran for a Junior Electrical Engineer position, you could lay out a plan with steps and milestones to reach Senior Electrical Engineer and then Project Manager, for example. 

Laying out these career paths pays dividends in terms of engagement and retention. Employers also experience higher performance and productivity rates. This Mercer study shows that 78% of employees would stay with their current employer if they were given a clear career path. 

4. Upskilling

Offering continuous development and ongoing education to your veteran employees is a powerful retention tool.  

Not only are you illustrating your investment in their success by providing these programs but you are reaping the rewards. Aside from increased retention, benefits of upskilling include increased employee satisfaction, less need to hire train new employees, and becoming more competitive in your industry.

“Our experience shows that when veterans receive tailored preparation for future roles, it leads to a better fit, a better transition, and ultimately better retention,” explains Laura Schmiegel, SVP, Strategic Partnerships at Orion Talent. “This helps companies save time and money in employee turnover, and it means they get to keep some of their best talent.”

As Meghan discussed in her recent article on veteran hiring, workforce partnerships can play an important part in upskilling. Strategic workforce partnerships like the Department of Defense Skillbridge program allow you to recruit veterans and gain access to their existing expertise while upskilling and reskilling them at the same time. 

5. DEI Initiatives

The veteran population represents a 43% diverse workforce and should be an integral part of a company’s DEI initiative. As with any other group in your initiative, you will want to consider how to prevent bias towards your veteran employees. Unfortunately, some old biases may linger, and your DEI strategy is the place to nip that in the bud. 

This HR Exchange article by LaKisha Brooks explains, “These judgments are often harmful to diversity initiatives because they limit our ability to see people as individuals with unique talents to contribute. For example, bias against veterans includes assuming they have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Bias can also include mental health problems just because of their military background, assuming they have a particular personality type, such as being rigid or stern…It’s essential to put assumptions aside and ask meaningful questions to learn the truth instead.”

These five veteran retention strategies will help highlight to the veterans at your company that yours is a workplace that sees them for the unique individuals they are with valuable skills worthy of investment. But, you don’t have to take on all five at once. Choose one, and make it amazing! Then move on to the next retention strategy. Your veteran employees will be proud to call your company home.

 

Gamification in Recruitment | How it Can Help You Attract and Hire the Cream of the Crop

The traditional hiring process has relied on the basic model for many years. Collecting resumes, sifting through them, evaluating candidates with assessments, and then shortlisting candidates for interviews. However, the hiring landscape has shifted, and employers need to find new ways to attract and assess applicants.

Enter gamification. A concept that uses game theory, mechanics, and game designs to engage and motivate people to achieve their goals digitally. Let’s see how gamification in recruitment can convert dull and frustrating tasks into fun processes for recruiters and candidates.

Top Reasons why Gamification in Recruitment works

Overcome Talent Scarcity by Widening the Talent Pool

Most recruiters select candidates from a very limited talent pool, making for a severe skill shortage. As companies struggle with not having enough candidates to pick from, hiring managers also face the dilemma of separating the wheat from the chaff, even with a small candidate pool.

History will tell us that gamification has helped solve these problems time and time again. Using data analytics and AI to analyze and process more than a billion data points, hiring teams can access people in places they wouldn’t have been able to reach otherwise. Moreover, they can rapidly screen candidates and pick out the best without spending energy and effort on manual resume-sifting.

Level the playing field for all applicants

The right candidate comes in all shapes, sizes, and packages – white, black, old, young, neophyte, or experienced. The recruiter needs to look for talent and ignore the wrapping they come in. That, however, can only be done if the hiring team puts aside unconscious and conscious bias.

Research shows that more than 75% of employers believe the unconscious bias has an impact on their hiring decisions. This results in the loss of top talent. Luckily, this is where talent assessments backed by gamification step in.

Talent assessments, powered by gamification, assess people based on their skills, knowledge, and personality rather than their background and other socioeconomic factors, thus giving every individual an equal opportunity to shine forth and reach their full potential.

Build brand awareness

Knowing where to find the right talent isn’t enough to build a healthy talent pipeline. You need to differentiate yourself from other competitors by building a strong employer brand to attract high-quality candidates. 75% of job seekers consider an employer’s brand before applying for a job.

With gamification, companies can boost their brand and showcase themselves as innovative and tech-savvy employers, making the organization more desirable to talent.

Entice the Digital Natives

The utilization of digital tools plays a significant role in the attraction and retention of talent. The millennial cohort will make up 75 percent of the workforce by 2025, so knowing what attracts and motivates them is essential. Millennials are essentially a tech-savvy generation and have grown-up playing games.

As a matter of fact, the game designer, J McGonigal, believes the average western millennial will have spent 10,000 hours on computer-generated gaming by the time they are 21. A company’s reputation as a digital leader also enormously affects job seekers’ decision to join the company.

Adopt a Mobile-First Approach

More than nine-in-ten Millennials own smartphones and spend a significant amount of time using them, which is why it becomes easier for them to explore exciting job opportunities on the go. It also makes sense why about 45% of them use their phones to search for jobs.

Employers should, therefore, optimize their assessment processes to accommodate the needs of the tech-saturated generation and improve their perception of the company.

Gamification platforms that offer talent assessments typically follow a mobile-first approach, thus giving job seekers the convenience to complete the job application on their phones

Conclusion

In a nutshell, gamification presents itself as a comprehensive solution, allowing employers to establish themselves as digital leaders, pique individuals’ interest in job positions, and accurately predict potential hires’ future job performance.

Author bio: Paul Keijzer is the CEO and Co-founder of The Talent Games. A seasoned HR and Leadership Management expert, Paul is a versatile business leader delivering extraordinary results for organizations globally.

Retain Female Talent

Women in the Workplace: How to Retain Female Talent

Millions of Americans have left the workforce due to the ongoing public health crisis of the COVID-19 pandemic. This situation has particularly impacted female employees who had to become the primary caretakers of their children when schools and daycares closed. As a result, many women had to leave their jobs, and companies lost some of their most outstanding employees. Now companies need to spend time deciding how they can better accommodate, empower, and retain female talent with children.

I am a life coach, helping ambitious working moms become their best selves every day. Part of this is educating companies on how to better support women in the workplace, especially those with children. Using valuable insights from my clients and my own experience as a working mom, I’ve put together five suggestions for companies on how to retain female talent, both pre and postpartum.

Find Out How You Can Support Women in the Workplace

Administering a survey is one of the best ways to determine your company’s ability to hire and retain working moms. Ask open-ended questions so you can find out more about the challenges female employees face and which are the most important. If possible, allow them to give their opinion anonymously to share their feelings without worrying about retribution.

Revamp Your Company Policies & Benefits 

Once you’ve reviewed the survey, you’ll better understand the company policies and benefits that need revamping. For example, do the majority of female employees want paternity leave or extended maternity leave? Or perhaps they would prefer a more flexible work schedule? The company can also assess its employee performance evaluations, possibly changing from time-oriented to task-oriented. 

Whether female talent want to feel more involved during meetings or expectant moms require a designated parking spot, companies should accommodate the needs of women in the workplace. Listening to your female employees, and implementing change, can make it easier to retain talented pre and postpartum female employees. In doing so, you’ll not only improve your business, but women in the workplace are more likely to feel heard and acknowledged.

Start a Mentorship Program 

A study published by McKinsey, titled ‘Women in the Workplace 2020’, reveals that women may face significant roadblocks without the right mentorship and sponsorship opportunities. For example, a sponsor can amplify the voice of lower-level female talent, while a mentor can help guide women towards their career goals.

An official company mentor program is an excellent way for you to capitalize on your most fantastic resource, your employees. It also demonstrates the company’s commitment to nurturing talent and providing employees the opportunity to learn from a trusted advisor. Retaining female talent is far more likely for those companies who actively invest in their professional development. Women in these types of workplaces are also likely to be more loyal and productive. This further increases female employee retention rates.

Create an Employee Reward and Recognition Program

Every employee wants their manager to acknowledge their hard work. This recognition is especially true for pre and postpartum female employees who may quit their jobs due to feeling unappreciated, dismissed, or victim to gender inequality in the workplace. If possible, create a monthly reward and recognition program for outstanding employees. This straightforward strategy will foster a positive work culture and inspire employees to improve their work ethic. Working moms will also enjoy the positive reinforcement, especially those working from home who still want their efforts acknowledged outside the office.

Close the Wage Gap Between Your Employees

The pay gap between male and female talent is a long-standing issue of gender inequality in the workplace. It impacts female employees across all socioeconomic and racial groups in almost every industry. Companies should advocate for women in the workplace by closing the wage gap. After all, there’s a higher chance of female talent remaining loyal if they receive equal pay for equal work.

Make it Easier for Working Moms to Progress in Their Career

Are your pre and postpartum female workers anxious about potentially losing their job? Do the women in your workplace fear they’ll miss out on a promotion because of maternity leave? A top tip for supporting female workers is developing tools and creating opportunities that will allow them to advance their careers like their male counterparts. One way to do this is to focus on results, not on time spent; a great way to support a working mom’s need for flexibility. By creating opportunities for women, you can also tackle gender inequality in the workplace, encouraging female leadership and retaining your female employees in the process. 

There’s no doubt in my mind that moms are some of the hardest workers on the planet. With the right strategies and support, you can create a supportive environment for pre and postpartum women. In doing so, your company can encourage women in the workplace to thrive at all stages of life.

 

hiring for diversity

5 Unconventional Strategies to Use When Hiring for Diversity

If the last year taught us anything, it’s that we must re-examine any foregone conclusions we have about the workforce. The global pandemic, focus on racial inequity, and a looming “great resignation” are affecting every organization. As a result, organizations must now navigate talent strategies that will still advance their diversity agendas.

We are now collectively writing a new playbook for work. One of the most critical chapters will address how organizations can sustainably ensure diversity, equity, and inclusion—starting with recruiting. To drive change, we will need to break the mold of the way we recruit.

Certainly, unconventional times call for unconventional measures. The truth is that the systems in place led us to today’s lack of representation in the workforce. We need to reimagine our hiring strategies.

During the past couple of years, I worked with my team at Mathison to study the equitable hiring strategies of hundreds of employers and featured findings in my book, Hiring for Diversity. Mathison’s 2021 Diversity Hiring Study revealed that 62 percent of underrepresented job seekers observe bias in the hiring process. Twelve job-seekers communitiesfrom people with disabilities to those formerly incarcerated—are all underrepresented in the workforce.

Here are five unconventional strategies for mobilizing your diversity recruiting. Each of these strategies is not only possible for any organization, but they also require no monetary investment.

