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The Critical Intersection Between DEI and Mental Health

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

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

The State of Mental Health

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

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

Create Paths to Help

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

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

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

Foster DEI to Support Mental Well-Being

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

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

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

First, Find Your People

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

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

The Connection Between Mental Health and DEI

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

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

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

Tech Innovation Can Help Close the Gap

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

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

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

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

Opportunity is Knocking

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

How to Attract Female Candidates for Leadership Roles

Women hold more than half of American jobs. Yet, they make up just 27 percent of executive and senior-level management in S&P 500 companies. Meanwhile, a mere 8.1 percent of Fortune 500 companies have female chief executives. This widespread lack of female leadership indicates a major gender gap in corporate America.

However, if employers were to invest in their female employees and intentionally attract female candidates for leadership roles, they could close this gap and benefit their bottom line in the process.

Generally, women foster a highly productive work environment, improve brand reputation, promote diversity and inclusion, and increase profitability in the long term. Thus, if you want a competitive edge and better returns, you must get women interested in open leadership positions. Here are a few ways human resource professionals and talent acquisitions can do just that.

Offer Professional Development Plans

Women are just as likely as men to have an interest in promotions and leadership opportunities. However, few ever express their interest because they feel like they must achieve perfection before applying for management positions. Companies should stress the importance of ongoing learning to discourage these beliefs.

By offering professional development plans and advertising them to potential candidates, you can attract women looking to grow into leadership positions. Moreover, you can encourage current employees to engage in these programs so you can recruit from within and retain top female talent.

Design a Mentorship Program

Women have lost a total of 5.4 million jobs since the start of the pandemic—one million more job losses than men. Now, many of these women are struggling to re-enter the workforce. To do so, they’ll need guidance and constructive feedback, and mentors offer precisely that.

In addition to reintegrating women into the workforce, a robust mentorship program can also increase pay grades. One in four employees who participates in a mentorship program receives a salary-grade change compared to only five percent of workers who don’t participate.

Thus, designing a comprehensive program may be key to attracting women leaders and turning them into mentors, too, so they can grow their leadership skills even more.

Recruit From Within

If you managed to retain your female workforce through the pandemic, consider recruiting from within. Odds are good you already have a few viable candidates, especially if they’re engaging in professional development and mentorship programs. Since they’re already familiar with the company, promoting these women will ensure an easy transition to new leadership. They’ll also require less training, which can certainly benefit your bottom line, as they can fulfill their responsibilities much sooner than an outside hire.

Provide Women-Centered Health Care

Despite an ever-narrowing pay gap, women still earn less and receive less health coverage than their male counterparts. Cost-sharing also remains higher for employees in predominately female companies, particularly for family coverage. Since women often assume caretaking roles and have little time to prioritize their own health, companies could stand to offer more affordable coverage.

Offering women-centered health care is another excellent way to exceed expectations and attract more female candidates than your competitors. Provide maternity coverage and pre- and post-natal services and know how to advertise these benefits in job postings. Even if the leadership position pays less than they’d like, many women would be hard-pressed to pass up an opportunity to get free or discounted coverage.

Cover Child Care Expenses

Due to a shocking lack of affordable child care options, many mothers must choose between having a career and raising kids. Others have had no choice but to reduce their work hours to take care of their kids. Of course, this work-life “balance” doesn’t leave much time for career growth or leadership development.

Thus, if companies want to attract more female candidates for leadership positions, they should offer free or reduced-cost child care. Currently, just three in 10 employers offer access to such services, so there’s certainly room for improvement.

Support Flexible Schedules

Nearly half of women have become much less or somewhat less likely to reenter the physical workplace compared to September of 2020. Ultimately, their decision to stay home comes down to a lack of flexibility. As more companies return to in-person work arrangements, women and mothers, in particular, continue to look for employers that offer remote and hybrid positions.

You can meet—and exceed—their expectations by embracing flexible schedules and promising remote or semi-remote positions to those in leadership. Strong paid and unpaid leave plans may also convince busy moms and women caretakers to apply for management roles. Communicate these benefits in job listings and interviews to attract top talent and effectively grow your candidate pool.

Advertise Strategically

Positioning your job listings and advertisements for maximum exposure is key to attracting potential candidates, so where should you post them? Put your company in front of the right eyes by placing them anywhere high-achieving women are looking for jobs.

For instance, many employers like to advertise in colleges for women, especially those with graduate programs. Virtual job boards like The Mom Project and PowerToFly are excellent options as well because they cater to a wide array of women, many of whom could fill open C-suite positions at your company. Tap into local resources like women-led nonprofits and women-centered organizations. There, you’ll find passionate and determined leaders that’ll make great additions to your management team.

Give Back to the Community

Gender aside, employees enjoying working for companies that share their core values. However, partnering with brands that give back to the community is especially important to women. That’s because 10 percent more women than men give money to charities. Plus, females tend to make more contributions as their income rises.

Thus, employers can attract female candidates and revitalize their community by creating a charitable company culture. Create initiatives that support locals and give employees a sense of meaning. Make your efforts public so that more female candidates see your company reflecting their values and giving back.

Letting Women Take the Lead

Keeping women in the workforce is imperative because it creates a more inclusive workplace and a stronger economy for everyone. However, companies that wish to create an effective acquisition campaign must let women take the lead. They know better than anyone what females want and need in a job. So, it’s only natural that they provide advice, feedback, and guidance throughout the hiring and onboarding process.

