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Where Does Workplace Diversity Belong Now?

Are you disturbed by news about organizations backtracking on workplace diversity and inclusion commitments? I certainly am. For example, a recent Wall Street Journal article declared “The Rise and Fall of the Chief Diversity Officer.” Is this just hyperbole, or is it cause for serious concern? Either way, we can’t brush it under the rug.

After all, only 3 years ago, employers were scrambling to advance DEI initiatives. For many, this included new C-level positions with sweeping responsibilities. According to LinkedIn, from 2019-2021, demand for senior workplace diversity executives grew nearly 170%. This easily outpaced hiring for every other C-suite role.

But now, the pendulum is rapidly swinging in the opposite direction, and workplace diversity leaders are taking the hit. In fact, C-level DEI hiring actually shrank last year at a rate of -4.5%. And DEI positions are the only ones moving in a negative direction.

Why such a swift, dramatic shift? Multiple factors are driving these decisions. But sadly, HR is getting caught in the middle. As a former Chief Diversity Officer at a major U.S. hospital system says, the hiring spree now feels like a “knee-jerk reaction” that didn’t create much impact and left both sides feeling disillusioned.

DEI at Work: Two Steps Forward, One Step Back?

So what’s really happening here? Is DEI frozen in time — or worse, losing ground? Here’s another top DEI executive’s opinion:

“Some employers may have neglected or even paused their diversity and inclusion programs. In the short term, this may seem understandable given the extraordinarily challenging circumstances. Long-term, however, it will come back to haunt you when the economy improves and you need to compete for talent again.”

Given current workplace DEI issues, this may seem like a recent statement. But surprise — it’s actually from a July 2020 article by LaFawn Davis of Indeed.

At the time, LaFawn was VP of Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging (DIB), where she led efforts to remove bias and barriers in the company’s products and its work culture. Since then, her role has expanded. She now serves as SVP of Environmental, Social & Governance, and her commitment to DIB is just as resolute.

Timeless Insights From a DEI Leader

With all the mixed news about workplace diversity lately, I decided to revisit a conversation I had with LaFawn late in 2020 on the #WorkTrends podcast. If you want a reality check, I invite you to join me. Despite different circumstances three years on, I think you’ll agree LaFawn’s wisdom still rings true today…

 

Lessons for Today’s Leaders

Here are several takeaways that continue to resonate:

1. DIB Isn’t Just One Standalone Thing

Too many companies attempt to lump diversity, inclusion, and belonging into one category, separate from other business functions. As LaFawn says:

Companies are trying to silo off diversity, inclusion, and belonging. Or they make one of the terms synonymous with the others.

2. How to Unpack DIB

What should we understand about the distinct elements of DIB? According to LaFawn:

Diversity is the belief that teams with different work styles, problem-solving techniques, life experiences, backgrounds, perspectives, and skill sets truly make innovation possible.

Inclusion is about actions and behaviors that create a culture where employees feel valued, trusted, and authentic.

And belonging is a feeling of community. It is the people and our culture that make us feel connected.

3. An Integrated View

When these three distinct elements of DIB are combined, we feel valued. LaFawn explains:

It’s not about looking like me or coming from where I come from. It’s about those common threads that pull us together in a broader work context.

4. The Pandemic Exposed Many DIB Weaknesses

Even now, we see Covid fallout that disproportionately affects some members of the workforce. For example, frontline workers endured extraordinary stress during the lockdown. This has led to a severe talent shortage in the services sector that is likely to continue.

But by exposing this and other issues of workplace bias and inequality, the pandemic has underscored fundamental changes organizations must make to ensure that marginalized people feel like they belong.

The Business Case for Workplace Diversity

Of course, business leaders must focus on business performance. So I asked LaFawn to share her thoughts about DIB’s impact on the bottom line. Not surprisingly, she served up some compelling statistics:

Will we be a better company 10 years from now? 15?

This question should keep every business leader up at night.

We know that businesses with a more diverse workforce are 36% more likely to be in the top tier of their industry. We know that firms with greater gender diversity are 25% more likely to be at the top in financial returns, market share, and retention.

So diversity, inclusion, and belonging do affect your bottom line!

That’s not all from LaFawn. For more of her DEI guidance, check this article: “How Belonging Differs From Diversity and Inclusion — and Why It Matters.”

Workplace Diversity Belongs With Us All, Especially Now

Like LaFawn, I believe DEI still belongs, today and in the future of work. And we’re not alone by any means.

Earlier this year, an in-depth Pew Research study of nearly 6,000 U.S. workers revealed some valuable insights about the state of workplace DEI. For example, while only 33% of respondents said their employer has a dedicated DEI leader onboard, 61% feel their organization’s policies ensure fairness in hiring, pay, and promotions.

Workplace diversity progress poll - TalentCulture July 2023That’s encouraging. But it’s not the whole story. Consider this small slice of DEI life from TalentCulture’s world:

Several weeks ago, we asked our community to tell us if their work culture has become more diverse and inclusive since the pandemic. Interestingly, only 37% told us the situation has improved at least somewhat, while 63% said it’s the same or even worse.

Clearly, there’s still work to do. But building a culture around workplace diversity is not about platitudes. That’s not a sustainable strategy. DEI is a process. And that process is not a sprint. It’s a marathon.

DEI Leadership Action Items

If you’re a leader who remains committed to creating a workplace around fairness and opportunity for all, keep moving forward. I’m right there with you. And if you’re uncertain about how to move forward, I suggest revisiting other ideas that have stood the test of time.

For example, consider practical advice DEI leaders shared in 2020 with one of our blog contributors, Laura Sabattini. Laura is another DEI expert on the move. In 2020, she was a Principal Researcher at The Conference Board, and she’s since joined Honeywell as Director of Inclusion and Diversity.

Clearly, Laura isn’t just passing along interesting ideas. She is actually walking the talk every single day. I think you’ll agree, the suggestions she curated are worth another look:

1. Create a Common Vision

Enhance communication and drive consistent messaging across the organization. Focus on helping leaders and colleagues understand how DEI improves the work environment and increases resilience during times of change.

Tips from DEI Leaders:

  • Define DEI in ways that directly align with your organization’s culture and values.
  • Identify measurable behaviors and clear expectations to hold people accountable for those behaviors.

2. Encourage Participation and Collaboration

Leverage trends and events to build awareness among those who haven’t been involved with DEI, to ensure that ownership doesn’t fall solely on underrepresented groups.

Tips from DEI Leaders:

  • Provide resources to help people engage, participate, and take action at work and beyond.
  • Build trust by encouraging dialogue over conflict and giving people latitude to make mistakes.

3. Invest in Developing Leadership Skills

Inclusive cultures don’t just happen by chance. They require intentionality and willingness to improve how we work and interact with others. This may require leaders to “unlearn” some management standards before they embrace new skills. The good news: This can improve leadership effectiveness and business results.

Tips From DEI Leaders: 

  • You don’t need to start from scratch. Leverage existing inclusive leadership models.
  • Work with formal and informal DEI champions to identify meaningful behaviors. Some organizations may focus on decision-making, while others may focus on innovation. The key is to align DEI skills with your business and culture.

4. Emphasize Accountability

To build buy-in, hold people accountable for their role in building a more inclusive culture. This includes specific team or leader behaviors as well as managerial metrics (for priorities such as engagement or representation among teams).

Tips From DEI Leaders: 

  • Gather input from leaders and regularly follow-up to discuss their accountability and progress.
  • Engage human capital analytics to identify DEI patterns, trends, and impact. (For example, compare promotion and attrition rates across functions and teams.)
  • Periodically assess what is and isn’t working, and provide stakeholders with updates.

What’s the Real Cost of DEI?

In today’s diverse, dynamic work world, employers increasingly recognize the transformative power of diversity, equity, and inclusion. Still, concerns often arise about the cost of DEI initiatives. The best answers consider benefits as well as costs. In other words, if you want to build a compelling case, focus on business value. But what exactly does that look like?

To make sense of it all, let’s dig deeper into DEI’s true value. This article sheds light on the remarkable return on investment you can achieve with a wholehearted commitment to DEI.

The Benefits of DEI

Consultants at McKinsey have conducted extensive research on the impact of gender and ethnic diversity on financial performance. They found that companies with diverse executive teams are 25% more likely to experience above-average profitability. This finding demonstrates a clear link between DEI and financial success.

Another example underscores the impact of diversity on customer experience. Salesforce, a leading customer relationship management platform company, is known for its strong commitment to DEI. But this didn’t happen by accident. In 2020, Salesforce revamped its talent acquisition strategy and training programs to reduce bias and expand minority employment opportunities.

Within a year, the company more than doubled its hiring rate among marginalized communities. In addition, internal research revealed that employees from these diverse groups became more engaged and contributed to higher customer satisfaction ratings.

How much should your organization invest to become more ethical and profitable? Let’s explore….

The Cost of DEI

Diversity budgets come in all shapes and sizes. They range from a modest $10,000 to a mind-boggling $216 million. But the sweet spot lies at a median budget of $1.2 million. 

When allocating funds to increase workforce diversity, you can prioritize specific business activities (training programs, recruitment, recognition) or functions (HR, Marketing, Community Relations). 

For smaller organizations with fewer than 1,000 employees, it is feasible to initiate DEI efforts by assigning specific responsibilities to existing staff members. For example, you could allocate about 50% of an existing employee’s role (such as an HR project manager), to oversight of DEI initiatives. This makes it possible to integrate DEI responsibilities into your workflows without creating a dedicated role or team.

However, in larger organizations, it’s crucial to establish clear ownership of DEI with a dedicated role or team. This ensures that DEI efforts receive the necessary focus and resources to drive meaningful change.

