Job Descriptions: How to Eliminate the Hidden Bias Within

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

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

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

The Effort to Decrease Bias and Increase Diversity

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

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

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

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

Gender Bias: An Obvious Culprit

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

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

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

Bias Hiding in Plain Sight

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

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

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

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

Fixing the Problem

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

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

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

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

Worth Doing Right

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

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

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

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

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

The Last Word

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

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


Photo: Sharon McCutcheon

Promoting Diversity and Maintaining an Inclusive Culture

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

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

The Advantages of Promoting Diversity and Inclusivity

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

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

Financial Gain 

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

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

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

Expanded Talent Pool 

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

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

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

Better Engagement and Satisfaction 

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

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

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

Maintaining an Understanding Organization and Prioritizing Inclusion

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

Take an Honest Internal Look

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

Consistently Educate Yourself and Your Staff

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

Promote an Open Dialogue

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

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

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

Photo: Ricardo Resende

Is Diversity Baked Into Your Hiring Process?

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

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

Why traditional hiring practices backfire

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

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

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

If we want change, we need to expect challenges

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

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

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

 Their response neatly framed their hiring challenges:

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

We say we want change, but do we?

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

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

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

True diversity begins with intention

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

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

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

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

Photo: 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: mentatdgt

Cultivating Employee Trust in Today’s Workplace

Trust plays a role not just in employee recruitment and retention, but in everything from the benefits employers offer to their cultural norms. As leaders welcome Gen Z  into the workplace, they’re learning that this generation insists on transparency and trust in a way that prior ones simply did not.

Frankly, today’s employees have high expectations. Edelman’s 2020 Trust Barometer found that 73% expect to have the opportunity to help shape the future of society. The same percentage say they expect to be included in company planning. 

Evident among younger employees, in particular, are four trust-related trends:

1. Flexible work is becoming a table-stakes benefit. 

The giant leap that technology has made over the last decade means most employees are now able to work from home. Many now see that as a right rather than a privilege earned with trust.

According to FlexJobs, which leases coworking space to companies, 80% of the 7,300 surveyed workers said they’d be more loyal to their employer if it gave them flexible work options. More than half (52%) have attempted to negotiate such arrangements themselves.

It’s understandable that many employers are hesitant to give workers total freedom to work when and where they want. But technology — the very thing that has made this trend possible in the first place — can also be used to create accountability. Communication platforms like Slack show when workers are online, and time-tracking tools can ensure they spend their time in ways that are actually valuable to the company. 

2. Employers and employees are monitoring each other’s online activity.

It’s been true for some time that employees and employers research the other online before a hire is made. But now, they’re scouting each other’s social media accounts on a near-daily basis.

The question in many HR circles is no longer whether to hire someone because of past social media posts, but whether new ones might be worth firing someone over. And it’s no longer just illegal activity that raises eyebrows: Employees and employers are on the lookout for bigotry, culturally insensitive comments, and even relationships with questionable individuals. 

Make clear to employees that your company is watching, but do so in a positive, uplifting way. From brand accounts, interact with employees’ social profiles. Go ahead and share that post from a worker who just ran a 5K. If they ask for contractor recommendations for an upcoming roof repair, why not comment with a referral to someone who re-shingled the office?

3. Diversity is gaining attention as a professional-development advantage.

The broader the range of backgrounds a company has, the more its members can learn from one another. As people learn from each other, they build trust — gaining insights into their work and seeing the world from another’s perspective can strengthen ties. Tracey Grace, CEO of IBEX IT Business Experts, credits the company’s diverse workforce with “keeping the company fresh and me growing.”

SurveyMonkey data suggests that Gen Z employees understand this as well. Almost three times as many members of diverse companies told the pollster they plan to stay with their current employer for five years or more.

Reiterate that mentorship programs are open to everyone, and try to pair diverse mentors and mentees. Encourage women and members of racial minorities, in particular, to pursue growth in technical fields, where they’re often underrepresented. 

4. Workers aren’t waiting around for things to get better.

Employment tenures have been trending downward for years. Just 10% of Baby Boomers have left a job for mental health reasons. But according to a survey of 1,500 young people from Mind Share Partners, three-quarters of Gen Zers asked have done so.

Every role at every company will experience stress at some point. But while older generations could be trusted to tough it out at least for a few months, many younger workers react by immediately sharpening their resume.

Make company challenges an open conversation. Encourage workers to speak up if they are struggling. Be generous with support, whether through a part-time helper or additional development opportunities, when asked for it. 

Everywhere you look, distrust has redefined the ways employees and employers interact with one another. But many of the changes it’s produced are clearly not: Flexible work environments encourage people to work when and where they feel most comfortable. Growth opportunities can and should be given to everyone so they can both earn trust with others and extend trust in return. If distrust is what it takes to get to happier workplaces, then so be it. 


Photo by Wyron A 

Finding Gen Z Talent in 2020: Three Predictions

TalentCulture asked Kristen Ribero, Director of Enterprise Marketing for Handshake, for three predictions on how we’ll be finding Gen Z talent in 2020. It’s all about democratizing opportunity and building diverse teams; sourcing tech talent beyond STEM; and proactive, personal outreach. Here’s what she had to say:

Prediction 1: We’ll Democratize Opportunity and Build More Diverse Teams 

Employers recruiting early talent traditionally tapped into a few “core” schools that were either selected by proximity or by whether a leader at the company attended that school, which resulted in a pretty homogenous talent pool. 

Instead, we’ll start more effectively democratizing opportunity — by enabling employers to find talent based on numerous attributes that help determine fit, from any school, anywhere. And there’s plenty of information out there. Gen Z’s search for authenticity enables their greater freedom of expression and openness to understanding diverse perspectives. Gen Z grew up on mobile phones, social media, and are true digital natives. While early talent recruiting has shifted digitally, the attributes and values that set candidates apart remain largely the same.

We’ll use targeted talent marketplaces that have the potential to connect candidates with like-minded employers. Not only does this ensure a more seamless cultural fit, it also increases the likelihood of an employee being successful. And we’ll be combining high tech and high touch to do it.

From the talent side, Gen Z values individual identity, and are careful with how they craft their niche personas. They also value diversity, and want to work at organizations that embrace people from all walks of life. By carefully curating their own online presence, Gen Z can secure engagement from relevant employers through these targeted marketplaces. And that enables a better match through targeting for both employers and prospects.

Prediction 2: We’ll See Tech Talent Who Aren’t STEM Majors

Gen Z who haven’t necessarily majored in STEM are increasingly applying for technical roles. Their knowledge of programming languages and other technical skills supplements their coursework — without needing to major in STEM related fields. Of the women who applied for software engineering roles on Handshake, 35% majored in curricula other than STEM, according to Handshake’s Women in Tech report. And in their profiles on the site, it’s clear they have the skills and know how to show them off.

So what we’re seeing is that declaring a major isn’t the only indicator of required skills for a job. Employers are realizing this too, and adjusting their search criteria.

There are other factors here: Research shows that Gen Z  job seekers are more financially motivated than millennials, and the majority of Gen Z employees value salary over other job perks. Technical roles are in high demand, and they tend to be higher paid.

Gen Z is careful to craft a niche identity that’s persuasive and unique enough to set themselves apart. They don’t know a world without technology, which means they are more tech-savvy than previous generations. And they’re leaning in on hard skills as equally as soft ones. Of the 35% of women who applied for software engineering and developer roles I mentioned, their majors include business analytics, communications, marketing, language, and political science.

So employers will get better at looking beyond traditional attributes to find the talent they need. Instead of pinpointing STEM-specific majors, coursework, and GPA, they will lean on a candidate’s hard and soft skills to provide a more accurate assessment of their likelihood to succeed in a role.

Prediction 3: We’ll Take a More Proactive, Personal Approach to Outreach

Proactive employer communication to potential candidates will become a key factor in attracting Gen Z talent. From 2018 to 2019, we observed employers proactively reach out to 4x more students. Employers can tap into this generation’s need for connection by delivering encouraging, personalized messages. In Handshake’s student survey, 95% told us that they engage with employers that send personalized, proactive outreach. While tech has provided more seamless ways for people to connect, Gen Z still prefers to learn from real people. So high tech and high touch are effective complements.

As far as messaging, here are two examples: a message that won’t fly with Gen Z talent, and a message that will. First, the one you don’t want to do:

Hi there,

I’m reaching out to you from [company]. I see that your graduation date is coming up, and I wanted to invite you to check out our job openings on our website. Let me know if you have any questions!


[recruiter’s name]

The message lacks personalized components like a recruiter introduction or student’s name. The student can’t easily decipher how this organization would be a good fit for them. Students are more likely to engage with messages that mention how their background is ideal for a role they’re hiring for. And the CTA is weak: the only indicated action is to check out job openings, but there’s nothing in there about actually applying. That’s a missed opportunity.

Here’s a much better example:

Hi [candidate’s name],

My name’s [recruiter’s name] and I’m a recruiting manager at [company].

We’re currently hiring a sales representative in our [city] office, and based on your background in business at [university] and passion in customer service, I think you should apply!

Don’t take my word for it. One of your [university] peers, [name], now works in this function at [company]. If you’re interested, I’d love to introduce you two so you can learn what it takes to thrive here.