Look within your existing team to identify women who value diversity and inclusion. Let them take the lead to recruit new candidates, design a mentorship program, and gather professional development resources. By the time you’ve added a few more faces to your team, every woman will feel more empowered, knowledgeable, and influential, which will only yield more female leaders in the future.

Using Modern Technology to Create Better Workplaces [Podcast: Part 2]

Organizations are heeding the call to transform their work culture in the new remote-first world. They are taking immediate action to better serve employees, and finding ways to maintain a sense of community while working hybrid or remote. To no surprise, embracing modern technology solutions is often the first big step to staying connected.

With that being said, when it comes to maintaining a healthy workplace balance, there is still a disconnect between managers and employees. According to McKinsey, more than three quarters of C-suite executives expect employees to return to the office for the majority of their work week. Yet, most employees prefer to work from home for the majority of their work week. Embracing new technology can offer an alternative, hybrid work balance that suits both employers and employees alike. 

Maribel Lopez and Christian Reilly on Workplace Technology Innovation

On the latest episode of the #WorkTrends podcast, we welcome returning guests, Citrix’s Christian Reilly and Maribel Lopez to discuss modern technology in the workplace.

When asked how organizations could best adopt digital transformation to keep up with the changes in work culture, Christian highlights that the succession of digital transformation in the workplace is dependent on a company’s lifespan and modernity:

“When you’re thinking about hybrid or full-time remote work, it becomes extremely cumbersome to pretend that the technology platform you use inside an office is the same as what you would use outside an office.” 

Making the move to cloud services and software as a service (SaaS), and digital workplaces are all strategies to ramp up IT modernization. Christian shares a new discovery of Citrix research, “The Era of Hyper Innovation,” and discusses the knock-on effects modern technology can have on employees.

“93% believe that increased digital collaboration has led to more diverse voices from across the organization being heard and a greater range of ideas for innovation actually being surfaced.”

Accessible and Individualized Technology will Empower Employees

In this new era of work, many organizations have quickly embraced change. Others are a bit slower to act. According to Christian and Maribel: If your organization isn’t agile, your competitors will eat your lunch. Fortunately, Maribel believes that technology can provide a powerful opportunity to level the playing field among organizations of all sizes.

“Every organization on the planet has access to amazing technology at a fairly affordable price,” says Maribel. “If you’re willing to adopt technology, then it becomes more about your product, your servicing, and your ability to understand customer needs.”

We’re also seeing greater democratization via technology. Maribel says today’s employees enter the workplace with fewer constraints. At one point in time, employees relied on their expert colleagues to help them do their job (such as typing pools – for those old enough to remember them). Now, technology empowers employees to do this themselves.

“Now every individual is empowered to take control of how they work and they have the tools to do so,” Maribel comments. “We have a tremendous opportunity ahead of us to use technology for good.”

I hope you enjoyed this 2-part discussion on #WorkTrends, sponsored by Citrix. To learn more about using modern technology in the workplace, contact  Maribel Lopez and Christian Reilly on LinkedIn.

And, in case you missed it, check out Part One of this podcast here.

Using Modern Technology to Create Better Workplaces [Podcast]

The workplace is becoming more diverse as organizations offer remote and hybrid work options and build a global workforce. With these big changes comes a call for a change in work culture. Employers need to ask themselves how they can create an inclusive, productive, and social atmosphere without the convenience of an in-office environment. The answer to this conundrum? Embracing modern technology.

By staying agile and open to the technological tools available, organizations can not only increase communication and collaboration across teams but promote a healthy and inclusive workplace for everyone, no matter where they are in the world.

Our Guests: Maribel Lopez and Christian Reilly, Workplace Technology Innovation Experts

On the latest #WorkTrends podcast, I spoke with workplace technology innovation experts Maribel Lopez and Christian Reilly. Maribel founded Lopez Research, a market research and strategy consulting firm that researches artificial intelligence, mobile, and hybrid work transformation. Maribel is also the author of John Wiley & Sons book Right-Time Experiences, a contributor to Forbes, and host of the podcast Reimagine Hybrid Work. Christian Reilly serves as VP of technology strategy at Citrix. He leads the organization’s long-term strategic technology decisions across the business and ecosystem. He is also a global keynote speaker and is widely recognized as a technology industry thought leader.

On the podcast, I asked them to share advice on how to help hybrid and remote employees feel more connected at work. The trick to achieving this, Maribel says, is using modern technology to remove communication boundaries.

“On a technology level, people need to be able to seamlessly communicate,” Maribel says. “They have to be able to connect with everybody in the organization and figure out who those people are. Basically, boundary-less communication and collaboration are key.”

Also, Maribel adds, organizations need to understand that if there’s an issue with communication, it may not be an employee’s fault. This is especially true if the tools are counter-intuitive. If organizations want to get employees excited to adopt modern technology, they need to make the tech user-friendly.

“When organizations make workplace tools more intuitive and easy to use, employees see value in them,” Maribel says. “If tech makes their jobs easier, they’re much more willing to embrace it. The biggest mistake organizations make is to hang on to legacy tools that aren’t modern.”

Getting Creative with Modern Technology Adoption

When it comes to employee adoption of technology, it’s different strokes for different folks. Some organizations are going to thrive with simple modern technology adoption, while others may thrive with something more complex.