At the average Fortune 1000 company — with a workforce of 34,000 people and revenue of $15 billion — the DEI budget is significantly larger than other companies require. For a smaller organization — with 2,ooo-10,000 employees — a reasonable estimated budget for establishing a DEI program is likely to range from $50,000 to $300,000.

But no matter what your company size or DEI budget, the key is to spend that budget effectively. How should you allocate available funds? Let’s look closer…

Structuring a DEI Budget

The range of DEI expenses varies, depending on numerous factors, such as an organization’s size, industry, geographic location, and scope of DEI initiatives. It’s important to note that there is no fixed or universal standard for DEI budgeting. Each firm faces unique financial realities and priorities.

Now, let’s break down ways to distribute your budget across key areas:

1. Personnel Expenses

This includes any costs associated with hiring and maintaining a dedicated diversity and inclusion team. It may include salaries and benefits for DEI professionals to develop your strategy, implement initiatives, offer guidance, and provide support.

2. Training and Education

This covers expenses for design, development, and delivery of diversity and inclusion training programs, workshops, and seminars. It can include the cost of external trainers, development of training materials, e-learning platforms, or subscription fees for diversity and inclusion training resources. Investment in engaging, transformative training programs varies widely, from $30,000-$150,000.

3. Recruitment and Branding

To promote diversity and inclusion, budgeting for recruitment and hiring initiatives is essential. This may include expenses for advertising on diverse job boards, attending job fairs that target underrepresented groups, engaging with recruitment agencies that specialize in diverse talent, or implementing software and tools that help reduce bias in the hiring process. Companies usually set aside $10,000-$30,000 for DEI-focused recruiting and branding initiatives.

4. Employee Resource Groups 

Employee resource groups can foster a sense of belonging and provide a platform for underrepresented employees. But you’ll need a budget to establish and sustain these groups. This can include funding for ERG events, activities, resources, and initiatives that promote DEI within your organization. Employers often allocate $10,000-$30,000 for this line item.

5. Policy Development and Implementation

This ensures that your organization’s policies align with DEI principles. It may involve expenses for external experts, legal consults, or HR DEI specialists to review, update, and create relevant policies. However, you can manage this process without extra expenses. These tips can help:

  • Review your existing policies and practices to identify potential biases or barriers. 
  • Make necessary adjustments to ensure inclusivity across various functions and responsibilities, such as hiring, promotion, and performance evaluation. 
  • Encourage transparency and accountability in decision-making to prevent bias and discrimination.

6. Data Collection and Analysis

Investing in data collection and analysis tools enables organizations to track DEI progress effectively. Budgeting for these resources may include expenses related to software, surveys, and data analysis tools. It may also include the cost of consultants to conduct audits and assessments.

7. Community Partnerships

To build external relationships and demonstrate a commitment to DEI beyond the workplace, employers often allocate a portion of their budget to community engagement and partnership programs. These are common steps:

  • Look for external organizations or community groups that align with your DEI goals.
  • Consider how these efforts can open doors for additional expertise, resources, and networking opportunities.
  • Collaborate with appropriate groups to define joint initiatives, such as workshops, panel discussions, or mentoring programs. 

A budget of $5,000-$50,000 can help drive effective partnerships or sponsorships.

8. Ongoing Evaluation and Measurement

Budgeting for ongoing evaluation and measurement is crucial because it ensures that you can determine the impact of DEI initiatives. This may include funds to conduct surveys, audits, or focus groups. It may also include the cost of hiring external consultants to evaluate your company’s progress.

Meanwhile, you can save money on evaluation activities by regularly measuring DEI ROI.

The ROI of DEI

To showcase the value of your DEI efforts, you’ll want to estimate ROI. Follow these steps:

1. Identify Measurable Objectives

Start by defining clear objectives for your DEI initiatives. These objectives should align with your organization’s overall goals and values. For example, you may aim to increase employee retention, enhance innovation through diverse perspectives, or improve customer satisfaction and loyalty.

2. Determine KPIs

Select specific key performance indicators (KPIs) that align with your objectives. These metrics should be quantifiable and trackable over time. For instance, you could measure employee satisfaction and engagement, diversity representation at various levels of the organization, or customer feedback related to diversity and inclusion.

3. Establish a Baseline

Before implementing DEI initiatives, establish a baseline measurement for each selected KPI. This provides a starting point, so you can measure subsequent progress. The easiest way to do this is to gather and analyze available data from existing HR and business systems and programs. You may also want to collect and analyze relevant data by conducting preliminary surveys, assessments and interviews.

4. Track Progress and Impact

As you implement DEI initiatives, regularly monitor and track the selected KPIs. They may include minority hiring rates, promotion rates, turnover rates, employee satisfaction scores, customer satisfaction scores, or other relevant metrics. As you measure change in each metric over time, you can follow your organization’s overall DEI progress. This trend analysis will also help you quickly identify unexpected issues that should be researched and resolved. 

5. Assign Monetary Value

By assigning a value to improvements in selected KPIs, you’re taking a vital step forward in justifying the cost of DEI initiatives. This step can be challenging, but it will help you demonstrate the tangible benefits of your efforts. For example, you could estimate the cost savings associated with reduced turnover, or the potential increase in revenue resulting from improved customer satisfaction and loyalty.

6. Compare Investments and Returns

Next, estimate ROI by comparing tangible DEI costs (financial resources, time, and effort) with the monetary value you’ve assigned to improvements you’ve observed. In other words, subtract actual costs from tangible benefits. Ideally, the result of this calculation will be a positive value (benefits – costs = net benefit).

7. Consider Qualitative Impacts

While ROI calculations often focus on quantifiable metrics, it’s also vital to consider qualitative outcomes. In other words, for some business endeavors, the overall positive impact can far exceed the result of a straight cost/benefit equation. Look beyond the numbers to consider the importance of qualitative benefits such as a more vibrant work culture, improved employee morale, enhanced brand reputation, and stronger relationships with diverse communities. Goodwill may be intangible, but it is a powerful business asset.

A Final Note on the Cost of DEI

Some companies have struggled to demonstrate the value of their DEI initiatives. However, with thoughtful planning and an ongoing commitment, it is possible to develop an effective working budget and successfully demonstrate ROI.

Although the upfront cost of DEI initiatives may seem steep, organizations can experience tangible benefits in the long run. But the true value of diversity, equity, and inclusion actually goes beyond financial success. DEI has the potential to elevate your work culture, customer relationships, and brand position in ways that can transform your organization for the better.

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.

 

Photo: Sharon McCutcheon

Promoting Diversity and Maintaining an Inclusive Culture

As the spotlight has brightened on racism. In response to recent miscarriages of justice, the emphasis on identifying racism within other aspects of life has also grown. As business leaders, it is vital to stand with the advocacy for change. Although oftentimes difficult, encouraging honest discussions around diversity and inclusivity in the workplace is crucial. 

For many, this conversation is not new. Dated ideologies and racist operations have influenced hiring practices regularly. Those out-of-date paradigms have also permitted a single race and gender to employ higher positions for decades. According to Fortune, high-ranking officials within 16 of the Fortune 500 companies are 80% men, and 72% of those men are white. In order to break this flawed mold and implement diversity, much work has to be done by industry leaders. 

The Advantages of Promoting Diversity and Inclusivity

Fostering a diverse and inclusive organization has many benefits such as increased profit, impressive talent acquisition, as well as the strengthening of employee bonds. Yes, conversations surrounding diversity and inclusivity can be difficult. However, this is the opportune time for leaders to disrupt archaic norms. And it is the perfect time to implement hiring practices that seek out brilliant talent from every background. 

So, what can business owners and leaders do to promote diversity and maintain an inclusive culture? With these advantages below, leaders across any industry can recognize the essential nature of workplace diversity. 

Financial Gain 

From a business standpoint, racial diversity in the workplace isn’t merely a perk. In fact, diversity is a necessity for competitiveness in corporate America. Not only do inclusive teams make better business decisions up to 87% of the time, but many consumers actively seek out organizations with diverse decision-makers. Additionally, these brands can also build stronger audience connections. 

Further, it is no secret that marketing a business can be difficult. However, inclusive marketing can be a different beast altogether. Within marketing, there is a heavy lack of cultural intelligence from brands, and this void can result in minimized profits as some audiences won’t purchase from you due to a lack of acknowledgment. Campaigns without cultural intelligence run the risk of coming off as tone-deaf or insensitive. They perhaps then result in public outcry, concluding in a company apology with a promise to “do better.” 

By investing in employees with different perspectives, lived experiences, and understandings of diverse markets, you can promote your business from several unique standpoints and gain a competitive edge. This allows a separation from competitors, and perhaps engagement from consumers outside of initial target audiences. Subsequently, you can net greater profits, while exhibiting your care for people of different races, genders, ages, sexualities, and identities. 

Expanded Talent Pool 

 For most leaders in the highly competitive business world, acquiring the best talent is priority. Exclusively employing talent of a particular ethnicity, age, or gender minimizes the talent pool you can choose from. With that said, having an organization run by one race or gender can only reflect narrow perspectives. That scenario, perhaps inadvertently, also demonstrates to the public that you don’t recognize a necessity for diverse opinions.

Hiring with cultural diversity in mind — which encapsulates race, culture, age, religion, sexuality, and gender identity — expands your talent pool. This expansion permits your organization to solely focus on what candidates can bring to the table such as: skill sets, experience, and creativity. By eradicating those subconsciously biased candidate limitations, you can prioritize and encourage mind-expansion and exploration for your company. This can equate to bigger, brighter innovations that may not have been otherwise explored. This eradication also improves your brand’s attractiveness and invites new consumers. 

