#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.

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.

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#WorkTrends Recap: We Can’t Talk about That at Work!

Going to work these days can feel like a minefield. It seems that most people have an opinion about topics that create intense emotions, and people’s differences lead to polarization rather than unity.

Thank you to Patrick Antrim, former New York Yankee baseball player and author of 7 Talent Strategies for High Performing Teams, for being the guest host of this #WorkTrends chat. Patrick welcomed diversity and inclusion strategist Mary-Frances Winters, Founder and President of The Winters Group, Inc., and author of We Can’t Talk about That at Work!: How to Talk about Race, Religion, Politics, and Other Polarizing Topics, who shared expertise based on her 30+ years of insight and experience on how organizations create environments where people can find common ground.

We discussed how to build a framework for creating inclusive environments that lead to more productive teams and respectful workplaces. It’s important to remember that creating inclusion isn’t a “one and done” type of phenomenon–it’s a journey. It is also important to build in the time and discipline to reflect and apply what we learn from our experiences.

In closing, Mary-Frances reminded us that part of this journey is “recognizing that we don’t know what we don’t know,” being curious and having an openness to learning.

Thanks, Mary-Frances, for inspiring us to keep pursuing the journey.

Here are a few key points Mary-Frances shared:

  • People who feel respected want to come to work
  • The work of diversity and inclusion is never done; it is always a journey
  • Preparation is important prior to a conversation about differences
  • There is a significant difference between “equality” and “equity”
  • The organizational culture should go beyond creating a “safe space” and create a “brave place”

Did you miss the show? You can listen to the #WorkTrends podcast on our BlogTalk Radio channel here:

Didn’t make it to this week’s #WorkTrends show? Don’t worry, you can tune in and participate in the podcast and chat with us every Wednesday from 1-2pm ET (10-11am PT).

Remember, the TalentCulture #WorkTrends conversation continues every day across several social media channels. Stay up-to-date by following our #WorkTrends Twitter stream; pop into our LinkedIn group to interact with other members. Engage with us any time on our social networks, or stay current with trending World of Work topics on our website or through our weekly email newsletter.

Photo by Ocean Biggshott on Unsplash

#WorkTrends Preview: We Can’t Talk about That at Work!

Today’s headlines are brimming with emotionally-charged topics including racial injustice, protests, sexual harassment and more, making it unrealistic for employers to expect their employees to leave their opinions at the door.

Organizations must take advantage of this emotionally fraught time to help employees find common ground. Doing so will improve engagement, company chemistry, productivity and retention. Teams will become more cohesive and employees’ sense of safety will improve.

Guest host Patrick Antrim, former New York Yankee baseball player and author of 7 Talent Strategies for High Performing Teams, will welcome diversity and inclusion strategist Mary-Frances Winters, Founder and President of The Winters Group, Inc., and author of We Can’t Talk about That at Work!: How to Talk about Race, Religion, Politics, and Other Polarizing Topics to share her 30+ years of insight and experience on how organizations create environments where people can find that common ground and remain respectful and productive. She and her firm are committed to helping people feel comfortable and empowered bringing their whole selves to work.

This #WorkTrends chat will address how to create inclusive environments and provide a model for difficult conversations, providing building blocks of competence and preparation.

Join #WorkTrends guest host Patrick Antrim and his guest Mary-Frances Winters, author of We Can’t Talk about That at Work!: How to Talk about Race, Religion, Politics, and Other Polarizing Topics, on Wednesday, December 6, 2017, at 1 pm ET as they discuss the framework for creating inclusive environments that lead to more productive teams and respectful workplaces.

We Can’t Talk about That at Work!

#WorkTrends Preview: We Can’t Talk about That at Work!Join Patrick and Mary-Frances on our LIVE online podcast Wednesday, December 6, 2017 at 1 pm ET | 10 am PT.

Immediately following the podcast, the team invites the TalentCulture community over to the #WorkTrends Twitter stream to continue the discussion. We encourage everyone with a Twitter account to participate as we gather for a live chat, focused on these related questions:


Q1: What topics have been historically considered taboo in the workplace and why so? #WorkTrends (Tweet this question)

Q2: How can employees effectively address sensitive topics in the workplace? #WorkTrends  (Tweet this question)

Q3: How can leadership affect change to open the lines of communication? #WorkTrends  (Tweet this question)

Don’t want to wait until next Wednesday to join the conversation? You don’t have to. I invite you to check out the #WorkTrends Twitter feed and our TalentCulture World of Work Community LinkedIn group. Share your questions, ideas and opinions with our awesome community.