We are also going to be at [university]’s campus next month, so let’s plan to connect in person if that’s easier for you. Please RSVP here.

I look forward to hearing from you!


[recruiter’s name]

What works in this message is the personalization of first name and institution name, along with the fact that an on-campus event is attached to the campaign. The recruiter also suggests an opportunity to introduce the student to one of their peers currently employed by the company. The next step, and a great way to increase the effectiveness of a message like this, is to arrange a scheduled follow up.


#WorkTrends: How to Make Your Organization Accessible for Everyone

If you want to keep your company away from the wrong side of a lawsuit, you need to work on creating both an application process and a workplace that are truly accessible. In news from the world of HR: DISH Network just settled a lawsuit for $1.25M regarding an inaccessible online job application process. The company will have to work to make its application process much more accessible. One of the key lessons in this lawsuit is that the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) isn’t just for employees. It’s for applicants as well.

So I’m thrilled we have a terrific guest on #WorkTrends this week, Neil Milliken, to speak about how to make your organization accessible for everyone. Neil is the global head of accessibility at Atos and the cofounder of AXSChat, an online platform focused on disability, inclusion, and accessibility.

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

[00:32] Accessibility is something a lot of us in HR are thinking about
[05:54] Actually, disability is not a dirty word.
[13:01] Providing assistive technologies benefits the entire organization
[16:32] Two sides to the future of work: The human side and the technology side.

What does it truly mean to have an accessible workplace?

We talk a lot about diversity and inclusion lately, but we don’t talk enough about one key area, which is accessibility. What does it truly mean to have an accessible workplace? It means a lot more than physical changes like a wheelchair ramp or having a sign language interpreter on hand, though both of these are certainly important. It’s more a total approach to ensuring that everyone is included in the candidate and the employee journey — whatever their state of disability. It has to do with anyone you interact with, actually, from customers or visitors to colleagues to new hires. And as the DISH settlement makes clear, this is of legal as well as ethical importance.

Disability is Not a Dirty Word.

Neil Milliken has some terrific strategies to pay attention to, and first off that means changing our entire attitude towards the nature of disability. He’s experienced it firsthand. He describes himself as dyslexic and talks about how technology has transformed his life, enabling him to do things he hadn’t been able to do before, making his life easier and sparking a lifelong passion for sharing that passion with others. And as he says, “disability is not a dirty word.”

Talk to most people who experience life with a disability, he reminds us, and they’re happy to talk about their disability. But here’s a good practice: always ask the person, “How do you wish to be addressed, and tell me about whether you need help and, if so, how you want me to help you?” Milliken believes it best to ask upfront, be open, be friendly, and treat people as people.

We’ve Made Progress in the Last Ten Years.

Milliken points out that we’re doing better in the past ten years than we ever had. In the last decade, while we are not where we need to be yet, we are making headway. In the UK, for instance, the disability employment gap is still at around 30%. In Canada, it’s 31% and as Neil said, it’s “something similar” in the US. There is definitely a challenge in terms of accommodating people at work who actually don’t disclose their disabilities, but keep them hidden. But as we become more aware and open about issues of accessibility, that is starting to change. And businesses are starting to have conversations about disabilities and accessibility issues.

Providing Assistive Technologies Benefits the Entire Organization.

Providing assistive technologies isn’t just about helping a select group with disabilities. As Neil pointed out, it benefits the entire organization. In addition to making the workplace disability-inclusive, it may also help a whole range of other employees. For those who are not native speakers, assistive technologies can help them be more productive.

And diversity is a valuable mindset shift: As Milliken says, “If you see the value in diversity, if you can see the richness in having lots of different types of people, then can’t you understand how important it is also to have diversity of thought? With people whose brains are different, you’re going to reduce groupthink. You’re going to introduce creativity and different perspectives on life.” And we know more creativity and more perspectives create a far more innovative workplace.

Predictions for the Future of Work.

None of us have a crystal ball on the future of work. But Milliken imagines that the future of work will have two sides: human and technology. In the rush toward technology, AI and process automation will likely create certain disruptions but will also create new roles and jobs.

On the human side, Milliken notes that aging will have a significant impact on the future of work. We have five generations in the workforce now, and people are getting older and retiring later. Older employees with age-related disabilities will certainly populate the workforce in greater numbers. That means there will be a massive number of people with disabilities in the workforce. It’s going to be increasingly important to continue making workplaces accessible for everyone. So, as Milliken says, “Let’s be sure that we’re going to roll our sleeves up and get it done.”

Resources Mentioned in This Episode:

Photo by Carl Heyerdahl on Unsplash

7 Tips to Manage Diversity in the Workplace

Diversity! It’s an important topic we’re talking about a lot lately. Here’s something to think about: We often talk about diversity and inclusion within the confines of training and programs. But what about the day-to-day challenges and best practices of managing a diverse workforce? Here are seven tips from HR experts to help you successfully manage a diversity in the workplace.

Stop Thinking of Diversity as a Buzzword

HR is full of buzzwords these days, but diversity isn’t one of them — nor should it be treated as one. Too many organizations fall prey to superficial efforts to increase diversity. Programs and initiatives can be great tools, but they’re ultimately temporary.

Instead, remember that building a diverse and inclusive organization is something you must work on every day, just as your sales team hustles for leads and your accounting team keeps the books in order.

Make Diversity Part of Your Hiring Process

Building a diverse organization from the ground up takes time. Try auditing your hiring process to ensure that you’re interviewing a diverse slate of candidates. “Mandate that before a requisition can be closed, you have to be shown that you had a diverse slate,” says Amy Cappellanti-Wolf, chief human resources officer at Symantec.

Taking this actionable step is small, but it ensures that hiring officers aren’t simply hiring people who remind them of themselves. “It starts at the hiring process,” Cappellanti-Wolf says. If you want to show that you’re serious about building a more diverse organization, you have to look critically at how you assess and hire candidates.

Build Connections to Create Talent Pipelines

It’s enormously important to build internal talent pipelines for your organization, and ensuring that you have standards in your hiring process for interviewing diverse candidates is an important step toward creating a more inclusive business and culture.

But in order to create a truly diverse pipelines, companies need to look outside their walls, says La’Wana Harris, diversity and inclusion consultant and author. Harris recommends that companies reach out externally to organizations devoted to promoting diversity in the workplace, as well as educational institutions such as historically black colleges and universities. You’ll find plenty of talented candidates, and also will expand your hiring base.

Make Sure Leadership Is Aligned with Your Goals

Managing a diverse culture can be challenging at times. But without buy-in from leadership from the very beginning, it may be a lost cause.

As you look to address issues of diversity in your organization, be sure that leadership is briefed and on board with your plans. “If you don’t have leadership support, these things fail,” Cappellanti-Wolf says. Additionally, leadership’s behavior and actions will serve as examples for all levels of the organization, and set the tone for what’s expected of employees.

Examine Your Policies to Fight Systemic Inequality

Creating a more inclusive organization takes effort. But no matter what actions an organization takes, it must also be aware that its policies may be promoting systemic inequality. “Workplace policies, systems and processes can disproportionately impact historically marginalized populations,” Harris says.

To counter this, audit your policies. Ensure that your family-leave policy is supportive of LGBTQ parents as well as traditional couples. “Remote-work policies are another point of consideration for building a truly inclusive work environment,” Harris says. “Remote work can open up opportunities for individuals with visible and invisible disabilities.”

Create a Culture of Empathy and Forgiveness

Just as with any process within your organization, there will be hiccups with diversity and inclusion. But both Cappellanti-Wolf and Harris say that’s OK — and it’s no big deal. “We’re all struggling with the same challenges,” Cappellanti-Wolf says.

Leaders need to admit to mistakes, and to encourage others to do the same. Harris says that one way leaders can do this is by adopting a servant leadership mindset. “How do you bring out the best in someone else?” she says. “I’m a proponent of leaders making it their No. 1 goals to mine their employees: mine for the genius, mine for their power, mine for their brilliance.”

Ultimately, it’s about unlocking the potential in your employees. By tailoring your leadership philosophies to meet their needs, you’ll be better able to empathize with them, and when hiccups occur, they’ll understand that an honest mistake was made.

Find Your Blind Spots

Leaders must have the self-awareness to know that they’ll have certain blind spots when it comes to their employees and their employees’ experience. For example, maybe a leader doesn’t know the pronouns an employee prefers.

But what’s most important in these situations is that leaders be aware of their blind spots — and that they work to solve them. “I like to look at it as mirrors, windows and doors,” Harris says. “You look in the mirror and that’s self-awareness. You look out the window and you get perspectives from others to try to get a clue about your blind spots.”

The final step is the door — “What actions do I need to take to build an inclusive environment?”

This article was originally published in 2016 and substantially reworked in July 2019.

Need to Ramp Up Innovation? Hire a Diverse Workforce

Do you need to ramp up company innovation? Need to boost ingenuity? According to research, the solution is simple: Hire a diverse workforce.

In a study, researchers at North Carolina State’s Poole College of Management considered this question: Do companies that foster diversity perform better in developing innovative products and services? Based on data from the 3,000 largest publicly traded companies in the U.S., the answer was clear: “The short answer is that they do,” says Richard Warr, co-author of a paper on the study. “The take-home message here is that a business which relies on innovation will benefit significantly from supporting diversity within its organization. It’s really that simple.”