As your organization flourishes due to new minds with intersectional inputs, your brand has the opportunity to convey a modern attractiveness that invites more talent acquisition, fortuitous business opportunities and more financially prosperous avenues. 

Better Engagement and Satisfaction 

As one can probably imagine, being a “token” person of color in the workplace isn’t fun. When employees work amongst others who look like them or share lived experiences, a workplace confidence is bred, thus inspiring collaboration, innovation and creativity to take place. 

Employees need their ideas, opinions and perspectives to matter. Likewise, employees want to work for a company that entrusts people like them who also actively advocate for positive change. When employees feel respected and valued, especially if they may have endured ridicule in the past, aspects of work like productivity, engagement, and overall satisfaction within the workplace is improved. 

This is vital because boosts in company morale and workplace culture only benefit your organization. Happy employees equate to enhanced production, which equates to higher brand attractiveness and in turn, increased company profits. 

Maintaining an Understanding Organization and Prioritizing Inclusion

In efforts to promote diversity within your organization, below are a few strategies to help start off the process of consistently seeking to be more understanding and inclusive.

Take an Honest Internal Look

How do you assess the current state of diversity within your organization? Analyze how many people of color you currently employ, as well as previously hired and sought out for recruitment. This can provide insight on the level of (or lack of) diversity. This data can also show any discriminatory biases that occur within your company, unknowingly or otherwise. 

Consistently Educate Yourself and Your Staff

There are many misconceptions around what discrimination looks like. So it is important to outline what words and behaviors are unacceptable at work. Teach your staff about micro-aggressions and what discrimination may look like to people of various, intersecting backgrounds. In addition to this, be sure to emphasize the impacts of discrimination, big or small, and stress a no-tolerance policy. 

Promote an Open Dialogue

In efforts to grasp difficult topics, learn from each other and get to know each other on a personal level. Encourage employees to unpack biases and/or racist tendencies. Emphasize how harmful it is to act on those beliefs. During these discussions, tread lightly. After all, you don’t want to offend employees, Nor do you want to force someone to discuss personal adversity.  

As industry leaders, this is your chance to spearhead positive change by implementing workplace diversity and inclusivity. It is important to note that no one has all the “right” answers respective to ending discrimination in the workplace. No one can tell you exactly how to eradicate biases. Nonetheless, these issues are serious. And organizations must diligently protect those at risk of enduring injustices.

Overall, focus on harmonizing the workplace by creating a safe and welcoming environment for everyone — irrespective of race, gender, age, sexuality, disability, identity, and/or religion.

Photo: Ricardo Resende

Is Diversity Baked Into Your Hiring Process?

A few years ago, we were asked to help a market leader that was intent on changing its culture to be more creative and innovative. (Sound familiar?) The company was spending a million dollars on messaging and elaborate company meetings to help “get the word out” and create excitement for this new, transformative initiative.

But even as its leaders spoke eloquently about the need for change — even hiring a guru to guide their efforts — few process changes were made, and they were hesitant to reconsider the kind of people they hired. They talked of needing people who were “cultural fits” even as they held meetings in which they touted the need for cultural change and disruption.

Why traditional hiring practices backfire

The company’s hiring practices were similar to those we see in most organizations, perhaps even your own. After candidates were identified, an internal team of “high performers,” along with HR representatives, reviewed the applicants’ résumés to ensure they had the requisite experience. Unfortunately, this meant most applicant experiences were similar. The unintended result? A candidate pool with little experiential diversity.

But it didn’t end there. After “qualified” candidates interviewed with the hiring teams, they were ranked by the group. If any members of the hiring team had a concern about a person, those concerns were noted. Strong objections by a couple of group members, as a practical matter, were enough to give a candidate the boot.

Predictably, the least objectionable candidate — who typically looked, acted, and thought like other members of the group — became the team’s preferred choice.

If we want change, we need to expect challenges

When we asked the hiring team how the hiring process supported a culture of innovation, team members told us that their hiring criteria included experience in helping organizations change.

Pushing back, we asked the team to consider which types of people would contribute different and creative ideas. What employee characteristics would help the organization change? For instance, had they valued people who were:

  • Diverse in race, ethnicity, and background?
  • Rarely satisfied with the status quo?
  • Impatient and not always willing to take “no” for an answer without significant debate?
  • Disruptive, at times disagreeable, and willing to question authority?
  • Not easily managed?
  • At times, slow and hesitant to make decisions based on what was done last year? (Creativity takes time.)
  • Unwilling to go along just to get along?

 Their response neatly framed their hiring challenges:

“Why would we hire someone who is hard to manage, never satisfied, and always questioning what we do? We’re pretty good here, you know. If we hired people who we knew would consistently challenge what we learned yesterday, we’d never get anything done.”

We say we want change, but do we?

Yes, we say we want to change. We say we want creativity. We say we need diversity, but do we honestly believe it?

The truth is, even if we’re committed to recruiting more diverse teams, we’re often painfully unaware of how our hiring processes give preference to people who are more like us. As a result, we often allow the long-term effects of our biases, knowingly or unknowingly, to be hidden in our collective consciousness, in our culture. Over time, groups that cling to such processes tend to become more homogeneous, not less.

Even when we manage to hire authentically diverse teams — composed of different backgrounds, races, genders, ages, perspectives, and beliefs — we expect everyone to come together in a fabled “kumbaya” moment.

True diversity begins with intention

Recruiting a more diverse and successful team begins with intention. The kind of intention that’s required is more than a desire or wish. It’s a conscious, mindful choice based on a belief that diversity is critical to the team’s success. It requires that we create processes that are built for diversity. Our preference for people who look and think and act like us is strong and can only be overcome with a structured commitment to embrace people who often make us uncomfortable.

So, where should we start? Here are a few ideas:

  1. Start early. It’s easier to become diverse before biases have become ingrained in our hiring practices.
  2. Be clear on the type of people you hope to hire. Do they share your values? Are they competent? Good thinkers? Willing to change? Ready to speak truth to power? Confident? Good leaders? Having clarity is a necessary first step to building a successful hiring process.
  3. Recruit blindly. Superficial aspects of a person’s bio often outweigh an applicant’s talent or potential. The fix? Implement a blind submissions process — stripping away names, ages, and gender. Create a process in which people cannot “see” the applicants when initially judging their competence.
  4. Put more diversity, of all types, on your hiring team. The research on this is clear: a diverse hiring team will recruit more diverse members.
  5. Expand your personal and professional networks. Our personal preferences are affected by our experiences. For example, research shows that fathers with daughters are more likely to hire women. Having more experience with an unrepresented group makes their inclusion more likely.
  6. Confront bias when you see it. When we tolerate bias, we teach that it’s acceptable.

Learning to appreciate our differences — and to embrace diversity — is what ultimately fuels an organization’s competitive advantage. Only when people challenge us to think and act differently can we create the remarkable. So, let’s get to it.

Photo: Bethany Legg

Why You Should Recruit Introverts — and How

In this extrovert-biased world of ours, the squeaky wheel gets the grease. Many job candidates aren’t making it past the hiring process to get the jobs they’re qualified for. The reality is that if introverts don’t interview in a bubbly, enthusiastic manner, they likely won’t make it to the next round. And if they don’t share their accomplishments with confidence and bravado, they’re likely to be overlooked for positions in which they would thrive. 

The costs to our organizations of this lost talent are staggering to consider. 

Yet, emerging evidence shows that the tide is turning. In a 2019 Workplace Survey of some 240 introverts, a promising 38% of respondents said their organizations demonstrated a willingness to hire and promote introverts. And as general awareness of introversion increases, it may become less of an exclusionary factor. 

Hiring a diverse workforce is just the first step. Companies must also do the work to create places where people of all temperaments feel included and experience a sense of belonging. When introverts can see many different pathways to success and opportunities to thrive, it’s more likely that they’ll stay in an organization and do their best work. 

Consider How Introversion Impacts The Job

In the hiring process, weigh whether personality actually makes a difference for the position. 

Susan Schmitt, group vice president and head of human resources at Applied Materials, says, “The main thing that matters on temperament: Is there any element of this person’s temperament, nature or behavior that will impair them in this particular role or a future role?” 

In essence, how might their temperament work for or against them in that particular role? Susan gave the example of a new hire that appeared to have low energy during the interview process. “She was somewhat slow in her responses, thoughtful and reflective, which led some interviewers to think she may not be right for the role. But her skills, knowledge, experience and education were super strong, and her capacity for complexity and conceptual capability were outstanding.” The team hired her. 

“This hire became a success story, and she ended up becoming a vice president. Had she been dinged for her low-affect personality in that first interview, think of the lost contributions,” remarked Susan. 

To ensure that people with introverted personality types are included and embraced within your organization, make certain that introversion is a key dimension of diversity within your larger talent management strategy. This would establish that an introverted candidate who didn’t come across as the kind of person an interviewer would “like to have a beer with” wouldn’t get shot down for that reason. After all, not every position requires a candidate to be great at after-work socializing, right? Furthermore, if everyone inside an organization knows the introvert-inclusive criteria for hiring and promotion, then they can build a stronger introvert-friendly culture throughout. 

Through hiring greater numbers of introverts and embracing all personality types in our organizations, we may one day reach a critical mass of introverts who are recognized, respected and heard for their wise and understated input.

How Can You Attract Great Introvert Talent?

Here are some ways to ensure that you cast the widest net and seriously consider introverts in all hiring decisions. 

