Honest Diversity Conversations Recap: Discrimination & The Hiring Process

Image courtesy of Flickr.com

 

On Wednesday 9/9/15, Steve Levy and I kicked off the first of three webcasts hosted by College Recruiter called: Honest Diversity Conversations. The aim of these webcasts is to step outside of the realm of the typical diversity conversations. We want to open the eyes of business owners and HR practitioners alike to the issues and missed opportunities that exist when we don’t consider the impact of what’s going on in society, their homes and most importantly the impact of our policies and procedures.

Last week marked our second week of Honest Diversity Webcasts. Our focus in the second webinar was on Discrimination and The Hiring Process. It’s easy enough to direct people in their job search. Preparing them for the potential injustices that lie ahead is less prevalent. It is very clear that even in an age of information, many candidates are still unclear about what their rights are and what actions they can take when faced with discriminatory activity.

From an employer standpoint, ensuring a fair hiring process means being able to take an objective look at your hiring process regularly to make sure your intentions match what is in practice. There is also an opportunity for employers to define what success in hiring looks like and measure against it. Without looking at data, it is clear that some employers can make assumptions about the efficiency of the hiring process and/or success of diverse people within their organizations. Diversity and Inclusion practices are not checklist items. It should be interwoven into how you operate in business. You need to be dedicated to ensuring that people of all demographics can be successful in being hired and retained.

In this webcast we discussed the less obvious ways candidates are discriminated against. We also tackled the trend of diversity mentorship programs and answered whether most diversity training is short-sighted. Check it out and join the conversation.

 Register for the final webcast in this series on “Bias Leadership” here . We hope you will join us. 

Honest Diversity Conversations Recap: Race Relations and HR

 

Courtesy of Canva.com

Courtesy of Canva.com

On Wednesday, Steve Levy and I kicked off the first of three webcasts hosted by College Recruiter called: Honest Diversity Conversations. The aim of these webcasts is to step outside of the realm of the typical diversity conversations. We want to open the eyes of business owners and HR practitioners alike to the issues and missed opportunities that exist when we don’t consider the impact of what’s going on in society, their homes and most importantly the impact of our policies and procedures.

One of the questions we didn’t get to was:

“Speaking of the racially-fueled riots in cities around the US, we can imagine most companies being tight-lipped about what was going on. In your opinion, does the company have a duty to address social issues of the moment?”

Allow me to answer. Remaining tight-lipped about the racially-fueled topics of late is both a mistake and missed opportunity. When 9/11 happened 14 years ago, there was not a person that I encountered at work or after 5pm that did not want to discuss what happened. I suspect that was the case because we were so blind-sided by the event. However, I also believe it was a constant conversation because it was not just an attack on one demographic; but an attack on people from all walks of life.

The fact is unless an event affects the majority we tend to ignore it or minimize it. Likewise in HR, we tend to ignore racial undertones, sentiments and  even discriminatory speech until it is a bigger problem. In my opinion, companies have a duty to speak up about atrocities in society. However, I’d like to add that it is really a matter of preference and what you want to be known for. If you care that your employees see you as a company that genuinely cares about the trajectory of the human race; you may be inclined to tackle this. Conversely, if you don’t see current events or news headlines as connected to your business this may not be something you would address. Either way, all of us in HR must remember that silence is as much of an answer as a carefully crafted one.

If any of these recent events directly affect any portion of your workforce, they will remember your laughter and never-ending chatter during the typical and often-times nonsensical water cooler discussions. They will also remember that you said nothing- if that is what you choose. Both are equally damaging as we live in a time where social responsibility is an expected business competency.

Compliance and legal considerations aside, we work in the human side of business where it is inherently required that we ensure the well-being of our employees. It is our duty to see that people can come to work everyday as a whole person affected by the elements of life and society without judgment.

Steve and I had a spirited conversation about everything from HR not having the guts to have these conversations to why most diversity programs lack on this webcast. We hope you will join us for the remaining two webcasts. You can register here.

Check out the webcast replay below and join the conversation.

 

Want even more? Check out my preview of the “Honest Diversity Conversations” webcast series on “The Voice of Jobseekers” Podcast here.