The N.C. State study isn’t alone in its findings. A few years back the Center for Talent Innovation (CTI), a global talent think tank, published a national survey on Innovation, Diversity, and Market Growth. CTI found that when leaders embody diversity — and an organization’s culture embraces diversity — a “speak-up culture” emerges that harnesses point-of-pain insights to meet the needs of underserved demographics. And it’s this culture that exerts a measurable impact on the bottom line.

Innovation’s Key: Embracing 2D Diversity

CTI examined the importance of two-dimensional (2D) diversity, shorthand for inherent and acquired diversity. Inherent diversity is what you’re born with, including your gender, race, nationality, sexual orientation and religious background. Acquired diversity refers to the awareness or skills you’ve acquired due to life experience, as well as the “experiential intelligence” that broadens your understanding, such as cultural fluency, generational savvy, gender empathy, social media skills and language skills.

But here’s the really interesting part: CTI’s research discovered that when leaders combine acquired and inherent diversity within their teams, their companies reap clear market gains. Promoting 2D diversity was found to create a 70% greater likelihood of capturing a new market, and a 45% greater likelihood of improving market share.

Why 2D Diversity Is Effective

Why does this work so well? Because leaders who possess inherent or acquired diversity are far more likely to see the potential benefit of ideas presented by non-majority team members, and they champion these ideas into implementation.

By contrast, when leaders lack either type of diversity, they tend not to value ideas they don’t “see a need for” — typically ideas presented by women, people of color, LGBTs and millennials. Leaders without acquired diversity are often unreceptive to innovation that doesn’t resonate with their own cultural experiences.

More positively, companies that promote robust employee diversity and inclusion initiatives, and whose leaders possess either inherent or acquired diversity or both, will nurture a work environment in which:

  • Everyone feels empowered to speak up, and everyone gets heard.
  • Team members feel empowered to make decisions.
  • It’s safe for all team members to propose unique ideas.
  • Leaders accept advice and implement the feedback they receive.
  • Leaders offer actionable feedback to their teams.
  • Leaders share credit with team members for their teams’ successes.

It’s easy to see how creating an environment where inclusive behaviors are the norm makes it 75% more likely that employees would have their marketable ideas implemented, as CTI discovered.

The ROI of D&I

A diverse workforce brings unique perspectives, observations, insights and skills, all of which ultimately affect a company’s bottom line.

In the report Global Diversity Primer, four Cisco senior executives compiled data proving the business case for diversity and inclusion. Their number crunching reveals that D&I investments pay off in a variety of areas, including problem solving, innovation, productivity, customer loyalty and financial growth. For example:

  • Of 28 teams studied, diverse teams solved complex tasks better, revealing a higher level of creativity compared with homogeneous teams.
  • Companies that practice inclusion by tapping the knowledge and experiences of diverse employees meet their product revenue targets 46% more often, and their product launch dates 47% more often, compared with similar companies.
  • Hiring employees who match the diversity of consumers pays off in customer loyalty. For example, the 2008 spending power of the LGBT community in the U.S. was estimated at $712 billion — and an estimated 78% of that community, along with their friends and relatives, would switch their brand loyalty to companies known as LGBT-friendly.
  • Diversity leads to bottom-line gains: In research conducted on 506 U.S. businesses, each 1% increase in gender diversity led to a 3% increase in sales revenue. Meanwhile, European companies with gender diversity at the management level saw a 17% higher performance rate in their stock compared with companies that lacked such diversity.

A New Approach to Diversity and Inclusion

Reaping these benefits, however, isn’t a plug-and-play exercise. True diversity and inclusion requires a whole new approach, a broader and richer mindset to see the inherent value in normalizing the presence of all kinds of people within your organization.

To attain diversity means to develop a workforce with representatives from many different groups, including race, gender, age, sexual orientation, abilities and cultural background.

Lip-Service Approach: A company hires one or two people of color (or based on other aspects of diversity) and makes a formal announcement to tout that “diversity” has been achieved.

Beyond-Lip-Service Approach: The company takes a critical look at business imperatives and hires stellar diverse talent to meet business needs. These diverse hires are welcomed based on their merit and unique contributions, and they’re seen as key to the organization’s success. For example, the company might hire qualified Hispanic American advertising professionals to design a multimillion-dollar campaign for Product X aimed at communities of color.

To attain inclusion means making it possible for individuals of different groups to succeed by creating a workplace that values who they are and what they offer. An inclusive workplace provides opportunities for all individuals to develop to their full potential.

Lip-Service Approach: An official “Everyone is welcomed here!” corporate declaration is sent out when, unofficially, everyone knows the way to get ahead is to conform with the standards created by the dominant paradigm of corporate life. In other words, the company operates under a “get in where you fit in” philosophy.

Beyond-Lip-Service Approach: The company develops an onboarding practice that connects new hires immediately with mentors, support and resources to allow for their successful integration into the corporate culture and to set them up for success. There are ongoing and routine check-ins so leaders can take the pulse of the employees’ experience throughout their first 18 months on the job. And there are dedicated talent-management opportunities for diverse populations, including succession planning, with widely communicated goals and benchmarks.

Is your company ready to move to this new mindset? What steps can you take today to make diversity and inclusion a priority?

#WorkTrends: Beating Your Bias

Yassmin Abdel-Magied says she changed the appearance of her headscarf one day and noticed that people on the street began to look at her differently. This experience with the power of unconscious bias was the basis for Abdel-Magied’s moving TED Talk, and it’s one of many moments that she says led her on the path to becoming a writer, broadcaster and activist.

Abdel-Magied joined us from London to discuss one of the most important conversations happening in HR right now: bias. We dug in deep for a candid discussion about the state of inclusion right now — and the hard work all of us can do to make things better.

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

How the Conversation Around Bias Has Changed

Abdel-Magied says she’s seen the conversation around bias change significantly throughout her career, and especially in the past five years. One of the most significant changes around how we talk about bias, she says, is the emphasis that organizations have put on combating unconscious bias. “Cognitive and implicit bias had been talked about in the academic circles for a while, but this was the first time the subject had come into the corporate space,” she says.

However, Abdel-Magied says organizations aren’t going far enough, with too many believing that having a single conversation on the topic is enough. “People are thinking that a little bit of unconscious bias training is going to fix all of our problems,” she says. “[It] is a little bit of a problem.”

Why Tech Won’t Fix Bias

Abdel-Magied says her frustration with the conversation around bias also extends to technological offerings that organizations have been embracing. Many organizations have embraced AI solutions to help with hiring and management practices, hoping that they can eliminate bias in their processes. She says this is a false promise. “Nothing is a silver bullet,” she says. “You’re not going to fix the issue of diversity and inclusion by building an app.”

To truly tackle the issue of bias in the workplace, she says, those within organizations need to understand that their workplace is a reflection of society. People need to have honest conversations with each other and dig deep within themselves to confront their biases. It’s “hard work,” Abdel-Magied says, but without the effort, true change isn’t attainable.

What Leaders Can Do

Abdel-Magied says there are two ways leaders can better prepare themselves to fight bias.

First, leaders need to make sure they’re identifying and confronting their own biases and prejudices. Abdel-Magied suggests jump-starting this effort by reading. “Start to make yourself uncomfortable by reading things outside your general area,” she says. Two books she recommends are “Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race” by Reni Eddo-Lodge and “White Fragility” by Robin DiAngelo.

Second, leaders need to seek out ways that bias has seeped into their workplace. Abdel-Magied says a very actionable place to start is an organization’s shortlist for promotions. “When you have two women on the shortlist, you are 79 times more likely to hire a woman — simply because when you only have one woman on the shortlist you’re only focusing on the fact that she’s a woman,” she says.

Abdel-Magied also suggests making sure your organization’s diversity and inclusion department has real muscle. This means beefing up its budget and responsibilities, and ensuring that diversity and inclusion is a viable path for those in HR. “If it’s not something you’re putting any resources behind, have a look at all those different aspects and do a bit of work on yourself,” she says. “I think then you’ve got a good start.”

Resources Mentioned in This Episode

#WorkTrends: How to Build a More Diverse Pipeline

Here at #WorkTrends we spend a lot of time thinking about how to transform buzzwords into action, and this week we’re breaking down “diversity in hiring.”

There has been a lot of lip service paid to this topic, but many HR professionals find that there can be barriers to building a more diverse organization. However, there are tangible steps you can take to attract, hire and retain more diverse candidates. This week we speak with tech leader Carrie Maslen about how you can take those steps — and why diversity is so important.

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

The Importance of Diversity

When considered in a vacuum, diversity is an incredibly worthy goal. After all, why shouldn’t the places we work resemble the places we live?

But Maslen says diversity is more than just a buzzword or aspiration. Organizations that embrace diversity see actionable, proven — and repeatable — results. “The data is clear,” she says. “The more diverse the team, the better the organizational outcomes.” Maslen says research from outfits including McKinsey, Catalyst and Boston Consulting, as well as many organizations’ own internal research, has consistently reached the same findings: “With more women on the team, you deliver the financial results.”