  1. Give them a sense of what it’s like. How do potential recruits view your company? Ryan Jenkins, Millennial and Gen Z expert, says that companies need to manage their YouTube channels and make sure they offer people the experience of seeing what it is like to work for your company. Introverts, who like to research and spend time in reflection, will be looking to social media channels to figure out if they have a connection to your brand. You may never even see those potential introverted hires if you have a sparse online presence. 
  1. Create an introvert-friendly interview process. Integrate these three strategies: first, prep the room. Avoid blazing lights and noisy areas. Consider chair placement; sitting too close together can be off-putting for introverts who value personal space. If it’s a group interview, seat the candidate at the middle of the table rather than at its head, so the candidate feels less scrutinized and can make eye contact with everyone. 

Next, schedule adequate time. If you schedule yourself too tightly between interviews, you may feel pressured and impatient if the person doesn’t respond quickly enough, especially if you are an extrovert. Introverted candidates are likely to pause before answering questions, and you want to provide them with the time they need to fully express themselves. 

And finally, attend to energy levels. One hiring manager said that she noticed her more introverted candidates were “not the same people at the end of the day. They deflated without a chance for breaks with back-to-back interviews.” To avoid overwhelming the candidate, only put people on the interviewing schedules who are essential to the process. Consider breaking a packed interview schedule into two days. 

  1. Check your bias at the door. If you’re more extroverted, beware of projecting your bias about introverts onto the candidate by wishing they showed more emotion or visible energy. If you’re an introvert, you’re more likely comfortable with a slower pace and pauses, and the possible self-effacing manner of an introverted interviewee. Check yourself for confirmation bias — that is, the tendency to seek answers that support your case and point of view while minimizing other important responses. Diversify your pool of candidates by being open to everyone. 
  1. Employ paraphrasing. Reflecting back what you heard gives candidates a chance to modify or validate what they said. It also offers a needed pause for introverts so they can process what’s being said in a reflective way. Both introverts and extroverts will appreciate the chance to clarify their thoughts and round out their responses.
  1. Use AI tools (with caution). Using artificial intelligence screening is receiving more attention as one solution to reducing the costs of hiring and to promote more diversity. AI can allow you to cast a wider net and includes those with introverted temperaments who might not be considered in the initial screening process. Digital interviews record verbal and nonverbal cues of candidates and analyze them against position criteria. But many experts suggest using a slower approach rather than a full-scale adoption of these tools at this stage, as they can bear unintentional biases. 

To capture introvert talent, think beyond hiring (and promoting) for personality. It starts with checking your own temperament bias and valuing introverts in your talent management process. 

 

Photo: Meagan Carsience

Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and the Bottom Line

The events of the last few months have brought increased attention to the value that diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) bring to the workplace and to society at large. Increasingly, organizations are engaging in discussions around flexible working, social justice, privilege, equity, and about what this all means for the future of work. 

For those who work in the DEI space, these conversations are not new. The strong connections between workforce diversity, inclusion, and engagement have been documented for years. When organizations build diverse cultures where everyone can succeed and thrive, business results also flourish. 

A recent report from The Conference Board outlines how building a stronger connection between inclusion and engagement initiatives can help human capital leaders improve the employee experience while increasing trust and feelings of belonging. As organizations rely more heavily on team-based models, these links become crucial to driving performance and sparking innovation. 

Yet many organizations still struggle to put DEI into practice. Effective DEI strategies and initiatives often require changes in norms, talent processes, and leadership styles, all of which may encounter resistance. Change is difficult. Hence, this period of turmoil constitutes both an ideal and a challenging time for human capital leaders to take action and strengthen DEI within their organizations.  

It’s the ideal time because DEI is top of mind among leaders. There is strong executive support to create positive change that drives resilience; in many cases business leaders are reaching out to their HR teams for the first time to ask for DEI solutions. It is also a challenging time because these important conversations are happening as leaders juggle multiple considerations around the COVID-19 health and economic crisis, and their business needs — and they often are doing so with fewer resources. 

What can human capital leaders do to advance DEI, build resilience, and drive positive organizational change? Building on insights from executives across industries and regions who participated in Conference Board research, we recommend the following four steps:

1. Create a common vision around what DEI means for your organization, and why it’s especially important now.

Enhance communication and encourage consistent messaging across the organization. Help leaders and colleagues understand how DEI can improve the work environment and increase resilience during times of change.

Practical tips from DEI leaders:

  • Create organization-wide definitions of DEI that align with the organization’s culture and values.
  • Identify measurable behaviors and clear expectations that help hold people accountable for those behaviors.

2. Encourage collaboration and broader participation in your DEI initiatives.

As recent events increase DEI’s visibility, they also amplify opportunities to engage employees and leaders more broadly across the organization. Now is the time to boost interest among those who typically do not participate in DEI, to create shared accountability, and to help ensure that the burden of driving change doesn’t fall solely on underrepresented groups.

Practical tips from DEI leaders:

  • Provide resources on how people can participate and take action both at work and within their broader communities.
  • Communicate and set clear expectations, which can go a long way toward people feeling supported during times of change. Encourage dialogue over conflict and make it OK to make mistakes; this will help build trust.

3. Invest in inclusive leadership skills development.

Inclusive cultures do not just happen by chance. They require intentionality and willingness to change how we work and interact with our colleagues, as well as identifying the inclusive leadership behaviors to help drive your people strategy. At times, this will require leaders to learn new skills and to “unlearn” how they manage their teams in order for them to fully integrate different perspectives. The good news: these new skills can improve both leadership effectiveness and business results.

Practical tips from DEI leaders: 

  • There are multiple models of inclusive leadership to help identify key behaviors. You don’t have to start from scratch, leverage existing models of inclusive leadership in the field.
  • Work with both formal and informal DEI champions across the organization to outline key inclusive behaviors that are meaningful to you. Some organizations may want to highlight how diversity and inclusion improve decision-making, whereas others may focus on the connection between DEI and innovation. The key is to make inclusion relevant to your business and work.

4. Enhance accountability. 

To drive effective change, holding people accountable for their role in creating a more inclusive culture is key. Accountability helps establish clear expectations about how everyone can participate, including specific behaviors (e.g., team or leadership behaviors) and, for people managers, metrics (e.g., diversity representation, engagement). Without clear accountabilities to help us keep the goals in mind, we’re all bound to go back to our “old ways” of working.

Practical tips from DEI leaders: 

  • Ask for input on your strategy from, and conduct regular follow-ups with, leaders about DEI accountabilities and progress. Having a voice helps increase ownership and buy-in.
  • Engage your human capital analytics team to identify patterns, trends, and examine the impact of your DEI efforts. Assess what is and isn’t working, such as by comparing promotion and attrition rates for employees who participate in a program or activity and those who do not.

This is the time for human capital and business leaders to drive positive organizational change, increase DEI, and create more effective ways of working across differences. Follow these guidelines to capitalize on this moment to improve workplace culture and business results.

Photo: Paul Bryan

#WorkTrends: The Bigot in Your Mental Boardroom

WorkTrends has been focusing on diversity and inclusion not as buzzwords, but as actions. Meghan invited Elena Joy Thurston to the podcast to share her story. Elena is the founder and speaker of the PRIDE and Joy Foundation and has developed compelling best practices for improving workplace inclusivity. The conversation hit on a fascinating reality: we all have a mental boardroom and usually, there’s a hidden bigot at the table. 

So what exactly is a mental boardroom? “The boardroom is really about realizing what stories we all work from in our heads — our suppositions or assumptions,” said Elena. Acknowledging that, noted Meghan, helps us understand that everyone has their own biases, and we may not even realize where they come from. It may be hard to do, but self-awareness and reflection are the first steps: it takes critical distance to be able to see the roots of our own judgment. 

“I do the work by watching my own reactions,” said Elena. We need to be comfortable enough to work through our own emotions, and find the bias at the source. The more that can happen at the workplace, the more people can start to understand each other. 

Meghan concurred that bringing this unconscious bias to the surface will spark real growth in the work culture. Just a gesture as simple as making space for gender pronouns on an RSVP can help the LGBTQ community feel valued, for instance. Added Elena, when someone can bring their whole self to work and not feel judged, it’s so much easier to get our work done. 

Listen to the full conversation and see our questions for the upcoming #WorkTrends Twitter Chat. And don’t forget to subscribe, so you don’t miss an episode.

Twitter Chat Questions

Q1: Why do work cultures struggle with inclusiveness? #WorkTrends
Q2: Why are some workplaces hard for LGTBQ employees? #WorkTrends
Q3: How can leaders boost inclusiveness in their organizations? #WorkTrends

Find Elana Joy Thurston on Linkedin and Twitter

How to Confront ‘Lizard Brain’ and Make Better Decisions at Work

Steve Haffner is a professional speaker — but he’s also a mentalist, adept at taking advantage of the tricks our subconscious mind can play on us to create wondrous, astounding illusions.

Beyond showing us things we can’t believe, Haffner spends a lot of time thinking about the subconscious mind. And while manipulating minds is a career we can all be jealous of, Haffner says he’s found that the mind has internal stumbling blocks that can have a disastrous effect on organizational culture.

To use his term, businesses have a “lizard brain” problem. And if organizations want to reach their full potential, they have to do everything they can to evolve beyond this issue.

What Is Lizard Brain?

Human beings are highly evolved mammals who have developed amazing technologies — nuclear fusion, the airplane, Netflix — so what exactly do the brains of scaly little creatures have to do with us? Really it’s just a figure of speech. Haffner describes “lizard brain” as “those primitive impulses and subconscious things that developed millions of years ago in our development that still affect us now in the modern world.”