“If we make modern technology simpler to use, then, of course, we’re going to see adoption rates increase. However, that’s not always the case,” Christian says. “For example, one organization used gamification, where employees tried to win badges for using the tech. I think there’s a fun element to that.”

When designing these systems, creativity in thinking around DEI should be a priority. Organizations must keep in mind the cultural sensitivities of employees from different backgrounds and locations, especially as the workforce becomes global thanks to remote work. Organizations can really shine here by thinking outside the box with how they show employees they care and want them included. Technology can help organizations adjust to individual working styles by offering translation transcription services, recorded meetings, and more.

“Not everybody is a native English speaker. When we think about different teams in different parts of an organization, giving them the opportunity to watch video recordings rather than be present at a live meeting allows them to work at their own speed,” Christian says. “This technology is simple to implement, but very impactful because organizations are recognizing cultural differences and that people thrive at work differently.”

I hope you enjoy this episode of #WorkTrends, sponsored by Citrix. You can learn more about using modern technology to create better workplaces by reaching out to Maribel Lopez and Christian Reilly on LinkedIn. Also, this podcast is part one of a two-part series, with the next episode coming December 3rd, 2021. So stay tuned!

 

5 Unconventional Strategies to Use When Hiring for Diversity

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3. Institute an alignment meeting for every new role.

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

4. Send interview questions to job seekers in advance.

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

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

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

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

Using Ethical AI Technology to Champion DE&I Efforts

Anyone can launch a DEI initiative. The big challenge is to succeed.

What’s the biggest roadblock? Human unconscious biases.

Psychologists have shown over and over in research studies that our biases are ingrained and automatic. Even if we think we’re champions of equality, the associations are likely still there. For example, studies show that it’s not just men that associate being male with being smart. Women do it too.

Why do we have unconscious biases? And why is it so hard to shake them?

Biases are shortcuts. They are quick ways to make choices. That doesn’t make them good ways to make choices. They just help us navigate our world quickly in a way that feels good. These biases become particularly prominent in situations where we have to make a high volume of decisions quickly. There is simply no time to be thoughtful in these cases.

In the world of HR, the steady stream of resumes and constant pressure to hire is the perfect setup for unconscious biases to have free reign. Recruiters hire candidates that feel like the “right fit” and base these choices on biases. There is really no other way for the human brain to process that volume of information in a more effective or objective manner.

So how do we move towards hiring equity and remove these biases? Embrace AI technology.

Using AI technology in HR can be off-putting for two reasons:

  1. Some feel concerned about the “ick factor” of having not enough humanity in the HR process. In other words, who are machines to tell us how to hire?
  2. Others feel concerned about having the worst of humanity hard-wired into the HR process. They wonder: What if the technology learns our bad choices and implements them more broadly?

In either case, the AI technology underpinning any HR solution must stay ethical. In the HR space, there are many AI solutions. But not all of them are created equal. To ensure the technology you’re selecting is part of the solution and not an unethical part of the problem, you must be an active consumer of these technologies.

How to find the ethical AI technology for your team

To keep AI tech providers honest and their solutions ethical, you’ll need to avoid the following common pitfalls:

  • Baked-in biases: Unethical AI can embed inequity into the HR system itself. Make sure you are not codifying biases in hiring and making them more pervasive.
    • How to avoid them: Start with good, bias-free data. Be choosy with the data that your AI learns on. Bad data is worse than no data.
  • One-size-fits-all approaches: Unethical AI tries to be the universal solution for everything. AI doesn’t work well when its expertise is spread too thin.
    • How to avoid them: Narrow your AI’s focus. AI is at its most powerful when targeted to a specific space like human resources. This keeps AI-driven answers fast and accurate.
  • “Black box” systems: Unethical AI lacks transparency and may have unclear or opaque scientific methodology and/or output. This can lead to legal defensibility issues.
    • How to avoid them: Create a feedback loop where the humans that make up your HR team and the AI tech they rely on can learn from each other. Make sure you understand both the science behind the technology and its output.

How to partner with AI technology

We shouldn’t be using AI tech to replace humans, but to augment them. AI can radically alter how work gets done and who does it. It can help humans amplify their strengths, extend their capabilities, and free up their time.

But humans also need to do their part to support AI in return. They need to:

  • Help AI train to perform its tasks
  • Be able to explain these tasks to relevant stakeholders (which sometimes includes the AI itself)
  • Have a level of oversight to make sure these tasks are being completed responsibly

Creating a collaborative process where AI plays an objective gatekeeper role that is focused and transparent will help HR personnel feel confident adding ethical AI to their processes. It will also reassure HR professionals that the humanity of Human Resources will remain intact and can even be enhanced by incorporating AI. When AI and humans stay in the lanes that they excel in, everybody wins. AI gets to do what it does best, and so do humans.

Make sure to keep the lines of communication open between your AI technology and your human team. When AI and humans learn from each other, the people that you hire will feel the difference. And you’ll be confident you’ve hired the best person for the job–bias-free.

Hybrid Work: Transform Your Workplace with Security and Collaboration

The future of work is hybrid–with over 50 percent of people saying they’d prefer to work from home at least three days per week. But many workplaces don’t have the tools in place to make the transition to this new working style.

To implement hybrid work successfully, organizations need streamlined communication and security for safe collaboration and inclusive communication. By selecting the right tech tools and organizational strategies, hybrid work can be a boon for productivity, employee engagement, and even DEI.

