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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.

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.

Accessibility Best Practices for Remote Workplaces

The sudden rapid transition to remote work has brought about many benefits for employers. Among these benefits are happier employees, greater cost savings, and access to a more diverse talent pool. However, remote work also comes with its own set of challenges, one of which is digital accessibility.

In the United States, one in four adults lives with a disability. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires that businesses make reasonable accommodations for employees with disabilities, and these laws extend to remote workspaces.

The following accessibility best practices for remote workplaces, while not exhaustive, will help you create a work environment where everyone can benefit equally from digital products, services, and content.

Choose accessible remote work products

Audit the tools you currently use for remote work and become familiar with their accessibility features. The following remote work tools are a good place to start:

  • Audio and video conferencing (Zoom, Microsoft Teams, etc.)
  • Document management (SharePoint, OneDrive, etc.)
  • Email (Google Workspace, etc.)
  • Project management and collaboration (Slack, Microsoft Teams, Google Hangouts, etc.)
  • Office suites (Microsoft Office, etc.)

When evaluating a new remote work product, confirm that the tool supports commonly used assistive devices, including screen readers and refreshable braille displays. Also, look for built-in accessibility features; for instance:

  • Keyboard accessibility
  • Display preferences, such as resizable text and color filters
  • Speech-to-text capabilities, such as real-time captioning and live or automatic transcription

Many top vendors, like Zoom and Google Workspace, provide documentation about native accessibility features, as well as how to integrate their products with third-party accessibility tools.

If you need a feature that isn’t built into the software you currently use, check to see if there’s a compatible third-party app. For example, Krisp is an AI-powered app that removes background noise during virtual meetings.

Host accessible virtual meetings

Virtual meetings, while convenient, come with their share of technical challenges. A bit of preparation can go a long way in ensuring that your meetings adhere to accessibility best practices.

Before the meeting, determine what your staff needs to participate equally. For example, will you need an ASL interpreter? Some conferencing tools, such as Zoom, can be configured so that interpreters are always visible.

Also, provide instructions to staff on how to adjust conferencing settings, including video, sound, chat, and display options. Let employees know who to contact if they have any technical difficulties during the meeting.

Limit meeting attendance to key stakeholders and give staff the option to call in instead of using their computer. The moderator should ensure that only one person speaks at a time, that all other mics are muted, and that everyone identifies themselves before they begin speaking.

If you’re sharing your screen, describe the content on the screen for people who are blind or visually impaired.

Instruct staff on how to access closed captions, live transcripts, and/or subtitles during the meeting. If your conferencing solution doesn’t provide for real-time captioning or live transcription, consider using a third-party app like Web Captioner, which offers free real-time captioning in over 40 languages.

Always record live events and have them professionally transcribed afterward so you can share the recording and transcript with your team.

Create accessible content

Use the following tips for accessibility best practices.

Documents

Use heading styles in Microsoft Word to create subheads (instead of bolding text and increasing the font size, for example). This helps screen reader and braille display users understand the hierarchy of the document and navigate it more efficiently.

Microsoft provides an Accessibility Checker tool for making sure your Office content, including Word documents, spreadsheets, and email, is accessible to people with disabilities.

Video and audio

When creating audio and video content, use professional recording equipment and record in a quiet location. If you must have background music, keep it at a low volume for the benefit of people who are hard of hearing.

Transcribe, caption, and/or describe audio and video content. Poorly done captions are just as frustrating as no captions at all: For audio with multiple speakers or any background noise, it’s best to hire a professional typing company instead of using an auto-transcription tool.

Images, graphics, and presentations

Alternative text should be provided for descriptions of images, which can be read using screen readers.

Use good color contrast for the benefit of visually impaired and colorblind users. Make use of whitespace and proximity to help users understand the relationship between elements of the content. Ensure that the text in charts and graphs is large and clear enough to read.

Avoid the use of flashing, strobing, or flickering content, which can trigger seizures in people with PSE.

Social media

The major social media platforms are continually evolving to make sure their platforms align with digital accessibility best practices. For example, Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn all have an option for adding alternative text to your images.

Additionally, many social media sites now let you caption video content by uploading captions as a sidecar file (that is, separate from the video itself).

Website and email

Use a responsive design for your website and emails and test them to make sure they function as intended on mobile devices and screen readers. Choose clean, easy-to-read fonts of adequate size and line spacing, and use good color contrast throughout for the benefit of people who are colorblind or have other visual impairments. Provide plaintext versions of emails for people who use screen readers.

On your website, make use of HTML markup like headers, which can be read by screen readers, instead of simply styling the content–for instance, by bolding text or increasing the font size. Whenever possible, use HTML to create charts and lists instead of posting them as images. If you use images to complement the text, provide alternative text using the HTML alt attribute. Choose semantic HTML elements that describe the content (e.g., <table>) instead of non-semantic elements (e.g., <div>).

For more information on how to make web content accessible, review the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1, which is the universal standard in web accessibility.

Accessibility best practices will evolve along with your business and workforce. You can streamline the process by creating a simple system for your employees to put in requests or give feedback on your current tools and procedures, as well as by providing digital accessibility training to staff. As more software developers and vendors adopt accessible technologies, businesses will encounter fewer challenges when creating an accessible remote workplace.

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.

The 3 Pillars of Hybrid Workplaces [Podcast]

It’s irrefutable: Hybrid workplaces are in, and inflexible employers are out.

The data is astounding. In some studies, 80 to 90 percent of employees report wanting to stay remote after the pandemic. And 84 percent of working parents with children under 18 find that the benefits of hybrid workplaces outweigh the cons.

We know now that overall job satisfaction is tied to flexible working models. And we’ve seen that many people are jumping off the “talent cliff” in search of greener pastures that offer full- or partially-remote work options.

The future of hybrid workplaces is now, especially as we all transition back to in-office roles. When it comes to developing a strong hybrid work culture, there’s no time to waste if employers want to stay competitive and prioritize employee satisfaction.