While there’s something to be said for a survival instinct, the issue with “lizard brain” is that these survival instincts can have a ripple effect that goes beyond avoiding threats to cause us to make poor decisions. “When we have negativity and fear that are overwhelming us and coming into our decision making, that’s the lizard,” Haffner says.

How Lizard Brain Affects the Workplace

“Lizard brain” is an attitude that can bleed into organizational decisions, and organizations need to be aware of how their actions and policies can create negativity in their employees.

Poor policies, Haffner says, breed suspicion and mistrust. “The lizard is suspicious because it’s always assuming the negative,” he says. “Suspicion can invade … at the systematic level, as well as at an organizational level.”

Haffner cites a former employer as a textbook case for how “lizard brain” can create a negative environment. The employer required new system engineers to sign an agreement to compensate the company if they quit before three years of employment. Although the policy was designed to offset the considerable expense from training new employees, ultimately it created suspicion. “We felt like the company was suspicious of us, and that made us suspicious of them,” Haffner says.

“Lizard brain” also plays a large part in navigating our biases. Organizations have been incredibly cognizant about confronting biases based on race and gender. But even something like a college affiliation can create a bias, Haffner warns. Being aware of these biases is an important step toward evolving past lizard brain — but steps still have to be taken to counter them.

How to Confront the Lizard

The mind is a powerful thing. That’s why every organization has an imperative to conquer the invisible stumbling blocks that can lead to chaos.

As an individual, confronting your own lizard requires being able to take a step back to evaluate your decisions. Haffner recommends adopting a thoughtful, mindful attitude. Ask yourself if there’s a reason for the fear you feel, or if it’s driven by something a bit reptilian.

However, for organizations, it’s not possible to simply take a step back. They’re made up of numerous individuals, each with their unique “lizard brains.” To ensure your team members are on the same page, Haffner suggests creating an organizational values statement. This creates a baseline approach to evaluate new policies and be sure that decisions aren’t guided by cold-blooded instincts. “The dichotomy is you want your decisions to align with your values and your goals, but the lizard has something completely different in mind,” Haffner says.

Beyond combating lizard brain, values statements are a great tool for attracting candidates — and they give you a chance to stop the spread of “lizard brain.” “It gives candidates a chance to understand where you’re coming from as a company,” he says. “If their values don’t align with your values, you kind of know it’s a bad fit from the beginning.”

The Best Companies Are Just Starting To Tackle Gender Bias in Recruiting

To be honest, I don’t talk about being a woman in business very much. I’m in a field that is filled with vibrant, brilliant, highly successful women who tend to go at a very fast clip, with little time or inclination for reflection.

HR is filled with smart, powerful, resourceful women. But is it equitable, at the end of the day? The truth is we have a long way to go to truly make the world of work better for women.

The good news is that dynamic and effective organizations understand that equity benefits everyone, which is why more HR departments are taking steps to reduce bias in the ways they attract talent. Let’s take a look at how recruiting is adapting.

Start With Job Postings

Tons of work goes into writing job descriptions, and yet we turn off great talent by not considering how they might interpret specific language.

Gender-coded language is alive and well in job descriptions in all fields. We may be just trying to write standout, engaging descriptions, but in the process we inadvertently discourage women applicants. We still look for ninjas and rockstars (terms associated with males far more than females), and seek aggressive, dominant players (same).

But tech, while often a notorious offender, has also 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, as well as help bolster descriptions with truly engaging but equitable language. This is a strong case for letting the machines do the work. As humans, we can’t seem to get out of our own way.

Gender Decoder, for instance, is surprisingly effective in such simple ways that it’s astounding we don’t all use it as a required step in creating recruiting materials, job descriptions — really any content for candidates, applicants or new hires.

The software is not just simply anti-bias. It’s more of a bias detector that suggests better wording and terminology to decrease the perceptions of a reader that there is bias. In a sense we learn each time we use it. It turns us into cognitive thinkers. These tools are improving and only going to proliferate as awareness and demand increases.

Small Efforts Usually Don’t Work

There’s a new program, which shall go unnamed here, that advertises itself as an alternative to Textio, which should tell you how vital Textio has become. Curiously, this new program doesn’t mention bias at all — just that it can help companies attract more “qualified and female” applicants by replacing gendered language.

The thing is if we don’t say bias, we don’t focus on bias. Qualified and female? Am I the only one who thinks that’s a pretty awkward way to put it? You can’t fix bias if you don’t call it that.

When it comes to bias, we know that small efforts don’t solve the problem. Anti-bias training, gender sensitivity training, inclusion workshops — all those can be good but they’re proving to often be ineffective.

When we’re rushing to craft a snappy job description, we may not be sitting back and taking a minute (or five) to consider whether its biased language or not. Pressure and lack of time tends to make us use fallback approaches, and bias, unfortunately, is for many a fallback approach. We need to instead build anti-bias thinking into our everyday.

Going Beyond Recruiting

This bias-scrubbing effort needs to go beyond job postings. In fact, all recruiting touchpoints need to be closely examined for bias. It really has to change. But I think it’s also going to be more and more important to integrate that anti-bias technology into all work processes.

For example, there are already a few forward-thinking HR tools that are looking at how to make sure recognition and rewards are not biased — not just in terms of the analytics on frequency and who is getting what, but also the very way we’re offering them.

Additionally, the entire benefits process could use an anti-bias scrub. As millennials and Gen Z look for employers who offer family and paternity leave as well as same-sex benefits and family support, companies that sill think “Baby = Mom” are going to be left in the dust. We should really be conducting bias audits on every aspect of the company.

We need more tangible solutions in our arsenal so we can approach the same old problems — and some new problems — in more effective ways.

#WorkTrends: How to Rethink the Modern Workplace for Gender Equality

New research shows that diversity and inclusion are a top priority for leaders. So why does the needle seem to be moving backward when it comes to gender equality at work?

On this week’s episode of the #WorkTrends podcast we dive into some of the answers with Dorothy Dalton, who is working to shift the conversation about men, women, work and bias.

Based in Belgium, Dalton has been working in talent management and recruitment for many years. She runs her own executive search firm and has founded an organization to help professional women reach their potential. In our conversation she offered important insights into how we can start to transform the modern workplace to make it more equal and inclusive for everyone.

Listen to the full conversation or read the recap below. Subscribe so you never miss an episode.

Make It More Than an HR Issue

Dalton, an expert on gender-neutral and bias-conscious recruitment, says one of the challenges when it comes to diversity in the workplace is that people see it as an HR issue rather than an overall business issue.

“What we need for any cultural transformation to be effective are the three pillars: leadership commitment, systemic change and behavioral change,” she says. “What we’re doing is we’re cherry-picking a bit because no one really likes to change. All of us are quite locked into our old ways of doing things, so it really is part of an overall business transformation, not an HR problem to be solved with a few little training sessions — which is, quite honestly, the way people tend to go about it.”
Don’t Expect Progress to Just Happen
Dalton says that while every generation tends to think they are more understanding than the previous one when it comes to workplace diversity issues, the progress isn’t always so linear.

She says that when her own daughter, an older millennial, entered the workplace, she was horrified to discover that gender and diversity issues hadn’t progressed much. Dalton says we all have certain biases, and those shouldn’t be demonized, but they can’t be ignored either if we want to truly create more equitable workplaces.

“It’s really normal to have opinions and biases, but we have to set up procedures and processes, checks and balances, to make sure that we’re on track to make better business decisions,” she says.

She says research shows that most of us think we don’t have biases and that we behave correctly, but digging deeper reveals we have plenty of biases. “We’re still at a very primal level,” she says.

Take Steps for Change

Dalton offers a number of ways organizations can make an impact right now in their own companies, starting with how they recruit. “Women tend to look for promotional opportunities within their own organizations,” she says. “If they look outside then it tends to be in response to usually external circumstances — either a change in their personal lives or a takeover, a merger, or something’s not working.

“Organizations may have to have gender-neutral adverts. They have to have put the flex opportunities [and] remote working upfront because women are afraid to ask because they feel they’re discriminated because of it — and they are.”

Resources Mentioned in This Episode

Let’s continue the conversation. Join us on Twitter (#WorkTrends) for our weekly chat on Wednesdays at 1:30 p.m. Eastern, 10:30 a.m. Pacific, or anywhere in the world you are joining from to discuss this topic and more. On this week’s episode of #WorkTrends we talk to Dorothy Dalton about the work she’s doing to shift the conversation about men, women, work and bias.

#WorkTrends: Women Who Tech

This week on #WorkTrends we’re talking to Allyson Kapin, the founder of Women Who Tech. She shares how she’s bringing people together to celebrate the people and technologies addressing big problems in the world, and paving the way for a more diverse tech industry.

You can listen to the full episode below, or keep reading for this week’s topic. Share your thoughts with us using the hashtag #WorkTrends.

Understanding Our Own Biases Is Key

Kapin points to one really interesting area of HR tech: using technology to address and limit biases in hiring. Women Who Tech hosts an annual Women Startup Challenge, and one of the recent finalists created an app called Blendoor that removes all demographics from applications. “We think this has huge implications for HR,” Kapin says.”You don’t know what race they are, so that helps expand the recruitment process and remove some of the unconscious biases at the beginning. We’re seeing more apps like this developed in major corporations.”

“Companies are the most successful when they’re very intentional about building diverse and inclusive networks into their recruitment process,” she says.

There’s a Lot to Be Hopeful About

Kapin points to women who are using technology to solve problems in the world, at work and beyond. “They’re addressing energy security, food security. They’re not letting challenges stop them from pursuing their dreams and making an impact.”