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#WorkTrends Recap: Diversity Supports an Inclusive Workplace Culture

There is a lot of talk in human resources circles about diversity and inclusion, but what does diversity and inclusion really mean in the workplace? Debra Ruh, CEO of Ruh Global Communications and author of several books including Tapping into Hidden Human Capital: How Leading Global Companies Improve their Bottom Line by Employing Persons with Disabilities, joined me today for #WorkTrends to help us all understand how to fully define diversity and inclusion, and how to practice it within our organizations.

We discussed how broad the definition of diversity is, and the fact that 46% of the workers in the United States have a disability of some type. In her work with the United Nations on diversity issues, Debra saw that people with disabilities were often excluded from lists of those who needed to be incorporated into diversity and inclusion planning. There are also other components of the definition that are sometimes overlooked, she reminded us, such as age and invisible disabilities.

Diversity helps businesses fulfill their full potential in the workforce as well as on the balance sheet. As a McKinsey report noted, companies with diverse executive boards have higher earnings and better returns on equity. Diversity doesn’t just matter on the executive board, though–it matters organization-wide.

An employee benefiting from an inclusive environment is more likely to provide effective customer service. The benefits spread outward from the employee to those they serve.

Businesses also benefit from diversity because, along with the fact that it’s the right thing to do, they are setting themselves up for litigation if they fail to pursue diversification efforts. It’s not expensive to do the right thing, but it does take attention to policies and processes. That’s one area in which Debra’s organization specializes.

“Ultimately, we all need to think outside of the box”, said Debra. She provided a powerful framework for doing exactly that.

Here are a few key points Debra shared:

  • People with disabilities should be included in diversity and inclusion programs
  • Learning from one another is multiplied in diverse workforces
  • Qualifications are important; organizations shouldn’t look at hiring people with disabilities because it’s “nice” to do — they should hire people with disabilities who are the most qualified candidates
  • Diversity adds innovation to the workforce
  • The more diverse teams are, the better the organization’s bottom line will be

Did you miss the show? You can listen to the #WorkTrends podcast on our BlogTalk Radio channel here:

You can also check out the highlights of the conversation from our Storify here:

Didn’t make it to this week’s #WorkTrends show? Don’t worry, you can tune in and participate in the podcast and chat with us every Wednesday from 1-2pm ET (10-11am PT).

Remember, the TalentCulture #WorkTrends conversation continues every day across several social media channels. Stay up-to-date by following our #WorkTrends Twitter stream; pop into our LinkedIn group to interact with other members. Engage with us any time on our social networks, or stay current with trending World of Work topics on our website or through our weekly email newsletter.

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#WorkTrends Preview: Diversity Supports an Inclusive Workplace Culture

What do “diversity and inclusion” mean in the workplace?

Debra Ruh, CEO of Ruh Global Communications and author of several books including Tapping into Hidden Human Capital: How Leading Global Companies Improve their Bottom Line by Employing Persons with Disabilities is an expert in all aspects of diversity: how to define it, how to achieve it, and the positive effects it creates for everyone involved, and I am so pleased she will be with us this week on #WorkTrends.

The core of Ruh’s mission, which began when she established a business to help websites become more accessible to people with disabilities, is helping businesses understand that diversity helps businesses fulfill their potential in the workforce as well as on the balance sheet.

As a McKinsey report wrote, companies with diverse executive boards have higher earnings and better returns on equity. Diversity doesn’t just matter on the executive board, though– it matters organization-wide. “Diversity is a mentality, not just strategic imperative,” says Ekaterina Walter in Forbes.

An employee benefiting from an inclusive environment is more likely to provide effective customer service, and the benefits spread outward from the employee to those they serve.

Deborah’s organization specializes in helping businesses benefit from diversity, by showing them how to pay attention to policies and processes.

I am looking forward to talking with Debra about diversity, both about attracting diverse employees and retaining them.