Our Guest: Rhiannon Staples, B2B Marketing Leader and CMO at Hibob

On the latest episode of #WorkTrends, I talked with Rhiannon Staples. She is a global marketing leader who has been architecting expert business strategies and leading start-up teams for over 15 years. Before taking on her current role as Hibob CMO, she was the Global VP of Marketing at NICE Actimize and Global Head of Brand Marketing at Sisense. She’s an expert in brand-to-market strategy, lead generation, and account-based marketing programs. She also specializes in spearheading global growth for companies.

Rhiannon had some great advice for harnessing hybrid work for global growth and business strategy. She said that there are three pillars of hybrid work that companies need to consider in order to design a successful hybrid work model.

“The first is productivity, the second is communication, and the third is culture and connection,” Rhiannon says. 

For the first pillar of productivity, employers need to show workers their willingness to be flexible. This will give employees the feeling that employers are dedicated to their success. For the second pillar, they need to adopt an inclusive business model that prioritizes employee communication–whether employees are working remotely or in person. Finally, employers need to empower their HR leaders to create a culture of connection with employees. They need to offer tools and resources that can make the employee experience better.

Leaders also need to approach hybrid work with the point of view that there may be different rules than with traditional remote work.

“Hybrid work is less about letting employees go remote as it is about the work model, type of employment, hours worked, and work location,” Rhiannon says. “So first and foremost, know that ‘hybrid’ is not ‘remote.’ It’s something new that we need to tackle.”

The Benefits of Hybrid Workplaces

I asked Rhiannon how important it is that companies take hybrid work models seriously. Her answer? VERY. Notably, only 13 percent of people said they wanted to go back to the office full-time, five days a week, according to a Hibob study.

“I don’t want to create an impression that employees don’t want to be in the office. Because that’s not the case at all. Basically, our data has shown that employees and managers aspire to have a flexible work environment,” Rhiannon says. “Companies that are bringing employees back full-stop, in-office, five days a week … they’re going to feel the backlash of this. Employees will leave for companies that are offering greater flexibility.”

Data shows that hybrid work is beneficial for everyone, including underrepresented populations. These groups include those with disabilities or those who are neurodivergent. Also, women across the world have greatly benefited from hybrid remote work options, particularly those caring for children or elders.

“We’ve proven over the course of the past year that those companies that have offered flexibility to working mothers have seen great success with that population,” says Rhiannon. “Women having access to flexible work hours and having the option to work from home will open the door for many women to get back to work.”

Embracing a hybrid work model can help organizations retain employees. Also, it can encourage a more diverse workforce. If you ask me, there’s really no downside.

I hope you enjoy this episode of #WorkTrends, sponsored by Hibob. You can learn more useful information on adapting to a hybrid work style by connecting with Rhiannon Staples on LinkedIn.

For more information on this topic, read more here.

 

Photo: Ricardo Resende

Is Diversity Baked Into Your Hiring Process?

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

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

Why traditional hiring practices backfire

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

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

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

If we want change, we need to expect challenges

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

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

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

 Their response neatly framed their hiring challenges:

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

We say we want change, but do we?

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

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

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

True diversity begins with intention

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

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

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

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

Photo: Bethany Legg

Why You Should Recruit Introverts — and How

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

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

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

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

Consider How Introversion Impacts The Job

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

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

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

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

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

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

How Can You Attract Great Introvert Talent?

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Photo: Meagan Carsience

Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and the Bottom Line

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Practical tips from DEI leaders:

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

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

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

Practical tips from DEI leaders:

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

3. Invest in inclusive leadership skills development.

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

Practical tips from DEI leaders: 

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

4. Enhance accountability. 

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

Practical tips from DEI leaders: 

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

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

Photo: Paul Bryan

#WorkTrends: The Bigot in Your Mental Boardroom

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

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

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

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

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

Twitter Chat Questions

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

Find Elana Joy Thurston on Linkedin and Twitter

Photo: Diego Jimenez

#WorkTrends: Leading Organizations to Resilience and Diversity

No question: businesses and employees are going through a lot. The pivot to remote. Changing laws and regulations (sometimes overnight). Safety — and not just physical, but emotional as well. How should we best deal with the pressures of working amid brand-new and vexing circumstances? Get resilient, so instead of crashing from the stress, we bounce back.

Meghan brought Melissa Lamson, CEO of Lamson Consulting, to #WorkTrends for a timely meeting of the minds. Melissa offered best practices on how leaders can foster resilience among their workforce — and explained why diversity is so critical right now.

As Meghan noted, leaders are quickly learning “how to really lean in on the people side, to practice emotional intelligence and empathy and interpersonal skills” — and helping their businesses grow in understanding. And some of their strength is coming from admitting they don’t know it all. They’re willing to be vulnerable, and employees appreciate that.  

And as Melissa added, that kind of openness also helps leaders ask the right questions: “What is the best way to do this? How do we reopen the workplaces? How do we come back together in face-to-face collaboration? What does that look like? What kinds of guidelines and rules do we need to do this safely and effectively?”  

It’s really all about listening, said Melissa. Doing so makes it possible to tend to our company culture over the long-term, Meghan pointed out. Then, keep practicing what we preach  — open communication, honesty, transparency — to lead our organizations into a state of resilience. That’s going to be a key part of success going forward. 