1. Clarify what you mean by diversity—and be inclusive.

Research repeatedly shows that leaders have vastly different definitions of diversity. Many only acknowledge physical, visible aspects of diversity, which leave entire communities out. I recommend shifting your emphasis to underrepresented job-seeking communities and building awareness of each group across your organization. These groups include people you may not think of such as older and experienced workers, refugees, and immigrants. You may also include the LGBTQIA+ community, people with disabilities, veterans, and formerly incarcerated individuals. Don’t forget to solicit the Black, Hispanic, Latinx, Indigenous, and Native American communities. In addition, women, the Asian American and Pacific Islander communities, and working parents also merit inclusion.

2. Empower your people to be aware and reach to underrepresented communities.

Your organization’s awareness of and advocacy for different communities really depends on each team member. Explore a more holistic definition of diversity as an organization. Then, prompt each team member to reflect on their personal awareness and have them reach out to each community. Mathison designed a free assessment that your team can leverage to visualize their reach and awareness of each community mentioned.

3. Institute an alignment meeting for every new role.

Much of the bias and inequity in hiring rests on existing job requirements and processes that everyone agrees to upfront. To ensure everyone concurs about the most accessible requirements, host a 15-minute alignment meeting with all hiring stakeholders. In this meeting, ensure that the job role is aligned with the most essential requirements. Also, secure the agreement of everyone as to the hiring process, and the role each will play. Doing so helps drive accessibility and consistency in the process and enables to get buy-in from everyone involved.

4. Send interview questions to job seekers in advance.

This idea might come as a surprise! But the purpose of interviews isn’t to catch job seekers off guard or to test their improvisation abilities. It is to see if they have the skills and experience needed to be successful on the job. Sending questions ahead lets job seekers come prepared, present their best selves, and feel empowered by and confident in the process.

5. Ask job seekers for their feedback on how to make the process more inclusive.

It doesn’t matter whether you extend an offer to a candidate or not, or if they accept or decline. This is the time to ask for feedback—to see where you can make your process more accessible and inclusive. Mathison’s research revealed that 67 percent of applicants reported completing an interview and never receiving feedback. This is a simple step that most employers never think to take. It is the best time to learn from job seekers what is missing—in the job description, hiring process, and more. Not to mention, the nature of asking this question signals that you are listening.

To sum up, these are just a fraction of the creative and unconventional ideas that make hiring for diversity more equitable and inclusive. In the new playbook for inclusive hiring, it requires us to stray from the norm and lead with empathy. There is so much more to discover. I, for one, am excited to see the growth of this new, human-centered list of ideas.

black labor market outcomes

3 Ways to Improve Black Labor Market Outcomes

The racial gaps that exist between White and Black Americans are astounding. From social injustices to economic disparities, Black Americans face significant challenges trying to thrive in life each day. Fortunately, we can all play a role in deconstructing racism, discrimination, and the many other injustices they face.

HR professionals, specifically, can create a welcoming and supportive work environment for Black Americans. This will contribute to a better economic state and encourage all Americans to appreciate differences and look at them as a benefit to our entire world.

Improving black labor market outcomes is highly dependent on our acknowledgment of their current state. Improvement is also dependent on a commitment by organizations to foster a more diverse and inclusive workplace.

First, let’s learn a bit about the economic state of Black America.

The Current Economic State of Black America

One of the most significant challenges impacting the current economic state of Black America is the pay gap.

“Today the median annual wage for Black workers is approximately 30 percent, or $10,000, lower than that of white workers,” according to Mckinsey Global Institute. “[It’s] a figure with enormous implications for household economic security, consumption, and the ability to build wealth. Black workers make up 12.9 percent of the US labor force today but earn only 9.6 percent of total US wages.”

In other words, Black people receive far less money than their white coworkers. Much of the wage gap centers around the manufacturing, financial services, construction, professional services, trade, transportation, and utilities industries.

The quality of education Black students receive also contributes to a complex economic landscape for Black America. They still don’t receive the same access to internships, mentorship programs, afterschool activities/clubs, and so forth, all of which contribute significantly to becoming financially independent as an adult.

Lower quality education, lack of personal and professional development resources, and accessibility issues also lead to underrepresentation in higher-paying industries. Although entrepreneurship is rising among Black Americans and, in turn, bettering representation rates in specific industries, there’s still a long way to go.

In light of this research on the current economic state of Black America, the U.S. must do many things to address and resolve these economic challenges wholly. All companies across all industries can start in their recruiting processes.

Three Actionable Tips for Employers to Better Address the Issues Black America Faces

Recruiting and hiring with diversity and inclusion at the forefront of your process creates a workplace environment that supports Black Americans.

Address the issues Black workers face by implementing the following:

Offer Personal and Professional Development Opportunities

Ensure that you offer personal and professional development opportunities specific to Black workers and share them in the recruiting process. They face particular challenges like racism and discrimination, which undoubtedly affect how they develop personally and professionally. So, ensuring they have allies to confide in and support systems that are mindful of their specific circumstances is beneficial.

For example, Black people only account for a small percentage of the STEM workforce. Therefore, HR professionals in tech companies could share professional development opportunities like internships and mentorship programs with Black candidates.

Set Up Employees for Financial Success

Black Americans struggle with managing debt. And that negatively affects their ability to save for the future and pursue next-level financial options like investing. So, resources that aid long-term wealth would be especially attractive to Black workers.

For example, if you don’t offer a 401(k) option for employees, there are other ways to contribute to their long-term wealth. Like encouraging them to take their retirement savings and investments into their own hands by opening an Individual Retirement Account.

Create an Inclusive Work Environment

To improve Black labor market outcomes in the long-term, you must create an inclusive work environment in your company. Start by eliminating any unconscious biases in the recruiting process. For example, not moving forward with specific applications because of names, location, or lack of educational background.

Then create an intentionally diverse workplace that respects individuals of all backgrounds, races, ethnicities, abilities, and so forth so that Black employees will stay long term by:

  • Drafting and implementing inclusivity policies
  • Reforming the recruitment process with methods that attract workers of all ages, cultural backgrounds, races, and abilities
  • Partaking in job fairs, career days, campus activities, and so forth in underrepresented communities
  • Designating someone as the resource for anything to do with diversity and inclusion
  • Making an effort to speak with each person in your workforce and gauge their commitment to diversity and inclusion

Ultimately, it will take time to improve black labor market outcomes. But you can begin to do your part by diversifying your company with the above tips.

george floyd's death

Photo by Jéan Béller

What We Learned From George Floyd’s Death

A couple of months ago, we hit the one-year mark since George Floyd’s death. The response and social unrest conversations reached a fever pitch last year, although racial inequality, police brutality, and race-related injustice are nothing new. However, many leaders and organizations took the opportunity to enact change. Good.

We are seeing positive strides in many organizations. They are adding diversity and inclusion officers, reprioritizing racial equity, and are doing a better job of listening. But what does this all really mean? It’s a question that shouldn’t be ignored.

Difficult Conversations

An article recently spoke to me: A Year After George Floyd, What Have Business Leaders Learned? written by Dan Bigman, editor and chief content officer of Chief Executive Group, publishers of Chief Executive, Corporate Board Member, ChiefExecutive.net, Boardmember.com, and StrategicCFO360.com.

In his piece, he tapped a phenomenal resource to break down how George Floyd’s death can serve as a lesson for the workplace. As a social scientist and Harvard professor, Dr. Robert Livingston spent 20 years at influential companies like AirBnB, Microsoft, Under Armour, etc. While there, he made a point to show leadership teams how to turn difficult conversations about race into productive instances of real change. Earlier this year, he published The Conversation: How Seeking and Speaking the Truth About Racism Can Radically Transform Individuals and Organizations (Penguin Random House, 2021).

Livingston shared a model for social change that I hadn’t heard of before, called PRESS.

“The P stands for problem awareness,” Bigman says in his interview with Corporate Board Member. “The R is root cause analysis. E is empathy or concern. Do you care? The first S is strategy. And the second S is sacrifice.”

He explains that many leaders are apt to jump straight to strategy, but they overlook some important diagnostic steps. The collective response to George Floyd helped open our eyes. It gave us problem awareness.

Key Takeaways

It reminded us (and taught some) that systemic racism isn’t anything new. It is alive and we should look at its roots. Where did it begin? What have we accepted as the status quo? Then we can–and should–care that this is today’s reality. Only then can we build strategies in our organizations that matter, which may include some level of sacrifice.

I have thought about this at length. George Floyd’s death and the resulting human response. Not the original response to the video itself, but the larger drive to enact change. The change can be felt by individuals, families, workplaces, schools, and society. True shifts in behavior modeled by leaders who understand that their role and actions matter.

Livingston spoke about the emotional life of an organization. At TalentCulture, we speak about this quite often. Any person who opts to ignore the soul–the people, and all that comes with them–is missing the boat.

However, let’s be honest about this. Even some of the most people-first organizations have still not found the secret to unanimous equity across all populations. It isn’t easy. It takes education, research, resources, time, money, and sacrifice. But it’s worth it.

 

What is your organization doing as a direct result of what we learned from George Floyd’s death? I’d love to hear real-life examples about what you’ve done. I’m also interested in the impact made and perhaps some early outcomes you’ve observed. Reach out to me at ctrivella@talentculture.com.

diversity training

Image by Matthew Henry

Learning From the Rescinded Diversity Training Ban

President Joe Biden held his post for only a few hours before rescinding former President Donald Trump’s executive order banning some forms of diversity and inclusion training.

The highly controversial order, executive order 13950, prohibited federal contractors from implementing training programs that promote “race and sex stereotyping and scapegoating.” It was signed as the country reeled from mounting racial tension and a pandemic that exposed severe inequalities. Ultimately, the order was met with lawsuits and blocked by a federal judge on First Amendment grounds.

In an effort to shift the federal government’s focus back to equity, President Biden revoked the ban immediately. Now, compliance professionals are taking a hard look at the goals of diversity training and affirmative action compliance. Specifically, they’re wondering how to move companies forward in light of the revocation.

How Compliance Professionals Received the Revocation

It’s easy to assume that compliance professionals embraced Biden’s rescission of Trump’s executive order. After all, more than 160 organizations—including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce—called upon Trump to reconsider the order. Their reaction illustrates the danger of using unilateral government action rather than the legislative process to make major changes.

Although the intent of the executive order was fairly clear, it permitted the federal government to punish employers for “unpopular” speech in a way that was overly broad in application. This put employers in a challenging position, which is why many halted diversity and inclusion training altogether. As a result, this chilled efforts to prioritize anti-racism training at a time when diversity and inclusion messaging mattered the most.

When companies really looked at the hard numbers behind discrimination in corporate America last year, it became clear that we have a long way to go to reach a state of equality. Diversity and inclusion messages and training play a big part in that, but they only work when they bring everyone in—not when they call some people out and let exclusion and intolerance germinate.