Diversity, however, doesn’t exist in a vacuum. Maslen says she has found that when organizational makeup changes to include 20% of an under-represented group, that change begins to steamroll through an organization. “There are enough opinions and voices that they can’t be quieted. They have to be heard,” she says.

Make Sure Your Candidate Pool Is Wide

So how does an organization reach that 20% threshold? Maslen says change has to begin from the top. The entire organization has to understand that diversity is a business goal.

HR has a large role to play in ensuring that these goals are met. This includes being transparent about its data with leadership, showing not only accomplishments but the organization’s shortcomings. HR also needs to make sure it plays a large role in recruiting a more diverse candidate pipeline. Maslen says she has worked with a lot of managers who have a candidate in mind for a position, and she has had to put her foot down to ensure that more diverse candidates are included. Thankfully, she says, managers have become more and more receptive to looking outside their network. “Change is happening,” she says.

Remember Your Retention Strategies

It’s not enough simply to bring in female employees; you have to ensure that you also retain them. Maslen recommends taking a look at your maternity- and paternity-leave policies so that they better serve the needs of female workers — and make sure that these same workers are included in the decision-making process.

Maslen says women can be great advocates for themselves, and they can effect change from the inside, especially as organizations become more diverse. “But that can only go so far,” she says. Ultimately, transforming an organization into a thriving, diverse place to work is an organizational mandate. “The company really needs to create the environment, the policies and the practices that enable women to thrive and succeed,” she says.

Resources Mentioned in This Episode

#WorkTrends: Lessons on Leadership and Diversity from One of West Point’s First Female Grads

Sara Potecha was one of West Point’s first female graduates. Now, she works as a speaker, consultant and writer. If that isn’t enough to make you feel lazy, know that Potecha also works as a leadership coach, often advising women on how to navigate toxic situations in the workplace.

What Potecha recognizes is that the world isn’t perfect, but that doesn’t mean we have to just accept it. She has great strategies for those of us dealing with less-than-ideal work situations, and an inspiring approach to leadership that comes directly from her military background.

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

The Importance of Humble Leadership

Some time ago, Potecha was in a job interview, and her time at West Point came up. The person interviewing Potecha told her, “You know, you just can’t give orders around here.”

Rather than yell at him — like I might have — Potecha instead did something different. “I thought back to the long deployments of my 300-person company in all kinds of weather,” she says. This time in the field, as well as her military training, had taught her the importance of humble leadership. “It was the idea that we emphasized over and over — that every member of the team was critical to our success, and we needed them to all do their jobs and help one another.”

The CEO interviewing Potecha was taken aback when she explained the concept to him. Humble leadership is not a quality stereotypically associated with the military, but it is actually a concept that is ingrained in military training. “We’re taught to value teamwork over individual accomplishments,” Potecha explains.

It’s a trait that she believes transfers to the corporate world as well. “I am convinced that great results occur in corporations when the leaders are committed to overall success of the company rather than their own personal agendas or careers,” she says.

Navigating Toxic Situations

In her role as a leadership coach, Potecha often works with women who encounter toxic behaviors at work. She finds that most of her clients do not regularly encounter blatant harassment, but rather more subtle behaviors that eat away at their self-confidence. Sometimes a male colleague will not address them directly or their ideas are more easily dismissed than those from their male counterparts.

In these situations, Potecha advises her clients to consider a previous toxic situation — for example, an idea that was unfairly dismissed. Potecha asks her clients to think about how others in the room react when their ideas are dismissed, and what they can learn from their approach. She also advises them to look for examples of female leaders they admire. Then, Potecha has her clients attempt to translate these traits into a skillset, so they can better navigate future trying situations.

She also advises her clients to keep their composure. It is not much different from the deep breathing techniques many of us practice at yoga. “By remaining calm, they’re better able to think their way through a situation rather than just shut down,” Potecha says. This way, Potecha’s clients can be intentional in their responses, and wrestle control of a bad situation.

How to Thrive in a System That Isn’t Created for You

As we have recently seen with NASA’s cancellation of an all-female moonwalk, not every organization accounts equally for both genders — or for other differences. Potecha has experienced some of this firsthand in the corporate environment, and she has advice for those struggling to adapt to organizations that don’t always make space for you.

First, she says to limit your focus to what you can control. This “includes your attitude and the work that you do to demonstrate your competence,” she says. She also says to make yourself available as a team player. Look to pick up team roles that are going unfulfilled in an organization, so that you can show how you can make an impact. You can even volunteer for positions unrelated to your current one, so that you find space to take a break from dysfunction.

But ultimately, she says that those in poor situations have to play the long game. “I’ve found most situations are transient,” she says. “Adopt the mentality that this too shall pass.” Find relief outside of work: exercise, deep breathing and healthy eating. While the situation may become so untenable you are forced to leave, perhaps those that are making it a poor environment will do so first.

Resources Mentioned in This Episode

This episode of WorkTrends is supported by the CHRO Exchange, an exclusive networking event for HR executives and thought-leaders. Share insights, benchmark strategies and learn from the heads of HR at Walmart, Verizon, the Atlanta Braves and more, all at the 11th CHRO Exchange taking place in Austin, Texas, May 19 through 21. Reserve your spot and learn more here.

#WorkTrends: How to Bring People Together at Work

One day labor relations consultant Jason Greer received a call from a manager, asking if he’d lead a diversity training session at his company. When Greer asked why, the manager offered two reasons: “I love the way you communicate,” he said. “And you’re the only black guy that I really know.”

This radical candor actually endeared the manager to Greer, and it set the tone for the approach Greer uses in his diversity training. In addition to his work in labor relations, he’s known nationwide for his diversity training programs. Greer joins us this week for a deep dive on how we can improve diversity training and the importance of committing to the difficult conversations.

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

The Challenges of Diversity Training

If you’re reading this, you’ve probably been to a diversity training session. They’re not typically something you excitedly circle on your calendar.

But why is that? We all aspire to a more inclusive, diverse workplace. But there’s something about these sessions that can make us uncomfortable, Greer says: We’re not honest with ourselves.

In theory, he says, we’re all treated equally in an organization. We’re judged based on our merits and productivity, regardless of our background. But when we leave, we often associate with people who have backgrounds and ethnic origins that are similar to our own. “People are going home, and they’re going into environments that … look very much like them,” Greer says. “It can be difficult to bridge cultures.”

Diversity training brings this gap out into the open, in a way that for many people can be uncomfortable. “People just don’t want to be honest,” Greer says. They’re scared that expressing their feelings on a matter will ostracize them.

It’s a Catch-22. We have a platform to express opinions openly, but we’re scared that we’ll get in trouble for expressing those feelings openly.

So what can we do?

How to Start the Hard Conversations

Greer’s start in diversity training came from his colleague’s candor. So it’s not surprising that he endorses the same spirit at his trainings.

To get things rolling during a session, he begins with a series of questions that are designed to break the ice around diversity training.

First, he asks how many attendees have been to diversity training. Most hands will go up. Then he asks how many enjoyed the trainings they attended. Hands start to go down. Finally, he asks what they didn’t like about diversity training.

It’s an exercise that sets an expectation for frankness. “It’s just a matter of creating an environment where we can share,” Greer says.

Of course, that doesn’t mean things will go smoothly. But Greer emphasizes that that’s part of the process. “It’s OK to to get angry with each other — as long as we’re doing it constructively,” he says.

Remember How Far We’ve Come

For all the talk about how much we need to do in regard to diversity and inclusion, Greer says the U.S. has come an incredibly long way. He knows this better than anyone — all because of a powerful moment in his life.

In 1991 Greer was 17. His family moved to Dubuque, Iowa, as part of a program to attract minority families to the city. The plan was not as universally well-received as one would hope. “People didn’t like it,” Greer says. “The Klan organized a rally against our family. They burned crosses.”

Greer says that when he tells the story to his children, they can’t even imagine something like that happening. “That in itself is progress,” he says.

Ultimately, Greer says he hopes the conversation regarding diversity and inclusion one day becomes something in the past — because we’ve made even more progress. But in order to get there we can’t just commit to training sessions. We have to commit to the bumps in the road, and dedicate ourselves to smoothing them over. That means being aware of what Greer calls the “internal story of what’s playing in our brain when we encounter other people.”

“When you learn to master that story, you will find that you will actually be more open to other people,” he says. “But at first it starts with you.”

Resources Mentioned in This Episode

#WorkTrends: Diversity in Practice

The evidence continues to pile up: Diversity pays.

Whether you’re in the heart of Silicon Valley or elsewhere, diversity at work provides a greater breadth of thought, experiences and approaches, and it’s becoming more important than ever in business.

But it can be difficult to move beyond the buzzwords and generate real, long-lasting change. On this week’s episode of #WorkTrends we talk with Amy Cappellanti-Wolf, a diversity champion and chief human resources officer at Symantec, to help understand the path to success.

She offers the kind of open, honest conversation we need. “I’ve never had to rationalize or make a business case about why four white guys are better than a diverse set of employees,” Cappellanti-Wolf says. “So why should I have to make a case for why diversity is a good decision?”

We also speak with Rania Anderson, diversity expert and author of “WE: Men, Women, and the Decisive Formula for Winning at Work” about her framework to help men and women be more inclusive, support diversity and work better together.