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

Twitter Chat Questions

Q1: Why do organizations struggle with resilience? #WorkTrends
Q2: How does diversity play into an organization’s resilience? #WorkTrends
Q3: How can leaders help increase resilience and diversity in their organizations?  #WorkTrends

Find Melissa Lamson on Linkedin and Twitter

Photo: Josh Calabrese

Empathy, Action: What HR Can Do Now

Recently I published an article on Forbes.com about the elephant in the room. It was one of those pieces I had to do. I had to go out on a limb and just say it

We talk about diversity all the time — and on TalentCulture we’ve published many articles on improving diversity and inclusion. One offered seven tips on “managing diversity” in the workplace, and included wisdom from people working on the front lines of diversity, including diversity and inclusion consultant and author La’Wana Harris and Amy Cappellanti-Wolf, CHRO at Symantec. The post listed ways to improve more than manage, including building pipelines to more diverse talent, and letting go of seeing diversity not as a state of being but a buzzword. The step that struck me the most was examining policies to root out systemic inequality. As Harris noted, “Workplace policies, systems and processes can disproportionately impact historically marginalized populations.”

Of course, she’s right. But what strikes me now is that she didn’t put it in the past tense then, and it wouldn’t be in the past tense now. Between that post and the article on Forbes is the better part of a year, and a lot has happened to say the least. We’ve witnessed the murder of African-Americans at the hands of police and learned of one in which she was killed in her house, in her bed, and by mistake. You don’t usually see me get into these kinds of details, but the circumstances are so shocking I think they bear repeating, and repeating again. And we’ve seen — and millions have participated in — some 21 days and counting of protests spurred by outrage. 

AI and VR: Tools for Fairness

The one piece of good news is that we are being forced to reckon with that elephant. And the elephant for everyone in HR is this: we can’t improve diversity with any kind of commitment and intent if we don’t first address racism. And by addressing racism, I mean working as hard as we can to undo it in our own workplaces. It means looking hard at what we produce and offer, and asking whether it’s helping or not. IBM recently put the brakes on its facial recognition program. As CEO Arvind Krishna said, “We believe now is the time to begin a national dialogue on whether and how facial recognition technology should be employed by domestic law enforcement agencies.” He went on to note that AI systems need to be subject to far more scrutiny regarding bias. And that’s something that’s come up again and again, in a hiring context, on this site.

Is that where we start? We actively celebrate technology on TalentCulture: we just wrapped the HR Tech Awards for 2020, and among the many innovations there’s certainly AI. Another innovation that came up recently is VR, and I had a fascinating discussion on a recent #WorkTrends with clinical psychologist Robin Rosenberg about how VR can help radically improve empathy among diverse work teams. The podcast focused not just on diversity but on work culture as a whole — but it’s the potential to decrease unconscious bias, microaggressions and intolerance that stays with me. If we can put on a headset and literally experience what that feels like to someone else, maybe it should be part of everyone’s training — make it a required component of onboarding or skill development.  

Undoing the Status Quo

Do I expect my clarion call on Forbes to have an affect? Perhaps it will. Sometimes a post goes viral for reasons completely beyond our control, as when I talked about emotional intelligence and leadership just when EQ was getting on our radar, or more recently, when I predicted the key trends we’d see in 2020. (I’m lucky to have great readers, and grateful.) In the trends article, I mentioned a shift to tending rather than managing our workforce, advocated for leaning harder on AI for recruiting so long as it was programmed without bias, and pointed out that more of us would be working remotely. But that was written well before the pandemic threw up all into a tailspin, or survival mode, or just home, before the nation exploded, and before it became clear that we tend to stay entrenched in our own status quo. 

But we can’t accept the status quo anymore, and this is the opportunity to snap out of it. I wasn’t surprised when 63% of respondents to our June 3 newsletter survey said they’d experienced racism in the workplace either directed at themselves (39.7%) or a coworker (23.8%). But I was shocked to find out that less than 5% had reported it. HR, I’m looking at you.

HR Has a Role to Play

So let’s have real conversations about the bias that may be stuck within our work cultures (conscious or unconscious). Let’s push back against complacency or just inertia when it comes to examining and improving workplace policies. Let’s keep asking the hard questions — we just ran a follow-up survey question this week, asking who is now having discussions about racism among their coworkers. I’m very interested in those results. I’d like to challenge the top innovators to find the best means to systematically detach AI from potential bias. I’d like to know who’s reviewing accounts of unfair treatment in their workplace, and having a new reckoning to set things right. 

In the end, every business will be better and more sustainable in the future if it works to be more equitable, diverse, and fair in the present. Knowledge is power, as we well know. And HR is a field that wants to evolve — and indeed, it can’t stop evolving. We’re made for this. So let’s get to it.

#WorkTrends: The Importance of Second Chances

Our guest on #WorkTrends this week is Michelle Cirocco, the Chief Responsibility Officer of the sales and marketing technology firm Televerde. She is responsible for extending Televerde’s business model to disempowered populations. We discussed criminal reform and its impact on the workforce, eliminating bias in the hiring process, and how organizations can connect with, and potentially hire, individuals with criminal records.  

Listen to the full conversation or read the recap below. And don’t forget to subscribe, so you never miss an episode. 

[2:33] We were founded 25 years ago based on the idea that by providing women in prison with jobs, training, and education while they were incarcerated 
[7:42] There’s 70 million people in our country that have a criminal record
[09:49] There is a big movement for organizations to take a pledge. It’s called the Getting Talent Back to Work pledge, and it’s a very simple, easy thing for anybody who is involved in talent acquisition to do. 

Today, we’re talking to Televerde’s Michelle Cirocco about how we can extend diversity and inclusion to everyone. Michelle Cirocco is the Chief Responsibility Officer of Televerde, a business-to-business marketing and sales outsourcing firm. This is Michelle’s story.

An Unusual Business Model 

To an outsider, Televerde sounds like a typical business-to-business demand generation firm. They provide sales and marketing support for small businesses to some of the largest technology firms in the world. What sets Televerde apart is its approach to staffing. Televerde’s leaders founded the organization the idea of giving incarcerated women with jobs, training, and education. At the end of their sentence, Televerde helps the women reacclimate by employing them at their organization or helping them find work through a job placement program. 