Our Guest: Jeetu Patel, Cisco’s Executive VP and General Manager of Security and Collaboration

On the latest #WorkTrends podcast, I spoke with Jeetu Patel, Executive VP and General Manager of Security and Collaboration at Cisco. He leads business strategy and development and also owns P&L responsibility for this multibillion-dollar portfolio. Utilizing his product design and development expertise and innate market understanding, he creates high-growth Software as a Service (SaaS) businesses. His team creates and designs meaningfully differentiated products that diverge in the way they’re conceived, built, priced, packaged, and sold.

To successfully achieve these things, Jeetu stays open-minded and flexible, especially when it comes to hybrid work. In order to ensure that experiences are great for employees, he says organizations need to understand that people typically work better in a “mixed-mode.”

“The future of work will be hybrid. Sometimes people will work from the office, other times, from home. In this ‘mixed-mode’ reality, it is going to be harder than when everyone worked in the office. And the reason for that is there’s more of an opportunity for people to feel left out,” Jeetu says.

To prevent feelings of exclusion, organizations must implement tech solutions for collaboration. At Cisco, they provide various options for remote workers to participate in company goings-on. For instance, they allow people to engage in asynchronous communication, sending stand-alone video messages to contribute ideas. They also use things like Webex and Thrive to make sure everyone is up to date on what’s happening.

“You’ve gotta have the right tools and technology to collaborate in a frictionless manner,” Jeetu says. “You need world-class connectivity and delightful software experiences that can allow you to collaborate, be secure, and not have to worry about someone hacking into your system.”

How Hybrid Work Can Strengthen DEI Efforts

Part of creating a frictionless hybrid work system is focusing on diversity, equity, and inclusion. Jeetu explains that DEI should be prioritized in hybrid work scenarios because it’s the right thing to do.

“No one should feel left out because of their race, gender, ethnicity, geography, language preference, or personality type,” Jeetu says. “Those things shouldn’t make people feel like they don’t have the opportunity to participate.” 

Hybrid work empowers organizations to focus on DEI because it gives global access to talent. Opportunity is unevenly distributed all over the planet, explains Jeetu, while human potential is not. So hybrid work can help make positive changes in the workforce regarding issues of equality.

“Hybrid work allows people of all types to feel that they have a level playing field,” Jeetu says. “People shouldn’t have to feel like they have to choose between where they want to live and having access to a career opportunity. They should be able to do both.” 

I hope you enjoy this episode of #WorkTrends, sponsored by Cisco. You can learn more about integrating hybrid work into your organization by connecting with Jeetu Patel on LinkedIn.

Also, on Wednesday, October 20, 2021, from 1:30-2:00 pm ET, don’t miss our #WorkTrends Twitter chat with Cisco (@Cisco).

During this live chat, our global “world of work” community will discuss how companies can develop an intelligent workplace, how collaboration tools empower the hybrid work model, and more. Be sure to follow @TalentCulture on Twitter for all the questions and add #WorkTrends to your tweets so others can see your opinions and ideas!

How to Develop Leadership Skills When Building Diverse Teams [Podcast]

At this point, it’s well known that building diverse teams of employees offers a competitive advantage to organizations everywhere. It’s hard to argue with the stats. For example, research shows that inclusive teams outperform peers by 80 percent in team assessments. Ethnically-diverse organizations are 35 percent more likely to financially surpass their peers. And companies with more women in top management experience higher returns on investment than those with less.

If leaders want to prioritize diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI), they need to hone their skills to get the best results out of their current employees and attract diverse candidates. Not doing so could mean the difference between the success and failure of their businesses.

Our Guests: Entrepreneurs Rosaleen Blair and Stasia Mitchell

On the latest #WorkTrends podcast, I spoke with Rosaleen Blair and Stasia Mitchell, entrepreneurs with decades of experience in their respective fields. Rosaleen is the founder and chair of AMS, where she was CEO for 23 years, and is a serial entrepreneur, having invested in and advised many organizations, as well as offered coaching and mentoring services to growth businesses. Stasia leads the global entrepreneurship program at EY across 64 countries and has more than 20 years of experience working in EMEIA and the Americas. She brings a global mindset to her work and helps support the global entrepreneurial ecosystem.

As the “great resignation” rears its head, building diverse teams should be at the forefront of leaders’ minds. Employees are demanding that leaders celebrate differences and take an interest in the unique needs of individuals. If people give so much of themselves to work, they want to see their work give something back.

“Because of the pandemic, employees have a new expectation for work … They want to be thought of as individuals–human beings–and not just a part of the headcount,” Rosaleen says. “They want to feel commitment from their leaders. This can come in the form of an investment in their growth and skills, career mobility, or even support for their personal wellbeing. Empathy is critical.”

To meet these new employee expectations, employers should be curious, says Stasia, especially when it comes to diversity. Learning about differences can allow your organization to excel.

“Leaders need to be extremely curious, be open to possibilities of solutioning around creating and ensuring collaborative, diverse teams,” says Stasia. “Listening is so powerful. Learn from these diverse groups of people.”

Defining Diversity and the Importance of Role Models

When it comes to DEI initiatives, it’s important that employers make decisions about what diversity means to them. Then, set goals to achieve.