The Forgotten Voices in Affirmative Action Compliance

Despite evidence of systemic racism in America, many Americans still resist the notions of equality and nondiscrimination. For some, these attitudes stem from a place of hatred and animosity. Others don’t see why diversity training is important because they fear these initiatives will put them at a disadvantage. On the opposite side of the spectrum, progressives sometimes lump these people into baskets and treat anyone who disagrees with their views as unsalvageable.

Too many misconceptions exist because of poorly communicated diversity and inclusion messages. Speaking down to people who question the goals of diversity training or treating them like they need to be “saved” won’t create a more inclusive workplace.

Lasting change begins with reaching out to people who do not understand or support the goals of diversity training and hearing the reasons why. 

After all, if you work to really understand why people are resistant in the first place, you can create the right messages to help them see the practical benefits of diversity and inclusion work. Leaving workers who think differently out of the conversation is not the answer.

How Revoking a Ban Became a Band-Aid

The fundamental goal of diversity training should be enlightenment, which can be emotional for those new to the idea. So if you’re going to dig deeper into social science, prepare to do some social work. If you’re teaching people to be more sensitive to others but show only insensitivity toward them, expect poor results.

Because of these realities, compliance professionals must take diversity training a little bit deeper. Right now, companies largely double down on anti-bias training and diversity and inclusion messages when there is a crisis or a public relations disaster. That’s the wrong approach. Successful programs require an understanding of skeptical people and a long-term commitment. Don’t coddle employees who struggle with the concept. But also make sure they don’t leave training sessions feeling shamed or ridiculed.

Unfortunately, many diversity training efforts fail due to skepticism or improper implementation. That’s because people react to them differently, and sometimes in unexpected ways. Still, compliance professionals should carefully examine the ban created by President Trump’s executive order, its revocation, and how to now get doubtful audiences on board.

Charting a New Course in Changing Times

As you renew complex discussions about equality and inclusion, do so with care and compassion. Here are a few ways to ensure more success in diversity training and affirmative action compliance moving forward:

1. Review your compliance and diversity training programs

Take some time to look at your communication. What message does this training send? Does it feel inclusive or exclusive? Your communication should convey the idea that everyone belongs. This requires identifying, recognizing, and confronting what “good” people experience, including the trainers. Fear is human, so keep compassion top of mind.

2. Do not alienate the other side

Both sides of the political spectrum can house inequality. The answer to discrimination and division cannot be more discrimination and division. It is hard to gain credibility if you host programs that attack one side of the political spectrum. And why go into these critical conversations knowing you’ll offend at least 47.4 percent of the population?

3. Be skeptical of trending ideas

Although it is tempting to subscribe to every “breakthrough” idea, research it before you incorporate it. Yes, people are having a lot of great conversations right now about race theory and dominant culture systems. But fixing race relations takes time, thought, and hard work. You need more than flashy concepts with a “just do this” or “just do that” prescription.

4. Support outreach statements with action

Saying your “door is open” with no meaningful action is not enough. Actively reach out to employees and provide opportunities for them to share negative feedback—and not just positive thoughts. If you provide programs without getting feedback on your messaging, you’ve failed employees. Without input from others, diversity training becomes unilateral and chilling, much like the executive order. Instead, use feedback to achieve meaningful, lasting change.

If diversity training and affirmative action compliance were easy, it would be a non-issue at most companies; however, that is not the case. If you are exploring new ways to address inequality in the workplace, communication is key. It’s time to collaborate with employees—with varying current belief systems—to address systemic racism in a way that works.

eliminate bias in the hiring process

Image by Brooke Cagle

How to Deliberately Eliminate Bias in the Hiring Process

As we all know, the hiring process can be a stressful and uncertain time. From the candidates themselves to the HR professionals making the decisions, the stress is real. However, one thing that should prevail above all else is recognizing and addressing any unconscious bias that happens during a hiring event. As conversations surrounding diversity in the workplace continue, companies must reexamine their hiring process to eliminate any biases that influence decisions.

Whether we recognize it, unconscious biases do impact hiring decisions. By definition, unconscious bias is when a company makes a hiring decision based on unconscious thought processes. These processes cause one candidate to be preferred over another for irrelevant reasons, such as race, gender, sexuality, or simply “likeability.” Even in the beginning stages of the hiring process, bias can occur by judging a candidate’s picture, name, or hometown. Long story short, unconscious biases influence hiring decisions—sometimes positively, sometimes negatively—using criteria irrelevant to the job. This can cost companies time, money, and the opportunity to hire top talent.

Let’s discuss ways that HR professionals can be sure to keep unconscious biases front of mind and eliminate bias in the hiring process.

Utilize Hiring Technology to Increase Diversity

Many available tools help HR professionals be consistent in their hiring decisions. Software programs that blind the process are beneficial and go a long way in creating unbiased screening procedures. A blind, systematic approach for reviewing applications and resumes will help identify the most relevant candidates in the pool. Many platforms help uncover hidden gems that might have otherwise gone unnoticed. By cutting out unnecessary information, such as names and backgrounds, technology can be incredibly helpful in making unbiased—and increasingly beneficial—hiring decisions.

Not only does hiring technology help cut out the unnecessary, but it opens roles to a broader range of candidates than ever before. Now, a candidate halfway across the country is often able to apply for a previously unachievable role. In turn, this allows companies to broaden their horizons and consider a wider range of applicants.

Consider Leveraging a Skills Test

One of the biggest challenges of the hiring process is how easy it is to fall into the “requirements” trap. Feeling college degree requirements created an unfair advantage, many companies have simply eliminated them from their job descriptions. Instead, companies now turn to skills-based hiring processes to help eliminate bias in the hiring process. Unlike degree and experience requirements, skills tests open the door for a more diverse set of candidates who might otherwise not have bothered applying.

Take, for example, a candidate who doesn’t have any formal education but instead carries years of experience in the field. This person might never have made it past the initial screening due to their lack of a degree. But with the implementation of skills-based testing, they have the opportunity to compete on an even playing field with other candidates.

Consider Using Blind Written Exercises

Instead of asking questions about background, consider implementing a written exercise for potential candidates to complete. This process removes any unnecessary information that could lead to bias: no name, demographic information, or experience. And be sure not to include any data fields—like first and last name, education level completed, or schools attended. That might create a bias around how the written answers are perceived.

This less intrusive—and nearly blind—process results in HR professionals recruiting people who HR and hiring managers may never have considered but who are more than qualified for the job.

Continuously Evaluate the Hiring Process for Improvement

No matter how aware a company is of its diversity, more is still to be done if the goal is to eliminate bias in the hiring process. This begins with understanding our own biases. Then we must actively work against them through continuous improvement and development. When evaluating your hiring process, consider these tips:

  • Measure gender and race statistics by monitoring the percentages of female or non-white applicants who move through the hiring process.
  • Regularly communicate with hiring teams and company leadership about what criteria the company uses to evaluate applicants and make hiring decisions. (Also, always look for red flags that have little to do with the actual position.)
  • Be aware of modern hiring platforms that put solid practices into place with realistic goals for combating bias.
  • Consider hiring tools, such as structured interviews or discussion forums, to cut out the unnecessary noise.
  • Don’t be afraid to acknowledge when a process is not working—and quickly make adjustments.

Due to its often under-the-radar nature, bias in the hiring process can be tricky to address. However, with determination and a dedicated strategy, any HR professional can make strides toward combating this all-too-pervasive HR issue.

DEI efforts that matter

Image from Atstock Productions

DEI Efforts that Matter: How to Drive Real Change in Your Organization

COVID-19 inevitably uprooted the way our society works. Due to the pandemic, organizations have uncovered cracks in their foundations that shed light on long-standing social justice and equality issues. At many businesses, DEI efforts are now igniting discussions designed to drive real change.

After the events of the last year or so, corporate leaders – including HR professionals – are now prioritizing these initiatives in innovative ways. Those leaders are determined to build stronger foundations among what seems like crumbling – and unhealthy – precedent. However, this transformation sits in contrast to the alarming number of organizations that remain stagnant in an era screaming for change.

Corporate America Steps Up

Many major corporations are acting fast. For example, Netflix created the “Netflix Fund for Creative Equity.” This fund dedicates $100 million over the next five years to support organizations that connect underrepresented communities with jobs in the television and film industries. These efforts are much appreciated – and much needed. After all, according to Gartner, only 40% of employees believe their supervisors foster a workplace that is equitable and inclusive.

This chasm between workers seeking an environment with meaningful DE&I policies and leaders crafting and adopting such procedures underscores why organizations must make these changes. In particular, data shows:

  • Companies hire lack employees into entry-level roles, but representation figures sharply decline in upper management and senior positions.
  • In 2019, white men comprised 63% of C-level jobs while women of color only accounted for 4%.
  • Hispanic individuals are forecasted to represent one out of every two new workers entering the workforce by 2025. However, the Economic Policy Institute reported that they were “least likely to be able to work from home and most likely to have lost their job during the COVID-19 recession.”

The importance of DE&I in the workplace is simple: we must create fair, safe environments for all workers, from recruitment to retention.

As HR professionals, we are responsible for the well-being of our employees and the organization overall. This means, more than any other industry, HR is in the best possible position to enact real change.

DEI Efforts that Matter: Where to Start

Be realistic about the planning and execution of your DE&I efforts.

Integrating DE&I procedures won’t occur within a few hours or even a couple of weeks. After all, real change involves thoughtful, careful planning that will benefit your organization’s health and longevity. Notably, policies created without meaningful purpose can cause confusion and disarray within a company. In the end, those policies are not likely to be successfully applied in your office.

Another major factor in the planning and implementation of DEI efforts is the expansion of different voices at the table. When an organization has an abundance of experience, backgrounds and perspectives amid the development stages, it ensures a greater scope of representation and more thoughtful, creative solutions. Aside from providing a rich, inclusive corporate culture, a benefit of including many different perspectives is to ensure that a company does not overlook challenges one group faces versus another. Without understanding these individual hardships from the onset, your DE&I programming will not be as effective as it could be.

Lululemon, an athletic apparel company, is a strong example of this as it made many commitments to its DE&I efforts in 2020. In particular, one focused on increasing diverse representation among its employees. A vital element of this effort: Enabling an employee-led dialogue between underrepresented members and the senior leadership team.

Invest in the Day-to-Day

Workplace DE&I policies are ineffective if companies don’t invest in change focused on their employees’ day-to-day lives. While the bigger picture sets the stage for the overarching framework, you must delve into your colleagues’ daily routine. By understanding their “day in the life,” you will learn how your DE&I initiatives impact them. And you’ll come to know what improvements you must still make.

This engaging approach is imperative as the daily realities of the office – and the behaviors of those people in the office –  should mirror the overall DE&I vision. When you invoke this strategy, the workplace will reflect – on micro and macro levels – the results of successful DE&I efforts.