A Second Chance 

Twenty years ago, after she served six years in prison, Televerde hired Michelle. She was their fortieth employee. Televerde has worked with more than 3,000 incarcerated women over their twenty-five years in business. In their Phoenix, Arizona, corporate headquarters, forty percent of the employees started their career while incarcerated. Televerde offers these women a chance at a career without facing bias because of their past.  

The Conversation Around Diversity and Inclusion

According to Michelle, “We face what’s going to be one of the biggest talent gaps ever in the history of the world.” The number of available jobs outnumbers the workforce by more than one million people. So, organizations need to consider new options to fill the talent gaps.  

Untapped Resources 

Michelle says more than 70 million people in the United States have a criminal record. Criminal records indicates a conviction of some type of a misdemeanor or a felony. A criminal record might immediately remove a candidate from the recruitment process. If organizations want to fill empty jobs, they need to rethink the way they hire. As Baby Boomers retire, the talent pool shrinks and recruiters have fewer viable candidates. 

Give Qualified Candidates a Chance

The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) created a toolkit of resources and research for HR professionals. SHRM launched the Getting Talent Back to Work Pledge. Organizations that take this promise say they will give all qualified candidates a chance at employment. 

The first step to eliminating bias, Michelle says, is to “ban the box.” The concept is simple. Recruiters do not ask potential employees if they have been convicted of a felony until later in the hiring process. That way, individuals can make it through the first round of recruitment without being immediately disqualified.  

I think you’ll be fascinated my Michelle’s take on diversity, inclusion, and this untapped workforce. 

Resources Mentioned in this #WorkTrends Episode

Michelle Cirocco on Linkedin and Twitter
SHRM’s Getting Talent Back to Work pledge

Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash

#WorkTrends: Your D&I Journey

These days, many organizations are on a journey to become more diverse and inclusive. But how can we as individuals go on our own journey — and help our organizations too?

Those are big questions, but thankfully we’ve got some big thinkers here to help us work through them. This week on #WorkTrends we’re joined by Damon Klotz, Culture Amp’s work culture evangelist, and Steven Huang, the head of D&I at Culture Amp. Together they provided a D&I road map that all of us can follow.

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

What You Need to Know to Start Your D&I Journey

Are you a little nervous to dip your toes into the D&I waters? You’re not alone, Huang says. “A lot of people, particularly leaders, are scared to start their D&I journey, and I can completely understand why,” he says. “It is a really difficult topic, and unfortunately I can’t comfort you and tell you that it’s going to be easy or simple.”

But what’s most important, Huang says, is that you get started as soon as you can, because the world is changing — 2019 will be the first year in history that over 50% of the children born in the U.S. will be non-white, he says. The conversations around D&I will only grow more important as this trend continues — and they’ll also help your organization get a better competitive advantage.

Beginning your personal D&I journey also requires you to look inward. “One of the core topics that has really opened my eyes and helped me see the world differently is the idea of intersectionality,” Klotz says. “It’s thinking about the effects of multiple forms of discrimination and how they combine and overlap.”

So how can you embrace an intersectional mindset to help you build a better workplace? Klotz says it’s all about thinking intentionally. Think tactically about how you can improve the employee experience for all groups within your organization, he says. Also, be conscious of the privilege your position puts you in. And if you’re feeling like the odds are stacked against you, don’t. “I always go back to the African proverb [that says] if you think you’re too small to have an impact on the world, spend a night with a mosquito,” Klotz says. “We can be that glimmer and hope and change if we are conscious.”

How Smaller Companies Can Tackle D&I

A lot of tech companies discuss D&I a lot, and for good reason — their locations along the coasts mean they’re going to naturally attract a more diverse workforce. But what about smaller companies or companies that aren’t in areas that are as diverse? What can they do to create a more diverse and inclusive environment?

Huang says first that companies shouldn’t compare themselves with others. Instead, he says, companies should aspire to be “the best version of yourself.” To help your organization achieve this, Huang recommends using a D&I survey. “It gives all of your employees a chance to answer questions about how they’re feeling about the state of D&I in your organization,” he says. Culture Amp has used these internally, and it has begun to give the surveys away for free. “It’s been used by hundreds of companies,” Huang says.

Klotz echoes Huang’s points, and adds that companies need to go a step beyond benchmarks when thinking about their own D&I efforts. Companies also need to consider another question: “What are the changes you can make inside of your company that are actually going to improve the experience that you’re giving to your employees every single day?” This will help you create more customized solutions for issues that arise, so that your organizational culture will be everything you want it to be.

 

Resources Mentioned in This Episode

How Global Mobility Can Advance Diversity and Inclusion

In the quest for success, diversity and inclusion are playing an increasingly important role. Customers are looking for companies that value diversity, and that will have an impact on recruiting strategies. According to McKinsey & Company’s 2017 Diversity Matters II report, there is a positive correlation between a more ethnically and gender-diverse leadership team and an increase in profits. An earlier Gallup study found that gender-diverse companies generate more revenue.

However, it’s not clear that this message is getting through.

Dismal Numbers

A report by Observer found that in Silicon Valley, women and minorities are severely underrepresented. Of the 22 Silicon Valley tech companies that disclosed their diversity profiles, only one (23andMe) has a workforce in which women outnumber men (50.2% compared to 49.8%). At the other end of the spectrum, electrochromic windows manufacturer View is only 17% female. Regarding ethnic diversity, Lyft takes the lead: Underrepresented minorities (excluding Asians) make up 14% of its workforce.

Decision-Making Bias

What accounts for these numbers? Gartner just published a new version of its report “Three Reasons Why D&I Are Critical in Your Product Management Road Map.” The report found that human bias is hindering companies from reaping the benefits of D&I. However, since CEOs are fully aware of the research on D&I — and companies are facing more pressure and scrutiny to be inclusive — Gartner recommends that HCM software vendors stress D&I enablement in their product offerings.

The Role of Global Mobility

Global mobility is one possible solution to the lack of D&I. “Companies can build diverse teams with the power of global mobility,” says Peggy Smith, CEO and president of Worldwide ERC, a nonprofit that promotes global mobility. “D&I creates engaged work cultures, and drives the kind of innovation that makes companies more competitive.”