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

Defining Diversity at Work

“Diversity is really about inclusion,” Cappellanti-Wolf says. “While numbers are important, and they are really the outcome you are driving toward, it’s about the right kind of environment that you create.”

Cappellanti-Wolf says your goal should be to have a place where people want to come to work, feel like they contribute, are able to learn and stick around. “Create that kind of landscape so that it happens naturally,” she says.

Part of her work at Symantec includes an overhaul of diversity strategy and creating that inclusive environment. This involves hiring and promotion but also how the company approaches building its business units.

For example, Cappellanti-Wolf says the company looked at data showing how women are very strong at “solution selling” — the long game that focuses on a portfolio instead of trying to get an immediate sale. Because solution selling is central to the company’s growth, Symantec is creating an initiative to bring more women into its sales organization.

“Not only is it the right thing, but they help propel the business,” she says.

Stumbling Is Normal

If you’re struggling with your diversity program, you’re not alone. Cappellanti-Wolf says it’s universal, even though industries like tech make the news more than others.

“We’re all struggling with the same challenges in terms of representation mix and if we have the right capabilities to go after the right talent,” she says. “For us it’s really about how do we think about the addressable market that we have, and how do we start to cultivate and build those relationships.”

The best way to start creating relationships and avoid cultural mistakes is to get leadership on board. Bring leadership in from the beginning so there’s always buy-in for diversity efforts, she says. Symantec is “building inclusive leadership muscles at the top because if you don’t have leadership support, these things fail,” she says.

Putting Hiring First

“It starts at the hiring process,” Cappellanti-Wolf says. “That’s where it really starts to show that you’re serious about this.”

A major goal for hiring practices is to root out bias. She says managers will need training on how to think holistically about candidates. No one is a perfect fit, so the emphasis is on identifying where manager training and employee mentoring can make up the difference. Many people will need to learn how to open up the pipeline to more perspectives and experiences.

“We’re going to mandate that before a requisition can be closed, you have to have shown that you had a diverse slate,” Cappellanti-Wolf says. “You have to open up the candidacy for people to be considered for the role.”

Succession planning also generates problems because many people are inclined to hire someone that they think is like them. “You don’t want to hire in your own image, because if you have homogenous thinking on a team you’re not going to get your best results,” she says.

Advice for Your Office

Cappellanti-Wolf says companies should strive to build a culture of servant-leadership to make their diversity efforts a success and to attract or maintain valuable team members.

“You’ve got to lead that way because there are too many competing jobs out there,” she says. “If you don’t create a place where people want to come because they know you’re going to be there for them, then game over.”

To achieve that result, she recommends a two-pronged approach:

  1. Do your math. Know your current population and what the market near you looks like. Look for new opportunities and talent pools. Then set goals that are achievable based on your hiring.
  2. Hold your leadership accountable. “This is not an HR initiative; it’s a business initiative,” Cappellanti-Wolf says. Leadership is what drives employee retention, so they’ve got to be on board and trained to help your company succeed.

And that’s only the beginning. Cappellanti-Wolf provided even more thoughts on the tactics and data she used to measure these outcomes, and how to create that foundation. Be sure to stick around for when she pulls out the crystal ball to give us predictions for diversity in the next decade.

Resources Mentioned in This Episode

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

Be Inclusive, Not Just Tolerant

When I think about the words “inclusion” and “tolerance,” I see a large chasm. In regards to the modern-day workforce, diversity and inclusion mean accepting and welcoming people from different walks of life. Tolerance, on the other hand, does not denote acceptance, but rather an attitude of being faced with something you must go along with but in your heart don’t accept.

This isn’t just an esoteric difference, because diversity and inclusion have real business benefits, and even subtle forms of bias have increasingly negative effects in terms of brand reputation and in competing for talent.

How do you address this issue? A first step is to ponder whether you or your company has an issue with accepting people who are different from you.

Looking Inward at Prejudice

Studies show people are programmed to compartmentalize and categorize other people. It’s easy to put people into a bucket than to discover their real characteristics. Feelings of low self-esteem often fuel this thinking and allow it to continue in the normal course of living. But like many things in life, taking the lazy approach produces inferior results personally and professionally, and when adding prejudice to the mix it becomes a morally reprehensible viewpoint.

Denying the humanity of those different from ourselves is a form of prejudice. Unfortunately, this is a common phenomenon in society and without doubt, an all-too-common workplace occurrence that can lead to outright discrimination. When prejudice and bias (another baseless reaction and belief) exist in the workplace, imaginary walls are put up, with certain segments of the population placed inside. These walls block access to the employer’s mainstream activities and benefits,, leaving some people excluded with with limited ability to advance fairly. In essence, they are isolated or at best tolerated.

It Starts at the Top

When business leadership does not openly and actively support a diverse workforce, employees take it as a cue on the company culture. Often a reluctance about inclusion is subtle, but when you look around at your co-workers and see only those similar to yourself, it’s an indication that management is not actively promoting — and perhaps not that interested in — diversity and inclusion.

Also, look at the leadership in your organization. Do you see only the same gender and race in those positions? Organizations that place people in positions of power under the guise of “This is a male-dominated industry” are perpetuating prejudice and ignoring the possibilities of learning from others’ experiences.

Subtle Signs

One of the most common ways that organizations stay homogenous is by hiring only those who fit the image of what is “just like us.” Hiring practices such as using focused venues to advertise job openings to avoid attracting “unwanted” segments of the population is most certainly a sign of conscious bias. Any action, though subtle, to avoid particular people within the population will not serve the organization well in the long run.

In addition, questionable raises and promotions are another subtle sign that not all employees are treated fairly and without bias. Although some employees may have champions fighting for them, there is cause to believe some segments of employee populations are not getting their fair share.

How can these overlooked people prove they were intentionally left out of the conversation? Often they can’t. This situation runs counter to the very ideals of equality that America was built on. It’s something we should never lose sight of, as so eloquently stated in the Declaration of Independence, “… all [men] are created equal…”

Generational Views

Younger workers’ ideas about diversity and inclusion extend beyond the common observations of age, gender, ethnicity, etc., to also encompass an ideal: that everyone, regardless of their differences, will be treated fairly and equally. For Millennials this means they want to be heard, supported and engaged by leadership, regardless of the traditional management of employees.

Older generations may still default to the anecdotal observations, but as they retire and as Millennials and Generation Z take over, it’s expected that diversity and inclusion will go beyond the legal definition and encompass a greater meaning with deeper engagement.

Inclusion Is Good for Your Bottom Line

Still not convinced that diversity is a fight worth fighting? It turns out, prejudice is bad for business.

A McKinsey study indicates that brands in the top rankings for racial and ethnic diversity are about 35 percent more likely to produce an ROI above other brands within their industry. Additionally, corroborating research indicates that diverse companies have 2.3 times higher cash flow per employee compared with non-diverse companies.

When companies become more global, they access more segments of the population, allowing them to expand their clientele. Interacting with new people means reaching a new customer base, with the potential to increase sales.

Research has shown that one of the best ways to gain employees is to first have them as customers. In fact, one of my partners was a former client, so I can attest to the value of good customer interactions. When people like a product and the company that produces it, they’re more likely to be an engaged and satisfied customer — and happy customers are very good for your bottom line for many reasons, such as becoming brand ambassadors for your organization and secondly, they can develop an interest in being an employee. If your business plans include expanding into new markets, having employees who are representative of them is a great idea. They can help bridge gaps in customer relations and keep potential customers engaged. As people go, shared narratives are impactful.

There are myriad reasons why inclusion will always win out in society, life and in the workplace. It’s up to brands to take an honest look at their employee population with a discerning eye and ask “Who’s missing?” Think about your business to date and what your future plans are for expansion. You may find opportunities you couldn’t imagine before, and in doing so elevate your product and employer reputation.

This post is sponsored by SmartSearch.

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

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

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

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

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

Make It More Than an HR Issue

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

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

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

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

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

Take Steps for Change

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

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

Resources Mentioned in This Episode

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

4 Ways to Rewrite Your Recruitment Playbook for More Diverse Candidates

If you’ve been following the news lately, you might have noticed a growing conversation in the tech and business worlds about a lack of diversity at major corporations. And when you look at the numbers, it isn’t pretty: Only 24 of Fortune 500 CEOs are female, while only three are African-American. Worse yet, only 3 percent of those companies are fully transparent about their diversity numbers.

This isn’t just an unfortunate reality for women, people of color and members of the LGBTQ community — it’s also a wasted opportunity for the organizations themselves.

Employee diversity raises the bar on business success, innovation and overall brand impressions. Research has shown that increasing the diversity of a company makes it more innovative and more profitable overall.

The world has changed, and our approach to building a workplace culture, especially with regard to hiring practices, must change along with it.

Rewriting the Playbook

A diversity-and-inclusion-focused approach can change everything about the recruiting and onboarding process. It can cause people to expand beyond their comfort zones of where they recruit, how they recruit, the questions they ask and who’s involved in the interview process.

But there’s work to do before you recruit: You have to assess your current state and define what you want to accomplish. For example, if your board and staff aren’t diverse, candidates won’t believe you value diversity. If your company has prestigious awards, do the winners represent diversity? And take a look at your vendors — do you make an effort to source vendors that meet your diversity objectives?