“I think we all agree that people are the foundation for any great organization,” Stasia says. “We all need to be ready to define what diversity means to us as organizations, and stick to that definition. Stay accountable, make it measurable. The most important thing is we’ve got to make positive progress together.”

One great way to begin building diverse teams is to show people that opportunities are open to everyone. In the case of women’s equality, Rosaleen suggests encouraging women to lean in and take projects across global initiatives and activities. This allows women to see themselves in roles they wouldn’t have before. Organizations can give female employees opportunities to represent organizations externally too–which allows them to build their profiles and create strong networks.

“From my experience, role models are key. If you can’t see it, you can’t be it,” Rosaleen says. “Celebrating the success of female role models and creating the space to ensure that all voices are heard is important.”

I hope you enjoy this episode of #WorkTrends, sponsored by EY, one of the largest professional services networks in the world. You can learn more about building diverse teams by reaching out to Rosaleen and Stasia on LinkedIn. Also, on September 1, 2021, from 1:30-2:30 pm EST, don’t miss the #WorkTrends Twitter chat with Rosaleen (@rosaleenblair) and Stasia (@Stasia_EY). During the chat, we will tackle topics like innovative management techniques, diversity of thought, and more.

HR’s New Responsibility: Addressing Social Injustice

The last year and a half has been a reckoning for workplaces; companies addressed the paradigm-shattering COVID-19 crisis, while also addressing issues of social injustice inside and outside the office.

Now that many companies are getting ready to welcome their employees back to the office, more employees are putting pressure on companies for better treatment. Or they’re simply walking away from their jobs in search of companies that share their values.

Human resources departments across the United States have been busy, to say the least!

So, is HR expected to manage payroll, benefits, recruiting… and address social injustice in current events, too?

The answer is yes. Here’s why.

Millennials expect to bring their whole selves to work.

Millennials, who are set to comprise up to 75 percent of the total U.S. workforce by 2025, fundamentally define diversity and inclusion differently than their older counterparts. They don’t believe in the well-intentioned but misguided “colorblindness” approach of yore.

Deloitte’s report, The Radical Transformation of Diversity and Inclusion: The Millennial Influence, “found that in defining diversity, millennials move well beyond the integration of demographic differences. They more commonly cite diversity as the blending of unique perspectives within a team, known as cognitive diversity.”

Millennials strongly believe that their unique perspectives cannot be separated from their success. In other words, they refuse to check their identities at the door because they believe that identities bring value to business outcomes.

And if current events threaten that sense of identity, these employees expect organizations to understand the cognitive load of social injustice.

“Businesses that don’t expand their notions of diversity and inclusion will increasingly lose their millennials and certainly won’t retain Generation Z … who are even less focused on traditional diversity than their older brothers and sisters and are even more engaged in socially collaborative platforms,” according to the Deloitte report.

Mental wellness impacts employee engagement.

When Millennials and Gen-Z bring their whole selves to work, this also includes their mental wellness. Morra Aarons-Mele said it succinctly in Harvard Business Review: “As we recognize neurological and emotional diversity in all of its forms, workplace cultures need to make room for the wide range of emotions we experience.”

Bonusly, an employee engagement software, also found this to be true in their survey of employees during the COVID-19 pandemic. Unsurprisingly, employees are much more stressed about work and at work than in years previous. But as it turns out, Bonusly also found that “highly engaged employees are 3.2 times more likely to be on a team that encourages open discussion of anxiety and stress at work than actively disengaged employees.”

So when incidents like the murder of George Floyd, the Atlanta spa shootings, or the January 6 Capitol riot occur, the best thing you can do for your employees is to acknowledge what’s going on. Let them know that you see and hear their concerns.

Be cognizant that current events impact your employees’ mental wellness. Also, recognize that you, as an HR professional, have the ability to thoughtfully address your team in a way that helps them feel valued and purposeful.

Crafting your employee experience and building purpose

We talk often about making sure employees feel valued as a crucial part of their employee experience. Recognize millennials and Gen Z for their diversity of experiences because that is what they need to feel appreciated. This requires a tailored approach from HR.

Consider this. HR is the department responsible for crafting and supporting the entire employee experience. So that responsibility extends to supporting employees’ well-being in times of social unrest.

Also, this is an opportunity to foster inclusion and a sense of purpose.

“Employees now want more from their employer than a paycheck. They want a sense of pride and fulfillment from their work, a purpose, and importantly a company whose values match their own,” said Jeanne Meister in her Forbes piece.

The subject of continued social injustice can be complex for companies to address. But it’s your responsibility as an HR professional to facilitate those conversations productively.

Do the work to understand your employees’ unique perspectives. Be aware of what can impact their well-being. This creates an inclusive and equitable environment for all workers.

You might have some difficult conversations, but it’ll pay off in time. After all, 83 percent of millennials are actively engaged when they believe the organization fosters an inclusive culture. And world events impact employees greatly. Addressing those issues is the compassionate, empathetic thing to do.

HR in a Post-Pandemic World: Where Are We Headed?

As a human resources professional, you’re no stranger to thinking on your feet and solving complex problems. You never quite know what you’re going to get on a given day in the office. An employee complaint? Someone putting in their two-week notice? News of a budding office romance? These are run-of-the-mill challenges. But no one could have predicted what happened in 2020 and 2021. Or what will happen for HR in a post-pandemic world.