However, while mobility can and should be an enabler of diversity, it’s still lacking in its own right: Less than 20 percent of mobile employees are women, according to research from the RES Forum. Global mobility is on the rise, but many companies simply don’t know how to unleash its power.

But suppose you could learn the best practices and get the best tools to maximize the benefits of a diverse workforce across various cultures and geographies? Of course, whatever you do will need to be aligned with the organization’s business goals if it’s going to be effective. In addition, there are legal and compliance aspects that must also be considered. But imagine being able to tap into the best talent for your company — not just the best talent in your immediate area. The ability to access creativity and innovation, wherever it resides, is a game changer.

If you want to learn how to use global mobility to take your company to the next level, register for “How to Build Diverse Teams With the Power of Global Mobility,” a webinar presented by Worldwide ERC and sponsored by Topia. The webinar will be held on July 10, 2018, at 2 p.m. EDT.

TalentCulture CEO and Founder Meghan M. Biro, and Peggy Smith, CEO and president of Worldwide ERC, will present practical knowledge to help your company create a diverse and inclusive workforce and gain a competitive edge.

Register now.

This post is sponsored by Topia.

How to Move People Past an ‘Us Versus Them’ Mindset at Work

The “us versus them” mindset is alive and well in organizations of all sizes, both domestic and global. Often, this type of mindset and bias results from command-and-control leadership and legacy business models, according to the recently-published 2017 Gallup Global Workforce Study (opt-in required). Among other findings, the study reinforces that only one in three U.S. workers are engaged, interactive and collaborative in the workplace.

Why is that?

One of the root causes of employee disengagement is an “us versus them” mindset. This mindset is a subtly pervasive form of workplace bias, preventing diversity and inclusion. Not only that — this mindset holds us back from achieving peak productivity and profitability.

Over time, an “us versus them” mindset becomes ingrained as a cultural norm. Dualism is fostered instead of dialogue. But It doesn’t have to continue to be that way. By breaking down big, hairy issues into bite-sized, feasible projects, collaborative and profitable dialogues are started across the workplace. As more and more small teams create remarkable client outcomes, the rest of the workforce will want to follow suit.

If you want to move past the “us versus them” mindset, start a dialogue about the profitability of collaboration.

Yes, profitability. When you talk profitability, you have a business discussion, not just a human resources conversation. You position HR as a profit center instead of a cost center. Have the profitable collaboration conversation across the organization, not just in departmental silos.

We need enlightened HR professionals who want to lead by acting locally. But where to start? Let’s explore where to find cases of the “us versus them” mindset in your organization.

Two Classic Cases of ‘Us Versus Them’

Dueling Departments

The first scenario turns people from different departments and professional disciplines into adversaries.

All you have to do is attend your next meeting, look and listen. Sales and marketing may be at odds with engineering and operations folks, and that is the way things always seem to go. For starters, employees speak two different professional languages. Also, historically, they are not motivated to learn how to speak — and think — like their colleagues across the table.

Alternatively, the legal or finance departments show up late in the project because, historically, they are excluded from conversations “until they need to be brought in.” You know what happens next. Projects are stalled or derailed, based on a behavioral precedent that has morphed into accepted business process.

These “but we’ve always done things this way” scenarios play out in countless meetings during the course of every week. As a result, non-collaborative, unprofitable “us versus them” biases are perpetuated. Why not address the bias, collaborate and move beyond that mindset?

Knowledge Workers Versus the Rest of the Workforce

Often, an “us versus them” mindset leads to resentment of the educational “haves” by the “have nots / couldn’t affords.” And often, less-educated colleagues and workers performing rote tasks don’t have opportunities to learn and develop in order to become part of the teams working on more complex tasks. However, manual workers may be just as capable of complex problem-solving as their more-educated counterparts, given the right tools. Typically, these workforce “Cinderellas” get stuck right where they are, eventually becoming entrenched in a biased, rote workforce mindset.

On the other hand, knowledge workers often have zero interaction with workers on the assembly line or loading dock, for example. Yet, rote workers often become beta test end-users of new systems, processes and apps created by their erudite colleagues. As a result, there is very little comprehensive appreciation and knowledge of what workflow theory actually looks like in practice. Often, these processes fall short of what was anticipated.

Think about how much you could improve the outcomes if knowledge workers collaborated with those end-user line workers, sharing feedback about product and process improvement. How often does that cross-training scenario happen in your organization? It’s not that hard to accomplish.

Bring People Together

Consider what would happen if you brought together a new cast of collaborators on behalf of creating enduring client outcomes. Either they’d quickly jettison old habits and mindsets, or the project would be derailed. As a result, project goals and outcomes would take precedence over ingrained habits. Colleagues would have no choice but to start connecting the dots differently, collaboratively and more creatively.

Eventually, everyone would work outside of their “normal” behavioral comfort zones. Consequently, team members would more readily leave their bias and baggage outside the door and view the project as a professional development opportunity. Once one project is a success, the team would have new expectations about how much they should collaborate.

Want to know how to overcome “us versus them” bias? Allow teams to experience what productive and profitable collaboration feels like. Let your own organization’s engagement scorecard showcase how two-thirds of employees are engaged, for starters. Why continue to settle for anything less?

The Paradox of Diversity and Inclusion

Almost every organization has a firm understanding of how important diversity is. There is an abundance of research out there that confirms more diversity results in success. Forty-nine percent of executives surveyed by Forbes Insights strongly agree that a diverse and inclusive workforce is crucial to encouraging different perspectives and ideas that drive innovation. With the rise of millennials in the workplace, many organizations have achieved diversity organically. The average human being has turned on the news over the last decade any maybe even has a moral compass that tells them diversity is simply a fairness issue that should be the norm.