You’ll need to play the long game. Your marketing objectives and sourcing processes could change, but over time you’ll discover a range of unique, qualified candidates that disappeared in your previous screening — or never saw your job posting at all.

The goal is to identify and remove potential biases when sourcing, screening and developing a slate of candidates who might otherwise have been ignored or discriminated against. By doing so, you open your organization up to a whole range of exciting new possibilities.

Diversity by Design

So how do you make hiring for diversity a priority? These strategies will get you moving in the right direction.

Make Sure Your Leadership Is on Board

When I was one of the founding members of a diversity leadership council for General Electric, we worked with a diversity consulting firm to facilitate sessions among executives and minority employees. One of the questions asked of those of us on the executive team was “When was the first time you felt different from others in your work environment?” Out of 14 executives — all of whom were white men — I was the only one who could relate to the question because I’m a woman. None of the men ever felt different from other people at work.

It led to a serious and illuminating discussion. The men were trying to justify that they never felt different, which led to one of them asking “How often do any of you feel different?” A black female attorney stood up and said “Every damn day!” The rest of the employees gave her a standing ovation.

If leadership doesn’t get involved in fostering an inclusive workplace, it will never happen. The rest of the organization can’t make up for the company’s leadership ignoring the cultural challenges, so don’t let executives and hiring managers off the hook. Help them see the value in diversity and inclusion to increase the success of your recruiting.

Add Structure to the Process

Making diversity in the workplace a priority doesn’t simply begin and end with intention. Put structure in your program by setting clear and measurable metrics to monitor your inclusion efforts.

Dr. John Sullivan, an internationally known HR thought leader from Silicon Valley, has developed metrics for individual recruiters’ effectiveness. This includes the percentage of diverse candidates who are presented to hiring managers, how many receive an interview or offer, the eventual turnover rate and how satisfied those candidates feel after going through the process. Tools such as these can demonstrate your organization’s priorities and make inclusivity more ingrained in your hiring practices.

Look Outside Your Normal Paths for Recruitment

When I started at Beta Gamma Sigma, our diversity rate was 0.06 percent. Over the next three years it rose to 33 percent. This happened because we started recruiting beyond our previous sources. For example, we partnered with the Diversity Awareness Partnership in St. Louis. We were able to learn from other organizations’ diversity hiring successes, network in a diverse business community and post our open positions on their job boards.

Participate in virtual or in-person career fairs for targeted minority groups. Likewise, social media is a powerful tool for both sourcing candidates and marketing your company. If your ads, website pages or social media don’t contain diversity, candidates won’t believe you value diversity. If you truly don’t know where to start, ask your employees who are minorities for recommendations on how to improve diversity recruiting.

Partner with Diversity-Focused Organizations

Partner with organizations within your community that value diversity. Like BGS saw with Diversity Awareness Partnership, these organizations can have a positive, lasting effect on your company.

According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers, the most common sources for diverse recruiting are historically black colleges and universities and Hispanic-serving institutions. Partner with schools serving minority populations to access a well of strong, qualified candidates. For high-achieving undergraduate and graduate students, a proven source is through the Association of College Honor Societies, which sets the standards for honor society excellence. Most societies are international organizations with members who are recognized for their academic achievements, leadership skills and service.

Jodi Weiss, a board member for Beta Gamma Sigma and the practice leader for nonprofit and higher education at Korn Ferry, specializes in recruiting for C-suite positions. She uses the same tactics herself. “To find diverse candidates for the C-suite level, recruiters must employ a sourcing strategy that also targets diverse boards of directors at impactful companies and organizations,” Weiss says.

It’s never too late to create a pipeline to ensure your successful future. Companies that don’t understand or respect the diverse needs of their customers — or that ignore the opportunity to include all voices — will decrease their likelihood of sustainability. Instead, improve employee morale, productivity and loyalty by building a team that’s truly worth celebrating.

How the Small-Business Community Is Becoming More Diverse

The small business community appears to be growing more diverse, according to a new survey by BizBuySell, an online marketplace for buying and selling small businesses. BizBuySell’s president, Bob House, says there are demographic shifts between the current generation of business owners and the next generation of owners (the would-be business buyers).

“Both groups (owners and buyers) skew white and male at pretty consistent levels, although there are more women in the buyer group,” House says. There are also more millennials in the buyer segment.

“There’s also more more ethnic diversity as well, with increases in the number of buyers who are Asian/Pacific Islander, Hispanic/Latino, and African American – as well as naturalized citizens and permanent residents,” House says. While diversity seems to be increasing, he says there is still a long way to go.

Combining Necessity and Opportunity

American Express’ 2018 State of Women-Owned Businesses Report says that since 1972, the number of women-owned businesses is up nearly 3,000 percent. And women are staring an average of 1,821 net new U.S. businesses a day, the report says.

“The surge in women-owned businesses in 2018 is being driven by a combination of necessity and opportunity entrepreneurship,” American Express research adviser Geri Stengel says. She notes that during the recession, women who couldn’t find quality jobs, and some who couldn’t find any work, became entrepreneurs because they didn’t have other options. “While employment has improved, the wage gap for women of color has not, and these women are starting businesses to make ends meet,” Stengel says.

In fact, the report reveals that from 2007 to 2018, firms owned by women increased by 58 percent, but that number skyrocketed among minority groups. Firms owned by women who were African-American, Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander, Asian American, and Native American/Alaskan increased by 163 percent, 146 percent, 105 percent, and 76 percent, respectively.

It’s also interesting to note the generational differences between the ethnic groups. “African-American women business owners tend to be millennials, Latina and Asian-American women-business owners tend to be Gen Xers, and non-minority women business owners tend to be baby boomers,” Stengel says.

“At the same time, the study reveals that opportunity entrepreneurship has returned, and these women are starting businesses because they see a need in the market.” Stengel says that businesses started by women tend to grow bigger and to have higher survival rates.

The View from 2 Entrepreneurs

Millennial entrepreneur Luvleen Sidhu is the co-founder, president and chief strategy officer of BankMobile, a digital bank. She views the news of diversity in the small-business community less optimistically than some. “Small-business owners may marginally be becoming more diverse, but the reality is that women, Hispanics and African-Americans are significantly underrepresented in this demographic,” Sidhu says. “This entrepreneur gap exists even when controlling for factors such as income, wealth and education.”

However, she says this is the best time to be an entrepreneur. “We have more capital and knowledge available to us than any time before,” Sidhu says. “The marginal cost for starting a business is also less than it has ever been historically, creating huge opportunities for entrepreneurs who are driven by passion to solve consumer pain points.”

Sidhu says there’s ample capital available to fund innovative ideas. “If you’re a minority, you should specifically look for venture capitalists that want to invest in both great ideas and minority founders.”

Entrepreneur Nichelle McCall also says this is a good time to start a business. “There aren’t as many barriers of entry into entrepreneurship since you don’t need as much capital upfront, and just being able to leverage technology and even create online businesses allows you to be able to break in and do your own marketing versus needing a lot of money up front for things like advertising,” she says. McCall has founded several companies, including Bold Startups, which helps entrepreneurs make and raise money. She was named one of nine black women tech founders to watch by Inc. magazine, and was included in Crain’s Cleveland Business magazine’s 2014 edition of 40 notable professionals under the age of 40.

“Less than 1 percent of African-American founders are receiving funding, but by the same token, only about 1 percent of venture capitalists are African-American,” McCall says. To increase diversity in the small-business community, she says, minorities have to be connected to the knowledge, information and resources needed to create an investment-ready company.

Finally, she has a message for investors: Be open to new ideas. “Organizations supporting various entrepreneurs have to understand that, often, these services or products are going to be geared toward people that they really identify with — but not necessarily a population that you readily identify with,” McCall says. “But understand that it can still be a very successful and sustainable company with the right resources and tools to help them make a solid plan and grow their company and their customer base.”

Photo courtesy of #WOCinTech.

#WorkTrends: Building a More Inclusive Workplace with SurveyMonkey

While inclusion is the new buzzword, do companies really know what it means? How many companies are truly creating an inclusive work culture? How many even know how to?

This week on WorkTrends, we’re talking to Leela Srinivasan, chief marketing officer at SurveyMonkey. She has impressive chops in the world of HR tech and can share advice that any leader can use to build a more inclusive workplace.

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


Inclusion Doesn’t Happen By Chance

SurveyMonkey takes a variety of approaches to create an inclusive work environment. “We have four employee resource groups (ERGs), which are designed to provide support and inspiration to different populations within SurveyMonkey who are underrepresented minorities,” Srinivasan says. There is a Latinos group, which was founded to support black and Latin employees, an LGBTQ plus group, a women-in-the-workplace group and a separate group for “women who tech,” designed to further the careers of self-identified female engineers.

But even with those four ERGs, the company believes it’s everyone’s responsibility to ensure that SurveyMonkey is a diverse and inclusive workforce. It’s not just an HR program — the company engages the entire organization. In addition to the ERGs, there are four office committees — at the headquarters at San Mateo, California; in Portland, Oregon; in Ottawa, Ontario; and in Dublin. “The idea is to make sure that we, on a local level, celebrate important and culturally significant events.”