This year’s Women Startup Challenge winner was 13-year-old Emma Yang. She developed an app, Timeless, inspired by her grandmother’s struggle with Alzheimer’s. The app uses facial recognition and machine learning to help people with the disease recognize their loved ones.

“One of the things we’re also very excited about is the traction within our personal network of investors in helping to get these women funded. In the past couple of years, since going through our Women Startup Challenges, our finalists have collectively raised over $20 million. We are so, so proud of that,” she says.

Culture Change Takes Time

But even with all of the exciting tech in the market and the growth of women-led startups, some of the latest numbers about diversity in tech are depressing. Last year, about 1.9% of venture funding went to women founders, and only 0.2% of total invested money went to women of color. When it comes to working in tech, the numbers aren’t much sunnier. Only 28% of software engineers are women, and that number has only gone up 3% over 15 years. So what keeps Kapin moving forward in her work to infuse diversity into the tech industry?

“Culture change takes a very long time. The first thing to recognize is you’re not going to see change happen overnight,” she says. “However, it is essential that we keep talking about these issues, and educating senior leadership and board members about the steps they can be taking to address some of these very serious issues within their companies.”

And diversity isn’t just a problem for women or people of color to tackle. “It’s about all of us being allies,” she says. “White people who are in a huge position of power need to be allies to people of color, uplift them and promote them, and do the work to make sure they’re getting equal pay. That they’re getting the same promotions. That they’re at the major meetings and presentations. That they’re getting board positions. It’s on all of us to do this work together, and that’s how we create culture change.”

Continue the conversation. Join us on Twitter for our weekly chat (#WorkTrends) on Wednesdays at 1:30 p.m. Eastern, 10:30 a.m. Pacific or anywhere in the world to discuss this topic and more.

Diversity and Inclusion Drive the Road to Remarkable

“Half the world is
Half the world was
Half the world thinks
While the other half does…”

–Neil Peart (writer and musician, “Half the World”)

The nightlight burned brighter. It didn’t make any sense at the time because it was the same nightlight we always used in the hallway for our girls, and it was never usually that bright.

As usual I tossed and turned earlier in the night, with the weight of my world raining down like meteors in the night sky, cratering my sleep with burning questions.

I woke at 3:45 am, 45 minutes before I really had to, the nightlight lighting up our white bedroom door. It seemed to pulse slowly like a sleeping heart rate, calming and warm. I knew it was really 4:45, because of daylight savings time – Spring forward and all. What a day to be heading East when time heads West, I thought.

When I deleted the alarm time I had set the night before, I noticed the text. I rubbed my eyes to ensure I read it correctly.

Kevin, it’s Kevin – call me.

I went downstairs and texted back: Who is this?

I’m you. In the future. Please call me. It’s important.

I set the phone down on my desk. Then, another text.

Please, call me at…

The number texted to me, from whoever it was on the other end, was my cell phone number.

What the hell?

I didn’t have to leave for the airport for another hour, so I called it. This is crazy; it’s just going to give me a busy signal.

But it didn’t. The ring sounded warped, slowing down, then speeding up. A somewhat familiar voice answered.

“Hello?” the man said, again slightly distorted. I also heard what sounded like the ocean, the ebb and flow of surf crashing on the beach.

“Hello,” I answered. “Who’s this?”

“Listen, Kevin, I don’t know how much time I have, but I have a gift for you.”

I didn’t answer.

“Really, it’s not a joke. You’re calling the future and I have great news.”

“Who is this?” I asked.

More ocean sounds, moving in and out of tinny monotone and digital clarity.

“I’m you. Trust me. I can’t give you many details, but know that your girls are happy and have grown into strong and empathic women who are leaders in their fields. In fact, there are more women from various cultural backgrounds in leadership roles worldwide than ever before. And men are more supportive peers and colleagues who shoot themselves in the feet much less often.”

“How did you know I worry about that for them?” I asked.

“Because I’m you,” came the answer. “Your world today is still very male dominated, but that will change. Trust me.”

“Right on,” I instinctively replied. “Wait, I can’t believe I’m listening to this, I’m hanging up now.” Time inched closer to my airport departure. I readied myself to disconnect the call.

“You and your wife did a remarkable job, Kevin. You’re…I mean…we’re the better halves of doing and making things whole,” the familiar voice on the other end added, as clear as if it were in my own head. “Be grateful for girl power.”

I found myself compelled to respond. “Nothing’s that easy. There’s still too much to do and we can’t do it alone.”

“You’re right, it wasn’t easy, but the world figured it out and we finally evolved socially and economically. A little here, a little there. Spring forward and all that, you know.”

I shook my head and closed my eyes. I must be dreaming.

“Oh, and also in the future there’s free Wi-Fi and power everywhere in the air, letting us work from anywhere at anytime, all from sustainable clean energy and pretty sweet wireless quantum physics technology.”

“That’s great. The future’s so bright we gotta wear shades, right?”

No response to my Timbuk 3 1980’s song forever lost in time, but it was time for me to head out. Or wake up.

“Are you still there?”

Nothing. He was no longer there, whoever he was, or wasn’t. Nothing left but ocean sounds. I left for the airport.

Of course this was all a self-fulfilling prophecy; a forward-thinking daydream fantasy of what I hope the world and the workplace become someday for my children, and how they might help transform it.

Something much more remarkable than today. Yes, it has been something that weighs on me, but the good news is that diversity and inclusion are hot topics today and rightly so. Hopefully this all becomes the road to remarkable.

Bersin by Deloitte research shows that 71% of companies “aspire to be fully inclusive.” However, when you look at what actually is practiced, only 11% truly demonstrate an inclusive culture, of embracing being yourself and really bring your “authentic self” to work every single day, wherever and whatever that work is.

And that means for men and women alike. Unfortunately gender equality for women has a ways to go, and implementing a diversity and inclusion strategy to improve the landscape is still in the early days. Having two girls has given my wife and I front row seats to this disparity show and how pervasive bias is, but change is in play, however painful and slow.

According to “What Is the Impact of Gender Diversity on Technology Business Performance?” report from the National Center for Women & Information Technology, a teams’ collective intelligence rose with the number of women in the group, possibly because of the women’s higher performance on tasks that required social sensitivity. Plus, Gallup research shows that women leaders tend to have significantly happier, more highly engaged teams.

PwC’s 2015 CEO Survey revealed that overall talent diversity and inclusiveness are not just the softer issues only given lip service, but instead are now considered crucial to being competitive. Of the CEOs whose companies have a formal diversity and inclusiveness strategy, 85% think it’s improved their bottom line. They also see such strategies as benefiting innovation, collaboration, customer satisfaction, emerging customer needs and the ability to benefit technology.

I’ll be at our PeopleFluent WISDOM 2015 customer conference this week and am proud of the fact that helping customers leverage diversity and inclusion programs is a top priority of ours. This and facilitating equal employment practices and compliance at every stage of the talent management lifecycle that create and sustain high-performing workforces.

Among many other powerful speakers and sessions, Dr. David Rock, the director of the NeuroLeadership Institute, will keynote our conference and speak about “Breaking Bias: Why Diversity and Inclusion Initiatives Are Good Business.” Companies everywhere are struggling to significantly move the needle on the diversity and inclusion challenge, and Dr. Rock’s research suggests how exploring the biology of bias will help us ultimately and authentically mitigate it at a whole new level.

Lastly, I did actually talk with the future recently on the TalentCulture #TChat Show, about 18 hours into the future to be exact (from one time zone to another across the Pacific). It was with Mandy Johnson, best-selling business author of Family Village Tribe and Winning the War For Talent, and an active speaker, advisor and executive educator. Mandy lives in Australia and discussed with us her “Six Steps To Building A Remarkable Workplace,” the first of which includes having CEO buy-in and HR champions prioritizing and supporting people-centric initiatives.

These initiatives, which include diversity and inclusion programs, not only drive our better halves when it comes to organizational change and positive business outcomes through intelligent and transparent HR practices, they also drive the road to remarkable for both genders and generations to come.

About the Author: Kevin W. Grossman co-founded and co-hosts the highly popular weekly TalentCulture #TChat Show with Meghan M. Biro. He’s also currently the Product Marketing Director for Total Talent Acquisition products at PeopleFluent.

Photo courtesy of Kevin W. Grossman

Age Bias At Work: Bad Business #TChat Recap

“Discrimination due to age is one of the great tragedies of modern life. The desire to work and be useful is what makes life worth living, and to be told your efforts are not needed because you are the wrong age is a crime.” Johnny Ball

Who wouldn’t agree with that statement, in theory? But in fact, age discrimination persists. Why? And what should talent-minded professionals do about it? These were the core issues we tackled at this week’s #TChat Twitter forum.

To help us take a collective look at the impact of age discrimination on today’s workforce, two of the HR community’s sharpest thought leaders joined our moderator, Cyndy Trivella:

Steve Levy, a prominent workforce sourcing expert and popular recruiting blogger.

Heather Bussing, an employment law attorney who is also a founding editorial advisory board member and contributor at HR Examiner.

Here are some top takeaways, followed by resource links and the #TChat highlights slideshow:

Ageism “Sniff Test”

TChatTwitter_logo_020813Age discrimination is often not as overt as other forms of bias. When interviewing for a position, older candidates may be told that they’re not the right “fit” for an organization, or they’re “overqualified” for a job. Younger job seekers may be told to pursue unpaid internships to “gain more experience.” Either scenario may be appropriate — but when a pattern emerges, it’s most likely a systemic problem. Similarly, if employees “of a certain age” are consistently left out of communication loops, meetings and business decisions, discrimination is a likely culprit.

Ageism can be a factor at any stage in our lives — and tension seems to be mounting at both ends of today’s workforce, as the economic slowdown continues and more employees are retiring later in life.