Examine Every Stage of the Employment Cycle

Companies should also ensure they implement their DE&I vision and strategy at each stage of the employment process. To aid in this effort, below are questions to consider when interviewing applicants. Also included: questions that enable connection with new, current and former employees.

  • Applicants: Who do you want to target during recruitment? How can your company scout prospective employees in a more inclusive manner?
  • New employees: During a team member’s onboarding, how will you educate them on DE&I policies and corporate culture? What level of education on the subject is currently in place, and – if need be – how could that be improved?
  • Current employees: Have you implemented diversity within your teams and projects to produce results that account for varying perspectives? Are opportunities for advancement fairly reachable to all employees? During interactive internal meetings and annual reviews, what questions will highlight issues or perceptions that may arise and affect your colleagues?
  • Former employees: During the exit interview process, how is your team handling the identification of trends and implementing professional actions?

Track Your Impact

To understand a plan’s efficacy, you must measure and report improvement and progress along the way. This part of the process is imperative. After all, if companies do not track their development, they will not be aware of areas that are working – and others that may need further support.

In addition to setting out a plan to track your goals, create an easily accessible dashboard that reports progress against the company vision. And based on the data gathered and reported, frequently analyze ways the organization can advance and modify your DE&I strategy.

Listen and Learn

There is no perfectly written handbook that explains the exact way your office should prepare and plan its DE&I policies. However, there is one constant: You must listen to your employees throughout the process.

Ignoring feedback from your colleagues will hamper your organization’s DEI efforts and, eventually, its path to success. As you check your progress throughout the year, make sure you establish a channel to receive a consistent cadence of feedback. For example, use survey tools and focus groups to better grasp how your employees perceive the company’s efforts and measure results. This crucial data will also help you pivot, if needed, and identify different ways the company can improve.

Don’t Stand Still, Evolve

Our society continues to experience profound change. So it is essential to revise and reshape the workplace appropriately – and in real-time.

As a workforce, we will continue to receive and provide education on how we can mold corporate practices to be more inclusive and available for many employees in the future. As a profession that thrives on those we serve perceiving us as understanding, we must continue to hear what others have to say. To quickly make changes that positively impact every employee, we must remain agile.

This is how we ensure our DEI efforts matter. This is you drive real change – in your organization and throughout society.

 

paid paternity leave

Image by Vitalinko

60 Percent of U.S. Companies Still Don’t Offer Paid Paternity Leave

A recent study revealed that roughly 40% of U.S. companies offer paid parental leave for both parents. Many publications, including the survey itself, highlighted this figure as a positive, citing lower numbers in the past. While any improvement is welcome, these results imply that 60% of organizations in the nation still don’t offer paid paternity leave.

The lack of paid leave for both fathers and mothers can intensify workplace inequality and damage businesses. Here’s a closer look.

Why Companies Don’t Offer Paid Paternity Leave

To understand this issue fully, it helps to look at why so many companies don’t offer paid leave. Perhaps the most significant factor behind this choice is that it’s not a requirement. There is no national legislation that says businesses have to offer paid leave to either parent, much less both.

There are, however, paid parental leave requirements in five states and Washington, D.C., with varying provisions. At least five other states are currently considering paid leave laws, but that leaves most of the U.S. with no such legislation. When businesses don’t have to offer these benefits, many won’t — primarily because of the expense.

At first, paying an employee while they aren’t adding value to the company can seem like a financial risk. While it may seem that not offering paid leave can save a company money, it’s destructive in the long run — both employees and the companies they work for suffer.

How These Policies Impact Different Demographics

Although 40% of U.S. companies offer paid leave to both parents, that doesn’t mean 40% of workers experience those benefits. The businesses that provide these programs don’t employ a proportional amount of the workforce, so surveys show that just 20% of private-sector employees had access to such benefits in 2020.

There is a sharp economic divide between workers who do and do not receive paid parental leave, too. Only 8% of workers in the bottom wage quartile have access to these programs. Low-wage workers, who would suffer tremendously from weeks of unpaid leave, are far less likely to get paid leave.

Years of racial bias and oppression in America mean this divide is a racial one, too. Black and Hispanic workers, coming from historically disenfranchised families and neighborhoods, are less likely to receive paid leave for either parent.

How Businesses Benefit from Paid Paternity Leave

These disparities in paid parental leave programs worsen the economic and racial divides that already plague the nation. The impacts of a lack of paid leave don’t end with creating more division, though; they have economic effects as well. And yet, when businesses offer paid leave for both parents, they often see positive productivity gains.

Caring for a newborn child is stressful, and having to do so without a reliable income exacerbates that stress. Studies show that unexpected absenteeism, which can cost companies $3.5 million a year, is more often than not the result of stress. After all, stressed employees are far more likely to miss work and be less productive in the workplace.

Offering paid leave to only one parent fails to mitigate these issues effectively. The parent at home may feel more stressed from shouldering the burden of childcare alone, potentially harming their productivity when they return. The parent at work may have trouble focusing from spending time away from their newborn, impacting their productivity as well.

Providing both paternity and maternity leave ensures both parents can raise their newborn without economic difficulty. In return, their morale will improve, leading to less stress and higher productivity when they return.

How Paid Paternity Leave Supports Women in the Workforce

It’s impossible to discuss the impacts of parental leave without mentioning gender inequality in the workplace. Lack of paid parental leave for women doesn’t just widen the gender wage gap; it drives women out of the workforce. While it may not seem unrelated at first, paternity leave also impacts women’s work experiences.

When fathers can take time off as well as mothers, it reduces the stress of childcare. Fathers can take over raising children for a time, giving mothers a chance to get back to work. Paid paternity leave means women don’t have to bear the entire burden of raising a newborn, helping them retain their vital place in the workforce.

Past studies have indicated that paid paternity leave also reduces absenteeism among mothers, helping keep women satisfactorily employed. Similarly, countries with mandated paternity leave show higher rates of female employment in private companies. The bottom line: Paid paternity leave improves equality at home, and leads to more equity in the workplace.

Gender Equality: U.S. Companies Still Have a Way to Go

This Women’s History Month, companies should consider how their policies affect their female workers. Even paternity leave can impact women’s involvement in the workplace. Businesses that don’t provide equitable policies hinder gender equality among their employees and in their communities.

For years, women have had to bear most of the burden of child-rearing, limiting their professional careers. Equitable policies like paid leave for all parents lighten this burden, enabling women to achieve their full professional potential. The U.S. has made some tremendous strides in the pursuit of workplace gender equality, but there’s still a lot of room for improvement.

women in the workplace

Image by Paula Photo

Women in the Workplace: The Continuing Struggle [#WorkTrends]

Women in the workforce have always faced a lack of upward mobility, unequal pay, and suppression of our talent in the workplace. Now, let’s add the pull to leave the workforce to serve as a full-time caretaker. Or the need to balance work-from-home responsibilities with distance learning, elder care, and so much more.

How do women finally break down these barriers old and new and be seen as equal contributors in the workplace?

Our Guest: Kate Bischoff, Employment Attorney and HR Professional

On this week’s episode of #WorkTrends, Kate Bischoff joins us to discuss the continuing struggle of women in the workplace. An employment attorney and human resources professional who works closely with executive and HR teams to improve their workplaces, Kate is highly qualified to talk about the most significant hurdles women face at work today. And the number one obstacle, according to Kate?

“COVID. In the last nine months, we’ve seen so many women leave the workforce. We’re back to 1988 levels of women in the workplace. This pandemic has been a crisis upon a crisis upon a crisis. And we have lost women to such a dramatic degree.”

Yes, folks, the “Shecession” is real.

Women in the Workplace: Bringing Them Back

I asked Kate her views on bringing women back into the workforce, perhaps once pandemic-caused pressures are further behind us. “The first step,” Kate said after noting women have recently had to leave their jobs and careers to take care of family, “Is to eliminate things that hamper women when they’re looking for jobs. For example, eliminate the idea that a gap in your employment is a bad thing… like you must be a bad employee.”

Another necessary step, Kate says, is a pay audit, where a company uses existing data to determine any discrepancies in how they pay people and why. Using Salesforce as an example of a transparent company, Kate said that when employers take on this critical task, they are saying to not just women, but everyone:

“We want to make sure we are compensating you for the value you bring — and we’re also making sure everyone sees that we value you appropriately.”

During our conversation, Kate shared many other insights into this continuing struggle. So grab that next cup of coffee, set aside fifteen minutes, and listen in. You’ll be glad you did!

To learn more about Kate’s work, look for her on LinkedIn and at tHRive Law & Consulting.

inclusive culture

Image by GaudiLab

How to Create an Inclusive Culture for Foreign Workers

Businesses don’t tend to thrive in an echo chamber. In fact, precedent shows you need the contribution of multiple perspectives to inform processes, build a richer cultural environment, and inspire innovation. An inclusive culture combined with a diverse workforce — with representation at all levels, from entry to executive — is essential to success.

One of the ways to enable this is through an international workforce. Thankfully, we are living at a time where global contribution is more practical than ever. Whether you are participating in temporary placement drives, permanently hiring refugees, or operating a remote workforce from across the planet, there are tools and processes in place to help. However, one of the most important elements you need to ensure that you, your employees, and your customers enjoy the most positive experiences, is a robust culture of inclusion.

There are certainly ethical imperatives to enabling a generally more inclusive culture in your business. However, we’re going to focus specifically on how you should proceed from foreign workers’ perspectives. What policies and procedures should you include? What are some of the common challenges, and how can these be addressed?

Provide Support

Empathy is a crucial element when it comes to running any successful business. It is particularly vital when creating an inclusive culture for foreign workers.

You must take the time necessary to understand not just how they can be an asset to your business, but also the challenges that your international employees can face. As such, one of the elements you should make a cultural priority in your company is a robust support system — one that specifically targets foreign workers’ needs.

The legislative minefield that often accompanies the immigration system is one of the common issues foreign workers face. This process can be very complex, particularly in the U.S. So you should have protocols in place to provide assistance even before you have selected your candidate. To start, your human resources (HR) department should know what types of visas are most appropriate for the positions for which you’re hiring. For example, H1B visas are for specialist jobs, H2B for non-agricultural temporary workers, and L-1 if your employee transfers from a foreign branch of your global business. Where appropriate, discuss the process for visa sponsorship with the candidate and your procedures for guiding them through the process should they need assistance.

It may be that your foreign employees need access to additional resources. For instance, consider their need for linguistic assistance; a Pew Research study found that 47% of immigrants are proficient in English. Though merely being around native speakers all the time can help with the acquisition of the language, it can be wise to provide them with information on, and even subsidize, English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) courses.

Encourage Connections

Creating an inclusive culture is not simply about focusing on what can be done to help your workforce’s foreign employees. It also requires attention to creating a positive environment for everybody involved, and empowering all workers to build supportive relationships together. Indeed, this lies at the heart of what it means to foster a truly diverse and inclusive workplace. One tip: Ensure workers from all backgrounds gain a genuine sense of belonging. Start by taking opportunities to celebrate the differences each contributes to the overall culture of your business.