For instance, Pride Month is celebrated across all four offices. Also, the Goldie Speaker Series — named for Dave Goldberg, the company’s late CEO — provides an opportunity to discuss diversity and inclusion issues as a team, and hear from inspiring trailblazers.

Companies often struggle to measure their inclusion efforts, SurveyMonkey worked with Paradigm and Stanford University to develop a template of three drivers that are fundamental to building an inclusive workforce.

Inclusion Driver 1: Growth Mindset

Organizations that have a growth mindset believe that talent isn’t necessarily fixed and that people, whoever they are, can evolve and learn. “The converse of that growth mindset is a fixed mindset, which means you think people are either talented or they’re not, and it creates what we would call a culture of genius.” A culture of genius hinders true inclusion, because not everyone will feel that they can learn, grow and have the best opportunities at the company.

Inclusion Driver 2: A Culture of Belonging

When SurveyMonkey was in the process of building the template, it surveyed about 10,000 people to ensure the methodology was sound. “When we ran this survey, 25 percent of workers told us that they feel like they don’t belong at their organization. That jumps to nearly a third for black workers,” Srinivasan says. If you haven’t created a culture where everyone truly belongs, Srinivasan says this is going to run counter to your efforts to build an inclusive culture.

Inclusion Driver 3: Objectivity

The third driver, objectivity, is the perception that people can advance based on fair and transparent criteria. Take compensation, for example. In the survey, 60 percent of employees thought their compensation was fair. “However, when we looked at the data and sliced it by ethnicity, we found that less than half of black employees agreed that compensation was fair,” Srinivasan says.

“Those were the three drivers, and it’s very clear from the stats, the survey, and what we know to be true that we really do have our work cut out in building truly inclusive cultures.”

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

How Employee Advocacy Drives Recruitment Diversity

Organizations that take the opportunity to be more inclusive are winning. Companies in the top quartile for gender diversity on their executive team are 21 percent more likely to experience above-average profitability than companies in the fourth quartile. For ethnic/cultural diversity, this likelihood of outperformance rises to 33%.

Diversity in the workplace can increasingly be powered from within by an organization’s most valuable attribute, its own people. Here are five crucial factors employers should consider when looking at how employee advocacy helps drive recruitment diversity.

Increase Your Reach

HR directors have an opportunity to develop a talent acquisition strategy with a significantly increased reach by working with employee brand advocates. Employees have on average 10 times more connections than brand channels, and brand messages are shared 24 times more when distributed by employees, versus the same messages shared via official brand social channels.

Sky’s #LifeatSky employee advocacy programme has united colleagues from across the company in celebrating its culture, experiences and activities. It has resulted in an improved recruitment process, driving 100 hires and 10,000 applications through harnessing its people on social media. Meanwhile, Unilever’s employee advocacy programme means colleagues are sharing 14x more frequently, there are 5x more job views and 4x more engagement with content.

Whether it is attracting more women to senior positions, building better employer branding awareness for millennial candidates, developing a culture more welcoming or more inclusive, employees can reach more people. Adopting a tech-enabled employee advocacy program allows colleagues across the business to engage with the vision, values and purpose of the brand.

Scale Up Quickly

Advances in HR tech means brands are able to manage employee advocacy programs easily, scale the number of employees involved rapidly and measure the results accurately. That means creative content marketing can be put into the hands of staff, tracked in real-time and recruitment success reported to senior leadership.

Scaling up like this means a diversity of individual voices from across the organization can be celebrated and heard, opening up new recruitment streams across a multitude of demographics for sustainable results. Plus, when employees share content they achieve a click-through rate twice that seen by their company.

Build Trust

Candidates are 40 percent more likely to apply for a job at a company when they recognize the brand. Employees are significantly more trusted than CEOs, according to the Edelman Trust Barometer, and employees are able to reach the wider candidate base needed to build familiarity.

Potential candidates will now expect to see recommendations and reviews from their personal network of friends, family and peers to help them make informed decisions on new roles. Word-of-mouth marketing is the best form of advertising — 84 percent of consumers trust recommendations from friends and family.

Employee advocacy programs allow colleagues to share local and relevant content to their personal networks to maximize the variety of candidates and reach a huge passive candidate pool. When Iceland Foods launched its Qubist employee advocacy app, Iceland Insiders, it generated more than 37 million impressions in the first three months alone, through employees’ own social channels, raising brand awareness and supporting the company’s marketing initiatives. Through the app, Iceland staff can share brand content to their own personal social media channels. The goal was to raise brand awareness of Iceland Foods and support talent acquisition.

Access New Talent Pools

To reach new talent pools and recruit different types of talent, employee brand advocates can help amplify existing employee networks. Sky, which has gained recognition as an inclusive employer, has an employee network that includes groups like Parents, LGBT and Women. Employees company-wide share content from the network on their own personal social channels. It also amplifies events such as International Women’s Day or Pride through its employee advocates.

To recruit hard-to-reach demographics, developing an inclusive culture and celebrating diversity internally is increasingly a workplace trend. 78 percent of employers surveyed for LinkedIn’s Global Recruiting Trends 2018 said improving diversity “to improve company culture was a focus.

Go Social

When 79 percent of candidates use social media in their job search, it’s important to make it easy for them to engage with you via employee advocates. This is especially important at a time when traditional recruitment techniques are ineffective as people turn on ad blockers, and social channels such as Facebook prioritize friends and family over brand content. In an era of transparency and “fake news,” employees are seen as authentic and have real influence — the ability to cause effect or change behaviour — compared to brands.

With a mobile-first, multi-language employee advocacy app, large companies can bring together a disparate workforce to share relevant and personalised content on their own social channels. This kind of tech-enabled employee advocacy platform means colleagues feel empowered and passionate about their role in driving their company forward, while driving awareness of the Employer Brand Proposition (EVP) to a new and diverse audience.

#SHRM18: Q&A with Maestro Health CHRO Sheryl Simmons

Sheryl SimmonsI have a long list of speakers I can’t wait to see at SHRM next week. High on that list is Sheryl Simmons, CHRO of Maestro Health. Her #SHRM18 session, Making Your Case to the C-Suite: Why You Should Be at the Table, is on Tuesday afternoon.

Simmons has led HR teams for many years. In this Q&A, she shares how she got into HR, why she runs toward change, her perspective on diversity in hiring and what you can expect from her #SHRM18 session.

Tell me about yourself: What is your background and how did you get into your current field?

I have over 20 years of experience in HR. However, I also come from a variety of industries including finance, legal and the housing industry. This variety is one of the things that brings such strength to someone going into HR — it’s that diversity in background. A funny thing happened at every company. I would start in the position that they hired me for, but I would always end up in leadership. I figured out what makes people tick, and how to motivate them.
I came to Maestro and fell in love with their culture.

How do you think HR is changing? Is it for the better or not?

It is most definitely changing, whether you feel it’s for the better or not. This goes to the core of running to or from change, and I believe in running toward it. In the marketplace, we’re seeing changes as companies are realizing the strategic importance of HR. Think about it: Who else has that bird’s eye view of the organization?

You’re also seeing people from non-HR backgrounds moving to HR because it’s more than just people analytics. They’re not just the referee, the school principal, the party planner. Today, they’re the trusted adviser, they drive cost-effectiveness, they’re productivity-efficiency experts. They’re operating in a different realm than even five years ago.

Why is it so important for companies to put women in positions of power?

I’m speaking from a Maestro point of view and with a Maestro bias. The CEO of a huge staffing agency wanted to interview me, and she was so impressed that we had so many women in tech and such diversity in hiring practices. I told her that we don’t have a diversity policy. We aren’t specifically saying we want to hire women. We hire the best talent out there and many of them happen to be women. Women bring so many strengths to the table that can be gender-related — or not — but your company is going to be at its best when you hire talented, innovative people with leadership skills. As we hire women and they progress through the ranks, it’s not a matter of telling people that we value diversity or showing them a mission statement — they can actually see that we practice what we preach.

You’re the SHRM National Governmental Affairs Advocacy Captain. What does that entail?

A few years ago, SHRM National Government created advocacy captains in each of the congressional districts. These volunteers serve as trusted advisers to lawmakers and their staff, representing HR at the federal, state and local levels in a variety of HR-related areas. I touch bases with constituents in Michigan and also elected officials to make sure that, when they need advice, they have someone who can help.

You’re also a part of SHRM’s National Tax & Benefits Working Group. What does this group do?

This is near and dear to my heart. If the government is going to spend my hard-earned tax dollars, I’d like to have a say in what’s going on, from an HR perspective. When there are new policies being considered at the state and national level, lawmakers will reach out and ask if we have time to contribute ideas. One recent example is 401(k) bleed: Lawmakers asked for input on how to stem the tide of funds going out of retirement.

What will you be speaking on at SHRM? Why should someone attend your presentation?

We will be covering why HR needs to have a seat at the C-suite table to strengthen the core of a business and drive business objects. We’ll be talking about four areas in which we can help HR practitioners shore up their skill sets and the value of translating that in language that executives will understand. Some HR practitioners don’t know how to speak C-suite language. They need to get up to speed before it’s time to pitch their ideas. Practitioners also need to figure out if this is something they want to do, determine if they work for a company that embraces HR in this role and, if not, whether they need to find another company that does.