When COVID hit, HR professionals had a lot to figure out, from navigating the shift to remote work to managing furloughs and layoffs. Clients left, offices shut down, and employees struggled with their mental health the longer quarantines dragged on. A lot of unforeseen situations cropped up, and HR rose to the occasion.

In addition to solving the pandemic’s logistical challenges, HR departments answered the call to build more inclusive and diverse workforces as the U.S. became more aware of ongoing racial violence. Quite a few professionals felt like they needed to do more to help their industries and companies focus on representation and accessibility. So, they juggled their day-to-day responsibilities and developed companywide diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives.

The role of HR is evolving. Today’s professionals are talent managers, counselors, and advisors. As we enter the era of the post-pandemic world, it will be critical for everyone to embrace these changes. Here’s what you can expect to do going forward.

1. Renew your company’s focus on diversity and inclusion.

As the world reopens, HR professionals are renewing their focus on finding diverse talent for their firms. If you’re in this position, take the time to search for candidates with diverse backgrounds. Try posting your job listings on several platforms for a set amount of time to ensure that various applicants can find you. This will help you widen the voices and perspectives at your company. It will also demonstrate to your current employees that this is a priority, which 86 percent of employees strongly value, according to the Citrix Talent Accelerator report.

Another way to improve diversity and inclusion in a post-pandemic world is to consider your internal development and internship programs. How does your company handle promotions? Without an explicit selection or application process, unconscious bias can creep in. Where do you look for interns? For instance, if you’re an agency, you might usually bring on marketing students from a local university. But if you only recruit from that university, you limit your candidate pool to its demographics. Try advertising your internships through organizations that reach BIPOC folks.

2. Create and enforce new work-from-home policies.

When the world shut down in 2020, HR professionals sprung into action to create updated work-from-home policies. In the past, they may have allowed people in specific roles to work from home occasionally or on certain days. Suddenly, they had to find ways to make everyone’s jobs remote.

That alone was an accomplishment, but it also created countless questions about the future of work. People are accustomed to working from home now, and they hope to telecommute a day or two a week after the pandemic is over. According to the same Citrix report discussed above, about 88 percent of workers say complete flexibility in hours and location will be an important consideration in future job searches. As an HR professional, it is your responsibility to decide what’s best for your employees and create policies accordingly.

3. Address mental health concerns.

Mental health was a significant concern during the pandemic—and for a good reason. People were completely isolated from family, friends, and co-workers for months on end. They had to deal with unprecedented obstacles in their work and personal lives, and they had to give up many of their routines and hobbies without warning. This affected many individuals’ mental health in significant ways.

With this in mind, it will be essential to help employees set boundaries for turning off their laptops and taking time away from the office. As an HR professional, the best thing you can do is lead by example. Don’t answer emails after a particular time of day, and communicate your boundaries with employees. While you’re at it, tap into any resources you recommend to your workforce. And if you’re one of the 61 percent of employers that offer mental health benefits, be sure to communicate what’s available to everyone in the company.

The past year or so has been one for the books. HR professionals had to deal with a seemingly endless list of unforeseen challenges, but there was a silver lining. These issues challenged HR departments to revisit their cultures and policies, helping them understand the importance of prioritizing diversity and inclusion, flexibility, and employee mental health. In a post-pandemic world, it will be important to embrace these responsibilities and usher in a new future for HR.

3 Ways to Improve Black Labor Market Outcomes

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

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

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

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

The Current Economic State of Black America

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Address the issues Black workers face by implementing the following:

Offer Personal and Professional Development Opportunities

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

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

Set Up Employees for Financial Success

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

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

Create an Inclusive Work Environment

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

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

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

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

Image by Matthew Henry

Learning From the Rescinded Diversity Training Ban

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

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

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

How Compliance Professionals Received the Revocation

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

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

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

The Forgotten Voices in Affirmative Action Compliance

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

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

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

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

How Revoking a Ban Became a Band-Aid

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

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

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

Charting a New Course in Changing Times

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

1. Review your compliance and diversity training programs

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

2. Do not alienate the other side

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

3. Be skeptical of trending ideas

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

4. Support outreach statements with action

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

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

Image from Atstock Productions

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

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

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

Corporate America Steps Up

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

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

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

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

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

DEI Efforts that Matter: Where to Start

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

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

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

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

Invest in the Day-to-Day

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

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

Examine Every Stage of the Employment Cycle

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

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

Track Your Impact

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

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

Listen and Learn

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

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

Don’t Stand Still, Evolve

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

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

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

 

Image by Photographer London

6 Trends Hammering Today’s Workplace (And How Employee Surveys Help)

Today’s workplace trends continue to cause a dramatic shift for organizations, employees, customers, and suppliers. Paraphrasing the cliché, “The only real known is that change is a constant.” That’s why constant awareness of what’s going on — and adjusting appropriately — is critical.

We may not be certain of what lies ahead, but we know that six workplace trends mark the early 2020s. And we know we’d better be all over them now in preparation for what’s to come.

Agility

Three-quarters of 2,500 surveyed business leaders rank agility as a top-three priority.

Employees have their ears to the ground through their own networks, contacts with customers, experiences with processes, procedures, and management. What are they seeing and hearing? What gaps in expectations exist? Where are the opportunities for improvement?

Being able to spot patterns and shifts quickly gives leaders the agility to change tack better than less nimble competitors. And a workforce invited to share insights regularly augments the ability to act with agility.