Facilitating socialization is also a significant step here. Of course, it is essential that workers — foreign and domestic — recognize one another’s professional skills. But they should also learn to appreciate one another as humans. By organizing social events, you create the opportunity to gather your employees in a setting that is not affected by the pressure and expectations of the workplace. When workers can relax and have fun together, aspects of their personalities, their interests, and their diverse cultures will come to the fore in a way that is missing in the working environment. This level of familiarity allows employees to understand one another a little better. Over time, it forges stronger bonds of friendship that aid inclusivity.

Connection = Caring About What Matters Most

Building connections should also extend to understanding the issues and cultural practices important to your foreign workers. Whether they are physically in your U.S.-based office, or you are engaging freelancers around the world, get input from workers about what matters most to them:

  • What holidays do they celebrate?
  • What activities do they undertake in their spare time?
  • Which charitable or social causes do they support?

Make time to share in these, to discuss them. Celebrate their holidays and their variations on those already observed within the company. Consider including all staff involved in activism or fundraising for the issues your foreign workers feel are critical to them. Perhaps just as important, ask how you can help bring their customs and traditions into the workplace as their employer.

Utilize Tools

One of the advantages of living in a technological age? Businesses have access to many tools especially useful for ensuring that foreign workers don’t feel excluded. As part of your broader cultural inclusion planning, investigate how your company can implement these tools and technologies. Your goal: To support and integrate all employees.

Communications platforms are most important here, particularly when your workers are operating remotely from across the planet. Don’t just rely on a single contact method that native speakers may feel less confident in engaging with one-on-one. Ensure you have collaborative tools in place that provide opportunities for audio, video calls, and text-based chat. Slack and Microsoft Teams are among the most popular examples and integrate well with most project management processes.

It’s also worth providing access to translation and language learning software. After all, there may be times when language barriers lead to misunderstandings. When left unresolved, these simmering workplace conflicts can lead workers to feel distanced. Lingvist and Duolingo are relatively accessible language learning apps and are popular in helping gain linguistic confidence and fluency in a relatively short period. From a translation perspective, Linguee and MemoQ are both software platforms that allow documents and text to be converted into most languages while also using the context of phrases to enhance accuracy.

Bottom line: Want to build a culture of inclusion for foreign workers? Make even a small attempt to speak their language. And help ensure they speak yours.

Create Your Inclusive Culture

There are distinct business advantages to engaging foreign workers as part of your workforce, not to mention the ethical imperative to improve diversity. However, it’s vital to ensure that you make concerted efforts to encourage a culture of inclusion. Gain an understanding of what areas of support are most needed. Then enable deeper connections between staff members, and explore relevant tech tools.

Only then you can start to provide the best possible workplace for international and domestic workers alike.

 

unconscious bias

Image by Harold Guevara

What is Unconscious Bias? (And How Do You Defeat It?)

How do you defeat unconscious bias? First, you need to know what it is.

Unconscious bias (also known as implicit bias) refers to unconscious forms of discrimination and stereotyping based on race, gender, sexuality, ethnicity, ability, age, etc. It differs from cognitive bias, a predictable pattern of mental errors resulting in us misperceiving reality. These are two separate and distinct concepts despite cognitive biases sometimes leading to discriminatory thinking and feeling patterns.

Cognitive biases are common across humankind and relate to the particular wiring of our brains. In contrast, unconscious bias refers to perceptions between different groups and are specific to the society in which we live. For example, I bet you don’t care or even think about whether someone is a noble or a commoner. Yet, that distinction was fundamentally important a few centuries ago across Europe. Another example – geographic instead of across time: Most US-based people don’t have strong feelings about Sunni vs. Shiite Muslims. Yet, this distinction is significant in many parts of the world.

Unconscious Bias and Prejudice

In my speeches, I often discuss that black Americans suffer from police harassment and violence at a much higher rate than white people. In response, some participants (usually white) occasionally defend the police by claiming that black people are more violent and likely to break the law than whites. They thus attribute police harassment to black people’s internal characteristics (implying they deserve the treatment), not to the external context of police behavior.

In reality – as I point out in my response to these folks – research shows that black people are harassed and harmed by police at a much higher rate for the same kind of activity. A white person walking by a cop, for example, is statistically much less likely to be stopped and frisked than a black one. At the other end of things, a white person resisting arrest is much less likely to be violently beaten than a black person. In other words, statistics show that, at least to a large extent, the higher rate of harassment and violence against black Americans by police is due to police officers’ prejudice.

However, I am careful to clarify that this discrimination is not necessarily intentional. Sometimes, it is deliberate, with white police officers consciously believing that black Americans deserve much more scrutiny than whites. At other times, the discriminatory behavior results from unconscious, implicit thought processes that the police officer would not consciously endorse.

Not Limited to One Race

Interestingly, research shows that many black police officers have an unconscious prejudice against other black people. Specifically, they perceive them in a more negative light than white people when evaluating potential suspects. This unconscious bias carried by many – not all – black police officers helps show that such prejudices come – at least to a significant extent – from internal cultures. They germinate within police departments, rather than pre-existing racist attitudes before someone joins a police department.

The Need to Address Internal Cultures

We often perpetuate such cultures by internal norms (such as poorly-written job descriptions), policies, and training procedures. So any police department wishing to address unconscious bias needs to address internal culture first and foremost, rather than attributing racism to individual officers. In other words, it is not enough to say it’s a few bad apples in a barrel of overall good ones. Instead, we must recognize that implicit bias is a systemic issue. Therefore, we must first fix the structure and joints of the barrel.

The crucial thing to highlight is that there is no shame or blame in implicit bias. After all, that bias, is not stemming from any fault in the individual. This no-shame approach decreases the fight, freeze, or flight defensive response among reluctant audiences. Just as important, it helps them hear and accept the issue.

With these additional statistics and discussion of implicit bias, we consider the issue generally settled. Still, from their subsequent behavior, it’s clear that some of these audience members don’t immediately internalize this evidence. It’s much more comforting for them to feel that police officers are right and anyone targeted by police deserves it. In turn, they are reluctant to accept the need to focus more efforts on protecting black Americans from police violence.

The issue of unconscious bias doesn’t match their intuitions, and thus they reject this concept. This, despite extensive and strong evidence for its pervasive role in policing. It takes a series of subsequent follow-up conversations and interventions to move the needle. A single training is rarely sufficient, both in my experience and according to research.

Defeating Unconscious Bias

This example of how to fight unconscious bias illustrates broader patterns you need to follow to address unconscious bias and make the best people decisions. After all, when we simply follow our intuitions, our gut reactions lead us to make poor judgment choices.

  1. Instead, you need to start by learning about the kind of problems that result from unconscious bias yourself, so that you know what you’re trying to address.
  2. Then, you must stress that there should be no shame or guilt in acknowledging our instincts.
  3. Next, openly discuss the dangers of following their intuitions to build up an emotional investment into changing behaviors.
  4. Lastly, convey the right mental habits that will help them make the best choices.

Remember, one-time training will not defeat unconscious bias. This effort takes a long-term commitment and constant discipline. Get started today.

 

shecession

Image by Biletskiy

Yes, The Shecession is Real (But the Horizon is Bright)

Even with vaccinations in sight, COVID-19 continues to ravage world health and drag economies downward. The resulting recession – the shecession – in the United States is having a sea-change impact on women.

For nearly a year, the pandemic pulled many women back into the home. Their new dual role: Serving as the primary caregiver and educator of their families while working remotely. Others have been forced out of the workforce altogether. The numbers are frightening. And yet, the likely long-term impacts offer both challenges and glimmers of hope, all at the same time.

The Shecession: Glimmers of Hope

On the hope side, the probable long-term impact of the large number of women working from home is promising. After all, perhaps for the first time, business leaders and decision-makers have had a front-row seat to the invisible work of parenthood. As a result, companies have sprung into action and added flex-time schedules, mental health, and childcare benefits. Some have taken the additional step of bolstering their paid family leave policies. Additionally, the pandemic has proven that flexible work schedules and remote work are viable. The widely touted concerns with declining productivity while working from home are unfounded, according to reports.

Going forward, companies will continue to capitalize on the remote work tools into which they have invested so much money and time. Many have already stated they will allow a large percentage of employees to continue working remotely post-pandemic.

It is not just women and parents that will benefit from this change. Other groups traditionally shut out of the workforce or marginalized to some degree due to an uncooperative infrastructure should continue to flourish. For example, people with disabilities should find more doors open to them they once found shut.

The long-term possibilities for many segments of the workforce are exciting – many are long overdue.

The Shecession: Our Current Realities

However, right now, the recession is having very harmful impacts with a disproportionate impact on women. It’s true: Overall unemployment numbers for women continue to improve since the early part of last year. But these numbers do not include women who are no longer seeking work. Data from the National Women’s Law Center (NWLC) is staggering:

In the month between August and September 2020, four times as many women dropped out of the workforce as did men.

“Over 1.1 million workers ages 20 and over dropped out of the labor force last month – meaning they are no longer working or looking for work,” NWLC wrote at the time. “Of the workers who left the labor force, 865,000 (80.0%) were women, including 324,000 Latinas and 58,000 Black women.”

Let us pause and let these numbers sink in.  It is no wonder so many people are referring to the current economic crisis not only as a recession, but also as the “shecession.”

The Pandemic Magnified Inequalities

Many employees struggle with serving as the primary caregiver of elderly relatives and children. Regardless of being driven by choice or necessity, this burden impacts women in more significant numbers than men. The pressures are particularly acute for women of color, who are often more likely to be breadwinners, care for multiple generations, and contract COVID-19.

For example, the unemployment rate for Black women and Latinas in September 2020 was more than twice as high as before the pandemic. These women were – and are –  disproportionately impacted due to high job loss rates in public-facing industries such as Leisure and Hospitality, Retail, Education, and Health Services. Many of these jobs cannot be accomplished remotely; as a result, companies eliminated these roles. What’s more, even when the pandemic is over, these industries are sure to be smaller and to look significantly different than they did leading up to the crisis. That means this critical cohort of people will not have as many of these jobs waiting for them when they return to the workforce.

There is no doubt: The pandemic has exacerbated existing inequalities in the labor market.

The Good News: Both Genders See the Possibilities

The good news is that men – who still are overwhelmingly the senior decision-makers in the business world – now recognize the opportunity to build more equitable workplaces. They see the need for more role model flexibility for all genders. HR leaders also see the issues that the recession has laid bare. More important, they see concrete actions taking place now that will positively impact the future.

The silver lining is that this crisis and these dismaying trends create an opportunity for leaders to pause and think. They can now ask themselves how their companies should adapt to survive and grow. They now must consider what they aspire to become as an organization and as an employer.