#WorkTrends: Women Who Tech

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

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

Understanding Our Own Biases Is Key

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

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

There’s a Lot to Be Hopeful About

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

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

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

Culture Change Takes Time

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

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

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

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How to Build an Inclusive Culture at Work

Raise your hand if “diversity” or “inclusion” are buzzwords at your organization.

Almost every HR and business leader we talk to is focused on D&I. But “diversity” (regardless of whether you’re talking about a workforce that’s more diverse in terms of race, gender, age or background) isn’t just a box to be checked. Building a more diverse workforce, retaining all different kinds of employees and integrating those diverse perspectives into the work is a complicated undertaking. And an important one.

There’s a lot at stake. A recent McKinsey report found that companies whose executive teams were in the top quartile for gender diversity were 21 percent more likely to experience above-average profitability than those in the bottom quartile.

“Boards and investors are driving this push for diversity,” says Stephen Tavares, a partner at the consulting firm Heidrick & Struggles. “If you look at the annual reports and investor calls, you see a move away from things like productivity. Investors more interested in the talent in the organization.”

He says that focus on diverse talent is leading company leaders to ask questions like:

  • How do we bring in different perspectives?
  • How do we get the business benefit from having all those diverse perspectives?
  • How do we get the most out of our talent?

Heidrick & Struggles tested a measurement app called SYNAPP. The firm’s goal was to collapse all the innovation and insights they learn from clients and turn them into user-friendly takeaways. As they gathered data, they saw trends in how different genders work (or don’t work) together and the impact on the business.

The Problem

At many organizations there’s a push to hire more diverse candidates. The sticking point comes after employees start work. When men and women don’t interact, work together or trust each other, the expanding diversity of the organization doesn’t actually lead to business results.

According to a report in the Harvard Business Review, analysis of how men and women interact in the workplace found that even though they communicated with senior leaders the same amount, men advanced more than women. After digging into the data, the researchers found suggestions that gender inequality in leadership was due to bias, not differences in how men and women communicate and work.

“We knew more organizations were looking at how to get more diverse people into the organization. But once they’re in, how do you make sure you’re building an inclusive culture? And how do you measure it?” Tavares says.

If you’re trying to build a more gender-inclusive culture, the answer isn’t just “hire more women,” he says. It’s about building inclusive teams and an inclusive culture.

“Those are two separate problems. Many focus on the first problem [hiring], since it’s easier to quantify. But it’s important to look at how people really interact with each other.”

Tavares’ firm uses SYNAPP to measure and understand connections between people. They ask employees questions like:

  • Who do you go to for decisions?
  • Who do you go to for new ideas?
  • Who do you trust?
  • Who do you look to for support?
  • Who gives you energy?

By analyzing the answers, SYNAPP identifies the teams that are really living an inclusive culture, and the teams that aren’t.

For example, the firm worked with an organization with an R&D team that had an equal male-female ratio. That checked the gender-diversity box, but the team wasn’t inclusive. Team members didn’t look to the opposite gender for decisions, ideas or support.

What Is an Inclusive Culture?

So how can organizations become not just more diverse but more inclusive?

Tavares looks at three levels of building an inclusive culture:

  • A diverse organization: The overall talent pool has the appropriate representation of different kinds of talent.
  • Workplace inclusion: Once you have the right representation, it’s time to look at workplace processes and structures. Make sure employees go to a diverse pool of people for ideas and decisions. “This is where we see a lot of organizations start,” he says.
  • Emotional inclusion: This is about building trusting relationships across different employee groups, making sure people get energy from a diverse span of co-workers and creating a diverse network of informal influence and empathy.

Tavares’ firm coaches teams to “bridge the gap between what management can do from a process side to what people can do from a behavior side,” he says.

“This is a vitally important topic,” he says. “At the fundamental level this is about a mindset shift. It’s not just about gender or ethnicity, but about different ways of thinking. When you can bring in more diverse perspectives you drive better results.”

We CAN Talk About Race, Religion, and Other Polarizing Topics: A Leader’s Guide to Bold Inclusive Conversations

Don’t talk about politics or religion at work! This old adage is one that we have mostly adhered to for centuries. I would also add race, sexual orientation, harassment, and disabilities to the list of topics that we don’t easily talk about. We’ve been socialized to believe that it is best not to talk about topics for which we know there are vastly different world views.

I would contend that our current sociopolitical climate, coupled with our immediate access and consumption of news via social media, has made this widely held tenet null and void. The polarization is so deep that it is almost impossible not to talk about politics which also means we are talking about race, ethnicity, religion, class and gender because they are all so intertwined.

The growing body of research around psychological safety, engagement, and inclusion has shifted the dialogue from whether we should be having these conversations at work to how can we begin to arm ourselves with the competencies to have these conversations at work. 

I was conducting a “healing” session for a client just after the election with employees of color who represented various employee identity groups (e.g. Black, Asian, Latino).  One of the participants said that as a gay Muslim man he would not stand close to the edge of the subway waiting area any more for fear of being pushed in. A white male leader in attendance as an inclusion advocate was shocked to hear that anyone would have to have such a fear. Another one of our clients, a major public-school district, is dealing with children coming to school afraid that their parents will be deported, leaving them here in the US as orphans.

Employees are bringing such fears to work. Children are bringing these fears to school. As leaders, we need to not only talk about these issues, but we also need the requisite skills to do so effectively.  We need to recognize that there are a different set of skills needed to have Bold, Inclusive Conversations across difference.

The Model for Bold, Inclusive Conversations supports leaders in fostering those skills and meeting people where they are when engaging in dialogue:

Foster Self- and Other Understanding

Investing time to understand oneself and the perspectives of one’s cultural ‘others,’ is requisite to engaging in these, often time difficult, conversations. As a matter of fact, this phase of self and other understanding can be difficult, in and of itself. Our identity is core to who we are. Whether it is our race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, religion, veteran status, or even roles as parents, these aspects of our identity shape our worldview. They influence how we view and respond to current events, what we interpret as right or wrong, and what we stand for or against. It is important for us to understand why we believe what we believe, and why we disagree with those things we disagree with if we are to be effective in having bold, inclusive conversations.

Assessing Readiness

Sometimes our teams and organizations just aren’t ready to have these conversations. Sometimes we aren’t either. Perhaps it is because we do not know enough about the topic, or have not had exposure to people from a specific identity group. Assessing individual and team readiness is key to engaging in these conversations. What might one consider when assessing their individual readiness?

  • Exposure: Ask yourself: Who is in my world? The less exposure you have with people who are different than you, the less likely you will be ready to engage in bold, inclusive conversations.
  • Experience: This takes ‘exposure’ a step further. Experience is about engaging with those who are different from you in ways that are cross-culturally enriching.
  • Education: Experience and exposure should be complemented with formal education. This may include workplace trainings, continuing education, research, visiting museums, reading books, etc.
  • Empathy: Having the capacity to understand the perspective of one’s ‘other,’ is also necessary to be effective in engaging in bold, inclusive conversations.

Preparing for the Conversation

It is important to differentiate preparation and readiness. Readiness refers to the ongoing learning involved in fostering self- and other-understanding. Preparation involves the tactical elements required to plan the conversation. Given the sensitive nature of bold, inclusive conversation, planning is critical. That said, spontaneous meetings to engage in these conversations should be avoided. When planning to engage in a bold, inclusive conversation, consider the following series of questions:

  • Why are we having the conversation?
  • Who should be part of the dialogue, and why?
  • What is the desired outcome?
  • How should the conversation be conducted?
  • Where should the conversation be held?
  • When will the conversation take place?

Creating Shared Meaning and Finding Common Ground

When it comes to issues tied to our identity, we are more likely to be passionate, and unmoving in our beliefs. Social psychologists have suggested that we retreat to separatist thinking when our core belief systems are threatened. Reasoning and evidence simply do not matter.

That’s why convincing someone to “change what they believe” is difficult, and shouldn’t be the goal of engaging in these conversations; however, reaching a point of mutual understanding should. Creating shared meaning is a stepping stone to getting there. Ask yourself and each other, what can we agree on? Creating shared meaning and finding common ground includes statements like:

  • “These types of stresses can impact engagement and productivity.”
  • “We don’t know what we don’t know, and we all have a lot to learn about each other to have effective dialogue.”
  • “We all want to be safe.”

Delving into Differences

While understanding similarities is certainly a critical middle ground for bold conversations, understanding differences that make a difference is critical to getting to a place of reciprocal understanding. Consider the following when moving into dialogue around differences:

  • Acknowledge the ‘elephant’ in the room. Polarization exists and acknowledging that is part of the dialogue.
  • Distinguish interpretations and clarify definitions. Even “universal” terms and values can be interpreted differently across cultures. What do terms like fairness, safety, and trust mean to those involved in the dialogue? Discuss those differences. Write them down.
  • Uncover your different perspectives and listen with an open mind. Tell your story.
  • Know when to ‘press pause.’ Set aside time to reflect. Be okay with non-closure.
  • Strive for reciprocal empathy. There is no official ‘end game’ in engaging in these conversations. But …

If we can get to the point of reciprocal empathy (i.e., the ability to know what it is like to be the “other”), we increase the likelihood of generating new ways to engage with each other.

Photo Credit: Pelangi Keluarga Flickr via Compfight cc