What’s The Source?

Discrimination based on age (or other arbitrary criteria) stems from our need to categorize the abundance of information that surrounds us each day. Classifying information helps us process the world more efficiently — but not always effectively.

Fear seems to be a common factor in age discrimination. We tend to feel more comfortable with things that are familiar, and we fear things that we don’t know or understand. An older worker may fear that a younger counterpart is more energetic, or offers more creative ideas. While a younger worker may fear that an older employee contributes more depth of knowledge in a particular area, or resists fresh ideas. These feelings may not be rational, but the fear can be very real. Yet, ironically, no one likes to be stereotyped.

Keeping Age Discrimination Out Of The Office

To move past age discrimination, we need to embrace diversity, in all of its forms. A culture of  inclusion starts with leaders who leave age at the door. Smart leaders know that a diverse workforce contributes to innovation, and adds to a company’s value in the marketplace. It creates a “virtuous cycle” effect that encourages more collaboration among teams and employees. On the other hand, a one-dimensional workforce can breed “group think” that weakens a company’s competitive position.

How Can Leaders Foster Workplace Diversity?

Start with the hiring process. Hire the best candidate for the job. Use performance based hiring to avoid age discrimination. Consciously strive for a fair, inclusive, transparent recruitment process.

Create a cross-mentoring program. This makes sense for employers in the face of today’s talent shortage. It encourages knowledge sharing and helps support succession planning. It can also boost employee engagement.

What Can Each Of Us Do?

Consider listening and inquiry your personal weapons in the war against age discrimination. Never stop learning — no matter what your age. Embrace technology and use it as a tool to network with others and learn from them. Look for opportunities to grow personally and professionally, and share ideas with others at social forums, like #TChat Twitter — where diverse thinking is always welcome!

For more inspiration, see resource links and #TChat event highlights in the Storify slideshow below. If this post inspires you, be sure to add a comment below or jump into the #TChat stream any time. In our world of work, everyone is welcome, at any age!

#TChat Week-In-Review: Age Discrimination Perception + Reality

SUN 10/6:

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Watch the #TChat Preview video now

#TChat Preview: TalentCulture Community Manager Tim McDonald set the stage for this week’s event in a preview post that featured a fun G+ hangout video with guest Steve Levy. Check it out: “Old Dogs + New Tricks: Will HR Learn?”

TUE 10/8:

Related Post: This week’s other special guest, Heather Bussing, offered a very human perspective on discrimination in a post at HR Examiner. Read: “Why Age Discrimination Should Matter to You.”

WED 10/9:

Related Post: TalentCulture CEO, Meghan M. Biro outlined 5 steps that business leaders should take in overcoming workplace age stereotypes. Read: “How To Break The Age Bias Habit.”

#TChat Twitter: This week, we by-passed #TChat Radio. Instead the entire community set the #TChat Twitter hashtag on fire, as our guests joined moderator Cyndy Trivella in a lively discussion about 6 key age discrimination issues. The hour flew by, as thousands of ideas and opinions hit the stream. For highlights, see the Storify slideshow below:

#TChat Highlights: Age Discrimination Perception + Reality

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GRATITUDE: Thanks again to Steve Levy and Heather Bussing for shining a light on workplace age discrimination. We welcome your enthusiasm and perspectives anytime!

NOTE TO BLOGGERS: Did this week’s events prompt you to write about age in the workplace? We’d love to hear your thoughts. Post a link on Twitter (include #TChat or @TalentCulture), or insert a comment below, and we’ll pass it along.

WHAT’S AHEAD: Next week we focus on next-generation workplace leadership with our special guest, YouTern CEO, Mark Babbitt! Watch for more details in the coming days.

Meanwhile, the World of Work conversation continues! So join us on the #TChat Twitter stream, on our LinkedIn discussion group. or elsewhere on social media. The lights are always on here at TalentCulture, and your thoughts are always welcome.

See you on the stream!

Image Credit: Tim Tyrell-Smith at flickr

How To Break The Age Bias Habit

Want to know a deep, dark secret? OK then. Just between us — there’s some truth in all those stereotypes that swirl around about Baby Boomers, Millennials and other generations. That’s actually why they became stereotypes in the first place.

But wait. There’s another truth that no one in the workplace can afford to ignore. Discrimination is a career killer. Age bias may be as old as the hills, but that doesn’t mean it’s acceptable or even legal to let it poison your company culture. And in today’s transparent world of work, that kind of behavior is bound to be exposed, sooner or later. So let’s step back and re-frame this issue.

Smart Leaders Know Age Is Not A Factor

Today’s global economy is highly competitive. Successful organizations need all the creative, useful ideas they can get. It doesn’t matter if the source is old, young or in between. As French playwright Moliere said, “I take my good where I find it.”

Yet the labels persist. You’ve heard it before: Gen Yers are lazy, entitled, and preoccupied with digital connections. Gen Xers are cynical, alouf, and make lousy team players. Baby Boomers are stodgy, inflexible, and can’t relate to younger people. Can you find individuals who perfectly fit these descriptions? Sure you can. But can you find many other people who smash these cliches to pieces? I certainly hope so! I’m one of them.

Removing Age From The Workforce Equation

If you’re serious about your success — as well as your organization’s success — you’ll reach to the best and brightest no matter how old or young they are. But how can you avoid the trap of generational stereotypes? Here are 5 steps to consider:

1) Be aware and be vigilant. Take a quick personal inventory. Do you see some signals that shouldn’t be there? You’re not alone. All of us let age stereotypes creep into our thought patterns and behavior. It happens more than most of us want to admit. Come on. Own up. Face it by formalizing it. List the age-related assumptions you make about people. Become mindful. You can’t stop stereotyping until you’re willing to recognize how you do it.

2) Disprove the stereotype. Now that you have your list, find people who make a mockery of it. The Gen Xer who has worked 80 hours a week at the same company since college; the Gen Yer who created a cohesive, winning team; the Boomer who invented a wildly exciting new technology product.

3) Retrain your brain. Now that you know who and how you stereotype, and you know how false and limiting your “reality” is, train yourself to stop believing the lie. Be prepared to practice. Making snap judgments about people based on obvious attributes is deeply ingrained in us all. Unlearning this behavior takes time, but every step is a move in the right direction. When you meet someone, pay attention to your internal response — both intellectual and emotional. If you stereotype them, consciously tell yourself to look past it, and instead look at other characteristics that are more relevant.

4) Be open to “see” the person “in 3D.” There’s a word for someone who doesn’t measure individuals by their unique strengths and talents. That word is “fool.” You’re working to build a successful career, project, or enterprise. Why in the world would you limit yourself by refusing help from willing and able contributors? Embrace the talent that is available to you. Judge people by their past performance and potential to add value in the future. Age is irrelevant in that context. You need everyone to deliver their best effort. Stay open to possibilities and reach out.

5 ) Make it a habit. The goal is to build a network that transcends stereotyping. Make a conscious effort, at least once a week, to spend time with someone whom you would have stereotyped in the past. If you’re a Gen Yer, take a Boomer out to lunch. Listen to their story and soak up lessons from their experience. If you’re a Boomer, seek out a Gen Yer to mentor. Ask what’s on their mind and how you can help. Then listen closely to how they respond. No matter what age you are, be willing to discuss personal limitations and ask for input and feedback. Too often we assume it’s a sign of weakness if we admit our concerns and shortcomings. But actually it’s a strength. As Moliere suggested, take your good where you find it. I’m not sure how old he was when he penned that advice, but honestly, it doesn’t matter!

Bottom line: In the workplace and in every other aspect of life, stereotyping is self-destructive. It denies our basic humanity, and the ability we all have to transcend superficial categorization. Smash stereotypes, celebrate individuality, and you will learn, grow, and build stronger relationships. You’ll also be a business leader that others will want to follow.

(Editor’s Note: Join the TalentCulture community tonight, Oct 9 from 7-8pm ET, at #TChat Twitter,  where we’re discussing age-based discrimination in the workplace. Everyone is welcome! Learn more in the preview post…)

(Editor’s Note: Meghan M. Biro is an active contributor to Forbes.com. This article is adapted from her Forbes blog, with permission.)

Image Credit: Pixabay

Best-of-All-Ages Workplace #TChat Recap

Meeting of the Minds — Leaving Age at the Door

It can be done. Really. I’ve experienced it first-hand. I imagine you have, too. Many different people of all generations, gender, race, shapes and sizes can come together to create a unique, powerful and separate “whole.”

Think of industry conferences. Birds of a feather — flying in from near and far — converging in tiny groups — gathering around tables in a gigantic ballroom. We arrive brimming with energy and ideas to share. We offer attention and interest to others. We flock together — eager to exchange, to learn, to expand our perspective, to imagine possibilities.

Together We ARE Better

We’re united by our passion for world-of-work topics. Topics that touch us all, everyday — in the main office, the home office and the office-like locales in between. This is the beauty of social learning environments. But, of course, like all things social, this is not a homogeneous pack, and our behavior reflects that reality.

Some cluster with peers from their current work groups. Others gravitate to colleagues from long ago in their careers — reconnecting and catching up. Still others seem slightly disconnected, as they focus intently on real-time smart phone connections. On occasion, we hear a witty quip that hints at generational differences, like, “What if I’m really not Pinterested in that social site?”

Some managers and subordinates sit side-by-side, joking with one another about why they’re so afraid to tweet on behalf of their company, even after receiving formal permission. And there are thought leaders and panelists of all generations, discussing the value of trading isolated metrics for integrated analysis that can elevate business by driving growth, engagement and the bottom line.