Enabling Remote Work

Remote work stats are as trendy these days as witty memes. Studies indicate 52% of global employees work remotely once a week, and 68% do so at least once per month. Work from Home (WFM) models are relatively new. There’s the physical environment — ensuring people have the tools and resources. And there’s the mental side — specifically, providing support and resources that can help with stress, anxiety, and isolation.

We often get caught up in ensuring everyone has access to the ‘same’ or ‘equal’ opportunities. However, diverse employee populations have different experiences and different needs. While the glass ceiling impedes women and members of minorities, ‘virtual’ walls have now been added into the mix, threatening the progress of current and aspiring employees.

Are remote workers being enabled in a way that works for them — and you? The only way to know is to ask.

Prioritizing Mental Health in the Workplace

Remote workers exposed to the stress of isolation, and on-site employees faced with potential virus exposure, are projected to trigger behavioral health conditions of pandemic proportions. Exhausted, anxious, and often sleep-deprived, many people show up at work — virtually or in-person — despite mental or physical ailments. For many organizations, the result is immense productivity losses and increasing risks.

Today, employers are facing a potential mental health crisis. They need a window into employees’ hearts and minds, especially those absent from the physical work world. At the same time, it’s vital to recognize specific employee populations need more support in dealing with their personal life circumstances than others. For instance, anxiety and depression figures reported in December 2020 are higher for Latinx (46.3%) and Black respondents (48%) than the overall 42.4%average.

How do we know who needs what support? And whether it’s effective?

Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DEI)

Employees have become more outspoken about the discriminatory treatment they’ve observed or experienced in the workplace. Creating a safe environment for people to speak up and feel like they belong is a hot topic among executive leaders.

Employees are your compass when navigating matters of DEI. Their insights point a way forward and help keep your organization informed and on track. But change has never been as fast and as furious — nor as forcefully dominant — as it is today. And employee sentiment is far from immune to this tide of transformation.

Reaching an intended DEI destination depends on continuously checking coordinates — the voice of employees — and making adjustments as the winds change.

Frequent Surveys

Frequently monitoring the pulse of employees is helping more leaders make the right kinds of decisions across issues like agility, mental health, DEI, and more. Here at WorkTango, more than half of the organizations we support that weren’t already offering pulse surveys or using the active listening model have started to shift how they collect input from employees. Those companies now see higher participation than ever, with many receiving upward of 85% to 90% response rates. Why? When surveys are contextually relevant to an employee’s experience, they want to give feedback.

The themes associated with frequent pulsing can be around anything – whatever’s important in the moment. It’s an ongoing process to gather and understand sentiments around all the moving parts of your organization.

The bottom line: Pulsing is a diagnostics tool that gives leaders something they can focus on—and ignites a shift from measurement to action.

Heightened Accountability

Regularly checking in to get employee feedback gives leaders a quick snapshot of whether the actions they’ve taken are working. We then inextricably link accountability with these quantitative and qualitative insights.

With more frequent measurement, leaders tend to listen more. They take steps, actively review progress, make tweaks, and cycle through the process — fine-tuning as they go. The data collected and shared puts the onus on functional leaders and hiring managers. Because seeing their survey score — how they’re trending and their own personal management results (and knowing that data is public to the executive team) — creates built-in accountability.

The thread that links these six trends?

Actively listening to the voice of employees and using scientifically validated data to guide meaningful actions.

Centralized Survey Structures in Today’s Workplace

A centralized survey tool helps your organization measure and adapt to the needs of your human capital throughout the employee lifecycle.  Whether your approach is to gather employee engagement insights annually or to run more frequent pulse surveys, a single survey platform is where the real power of data can be found.

Plus, whether giving feedback or for reporting, it’s easier for employees to use and get comfortable with one platform. So when choosing a survey tool, look for a single platform that eliminates the need for multiple vendors and the time involved to learn and support various platforms.

We’ve been going through more disruptive shifts in the last 15 months than we have in the past 15 years. To paraphrase Charles Darwin this time: “It’s not the strongest or most intelligent that survive, but the ones most responsive to change.”

For organizations, that responsiveness comes from listening to employees frequently and attentively. Using a centralized survey platform to obtain real-time insights into workplace issues that matter now — or point to potential trends and taking pre-emptive action to keep a step ahead — helps make active listening a critical element of your company culture.

 

Want to know more about WorkTango? Listen to our own Cyndy Trivella’s thoughts on this 2021 TalentCulture HR Tech Award winner:

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

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

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

Why Companies Don’t Offer Paid Paternity Leave

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

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

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

How These Policies Impact Different Demographics

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

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

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

How Businesses Benefit from Paid Paternity Leave

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

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

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

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

How Paid Paternity Leave Supports Women in the Workforce

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

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

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

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

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

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

Image by GaudiLab

How to Create an Inclusive Culture for Foreign Workers

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

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

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

Provide Support

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

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

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

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

Encourage Connections

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

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

Connection = Caring About What Matters Most

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

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

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

Utilize Tools

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

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

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

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

Create Your Inclusive Culture

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

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

 

Image by Harold Guevara

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

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

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

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

Unconscious Bias and Prejudice

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

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

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

Not Limited to One Race

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

The Need to Address Internal Cultures

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

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

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

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

Defeating Unconscious Bias

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

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

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

 

Image by Biletskiy

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

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

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

The Shecession: Glimmers of Hope

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

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

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

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

The Shecession: Our Current Realities

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

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

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

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

The Pandemic Magnified Inequalities

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

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

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

The Good News: Both Genders See the Possibilities

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

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

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

 

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

 

The Undeniable Impact of Workplace Diversity [Infographic]

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

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

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

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

Workplace Diversity: Time for Change

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

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

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

How to Talk About Diversity

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

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

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

 

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

 

workplace diversity

Image by Evgenyi Gromov

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Workplace Power of Introverted People

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

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

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

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

 

Find Jennifer on LinkedIn and Twitter.