Yes, the shecession is real. But the companies that embrace more worker-centric, equitable, and inclusive workplace practices will reap the many benefits of these long-overdue changes. For them and their employees, the horizon is bright.

 

Editors’ Note: In addition to today being International Women’s Day, this is Women’s History Month. Each March, we commemorate and encourage the study, observance and celebration of the vital role of women in American history. To learn more, click here.

 

womens history month

Image by Hannamariah

Women’s History Month: A Chance to Make Equity a Reality

Throughout my conversations with people in the world of work, I hear these questions every March — about the time we start celebrating Women’s history month:

Why still this fuss about Women’s History Month? 

Why isn’t there a Men’s History Month? 

And why do we need to attach gender to history?

And, no, the people asking these questions aren’t always men. In fact, I have known women who were not exactly proactive about championing other women in the workplace or the workforce. Regardless of who asks, though, there is typically a noticeable pause among the women that witness these conversations. Also typical: Not too many of us women actually speak up when people ask these questions. 

Are we tired of advocating for what should already be a given? Or do we need new weapons in our arsenal to combat the same old problems — and some new issues — in more effective ways?

Designed to create a new way of answering generations-old questions, here are a few ways to improve your workplace — and your recruiting methods. The over-arching goal: Make the world of work better for everyone, including women.

Remove Bias in Written Form

In all industries, gender-coded language is alive and well in job descriptions and postings. Our intent may be to write engaging descriptions — but in the process, we inadvertently discourage women applicants. For example, we still seek “assertive” and “dominant” team members that play well in “competitive” and “fast-paced” environments (all predominantly male stereotypes).

While often a notorious offender of bias itself, HR technology has produced some highly effective digital tools to help. Augmented writing platforms (like Textio) and gender decoding software (like the free Gender Decoder) can seek and scrub bias and help bolster descriptions with engaging yet equitable language. 

Adjust Family Leave Policies

Better family leave policies can solve five fundamental problems: 

  • Eases the pressure on working women forced to make a tough choice
  • Removes the burdensome misbelief that child care is women’s work
  • Allows fathers to fully participate in child, pet and elderly care
  • Better supports same-sex families
  • Better reflects Millennial and Gen-Z values and expectations

According to the Pew Research Center, Millennials and Generation-Z believe in shared domestic responsibilities across genders. Companies that only provide maternity leave — as opposed to paternity or family leave — are seen as retrogressive. For employers, this is not a good look when attracting top talent under the age of 38.

Consider the Pandemic-Related Burdens Placed on Women

The pandemic has been brutal on many people, particularly women. Since the COVID-19 crisis began, according to recent findings by McKinsey:

  • Since the COVID-19 crisis began, women’s jobs have been 1.8 times more vulnerable than men’s jobs
  • Women make up 39 percent of global employment but account for 54 percent of overall job losses

Data shows these trends are even worse for women of color, who are more likely to work in service industries greatly impacted by the pandemic and are more likely to be called upon to be primary caretakers in multi-generational households. In addition, women of color are more likely to contract the virus itself and are more likely to be hospitalized, causing further work loss.

Just like adjusting family leave policies can level the playing field for women, employers can also help those women impacted by the pandemic by encouraging and enabling male employees to step up. 

Conduct a Pay Equity Audit

I’ve been saying this for years, and I’m going to repeat it now: We have a moral imperative to pay all people, including women, fairly. 

Fortunately, not doing so now has significant legal consequences for organizations. Lawmakers across the US are writing pay equity laws; as a result, companies with global affiliates or branches will need to pay closer attention to gender pay gaps. 

There are also countless ways to define equal pay for equal work or comparable pay for comparable work. But the only way to achieve true pay equity for all traditionally disadvantaged groups is to take a long, hard look at the realities of how and what organizations pay their people. Again, technology is our friend — and we now have more robust analytics than ever before. Don’t, though, settle for just throwing tech at the problem and coming up with some executive report that never sees the light of day. Instead, make the report known to your employees. At the same time, describe precisely how your company will resolve any issues discovered. 

Remember: Transparency = Truth. 

These are just four ways to ensure we recruit, treat, and pay women equally in the workplace. Until we incorporate these ideas and so many more just like them, each designed to provide a true sense of equity for women, the world will continue to need Women’s History Month.

 

Editors’ Note: This is Women’s History Month. Each March, we commemorate and encourage the study, observance and celebration of the vital role of women in American history. To learn more, click here.

 

workplace diversity

The Undeniable Impact of Workplace Diversity [Infographic]

Workplace diversity is not a new topic. And yet, the world of work hasn’t made nearly enough progress in gender, cultural, and ethnic diversity.

The prevailing wisdom: Today’s business leaders (many of whom are older white males) still don’t fully understand the importance of workplace diversity. That perhaps, if those leaders were aware of diversity’s impact on their bottom line, they’d deliberately tie business goals to building a diverse workforce.

Consider the latest data points available to us, as shown in the infographic below from CoachDiversity Institute:

  • 60 percent of employees have seen or experienced discrimination at work
  • 41 percent of managers say they are too busy to incorporate diversity into their work routines
  • Of those people in the C-suite, only 4 percent are women of color, and just 10 percent are men of color
  • By almost 4:1, white men outnumber white women in executive positions

Workplace Diversity: Time for Change

Yes, it is time for real change. In fact, for several years, the carefully-gathered evidence has been irrefutable: The businesses that maintain a diverse culture far outperform the competition:

  • Companies with the highest gender diversity are 25 percent more likely to have higher profits
  • Companies with higher cultural and ethnic diversity are 36 percent more likely to have above-average profits
  • 57 percent of employees want their companies to be more diverse
  • 64 percent of job candidates say diversity and inclusion are critical considerations when accepting a job
  • 87 percent of the time, more diverse teams make better decisions than individual decision-makers
  • More diverse companies are 1.7x more innovative than less diverse companies

The data is clear: Business leaders must begin to create diverse workplaces more deliberately. But first, they must start intentional conversations.

How to Talk About Diversity

For some time, meaningful conversations about diversity have taken a back seat to lip service. After all, when pressed, business leaders have shown a tendency to say all the right things versus doing what is right. So how do we start the tough conversations that lead to quantifiable change?

This is where we really appreciate the infographic by CoachDiversity. Here, you’ll see how to start and continue the much-needed conversations in your business. From expecting and welcoming diverse viewpoints to encouraging more listening than talking and underscoring the common goal even during the most challenging conversations, it’s in here.

Take a few minutes to review this insightful infographic. Embrace just how essential diversity is to the business world. Then start a tough but oh-so-necessary conversation about workplace diversity in your company.

 

Editors’ Note: March is Women’s History Month, where we commemorate and encourage the study, observance and celebration of the vital role of women in American history. To learn more, click here.

 

workplace diversity

introverted people

Image by Evgenyi Gromov

[#WorkTrends] How to Harness the Workplace Power of Introverted People

Many of us might not know that Warren Buffet, Bill Gates, and also Elon Musk consider themselves introverts. Like many other introverted people, they have capitalized on their ability to listen well, stay objective, and find the answers in chaos.

Given their unprecedented success, why wouldn’t we want to harness the power and potential of introverts in our workforce?

Our Guest: Jennifer Kahnweiler, Ph.D. Author and Speaker

Jennifer B. Kahnweiler, Ph.D., is one of the top global leadership speakers on introversion and is the author of a new book: Creating Introvert-Friendly Workplaces: How to Unleash Everyone’s Talent and Performance. Who better to talk about unleashing the power and potential of introverted people in the workplace, right? 

First, I asked Jennifer what drew her to this unique workplace topic:

“I worked in a lot of positions in HR and leadership development and coaching,” Jennifer explained. “And it became a consistent theme that introverts were frustrated; they often felt overlooked and ignored. Everything was designed for the people who were the talkers — the loudest voice in the room. Since the diversity and inclusion conversation is so prevalent right now, I was surprised I couldn’t find anything on introverted people in the workplace. So I became almost a zealot about this!”

We’re glad she did. Now more than ever, with increasing dependency on remote work, many people who identify as introverts are making their mark in the workplace.

The Workplace Power of Introverted People

After explaining that introverts re-energize by taking quiet time — time that allows creativity to flow, innovative thoughts to development, and also deep reflection — Jennifer jumped into how to harness the power of introverted people:

“We must be more intentional about our hiring and culture practices. When we talk about HR, in particular, we have to ask ourselves: Are we including introverts in our planning and execution? Are they part of our diversity and inclusion plan? That must happen more. That’s when we change cultures; that’s when entire organizations change.”

“It’s not just a nice to have,” Jennifer said. “Because if we only listen to the loudest people in the room, half the voices and ideas aren’t being heard.”

As our conversation progressed, Jennifer and I also talked about her key findings while researching introverts in the workplace, how introverts are adapting to remote work (including those endless Zoom meetings), and much more. Please enjoy this episode of the #WorkTrends podcast. Then take a close look at how your organization integrates and respects people on both ends of the introversion-extraversion spectrum. 

 

Find Jennifer on LinkedIn and Twitter.

 

Editor’s note: We’ve redesigned our and #WorkTrends Podcast pages (and also our FAQ page) to help you be more productive. Please take a look!

 

embracing neurodiversity

Image by Frazer J. Grunshaw

Embracing Neurodiversity: The Future of Talent Management [Podcast]

We’ve recently come to understand how diversity affects us all — in society and the workplace. But there are forms of diversity we don’t talk about enough; specifically, we need to start embracing neurodiversity.

If your workplace is like most, you likely have a whole range of different thinking styles on your teams. But too often, they’re not all recognized — let alone appreciated or accommodated.

On #WorkTrends Conversations: Ed Thompson, CEO & Founder of Uptimize

In this episode of our podcast, Ed Thompson, the CEO and Founder of Uptimize, joined us to discuss the importance of recognizing — and then embracing — neurodiversity in the workforce. I’ve often said we need to revise our approach to welcoming and appreciating neurodiversity in the workplace — just as important, we need to see it as the incredible workplace advantage it is. Ed, after telling us that neurodiversity is simply “the natural diversity of human brain wiring” and “that everybody process information differently,” agrees:

“This is a sizable demographic; some people say one in 10 people might be neuro-distinct in some way. Some even say one in five. So we must recognize the strengths neuro-distinct people can bring to the workplace. We also must recognize that many of the challenges that neuro-distinct people can face in the workplace are the result of people, processes, and environments that simply aren’t inclusive.”

Ed added: “This has always been a fact of human collaboration. It’s just that until now, we humans have done a poor job of recognizing that. Nor have we taken steps to leverage neurodiversity.”