I find myself wondering, if everyone knows what diversity is, and why it’s so important, why are white men much more likely to hold leadership positions than women or minorities?

It appears HR’s approach to diversity suffers from the tunnel vision that started with a misunderstanding of what diversity is.

I consulted with an HR pro once who would put a post-it on any applications from minority candidates that read, “Hire a minority,” when passing those off to a hiring manager. When I was first made aware of this practice, I thought to myself, “This has to be limited to this one organization?” After all, who else could believe it’s okay to hire someone solely based on race? Did I read that article on the Supreme Court ruling on racial quotas correctly? It turns out, this practice is all too common throughout organizations, schools, governments, etc.

To truly achieve a diverse workforce that is also inclusive, we must re-examine what diversity is and educate our teams on inclusion.

Real diversity is accomplished through teams that are comprised of multiple generations, cultures, genders, ethnic groups, races, personalities, cognitive styles, length of tenures, organizational functions, parental status, military status, educations, and backgrounds. When building our teams, if we concentrate solely on one characteristic, we alienate groups of society. Much like the HR pro from above was alienating anyone that did not fall within a particular minority. When re-structuring the organization, we must ensure that our teams are as eclectic as possible.

Like many initiatives, there are only as good as the tools you provide to utilize them. Diversity is no different nor is it only HR’s problem or responsibility. Once you have teams where everyone does not think, look and act alike, they are set up for failure if they do not have the knowledge and skill to work together cohesively. This is the most important aspect of diversity and will sabotage your efforts if not setup correctly.

Here are only a five top inclusion initiatives:

  • Ensure your Baby Boomers, Xers and Millennials know what motivates each other and how to communicate.
  • Show your high Ds that their personality type is not superior to others.
  • Create initiatives that enable ethnic groups to see the values of different points of view.
  • Encourage your tenured employees to engage in reverse mentoring of new hires.
  • Invest as much as possible in each team member’s professional development.

If we truly want to make progress and ensure everyone has an equal opportunity, we have to stop thinking about diversity in a vacuum. We owe it to ourselves, our organizations, the HR field and most of all, to society.

 

Photo Credit: mbnikesportscamps via Compfight cc

How Diversity And Inclusion Are Driving the Bottom Line At American Express

At many corporations, diversity is viewed as a “nice to have.” But according to Valerie Grillo, chief diversity officer at American Express, their commitment to diversity is “not just because it’s the right thing to do, but frankly, because our business leaders believe that a focus on diversity is actually going to help us with the bottom line.” Diversity isn’t about ticking off boxes, however. “You can have as many diverse employees as possible, but if we don’t have a culture where employees feel that they can speak up and their voices are heard, you’re not going to really take advantage of that.” Grillo points out that 40% of Amex’s 60,000 employees worldwide are part of a special interest employee network group, such as WIN, the women’s interest network, or PRIDE for LGBT employees. The groups provide mentoring, “speed networking,” and other opportunities to connect with like-minded colleagues.

An inclusive environment can pay off in three areas, says Grillo. One is recruitment. “It’s really important for us to be an employer of choice across the board, period,” she says, citing Amex’s positive rankings on lists for LGBT-friendliness and receptiveness to working mothers. “It helps with our retention, because our general employee base likes knowing they work for a company that has an inclusive workforce that supports equality.” As I describe in my new book Stand Out, both employers and employees need to distinguish themselves in the marketplace, and a commitment to diversity can be an excellent brand cornerstone.

With its diversity initiatives, Amex also sought to enhance its relationship with customers. Starting in the summer of 2012 and continuing for the past three summers, the company targeted the gay-friendly enclave of Provincetown, Massachusetts (expanding to eight nationwide markets by 2014) to conduct pilot outreach to LGBT customers. “The insight that we based it on was a Harris Interactive statistic that LGBT folks are 72% more likely to support a brand if they know that the company’s workplace practices are gay-friendly,” says Dante Mastri, Acting Director of Innovation and Design for Amex’s Merchant Services, as well as the leader of the PRIDE Diversity marketing initiatives.

“Basically, if LGBT folks know that Amex is good to their LGBT employees, they’re more likely to support us,” he says. They handed out information about Amex’s stance on LGBT issues, as well as cards highlighting local merchants that accept Amex. “My theory is the more that we’re out in front of consumers in this way, the more we’re going to see diverse talent coming to the company, as well,” says Mastri.

Finally, Amex hopes their diversity initiatives will benefit the merchants they work with. “In the first year, we partnered with an executive from Twitter TWTR -2.39% and put together a workshop [for local businesses] on how to leverage social media to grow your business,” he says. Their focus was “What are some of the business-growing insights and assets that we can bring to these merchants to make it valuable for them to accept Amex?” They gave them LGBT-friendly stickers to put in their windows and, in New York City last November, organized a Small Business Saturday Night event aimed at LGBT consumers featuring celebrities like Mary Lambert.

The results have been positive, says Mastri. From the first to the second year of the program in Provincetown, “We went back and we actually saw, during the period we were in market, double-digit growth and charge volume over the previous year. So we actually drove people to spend more in these locations.” Diversity, while laudable, isn’t likely to gain much traction in the corporate world as long as it’s viewed as an expense. At companies like American Express AXP +0.71%, it will succeed because of its ability to drive relationships with employees, customers and merchants – and ultimately revenue.

A version of this post was first published on Forbes.com.

Image credit: StockSnap.io

Gaining Strength Through Diversity and Inclusion

Corporate culture is all about the attitude a company takes. Nowhere do you define your business more clearly and publicly than in your attitude toward diversity and inclusion. It’s not just a matter of taking a public stance, though that helps. It’s about the way you engage with and motivate both employees and customers.

A Stronger Business Through Diversity

It’s a truth we’re not all comfortable facing, but business is still dominated by the same small elite it has been for hundreds of years – a group that is white and male, and that tends to recruit more of the same. Deloitte research shows that we’re struggling to change this – while 71% of businesses aspire to be inclusive, only 11% manage it.