It’s Time For Some Truth In HR

 

Courtesy of Pixabay

Courtesy of Pixabay

One of the things that has troubled me throughout my career is the inability for many people to be truthful in business situations. I’m not naive to the art and power of a carefully crafted message versus being blatantly honest; but I still think we could use more truth and integrity than not in business. HR in particular, has always been an area where I never understood the place for deceit. Fundamentally, people want and expect an increased level of both integrity and truth in HR because of the nature of what we do in an organization. Yet, in so many instances we disappoint when we don’t have the courage to be honest with the C-Suite about apparent organizational opportunities or concerns and equally so – when we aren’t honest with our employees. According to a 2014 American Psychological Association: Work and Well-Being Survey, 1 in 4 workers stated that they don’t trust their employers. The question is why do they feel this way and what can we change to turn this around.

When truth is a business imperative, trust is earned. 

If we look at the racial events and rhetoric of the day, it is safe to say very few companies – let alone HR departments feel truthfully comfortable addressing what’s going on in society. Somehow, employers have decided it is a conversation for the water cooler, but not necessarily something for them to address.  Just take a look at what happened when Starbucks kicked off their #RaceTogether initiative. Good, bad or indifferent, I still believe that Starbucks was well-intended and extremely brave for trying to tackle this very sensitive topic at an organizational level. The unfortunate thing is Starbucks is just one company. Most companies are generally conflicted as to whether or not they should allow dialogue around racism.

For sustainable change to happen on and off the job, we need many more companies and HR departments to stop and think about how you can constructively discuss race, discrimination and other social injustices in the workplace without being scared straight about the legal ramifications.

Every attempt to tackle racism, prejudice or bias in the workplace is generally seen as a liability. As such, we HR practitioners carefully craft trainings and communications to address things like diversity and inclusion, because it is safe, it’s avant-garde for HR and it fills a compliance need. Meanwhile, the burning questions among your employees about your position on social injustices are looming and your neutrality or lack of a straight answer is perceived as concurrence in the negative.

I am not the neutral kind when it comes to racial injustice. The past few years of senseless killings and racial rhetoric in the U.S. have pushed my colleague/friend Steve Levy and I to write about how HR should be handling Race Relations in a rather blunt exposé of current events. Now, we are happy to share that we will be presenting three consecutive webcasts in September sponsored by our friends at College Recruiter to address the need for “truth in HR”. In fact, the hashtag for our series is: #truthinhr. The series is called: Honest Diversity Conversations. We will let you decide if you think we are “honest” enough. The three part series will address: Race Relations & HR, Discrimination and The Hiring Process, and Bias Leadership.

Please consider joining us. I am listing the webcast topics and dates below. We are aspiring to shift the way HR, jobseekers, and leaders approach these incendiary topics.

In addition, I am finally breaking my silence about some of the more recent events regarding race relations. I am providing an honest synopsis of how I feel. You can watch my latest “Ask Czarina” episode here to see what I have to say.

I hope to see you all next month. Let’s keep talking and thinking about how we can do this better. This is about social responsibility. When you’re in business, it should be a consistent consideration.

Honest Diversity Conversations Webcast Series:

September 9th, 2015 Race Relations and HR

September 16th, 2015 Discrimination and The Hiring Process

September 23rd, 2015 Bias Leadership

The Real Scoop on How Diverse Candidates Perceive Their Value

As we continue to discuss diversity and inclusion concerns, it is important that companies that are serious about attracting, retaining and promoting diverse candidates understand how we think about our value in the workplace.

From a child, it was drilled into me that my skin color was not a roadblock, but an opportunity often seen as a threat. I was warned that I would have to work a gazillion times harder than any of my Caucasian counterparts to achieve success. To round out my coaching on getting ahead, I was advised to keep my head on, study hard, keep things formal on the job, work hard and it would all pay off.

More than a decade into my career, I see that my cultural and familial coaching has served me fairly well. In speaking to other minority colleagues over the years, I know that they were also told many of the same things growing up and have also found success in those tidbits. It might be sobering to read, but a person’s only barometer for how life works is experience. Having emigrated to the U.S. from the West Indies and South America in and around the 70’s, I don’t have to tell you what it was like for my parents and grandparents to assimilate into the “American way”; let alone garner gainful employment.