No, we don’t all work together in the same mother ship. But then again, we kinda do. After all, with all of its many variations, there really is only one world of work.

A Collaborative Conference Snapshot

SourcingRecruiting_Summit2013_Logo-700pixelsThis model came to life for me this week at the Recruiting Trends Social Sourcing and Recruitment Summit in Washington, DC. An eclectic room, for sure, although many participants work for government agencies, or government contractors — not the first thing that springs to mind when we think of organizations at the forefront of open, transparent, social business models. However, Meghan M. Biro and I moderated a discussion with some very smart folk about social business and social HR trends and issues. And the end of the day, we all agreed that a sound social recruiting strategy comes from understanding how different social sites complement one another, not how they compete.

In many ways, it echoes what we learned from this week’s #TChat conversations about age bias in the workplace. Organizations are comprised of many people who span multiple generations. Through workplace collaboration, we can dispel harmful stereotypes, while simultaneously gaining business value by leveraging the complementary strengths of team members.

#TChat Week-in-Review: Guests

It truly takes a “village” to run a professional community — and this week proved the point, as we took on “The No Labels Workforce.” Experts from across all generations helped us examine myths and truths that perpetuate workplace stereotypes, and helped us consider how to move beyond those perceptions.

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Watch videos with Ashley Lauren Perez & John Wilson

The common thread throughout this week was Ashley Lauren Perez, a WilsonHCG Sourcing Specialist, who is also a valued #TChat Ambassador and a highly regarded HR blogger in her own right. Thank you Ashley, for your contributions to the TalentCulture community – not just this week, but on an ongoing basis! And thanks to everyone else who participated!

#TChat Week-in-Review: Resources

SAT 4/6  Google+ Hangout “sneak peek” videos:  Our community manager Tim McDonald, briefly framed the week’s issues with two human resources management experts from WilsonHCG John Wilson, Founder and CEO, and Ashley Lauren Perez.

SUN 4/7  Forbes.com column: TalentCulture CEO, Meghan M. Biro, tackled generational bias head-on in her poast, 5 Ways to Smash Generational Stereotypes.

MON 4/8  We outlined the week’s theme and key questions in the #TChat Preview: Age at Work: Just a Number?

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Listen to the #TChat Radio show recording now

TUE 4/9  #TChat Radio: Host Meghan Biro examined workplace age bias with three talent management experts — WilsonHCG Recruiting Director Cynthia Cancio and Sourcing Specialist Ashley Lauren Perez; along with Recruiting Trends’ Sr. Director, Anna Brekka,

Ashley also contributed a thoughtful blog post about this topic: Age at Work: Moving Beyond Birthdays

WED 4/10  #TChat Twitter The whole community came together on the Twitter stream to talk about age in the workplace — similarities and differences, strengths and weaknesses, myths and realities. As you can imagine, there was no shortage of personal opinions, professional perspectives and ideas for how we can let go of stereotypes and leverage talent, across generations. In

#TChat Twitter Highlights Slideshow: “Age at Work: Just a Number?”

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Closing Notes & What’s Ahead

SPECIAL THANKS: Again, thanks to Ashley Lauren Perez, John WilsonAnna Brekka, and Cynthia Cancio for contributing your time and expertise to help us dig deeper into generational biases in the workplace. Your insights and expertise brought depth and dimension to the discussion.

NOTE TO BLOGGERS: Did this week’s events prompt you to write about “humans as a service” or related issues? We’re happy to share your thoughts. Just post a link on Twitter (include #TChat or @TalentCulture), or insert a comment below, and we’ll pass it along.

WHAT’S AHEAD: Next week, we’ll take a look at the trends and technologies that are defining today’s world of work, with our special guest, Elliot Clark, CEO & Chairman of SharedXpertise, the publishers of HRO Today.

Until then, we’ll continue the World of Work conversation each day. So join us on the #TChat Twitter stream, or on our new LinkedIn discussion group. And feel free to explore other areas of our redesigned blog/community website. The lights are always on at TalentCulture, and your ideas and opinions are always welcome.

We’ll see you on the stream!

Image credit: Pixabay

Age at Work: Moving Beyond Birthdays

“How old are you?”

What do you feel, think, and say when you hear that question in the workplace? Do you suddenly get tense, wondering how others will perceive your answer? You’re not alone.

No matter when you were born or what kind of upbringing you’ve had, you’ve likely dealt with some sort of label. And regardless of the situation, we can all agree that no one likes to be unfairly stereotyped. Despite attempts by organizational leaders and HR to reduce discrimination and adversity, it still lingers in some forms. Not surprisingly, age-related stereotyping is on the rise, now that more organizations have a multigenerational workforce.

Generational Generalizations

As recent studies illustrate, every generation is affected by damaging biases. For example, do profiles like this sound familiar?

  • Baby Boomers = materialistic, technologically illiterate micro-managers
  • Generation Xers = cynical, disloyal and skeptical of authority
  • Generation Y “Millennials” = lazy, entitled and self-serving

Although these generalizations may have emerged for a reason, why should we assume that they are widely applicable or even relevant? Perhaps some high-profile individuals have displayed these characteristics, but their actions shouldn’t be the basis for defining a whole generation.

The Price of Stereotypes

More often than not, typecasting like this comes from lack of awareness, communication or understanding. It’s important to identify this issue quickly and bridge the gap, before it destroys our talent pools. Otherwise, organizations are at risk of missing out on the strongest talent — internally or externally.

What Can Individuals Do?

As I continue to progress in my career and become more involved in networking opportunities, I make it a point to avoid conversation about my age. Quite frankly, it’s not important. And, as a Millennial, the last thing I want others to do is marginalize my capabilities upfront. I don’t want them to presume I am a lazy or cynical person — I want them to evaluate me for my skills, abilities, goals and accomplishments. Isn’t that how it should be?

The workplace is rapidly developing into a collaborative environment, where everyone is expected to step up and contribute toward common goals. To do this effectively, employees must avoid animosity toward one another that starts with preconceived notions about age. We need to let go of misplaced biases and instead focus on the thing that matters — an individual’s capacity to contribute something valuable to the team and to the organization.

I look forward to engaging the TalentCulture community in a dialogue about this topic — not just at this week’s #TChat Twitter forum, but beyond. It’s important to every one of us. So, I ask you to consider one simple question:

How are you creating a “no labels” workplace?

(Editor’s Note: Want to hear more from Ashley? She was a featured guest last night on #TChat Radio “The No Labels Workforce.” Listen on-demand, anytime. She also moderated #TChat Twitter this week. To read the full recap of this week’s events, see “The Best-of-All-Ages Workplace #TChat Recap”)

Image Credit: Pixabay

Age at Work: Just a Number? #TChat Preview

(Editorial Note: Want to read the RECAP of this week’s events? See The Best-of-All-Ages Workplace #TChat Recap)

What’s the truth about the interplay of generations in today’s workplace? Are we moving forward, or do “generation gaps” still hold us to the past?

Is this topic old news? I feel like it might be. Not sure if it’s just me. Perhaps I’m just wishfully thinking we should have moved on by now. But it’s important. And it deserves another look.

Age Stereotypes: A Reality Check

So, just between us, let me ask: Do you still catch yourself making snap judgments about people based solely on their age? Boomers, Gen Y, Gen X…whatever.  We fret over how to recruit Millennials. We wonder how to manage them versus others. Does all this conscious attention to generational differences help or hinder progress?

Age-based stereotyping is deeply ingrained in our history, our culture and our collective social psyche. Now, in the 21st century world of work, it holds back individual advancement, business performance and innovation. But how do we move past reactions that seem almost second-nature? That’s the topic we’re tackling this week, in the TalentCulture community.

Getting Over Generational Bias: Growing Pains

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Watch the #TChat “Sneak Peek” videos now…

To begin the conversation, I suggested ways to smash age-based stereotypes in my Forbes.com column yesterday.

Rethinking stereotypes requires some deep internal soul searching. Gaining self awareness is the first step — and it’s not necessarily easy.

Facing your biases is an emotional exercise, as well as an intellectual one. But the process can be highly rewarding for professionals and the companies they serve. Fortunately, now there’s strength in numbers, as our #TChat forums take on generational stereotypes as a collaborative effort.

#TChat Weekly Topic: The “No Labels” Workforce

Leading us through this week’s conversation are two human resources management experts from WilsonHCG John Wilson, Founder and CEO, and Ashley Lauren Perez, Sourcing Specialist. Both John and Ashley helped us set the stage for this week’s topic in brief Google+ Hangout “sneak peek” videos. Check them out now!

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Tune into #TChat Radio live on Tuesday or on-demand after

I hope you’ll plan to join us at #TChat events this week, where we’ll take a closer look at labels in the workplace, and how to build cultures that value diversity in all of its forms:

As always, throughout the week, we’ll keep the discussion going on the #TChat Twitter stream and on our new LinkedIn Discussion Group. So please join us and share your thoughts, concerns, opinions and ideas.

#TChat Weekly Questions

Why not start now? Take a moment to consider this week’s discussion guide and tell us what you think. Your comments are welcome, early and often:

Q1:  In the world of work, how are the generations the same? Why?
Q2:  With Millennials, we have myriad misconceptions. But for all generations, what are the most pervasive?
Q3:  What is the role of leaders in helping to smash stereotypes about generations in the workforce?
Q4:  Does tech facilitate cross-generational interaction? Why/not? How can we forge more connections?
Q5:  Innovation and free-thinking go hand-in-hand. But does innovation ever encourage age stereotyping? Why?

We’ll see you on the stream!

Image Credit: Flickr – Mark Turnauckas