But recent research has shown that a more diverse business isn’t just good for the people being hired or for society at large – it’s good for the business doing the hiring. Research by the National Centre for Women & Information Technology has shown that the presence of women within a team increases the group’s collective intelligence, while Gallup research has shown that teams are often happier and better engaged under a female leader.

There’s also a more directly obvious factor to consider. Without a wide range of perspectives, varying with gender, race and background, you will never understand customers from different backgrounds. Without a diverse workforce to provide diverse insight, you are limiting the scope of your customer base. Embracing diversity within your business lets you reach more people beyond it.

Values on Parade

A strong sense of values and purpose are essential tools in galvanizing your workforce and drawing strong customer support. Focusing on diversity and inclusion gives you a chance to not just talk about your values but live them, and in an area that matters to millions of people.

It’s something that Gap and Levi Strauss showed in taking a stance over Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act. By standing up for LGBT rights they took a firm stance on diversity and inclusion. It was an act that could have affected their profits, making the stance more substantial and meaningful. And because it was reaching out to an often oppressed group, it highlighted their values.

By standing by their values, Gap and Levi Strauss gained a lot of public praise, motivated the parts of their workforce who shared their values, and galvanized customers in support of their brands.

How to Encourage Diversity and Inclusion

It’s not enough just to say that you support diversity and inclusion, as shown by the gap between 71% aspiring to it and 11% achieving it in the Deloitte survey. So what can you do to make a more diverse and inclusive business culture a reality?

An important step is to vary your recruitment pools. If you always advertise in the same places then you’ll always get the same people. Consider advertising jobs in newspapers, magazines and websites that target different readerships, such as women, Hispanics, and the LGBT community.

Take time to listen to diverse voices. What are the challenges facing different groups within your business? What stands between them and joining your company? Don’t just listen passively but seek out those opinions so that you can gain insight into how to improve.

If we act passively, waiting for employees from different communities to come to us, staying silent as we wait for them to speak up, then may never take the chance. Many have been shown again and again that employers aren’t interested. We must be the ones to reach out if we want to make our companies more diverse and inclusive, and to reap the benefits that brings.

True Diversity Is Much More Than A Drive By

“For you and me, sex is not a competition
For you and me, sex is not a job description
For you and me
We agree—
But that’s just us
Reaching for the alien shore…”

—Neil Peart (writer and musician)

At the tail end of my run, I walked engrossed in my cool down, my music and my thoughts. I half-looked back over my right shoulder to make sure there were no cars coming – and whoosh – a black blur shot past me on my left.

Startled into flight or fight I spun around and just about fell over. But it sobered me quickly, elevating my heart rate and focal strength to new heights.

What was I thinking? I thought. About everything else but where I’m at obviously.

Yes, I made it home intact and more in touch with my immediate environment, but it actually got me thinking about everything else ironically. Like the article I had read earlier in the Washington Post about Salesforce.com CEO Marc Benioff reviewing the pay of his entire workforce (all 16,000 employees) to make sure both males and females are compensated fairly based on the work they do and their performance. He was quoted as saying, “When I’m done there will be no gap.”

Right on. Admirable and exciting not only for how this may impact Salesforce.com’s overall employee and business performance, but also how it may help spur further change at other companies.

But why now? What’s the motivation that shot past Benioff and other progressive business leaders doing similar change management initiatives around gender diversity and performance?

Is it the fact that study after study now reveals the impact of gender diversity on technology business performance is powerful (which includes pay equity as well)? According to a report from the National Center for Women & Information Technology, a teams’ collective intelligence rose with the number of women in the group. Is this possibly because of the women’s higher performance on tasks that required social sensitivity? I would say yes. Gallup research does show that women leaders tend to have significantly happier, more highly engaged teams.

Also, according to economist research referenced in an amazing report from Mercer titled “When Women Thrive Businesses Thrive” from November of 2014, eliminating the gap between male and female employment rates could boost GDP in the US by 5%, in Japan by 9%, in the United Arab Emirates by 12%, and in Egypt by 34%. The fact that women invest more of their household income than men the overall wellbeing of their children and their communities, greater gender diversity in the workforce could dramatically impact quality of life globally.

In January of this year (2015), McKinsey released a study showing that gender diverse companies had financial performance that was 15 percent higher than the national industry median, and ethnically diverse companies had performance that was 35 percent higher than the national industry median.

Also according to McKinsey, an investigation of 89 European companies with the greatest gender diversity at the top management level found that, on average, these companies’ financial performance was higher than average for their business sectors. In particular, these companies demonstrated superior return on equity, earnings before interest and taxes, and stock price growth.

There are business leaders who are doing more than just being accountable according to the same Mercer research report referenced above, and those organizations where leaders are actively involved in diversity programs have more women at the top and throughout the organization as well as more equitable talent flows between women and men.

Plus, more women will move into top roles over the next decade globally, everywhere but North America unfortunately. The TalentCulture #TChat will be live in Cork, Ireland this week for the IT@Cork European Technology Summit, and according to a University of Cambridge study has observed that Ireland is fifth in the world for female economic power, ranking just behind Australia, Norway, Denmark and Finland.

In Ireland, women are in positions of seniority in a staggering number of large global tech businesses – Apple, Microsoft, PayPal and many others. And academic institutions in Ireland are now seeing businesses and STEM-based industries focus more heavily on the gender diversity agenda.

In fact, there’s been a lot of exciting work over the past decade developing talent pipelines in Ireland for example, developing and sustaining new models of industry-academic partnerships. For example, VMware in Cork has grown from 1 employee 10 years ago to 800+ employees today by adding approximately 100 employees per year to its workforce. In excess of 40% of these new employees have been recruited from partnerships with local academic institutions.