This #WorkTrends chat will define diversity and walk through ways to make an inclusive workplace culture a reality.  

Join #WorkTrends host Meghan M. Biro and her guest Debra Ruh, CEO of Ruh Global Communications, on Wednesday, November 29, 2017, at 1 pm ET as they discuss how to create and maintain an inclusive workplace.

Diversity Supports an Inclusive Workplace Culture

#WorkTrends Preview: Diversity Supports an Inclusive Workplace CultureJoin Meghan and Debra on our LIVE online podcast Wednesday, November 29, 2017 at 1 pm ET | 10 am PT.

Immediately following the podcast, the team invites the TalentCulture community over to the #WorkTrends Twitter stream to continue the discussion. We encourage everyone with a Twitter account to participate as we gather for a live chat, focused on these related questions:

Q1: How does a diverse culture drive innovation? #WorkTrends (Tweet this question)

Q2: How can an organization create a diverse culture? #WorkTrends (Tweet this question)

Q3: Why is it socially responsible for brands to support diversity? #WorkTrends (Tweet this question)

Don’t want to wait until next Wednesday to join the conversation? You don’t have to. I invite you to check out the #WorkTrends Twitter feed and our TalentCulture World of Work Community LinkedIn group. Share your questions, ideas and opinions with our awesome community.

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The Paradox of Diversity and Inclusion

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here are only a five top inclusion initiatives:

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A version of this post was first published on

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Why The Oscars Diversity Issue Matters to All Employers

Sunday night was the 88th broadcast of Academy Awards. And, even if you didn’t watch it, then you know that not one person of color was nominated for an Oscar in the categories of best actor or actress in either a primary or supporting role.

The host was Chris Rock. And, with humor and perspective, he nailed it…effectively by reframing it.

The absence of award nominations for actors of color was less about the nominations themselves and more about the absence of acting opportunities for actors of color. If you don’t have access to the opportunities, then it goes without saying you cannot win.

To quote Chris Rock:

“What I’m trying to say is it’s not about boycotting or anything. It’s just we want opportunity. We want the black actors to get the same opportunities as white actors. That’s it. And not just once. Leo gets a great part every year. All these guys get great parts all the time. But what about the black actors?”

Rock’s comments apply not only to black actors but also to Asian American and Hispanic American actors. Why are there not more roles for actors who are Asian American or Hispanic American?

Now, you may be tempted to say: who cares about Hollywood! Avoid that temptation; access issues are not limited to the entertainment industry.

Outside of Hollywood, we see a glaring absence of diversity in many senior leadership teams. And, there also is a clear gender pay gap in many organizations, even if people debate the degree of the gap.

I would suggest that, in many situations, what we see is the symptom of the underlying problem: the absence of meaningful access to assignments and opportunities that create the credentials for promotions and higher pay. How do we address the access problem?

Well, that goes beyond the scope of this brief blog. But the first step is acknowledging the root of the problem so that we can focus our corrective action there.

Yes, this is about fairness. Fairness always matters.

But there also is the business imperative. Diverse leadership teams are more successful, and you cannot get to the top unless you have had equal opportunity to access along the way.

Sunday night, Chris Rock rocked it with his root cause analysis. The success of our own organizations will depend, in part, on how we respond to the clarion call to focus on equal access opportunity.

A version of this post was first posted on The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) blog on February 29, 2016.

photo credit: the giant Oscar statue at the Kodak Theater  via photopin (license)

The Benefits Of Success Measured By The Effectual Stretch

It wasn’t exactly the romanticized version of backpacking through an exotic land, especially if you consider a cheap roller suitcase a backpack, which unfortunately I did. But that was me then in 1998, when my then girlfriend (now wife) had bitten me with the travel bug. Prior to that my travel was limited to North America. When I was 13 I went to Hawaii, which I actually thought was another country.

My wife had traveled extensively prior to us meeting, including the romanticized version of backpacking through Europe after college, only to get most of her belongings stolen in Prague after only two days into her trip. She could’ve got home after that, wanted to go home after that, but regrouped, bought a few new things, and went on to travel for another few weeks.