 

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

 

Image by Frazer J. Grunshaw

Embracing Neurodiversity: The Future of Talent Management [Podcast]

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Practical Approach to Embracing Neurodiversity

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

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

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

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

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

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

Download a Free eBook from Uptimize

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

 

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

 

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

 

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[#WorkTrends] The Power of Workplace Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging

Talking about workplace diversity without talking about inclusion and a sense of belonging can be counterproductive. Worse yet, it isn’t going to help the marginalized feel like they have a seat at the table.

I recently read a great post by LaFawn Davis of Indeed. In that article, LaFawn makes it clear the pandemic’s impact on people of color, women, older, and more often marginalized workers is entirely disproportionate. Cases in point:

  • Discrimination against Asians in the U.S. has surged since the early days of the pandemic. Over 30% of Americans have recently witnessed COVID-19 bias against Asians.
  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported 33 percent of patients hospitalized with COVID-19 were Black. This, despite blacks comprising only 13 percent of the American population.
  • An October study on Women in the Workplace by McKinsey found that one in every four women is considering downshifting their careers. Or, they might give up their jobs due to the impact of Covid-19.

We have a lot of work to do. And we must start that work by acknowledging that people of color and women are shouldering recent burdens far more than others.

Our Guest: LaFawn Davis, VP of Diversity, Inclusion & Belonging, Indeed

Joining me this week on #WorkTrends is the author of that insightful post, LaFawn Davis. LaFawn is the Vice President of Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging at Indeed. There, she leads Indeed’s strategic efforts to remove bias and eliminate barriers to entry by focusing on inclusive features and accessibility in products to help all people get jobs. She also enables a diverse and inclusive work culture for Indeed’s employees. 

Because I find too many companies are still trying to lump diversity, inclusion, and belonging into one entity, I started our conversation by asking LaFawn how these three elements differ and, taken one at a time, how they help us build a truly diverse workforce. LaFawn’s response quickly cut to the heart of the matter:

“Companies are trying to silo off diversity, inclusion, and belonging. Or, they make one of the words synonymous with the others,” LaFawn added. Next, LaFawn intuitively explained how a deliberate focus on each element helps create an innovative workforce:

“Diversity is the belief that teams with different work styles, problem-solving techniques, life experiences, backgrounds, perspectives, and skill sets are truly what makes innovation possible. Inclusion is really around the 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.”

LaFawn when on to say that when those three elements are adroitly combined, we feel valued: 

“In the workplace, it’s not about looking like me or coming from where I come from. It’s about those common threads that pull us together.”

The Business Case for Workplace Diversity

Of course, many business leaders remain focused on the bottom line. So after talking with LaFawn about the undeniable systemic racism in the US today, I asked her how diversity, inclusion, and belonging impact that bottom line. LaFawn, as you can imagine, has some strong feelings about how leadership should be leveraging workplace diversity to build better companies.

“This should be what keeps every single business leader up at night,” she emphatically said. “Are we going to be a different and better company than we are right now? Ten years from now? 15? I mean, we know that businesses with a more diverse workforce are 36 percent more likely to be in the top tier of their industry. And we know that firms with greater gender diversity are 25 percent more likely to be at the top for financial returns, market share, and retention. So diversity, inclusion, and belonging do affect your bottom line!”

LaFawn and I also talked about how these three elements have been hit hard by the pandemic. Specifically, how the need to transform to a remote workforce and the stress the pandemic has placed on frontline workers impacts the ability to intentionally create and maintain a diverse workforce. We also discussed the role hiring has in creating workplace diversity and the mistakes commonly made as organizations work to include people of color, women, and other groups who feel marginalized in their workforce — those who do not feel they belong.

Looking Ahead to 2021

If you haven’t already, your organization will soon start taking a hard look at how diversity, inclusion, and belonging will look in 2021. Before you do, I invite you to listen to my conversation with LaFawn. In 20+ minutes, you’ll understand how she has helped Indeed build an innovative workforce. You’ll also learn how she has helped many other organizations — starting with hiring — create organizations where equality and parity become the norm. And where that norm becomes a critical component of the company culture.

My thanks to LaFawn Davis for joining me on #WorkTrends and for participating in our upcoming #WorkTrends Twitter chat at 1:30pm Eastern on Wednesday, December 16th. During that chat, we’ll answer these questions and more:

  • Q1: Why do organizations struggle with building diversity?
  • Q2: What strategies can help increase inclusion and belonging?
  • Q3: How can leaders build more diverse workplaces?

Our thanks also to Indeed for sponsoring this timely episode of #WorkTrends. 

 

Find LaFawn on LinkedIn and Twitter.

 

Editor’s note: We’ve updated our FAQ page and #WorkTrends Podcast pages. Take a look!

 

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.