The approach adopted in this case is an example of how organizations in Ireland are now innovating in the talent pipeline space and generating competitive advantage from partnering with academic institutions such as the Cork Institute of Technology, as distinct from following the more traditional option of just simply hiring from the pool of graduates that the academic institutions decide to produce.

It’s not lost on talent acquisition leaders about how hyper-competitive it is out there to recruit the best people – both women and men alike – with the skills needed for the work demands at hand. I’m sure there are many other examples of the whoosh-blur changes from around the world culminating in and not a moment too soon. The new State of Talent Acquisition survey data from ERE Media underscore how vital speed-to-hire and workforce planning are to organizations (as well as current hindrances).

In a recent interview with 1to1media.com on the topics of diversity and inclusion, PeopleFluent SVP & Chief Marketing Officer, Alys Reynders Scott, an inspirational mentor to me and many others, states that leaders – the big L’s and the little l’s – should be all about building a palpably inclusive culture that delivers the promise of a diverse workforce with business success is the best thing any organization can do to attract the next wave of highly qualified diversity candidates into the business.

Because the investment to attract and retain with a true diversity agenda that impacts the world of work for the better is much more than a drive by.

That Magical Mindful Presence of Candidate Service

“And with all your magic
I disappear from view…”

—Coldplay

She stopped in the middle of the hall and met my gaze. We shook hands. Other customers, partners and peers streamed around us on either side like a river around rocks.

“It was a pleasure meeting you,” I said.

She smiled. “Likewise.  This was a great week. Very informative. You really know how to listen to your customers.”

I’d thought she’d wink on that last comment, but she didn’t. Instead, the gleam in her eyes told me all I needed to know. After earlier conversations about how they’d been waiting for our latest talent acquisition product innovations that would eventually improve their speed and quality of hire over time, her and her colleagues were excited about the possibilities. The streams around us rushed continuously by, color and conversation blurred while we engaged in the magical mindful presence of one single interaction.

“Safe travels,” I said.

“You as well.”

Then we both merged into the nearest streams and were gone. And so it was at our PeopleFluent WISDOM 2015 customer conference, where engaging customer, partner and peer communication streams flowed in and out of the general session hall, through breakout sessions, down hallways, across tables during breaks and mealtimes.

Business thrives when customer communication and education are constant and engagement and retention are high. They are, of course, a very special group of investors who count on some kind of return in short order – streamline our processes, save us time, money and more. In the HR technology marketplace, they want all of the above plus better hires, a smarter workforce, strong leadership, diversity of thought, agile innovation and more.

This is why according to Yvette Cameron, HCM research director at global research firm Gartner who spoke at our WISDOM conference, companies spend over $41 billion on customer relationship management (CRM) technologies. We leverage technology, invest in our products and services, improve our customer service, wheel and deal, bend over backwards and do whatever it takes to hold onto our customers.

Conversely, companies only spend about $11 billion on HR technology, which is just a little more than a fourth of the CRM spend. Yvette then asked us all: What if we treated employees like we treat our best customers?

What if. Ironic, right? But hey, engagement is up according to the latest Gallup research: The percentage of U.S. workers engaged in their jobs rose from an average 31.7% in January to an average 32.9% in February. The latest monthly rate of employee engagement is the highest Gallup has recorded in three years and is a full 1 1/2 percentage points above where it stood in February 2014.

One and a half percentage points. Whooptee do-da-day. Break out the bubbly, kids. As soon as we’re hired we disappear into a faded and muted blur. As soon as we don’t get the job, we disappear.

Progress, however incremental, is progress, and there are those who are making the move on the front end to treat candidates like customers and using the right technologies to enable the much-needed preferential treatment. That’s why research and relationship building are alive and well in recruiting today, something we’re going to cover on the TalentCulture #TChat Show this week.

These same candidates, who like your customers, are doing their homework in advance on whether or not they want to do business with you, regardless of the technology investments you’ve made. This means the HR and talent acquisition teams need to take the time and do their due diligence when sourcing the best talent and invest in “whatever it takes” engagement to hold on to these customers – the current and future workforce.

Finding and hiring top tech talent is really tough today, especially those with the necessary skill sets that are critical for today’s companies – primarily, software programmers and developers, as well as science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) positions.

According to Dice’s 2015 Tech Candidate Sentiment Survey, tech candidates understand that recruiters use publicly available data to research candidates and get a “total person” view before making that first call to provide a better candidate experience. At least 50% of survey respondents said that they wish recruiters would do more research on them and their background before calling.

The candidates are in the driver seat now, so let us not forget that. But, according to the 2014 Candidate Experience Awards Report (the CandEs), employers overall are doing a better job meeting the needs of candidates in the pre-applicant stage of the candidate experience, providing transparency into Values (86.5 percent), Product (81.3 percent), Answers to ‘Why” People Want to Work Here (87.1 percent) and Answers to ‘Why’ People Stay Here (70.3 percent). They also focused on providing information on key culture initiatives around Diversity (83.2 percent).

This all helps of course, but whether hired or not (we’re all perpetual candidates), business thrives when customer communication and education are constant and engagement is high. Over the past two years, many CandE winners have invested in developing qualitative feedback channels for those candidates not advancing while immediately career pathing those who are.

And although not all their efforts focus on one-to-one communication, many are focusing on interactive communication channels that inform, educate, provide feedback and ask for feedback from smaller groups, leveraging that magical mindful presence of candidate service.

We really should listening more. And answering back. That’s worth at least 10 percentage-point return on engagement, don’t you think?

“And if you were to ask me
After all that we’ve been through
Still believe in magic
Oh yes I do
Oh yes I do…”

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

(license)

 

Diversity and Inclusion Drive the Road to Remarkable

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kevin, it’s Kevin – call me.

I went downstairs and texted back: Who is this?

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

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

Please, call me at…

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

What the hell?

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

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

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

“Hello,” I answered. “Who’s this?”

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

I didn’t answer.

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

“Who is this?” I asked.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Are you still there?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo courtesy of Kevin W. Grossman