A Practical Approach to Embracing Neurodiversity

I asked Ed how we best approach neurodiversity in the workplace and talent management. His answer was enlightening:

“The key point here is all workplaces are already neurodiverse. Any manager already leads a team whose members have different preferences in how they communicate, problem-solve, and so on. Some prefer communicating in person; others prefer Slack or Zoom.” After reminding us that these preferences are an example of people being neuro-distinct, Ed suggests: “A significant number of people are neuro-distinct, regardless of whether they’ve chosen to disclose.”

“So neurodiversity isn’t a thing we need to add to our DEI efforts; it’s something we already have.” 

In this episode, Ed went on to tell us how to recognize how people might be neuro-distinct, how to optimize their productivity, and what employers can do to serve everybody well — from those with distinct communication and learning preferences and needs to those who identify as autistic. In other words, he shared with us everything we need to do to start recognizing and appreciating this form of diversity in the workplace.

My discussion with Ed was everything a #WorkTrends Conversations podcast is supposed to be: informative, informal, and insightful. Please listen to the entire episode, and then ask yourself: 

Is my company embracing neurodiversity? Or can we do better?

Download a Free eBook from Uptimize

We can all do better, of course. Which is why we encourage you to download your free copy of Introduction to Neurodiversity at Work: Embracing Diversity of Thought as a Talent Strategy by the sponsor of this podcast, Uptimize.  In this e-book, you’ll learn how neurodiversity programs drive business results, five key tips that will help you create and execute a successful neurodiversity program, and much more.

 

Find Ed Thompson on LinkedIn. And for webinar updates and more, be sure to follow Uptimize.

 

Editor’s note: Our FAQ page and #WorkTrends Podcast pages are all new! Please take a look.

 

DEI Efforts

Photo by Fauxels

How the Remote Work Era Impacts Your 2021 DEI Efforts

How will the remote work era impact your 2021 DEI efforts? How will you keep the promises made around diversity, equity, and inclusion?

Before remote work became so prevalent, it was possible to keep real-world events and conversations out of the workplace. Now that’s not only impossible; it’s also increasingly inadvisable. Events in your employees’ personal lives undoubtedly affect the workplace—not only on a personal performance level, but also on a company culture level. Add in ongoing issues of racial inequality and police brutality and the expectation is clear…

Companies must increase DEI efforts in 2021.

Whether employees are having discussions about racism or simply the challenges of living through the pandemic, personal conversations happen – and will continue to happen with increasing frequency. To make sure companies handle these conversations in a productive, positive manner, it’s essential to consider developing a DEI strategy alongside their corporate strategy. The inevitable result is culture-improving programs that promote and champion the business benefits and value of a diverse workforce.

The time is now to tangibly make good on the promises companies have made over the years to increase their focus on DEI.

Here are some actions I expect companies will begin to take in 2021 to fulfill these promises.

Revamp Hiring Practices

One of the first places companies will analyze to improve DEI in their workforce is their talent pool. But merely wanting to hire more diverse team members doesn’t mean you’ll receive diverse applicants.

To increase the diversity of their talent pools, companies will revisit their hiring practices. Providing training programs and resources for hiring teams and reviewing job descriptions to remove non-inclusive terminology and unnecessary requirements is a start. So is expanding from a primarily referral-based recruitment pipeline to a pipeline full of diverse recruiting events and job boards across the country. These are examples of the steps companies will take to be more accessible and welcoming to a diverse array of candidates.

After successful remote work experiments in 2020, I expect we’ll see many companies expand the number of remote roles available, enabling them to drastically expand their talent pool. Of course, the organizational culture will also need to evolve in order to retain a more diverse workforce.

Actively Provide Ongoing DEI Resources 

Instead of having one-off discussions on diversity, equity, and inclusion in response to separate incidences, workplaces will begin making DEI discussions a part of their regular culture. For some, this will mean creating support and learning groups that provide safe spaces to talk about issues. The support methods might include facilitated discussions, anti-racist books, podcasts, articles, videos, and other materials.

Companies will also begin to create dedicated DEI teams to lead the strategy and implementation of all DEI initiatives. These dedicated teams will focus on diversity training, affinity groups, recruitment, promotion, external partnerships, supplier diversity, and more.

Deliberately Become Anti-racist Organizations

Even with a diverse workforce, a company can still have a racist culture. To prevent this, companies must create and enforce actionable anti-racist policies and practices. To show this is a high priority, a temporary shift in focus away from short-term revenue goals may be necessary.

From required training and programs addressing implicit bias, microaggressions, and more to dedicated employee taskforces, this step will require strategic engagement from leadership to get it right – and enact change from the top-down. Companies should also consider implementing Crossroad Ministry’s diversity training. This program provides detailed steps to help your company move from a monocultural organization to an anti-racist, multicultural organization.

Address DEI in their Products and Services

No workplace can be anti-racist if it doesn’t also extend its DEI efforts to the products and services it provides. Companies truly committed to undertaking DEI strategy will thoroughly assess how they plan and craft their products and services. Along the way, they must note DEI-related gaps and oversights that could help their offerings appeal to their target markets.

I’m Chief Inclusion Officer of an education technology company that serves more than 10 million students and educators. In my role, this aspect of inclusion is especially important to me. One of my primary duties is to ensure our products foster an inclusive and supportive learning environment for students of all races and backgrounds. While it’s an ongoing process, I’m proud to say we’re making a difference in students’ lives. We’re also helping our educator partners create an equitable learning experience for all of their students.

2020 brought about many challenges – and we’re all happy it’s over. But it also helped usher in some positive changes. I expect 2021 will begin to see those transformations more fully realized in the area of DEI. And I look forward to seeing the long-lasting changes companies implement as they become more inclusive, equitable workplaces.

2021 work trends

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Futurecasting: 7 World of Work Trends We’ll See in 2021

Futurecasting is sometimes akin to looking into the sky and trying to connect the stars. As we look ahead to the future this time, though, we know the direction we’re going. We know where the prominent work trends are taking us.

The pressures and complexities of 2020 and the pandemic forced an awakening. The innovation developed, creativity demonstrated, and momentum generated since that global reckoning has been so strong, there’s no turning around now; we’ll never go back to the way it was. So the tools and strategies we’ve leaned on throughout the pandemic will continue to redefine how we work in 2021.

With that in mind, here are seven key work trends that will continue to make their mark this coming year…

1. Remote Working

As an option, a necessity, a perk, and an official policy, remote working is here to stay. It’s a classic example of “if you build it, they will come.” And the many employees (and their managers) who have now experienced the ability to function remotely and now know the advantages remote work brings won’t want to go back.

As companies scale back on real estate spends (sorry realtors), remote working is a way to maintain a large workforce on a tighter budget. So we’ll see countless organizations following the path of big tech firms who have pledged to keep their employees remote for the time being — if, of course, they can accomplish the job and responsibilities without the need for a shared physical workspace. Once again, big tech is leading the way and disrupting the status quo. Only this time, it’s not transformative leadership creating the change; it’s the technology itself.

2. New Hires, New Experiences

For new hires (and particularly for Generation Z), that traditional rite of passage of joining a workplace and learning a whole new set of behavioral and social norms isn’t going to be as prevalent. This wholly digital generation has already changed the way we experience technology. Now, they’ll help us usher in a whole new way to enter the workplace. Soon, we’ll come to know this new wave of hires as the “remote generation” (or “hybrid generation”).

The brand-new job experience will not have the same impact as it did past generations. We don’t yet know how younger hires will feel about the value of that experience or workplace culture. But we will — and soon. The difference here: The 2021 work culture will be digital in nature. So the experience will not be as sharp a contrast as going from the classroom to the world of work.

3. Video Conferencing

Video conferencing has become the de facto way we meet. It has become so ubiquitous in the workplace that “to Zoom” is now a verb.

Zoom may have been the frontrunner. But there are plenty of existing competitors and new visual collaboration platforms that will help how we work together evolve. After all, this is a very hot aspect of HR technology and will undoubtedly continue to be one of the most dominant work trends.  So I predict increasing capabilities to communicate just as effectively over mobile as we once did face-to-face. I also see better ways to archive and transcribe our video-based conversations and more ways to extend the work done via videoconference to teams and stakeholders.

4. Upskilling

In 2021, we will see a big shift from hiring being the primary driver of increasing an organization’s capabilities to upskilling existing talent. Organizations that had to tighten their hiring budgets after sustained buffeting from 2020 and the pandemic will shift resources into training and development. Those that did just fine despite economic turbulence — in industries that actually grew during 2020 — will be adding a robust reskilling and upskilling program to their HR strategy.

The bottom line for everyone is that institutional knowledge is critical for maintaining continuity and weathering a crisis. Upskilling existing employees will become known as a smart way to hold onto that intelligence while evolving skills to meet new challenges. Upskilling will become a business imperative.

5. Mental Health

Without question, our mental health has become an enormous issue. A recent report by Monster revealed a whopping 69% of employees working from home experience severe burnout. It’s not that working from home is particularly hard on everyone by itself. But the rush to remote without an underlying culture and infrastructure — and without an end-game being defined — has caused some stress.

Because one of the key triggers of burnout is mistreatment by supervisors and managers, we’re learning about the importance of setting boundaries and doing frequent check-ins. Many of us are also making sure our people have access to the mental health benefits they need. To help us continue this critical work trend, we’ll soon see even more apps that help with emotional and mental well-being (such as a meditation app and a mindfulness training tool). And we’ll see more forward-thinking companies providing these practical and widely-available tools as part of their overall well-being programs.

6. Inclusive Cultures

Diversity is critical to every aspect of the workplace — and organizations need to do better. So we’ll see a lot more leaders focusing on how to improve a sense of belonging in their organizations, as well as some authentic soul-searching as we dive into legacies such as systemic racism.

Our timing couldn’t be better. Currently, 70% of job seekers in a survey by the Manifest say they consider a company’s commitment to diversity when evaluating them as a prospective employer. But diversity in terms of hiring and promotions is only one part of the equation. Companies must pay attention to their work cultures, gauge how truly inclusive they are now, and then work to close the gap between what is and what should be. This is perhaps the mother of all work trends and will play a critical role next year. Because in 2021, organizations are not going to be able to get away with a performative statement or symbolic gestures. If you truly believe in equality — if you genuinely believe black lives matter, for example — you’re going to have to show it.

7. Empathetic People Management

Let me add a few words to the phrase above: “empathetic people management… for the right reasons.”

The pre-pandemic talent crunch triggered many reflective moments around how to better conduct HR and talent management. The goal for many companies is to be perceived as a better employer brand and to successfully engage and retain your people. That’s all well and good. But we’re not in a talent crunch right now.

Yet between February and October 2020, some 2.2 million women in the U.S. left their jobs. Overwhelmed, undersupported, and stressed out, many women — particularly working mothers — reached a tipping point and gave up. That’s an incredible talent drain. When they come back to work, they’re going to look for companies that set up the structures that truly support their people through empathetic people management for all the right reasons.