The disconnect between what I was taught and my real life experience is and has been startling. For one, I have found that most employers have no clue that their minority employees are carrying all of this. It is like the worst, best-kept secret. Subconsciously, minorities often believe that employers see them as less of a value. That perception has caused me to over-compensate with efforts that have had no real correlation to my success.

When your message as a company is simply “we are an equal opportunity employer” this appears to be more employer semantics that really says nothing more than “we will hire you, because we must”. Furthermore, if minority representation at all levels is scarce; I have more proof that you aren’t truly dedicated to promoting a diverse workforce. All things validating what I have been told.

To further test the validity of what I have been told over the years, here has been my reality:

1) For over 50% of my career, I have been the only black woman either on my team, in the region or in the company I worked for.

2) I have traditionally made less in compensation than most of my Caucasian counterparts. How do I know? People like to talk about what they make, especially when they make a lot of money- so there’s that.

3) More than once, I have resigned from a job because I was overlooked, overshadowed and underutilized in my job. This was in stark contrast to the applause for other Caucasian employees that were not nearly as productive or useful as I was.

4) I went to college, possess several certifications pertinent to my field as well as Master’s credits and have been managed three or more times by Caucasian women and men who not only possess less education than me, but have benefited from my efforts.

5) Lastly, I have had to fight for simple luxuries and leniency that was afforded to my Caucasian co-workers with no contest.

For the most part, minorities have been urged out of necessity to be better than everyone else to get ahead. To some extent, it is great advice. However, it becomes disheartening when being better isn’t the standard for everyone else and doesn’t result in the desired outcomes. It would help companies to market themselves and attract diverse candidates-if they understood how we approach our work in thought and practice. Once you understand, you have to have a genuine willingness for changing these cemented impressions, realities and perceptions.

The end game of diversity and inclusion has to be understanding and execution. If you don’t get that ‘diverse’ isn’t just a buzzword but a broader meaning for different- you aren’t ready to have a discussion about diversity. Companies have to be willing to identify, understand, and embrace the differences that exist among employees before they endeavor inclusion initiatives.

The truth is I have always navigated my career in excellence, because that is my standard. I have done this despite the unfair circumstances I have been met with. I’m not a fan of pulling the race card, but if it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck…you know the rest.  Also, when my knowledge, skills, abilities, and efforts are shelved for the purposes of rewarding other people’s mediocre efforts; it is hard not to see the truth in what I have been told.

As you consider you own diversity and inclusion efforts, how will you ensure that your diverse employees are fairly and equitably supported and recognized for their efforts?

LASHRM 2014 Snippet: Don’t Talk About Diversity-Show Me Diversity

In just a few days, I will descend upon Baton Rouge, Louisiana as a speaker for the Louisiana SHRM State Conference.  My session is entitled: Get Real About Your Good Faith Efforts- What The OFCCP Really Expects From Employers. Some of the most significant changes in OFCCP guidance will take place this year. Federal contractors everywhere are frantically watching every webinar, attending every breakfast meeting and are quite handsomely paying employment lawyers to help them comply with the new regulations.

I could have addressed the new regulations and spelled them out in plain English to the best of my ability, but you all know by now I don’t do the status quo.

My hope for this session is much bigger and broader.

Yes, the new regulations are onerous, but have you asked yourself why? I have heard so many practitioners carrying on about how these new regulations are not achievable and how the federal money they receive in return may or may not be worth the hassle for what the government wants from us.

Newsflash: There is a rich history of how all of these regulations came to be. Each of them delegated out as executive orders by the presidents of the time due mostly to the injustices being experienced by women and minorities in the workforce. These new regulations- are yet another instance where regulation was needed to decrease the numbers of differently-abled and veteran applicants that have recently been discounted, ignored or outcast by employers in recent years.

It amazes me- that until now, most federal contractors and even regular companies slap an EEO tagline on their website and put up a few stock photos of an Asian, African-American , someone in a wheelchair etc. all for the value of giving the appearance that they value diversity. I say if you truly value diversity, let me see your C-suite makeup.  Let me see your employee ecosystem; more importantly- let me see your outreach efforts also known as “good faith efforts”. Some other considerations, are you paying everyone based on a consistent and logical model? How about hiring? How far do you go to ensure a diverse applicant pool?