Mama and Me Costa RicaAnd so our first big journey together was to Costa Rica. A lovely country, it was the first time I had been to such an exotic land, and to travel with someone else who lived boldly, to experience such visceral sensations I had never before experienced was amazing in and of itself. But the meeting of people I had never met before, some of whom had alien worldviews compared to mine, and exchanging those worldviews with one another, was the epitome of the “effectual stretch.”

The “effectual stretch” meaning pushing oneself to learn and expand beyond what’s known and comfortable in a way that’s produces desired yet diverse effective results, whatever those results may mean to each person. It could mean the literal extremes of success or failure, or that fatty layer in between that gives sustenance to our tenuous journey of sinew and bone.

We’ve attempted to impress the same approach and attitude on our daughters, teaching them to be bold yet aware, to protect themselves but not live in fear, to keep getting back on the bull like they own the beast, horns held tightly in hands. This includes exposing them to travel, new locales and people, experiences that we hope will shape their adult lives and those they interact with for the better.

Listening to a recent Freakonomics podcast about empowering a better workplace and the cities where those workplaces are, I had to smile when I heard American economist and Harvard University professor Edward Glaeser talk about how he was taking a sabbatical while “…attempting to civilize my children by taking them to a variety of different cities.”

Glaeser believes that encouraging industrial diversity would contribute more to economic growth. Cities that embrace a people-centric view of community (around infrastructure, education, services, etc.) means that businesses are more likely to thrive in said communities. The same podcast includes commentary from Glaeser on Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh’s ambitious Downtown Project, which is primarily an urban revitalization effort, but also an effectual stretch project on a grander community scale due to the emphasis on business and workforce diversity. It’s a “collision” strategy that encourages others to live and work together, continually exchanging ideas in order to create positive and effectual change while powering sustainable business.

Which brings me to the live TalentCulture #TChat Show we did from Cork, Ireland for the IT@Cork European Technology Summit of over 400 attendees, as well as the tech talent diversity panel session that Meghan and I moderated at the summit. The panelists and guests included a diverse group of business leaders, an academic and one inspirational young student: David Parry Jones, VP UK and Ireland VMWare; Noelle Burke Head of HR Microsoft Ireland; Michael Loftus, Head of Faculty of Engineering and Science CIT; student Ciara Judge, one of the Kinsale winners of the 2013 Google Science Award; and Caroline O’Driscoll, Tax Partner at KPMG, and Vice Chair of IT@cork.

ITCork Diversity panel

Not only is the city of Cork (and much of the Republic of Ireland for that matter) investing in business-friendly infrastructure and creating competitive tax codes, they embrace the above collision strategy. The not-for-profit IT@cork European Tech Cluster, the organization behind the European Tech Summit, represents the interests of the IT industry in Ireland. This includes indigenous and international IT professionals, executives, multinationals, government leaders, public sector, academia, entrepreneurs, investors and the legal and financial professional services community joining together to drive thought leadership, collaboration and global strategic alliances.

ITCork15 TChat Show

Amen. The good news is that IT@Cork is being replicated in various iterations throughout communities worldwide. Even less formal, but no less impactful, events take place, including the likes of Event Santa Cruz in my own backyard, founded by Matthew Swinnerton, brings together local entrepreneurs and the community every month, again to facilitate the effectual stretch and diversity of ideas.

Although our core theme of the IT@Cork panel session and #TChat Show was gender diversity, what became crystal clear was the theme of broader diversity and inclusion. It’s all about attracting a wider array of backgrounds and worldviews of both women and men who support one another. This is what can lead to a competitive advantage in business and an equitable advantage for cities and communities around the world.

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

So it’s clear for me and many others today that the best business outcomes for organizations today can only be achieved through diversity and inclusion growth collisions. However, it’s also important to note that no matter progressive and elevated organizations are, complex regulatory changes and an increase in Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) audit frequency and intensity abound. This means many organizations need assistance to ensure diversity programs and Affirmative Action plans are documented and compliant, while at the same time magnifying their overall diversity impact.

Ever since my wife and I had met one day at the beach nearly 18 years ago, it’s been one growth opportunity after another. Not always travel related, and certainly not always successful, it’s been more about having an explorer’s mentality and approach to mindful and agile living both at home and at work. Business and community leaders who invest and sustain this approach will reap the benefits of success measured by the effectual stretch.