Looking Ahead to 2021

2020’s silver lining is that we’d been stubbornly dancing around what was truly important in the workplace — and to the workforce. We were forced to reckon with real-time discoveries in an authentic way. So we now know exactly what lies between us and where we want to go. We’ll bring that wisdom, and these work trends, to 2021.

This welcome knowledge, together with knowing we have better tools and a clearer vision of what must come next than we’ve ever had before, brings me to my final bit of futurecasting…

2021 will be the year HR once again finds its soul. 

In 2021 and beyond, we will take better care of our people — and each other.

 

workforce diversity

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The ‘Why’ and ‘How’ of Building Workforce Diversity

The evidence overwhelmingly supports the business case for workforce diversity. So why are companies still failing to achieve their diversity goals?

Diversity has become a higher priority on the corporate agenda. Simultaneously, the business case for workforce diversity is now well evidenced (especially by McKinsey & Company, where analysts have been tracking the performance of more diverse companies for years). And yet, many organizations still struggle with ‘why’ diversity programs fail and the ‘how’ of doing diversity well.

Perhaps outreach programs are successful, but few candidates make it to the final selection stage? Perhaps diverse early career talent is easier to onboard, but fewer diverse candidates progress into senior leadership? In our work, we often find organizations undermine their own efforts. Quite often, through the use of a flawed recruitment and assessment process.

Biased decision making can creep into any stage of the hiring or development process, creating a disadvantage for minority groups. In other cases, inadvertent use of tactics that offer an advantage to those with access to exclusive knowledge or education occurs. These tactics perpetuate a cycle that maintains the status quo and prevents diversity from flourishing.

At Sova, we’ve long championed fairness and equality in recruitment and career progression. As occupational psychologists, one of our main goals in designing assessment is to provide a truly objective view of a candidate. We see it as our role to help companies go beyond the CV to make better, unbiased, and fair decisions about talent.

‘Why’ the Selection Process Goes Wrong

Before we talk about how we can improve diversity through fair selection processes, it’s useful to highlight some of the areas where we see diversity fail. These failures happen even when recruitment and HR teams invest in better diversity through actions such as targeted advertising, tailored marketing materials, and broader outreach programs:

  • The interview process starts with killer questions, such as asking which university the candidate attended, which is unfair when the candidate relies on knowledge or experience that isn’t available to all.
  • Too much emphasis on the CV screen effectively defines people through past achievements rather than their future potential.
  • Reliance on academic achievement, often linked to educational opportunity, makes those from more disadvantaged backgrounds less likely to be considered.
  • A reliance on unstructured interviews has been shown by extensive research to typically be much less predictive than either structured interviews or other more objective assessment measures.
  • Traditional assessments, such as a series of verbal and numerical reasoning tests, act as a hurdle race, potentially excluding otherwise suitable candidates.
  • Poorly designed assessments that lack scientific rigor bring a degree of embedded bias; some rely on exclusive knowledge of lifestyle habits or culture.
  • Assessors at assessment centers who are not well trained in managing unconscious bias impact fair selection; so does the center’s content when it favors particular groups.
  • We often fail to collect the right data; that data must be readily available and frequently reviewed.

‘How’ to Improve Workforce Diversity During Recruitment

Here are five practical changes that improve hiring processes and facilitate fairer decision making:

1. Consider carefully and thoughtfully what “good” looks like for your organization.

The definition of good needs to be through a wide lens and with the scope of diversity in mind. Rather than addressing one aspect, think about what diverse talent means as a whole. Consider how you describe what you look for in a candidate. Ask if your description might be perceived as exclusive when framed without thought to diversity. For example, have a broad range of people provide feedback on a job description and posting.

2. In designing your process, think about which techniques are fairest.

Have an inclusive approach to design. Gather insight into how others interpret your process design. Questions and assessment content need to be objective and not discriminate based on access to specific knowledge exclusive to some. Having input into the design from a diverse group is also essential, so gather different viewpoints on the assessment.

3. Thoroughly monitor the success of your assessment process.

Take the time and care to measure easier to acquire metrics such as gender. Also, gather data over the longer term – for example, who gets promoted. To see the whole picture, keep sight of all the assessments in your process and across all groups. Link to this data routinely and review it in real-time, not only on an annual basis.

4. Use analytics to learn which parts of your journey – or which questions and content – are working fairly and which are not.

Layout the parts of your process shown to be generating unfair responses. Then consider whether to change them or remove them. For example, are certain questions excluding those qualified applicants without a university education? Or are you excluding candidates based on language or numeracy skills not applicable to that specific job?

Once you’ve built the business case for diversity, the next step is to practically put in place a new process that will result in fairer outcomes. Diversity strategy guides the organization, of course. But without practical application at every stage of recruitment, assessment, and development, organizations will struggle to truly make a difference in their workforce diversity.

To learn more about leveling the playing field through fair assessment in hiring and development, you can download Sova’s free white paper: Leveling the Playing Field.

 

This post sponsored by Sova Assessment.

 

jpb descriptions hidden bias

Fauxels

Job Descriptions: How to Eliminate the Hidden Bias Within

In an era where more people than ever are fighting for social justice, why do job descriptions still contain hidden bias? And what is the impact of bias – intentional or not.

In a typical job description, there are enough typos and grammar mistakes to make you wonder if proof-reading ever happened. There are often too many formatting issues to count. And then there are those baffling internal acronyms. (If you knew those, you’d already work there!) In the end, it’s next to impossible to determine what a person in that role does and why they do it – let alone ascertain if you’re qualified for the position. Frustrating!

And yet there is an even bigger problem with far too many job descriptions: Hidden bias.

The Effort to Decrease Bias and Increase Diversity

We all have our personal preferences. You might like crunchy peanut butter, while your best friend might prefer creamy. However, when it comes to hiring practices, there’s no place for personal preferences. The official hiring policies of any company must be impartial, as stated in anti-discrimination legislation outlined by the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Still, even in well-regarded organizations, unconscious bias exists. Many take steps to combat these all-too-human impulses. They work hard to make their hiring practices more egalitarian. Despite the best of intentions, however, these efforts are often less than successful. In fact, according to the Harvard Business Review, most workplace diversity programs aren’t actually increasing diversity. Consider that among all US companies with 100 or more employees:

  • From 1985 to 2014, the proportion of black men in management increased just slightly from 3% to 3.3%
  • From 1985 to 2000, white women in management roles rose from 22% to 29% but haven’t budged past that 29% figure since the turn of the century

Why haven’t we made more progress? As Frank Dobbin and Alexandra Kalev stated in HBR: “Despite a few new bells and whistles, courtesy of big data, companies are basically doubling down on the same approaches they’ve used since the 1960s—which often make things worse, not better.”

Gender Bias: An Obvious Culprit

Research has shown that one of the biggest areas of failure in job description bias is gender-based. In fact, one research paper published by social scientists from the University of Waterloo and Duke University stated gendered language in job descriptions remains prevalent.

The study found that job descriptions for positions traditionally associated with men use language that may unconsciously deter women from applying for these positions. Researchers also discovered that job descriptions biased towards men often include language more associated with being proactive and taking charge of the situation. With traditional societal roles associating men with action and empowerment more than women, female applicants opt out of applying. “Often these women take more submissive – or at least more historically female roles, like nurses, kindergarten teachers and administrative assistants.

The conclusion: In job descriptions, the use of male-associated pronouns like “his” – rather than the female-associated “her” or the more gender-neutral “the person” – significantly impacts who applies for each position. Even worse, those gender-specific pronouns have a profound effect on who gets hired.

Bias Hiding in Plain Sight

At this point, it may be clear the language used in job descriptions is very much influenced by the bias of the person writing the job descriptions. Sometimes these biases are unconscious, such as in the case of culturally-reinforced gender roles. However, sometimes bias in job descriptions is more conscious. This happens most often when a hiring manager is actively looking to subtly discourage certain classes of applicants even while adhering to corporate diversity policies and EEOC regulations. For example:

“For this role, we’re looking for a strong, ‘All-American boy’ type. Must be well-mannered, well-groomed, well-spoken and respectful to the customers.”

Do you hear the bias? This hiring manager is most likely looking for a young, able-bodied, white, heterosexual, well-educated male that most likely comes from an affluent family. And yet the hiring manager deftly avoided including any of those demographics in the job description.

This hiring manager may be sneaky-good at getting around policies and laws. But his bias is hiding in plain sight.

Fixing the Problem

In the above example, the job description followed the letter of the law. Technically, the hiring manager did nothing wrong. And yet, the wrong isn’t only present – it is blatant. This raises the question of whether or not fixing the problem of biased language in job descriptions is practical, perhaps even possible. And yet the problem is being attacked on many fronts.

The Harvard Business Review published an article by cognitive scientist Frida Polli to address both conscious and unconscious hiring bias. In the article, Ms. Polli claimed using artificial intelligence might be one way to solve the problem of bias. The reality is, though, this solution is dependent on so many factors – including AI’s ability to learn bias through practical experience – that it can’t be considered the best possible answer at the moment.

The human approach, at least so far, hasn’t fared much better. Lobbying efforts designed to create systemic change in corporate policies that would eliminate biased language in job descriptions has become a Sisyphean effort. Again, despite the best of intentions, there is no social proof that “diversity training” – mandated or not – is especially effective.

So is there a solution? Must we continue to tolerate job descriptions beset with biases that read one way but mean something completely different?

Worth Doing Right

No, we don’t. We Human Resources professionals can fix this.

Why us? First, let’s understand there is no group of job seekers powerful enough to change this dynamic. That means the responsibility falls on us. And as the old saying goes: “If anything’s worth doing, it’s worth doing right.”

So what does “doing it right” mean? In three steps:

  1. We must learn how to discover, decipher and translate biased job descriptions; sharing our knowledge enables us to stop even unintentional bias from appearing on our websites, our chosen job boards, or anywhere else.
  2. We must leverage our collective knowledge of the corporate doublespeak which hiring managers use to discourage certain types of applicants; together, we must become not just the job description police, we must become the judge and jury.
  3. Before we can begin to eliminate bias within our own companies, we must secure unwavering top-down support from the C-suite; we simply can’t accept all the responsibility without having any authority.

But we’re not done yet. To create and sustain a company culture free of bias – intentional or not – we must drag the offending job descriptions into the conscience of our company. We must deliberately yet respectfully draw attention to these unethical practices and the damage and hurt caused by biased language. If we don’t, we’ll always be fixing what’s wrong instead of doing what we know is right.

The Last Word

Poorly written job descriptions are more than just a frustrating nuisance to job seekers; they often serve as home to hidden bias. They are social proof of an unhealthy company culture. Even worse, they are indicative of systemic injustice that impacts the lives and careers of women, the disabled, people of color, members of the LGBTQ+ community, and specific religions or nationalities.

We in HR know better. Together, we can do better.