I suspect that the OFCCP and government are just as tired as I am of companies doing the bare minimum to appear compliant. They are essentially saying to each of us federal contractors- don’t talk about diversity; show me diversity.

I present on Monday, April 7th from 10:30-11:45 am. Attendees will leave my session with an alternate way of approaching these guidelines, good faith efforts and hopefully diversity within their organizations.

I’m looking forward to a spirited conversation on this topic- as well as  engaging with all of the attendees. If you cannot make it, please follow the #RealGFE session hashtag on Twitter. Also, don’t forget to check out the #Czarinatravels hashtag to keep up with my travel adventures.

Want more hashtag craziness? Follow #PICHR, #ePIC, #LASHRM14 and #goodfaith to follow the conference and all associated events.

“Pregnancy” is not a bad word

Image Courtesy of “Think Progress”

After being pregnant three times over the past seven years, I have seen, heard, and endured things that have both shocked me and made me angry. For starters, there are far too many employers that are still treating pregnancy as if it is a cardinal sin and a complete undoing to their business. Having children whether as an older more tenured employee or an early careerist is a life decision that need not be vetted or agreed with by an employer. Certainly, there are the usual considerations of the inevitable impact of having children depending on where you are in your career; but they are just that- considerations.

Consider this instead:

*The U.S. is one of only 4 countries that doesn’t offer paid leave to new mothers — the others are Papua New Guinea, Swaziland, and Lesotho.

*Having a baby is a leading cause of “poverty spells” in the U.S. — when income dips below what’s needed for basic living expenses.

When you are notified by an employee that they are pregnant, they haven’t just given you their resignation simultaneously. Pregnant women are not only capable of continuing their duties (unless sickness and or the physical nature of their job interfere), but they are worthy of having your support as an employer.

As a new business owner, I would like to impart some food-for thought for dealing with pregnancy in general and pregnant employees:

  1. Stop saying dumb things to your pregnant employees. If you are hesitant to say what you’re thinking or you are unsure; do yourself a favor and be quiet.
  2. Be kind. In as much as pregnant women are willing and capable, a little compassion can go a long way.  Ask them how they are feeling. If they are struggling during the first trimester or beyond; allow some leniency. It’s that whole do onto others philosophy.
  3. Did you also know?  *51% of new mothers lack any paid leave so some take unpaid leave, some quit, some even lose their jobs. If you can help it, get out of this third-world mentality that exists in the US and offer your female employees a dose of relief in the way of a paid maternity leave, the ability to phase-back to work, short-term disability etc.
  4. While said employee is on leave, do your best to refrain from contacting her regarding work related things or anything in general. Maternity leave is supposed to be a time for healing, bonding, and family. Respect the employee’s time.
  5. Lastly, if there are concerns about adequate time and the like- communicate your concern, but don’t over communicate. There are dr.’s appointments, unforeseen sicknesses, etc. Again, if this is a good employee do your best to work through these hurdles. In business, there are always workarounds whether you want to openly admit it or not).
  6. Don’t forget your male employees. They are becoming dads too and may need your support as well.

Pregnant women are not second-class citizens. You do not have to fundamentally agree with the act of childbearing or its timing but you do have an obligation to respect the decision and support your employees as best you can.

Every year Working Mother.com compiles a list of the best 100 companies for the working mother. One of their requirements for application acceptance is that they offer at least one week of paid family leave or they must be on their way to implementing some sort of paid maternity leave. The list is great and proof that nothing I said here is pie-in-the-sky. Check the list of companies out here.

Here’s a wacky bonus tip: don’t touch your pregnant employee unless you ask. I once had a manager push in my protruding belly button because she thought it was odd and cute. Please stop doing these things. It doesn’t bode well for anyone involved.

What are some innovative arrangements or policies you have implemented to support your pregnant or even new mother employees?

*Statistics from MomRising.org- http://www.momsrising.org/issues_and_resources/maternity

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