The Challenge of Empathy

Before I get to my story, a quote from a 2017 Forbes article titled: “How Empathetic Are You, Really?”. On empathy, the author Liz Guthridge says:

“Being empathetic is similar to cooking. You may know the recipe for how to prepare empathy. But until you actually use the recipe a few times, taste the results, see how everyone reacts and adjust the recipe, you and your guests don’t know how satisfying and nourishing your efforts will be.”

Empathy continues to be a challenge in life and at work. For most people, empathy has conditions and limits. It goes something like this, “if I agree with what you are saying and how you say it pleases me; I will support the breathe with which you are speaking your truth”. If by chance, you share something that fundamentally debunks a point of view or has earth-shattering ramifications for a particular position someone holds, empathy is (more often than not) enqueue to meet an imminent death.

I have both written and spoken about some thorny subjects in the past year. I knew going into it that there would be people who praised me for my bravery and others who would chastise me for sharing my truth. When I speak up on issues, topics or instances that matter to me it is just that — it matters to me. That I have something to say about matters of societal and economic importance as someone who also happens to be an HR professional should not rub people the wrong way in 2018. Working in any industry (and more importantly HR) is not an opportunity to operate as if dumb, deaf and blind nor is it a sentence for being mute when it matters most.

Last month, I had the privilege of attending and speaking at Connections 2018, an annual user-centered event curated by Ultimate Software designed to engage, enlighten and empower their user community.  During my Women in Leadership panel, there were two women who questioned why a white man was moderating my panel and moreover why most of the event’s speakers were white males. Admittedly, it was an awkward moment and not one we had solved for in our discussions about managing questions as a panel. A part of me was overjoyed that someone saw the obvious inequity of the panel. The other part of me felt sorry for my moderator, Jason Lauritsen who I personally chose to be the moderator and is someone who I do believe is inherently good despite the gender and race he belongs to. Time stood still, but something had to be said.

Empathy in motion…

I shared the truth and posed a question. I shared that I had been asked to moderate and asked the two women how that made them feel? They perked up and said that would have been much better. In response, I said: “Really? Not for me. Why should I moderate a panel of all white women in 2018?” To which an Asian woman yelled out: “What is wrong with that?”. What I shared with the group is that I wanted the ability to speak my truth as a panelist, not as someone on the periphery of the discussion. I went for what I wanted and chose Jason as a moderator because I admire him as a person and because we cannot exclude men from the discussion of how women are treated in society and in the workplace.

I have my views and strong ones at that. Nonetheless, my views are always rooted in experiences and fact and never devoid of the ability to see how it may affect another human. My panel could have been one big feminist party where we talked about how the patriarchy needs to die and how Ultimate got their programming wrong and how patronizing it must be for me to be the only black woman on the panel. What would have been accomplished by this? Isn’t this part of the problem and what we have always done?

That question was a twist of fate that I ultimately thanked those two women for. It opened us all up to have a more authentic conversation than was possible with my carefully-curated script of questions. We moved on to share openly and listen to one another’s experiences. From that moment on, we weren’t just listening we were feeling every word uttered in that room. Isn’t that the hope and prayer for empathy and also the challenge in exercising it?

The truth we all need to embrace and settle with is we are all right and all wrong at the same time. Life is a continuous cycle of contradictions. For every view you hold, there is at least one instance to debunk the position you hold. Even in a world of contradictions, it still means that what I experience is true for me. My experiences and knowledge of the world cannot be diminished or diluted. You can challenge it, but it cannot be dismissed as a data point. Dismissal is the typical reaction to hearing things we don’t want to accept. Empathy means that even if your individual or collective truths tell you that anything I say is bogus it warrants further investigation or at a minimum your heartfelt consideration if you can muster it.

People are not naturally wired to say or do what is convenient for others to feel good about a situation. This is also a part of the problem we have at the moment. Stop looking for convenient truths and answers to serve your agenda. Instead, ask yourself if what you hear, see or read could have the slightest possibility of being true. If your answer is “yes” (and it should because anything is possible), then it requires extra effort to understand on your part.

We are recalibrating as a human race which means an industry founded upon human relations should be doing the same. I challenge professionals everywhere to do the following:

1) Say less. People are finding their voices again and feeling more and more empowered to speak out. This is not the time for you to debate them and take up space. Instead, say less and hold space for the most vulnerable in our workplaces and society to share their truths.

2) Stay curiousSome of you grew up in towns of 1000 with not a dose of cultural or ethnic difference to color your world, yet others of us have grown up in complex environments with a myriad of influences. In both regards, there is a need for more curiosity, fewer assumptions, less convenient truths and judgments. Be open to learning a new perspective.

3) Exercise your empathy muscles. The road to becoming more empathetic is not linear. You will fail, you will be awkward, you will resist it at times. Still, you ought to try to be more empathetic and willing to endure all of that at the same time. I know it is a tall order, but what if it could shift budding interactions with people you admire or help someone you love feel more heard and understood? Trust me it is worth it.

For the livestream of my Women in Leadership panel click the link below:

Connections 2018 Women in Leadership Panel

Here is Jason’s account of the Women in Leadership Panel and lessons learned:

Gender at Work

May we all rise to the challenge of exercising more empathy.

The Only Thing Leaders Should Have Top Of Mind For 2018 is Integrity

Integrity

This is the time of year that predictions are made and data is shared about what the strategic and operational goals are for the upcoming year. Although management firms spend an inordinate amount of time and money collecting this data all year long for these much-coveted reports, there is rarely anything earth-shattering about what CEO’s, business leaders or professionals have to say about where their focus will be in the new year. The usual banter will be about increasing engagement, improving candidate experience, technology, finding the best talent etc. As you can see, nothing really shocking.

However, 2017 has been illuminating. I wanted to say “different”, but that would mean that what I am about to share is new as of this year and it isn’t. In fact, what I will share is the result of something somewhere in the archives of time that started off as a snowball and is now an avalanche of end-of-the-world proportions crushing souls and careers to boot. This thing I speak of is the erosion of integrity and values in business.

2017 is the first year in my existence where just about every month there has been some company, company head or public figure who has come under scrutiny for either illegal or unethical practices. There have been so many “sorry’s” and “apologies flung around this year that it is becoming nauseating and unbelievable. The travesty in it all is that people who knew that all of this unethical and illegal behavior was the very thing that contributed to the fame, fortune and prestige always knew the things we see playing out. They were just waiting and hoping that the rest of the world would see it someday. So what has changed this year? For the first time ever and for reasons unknown to me, people were willing to believe the stories otherwise known over the years as individual gripes, “crazy talk”, imaginary happenings, urban legends and conspiracy theory this year. Suddenly, what was always in the shadows and dark got its much-deserved light via social media, blogs, livestreams, and a lot of bravery on the part of people who chose to break their silence.

In a lot of ways, this year has been one huge coming-out party and not in a good way. Whether it is our government and the corruption of the day or the growing list of sexual harassment and assault charges following the Harvey Weinstein debacle, it has not been a good year for US companies and more specifically humans as a whole. The latest debacle is set at Huffington Post. According to an article published yesterday by Gizmodo, Arianna Huffington ignored sexual harassment claims made by workers in her New York office while she was still running the company. The article goes on to state that one such former managing editor whose sexual misconduct was known to her also garnered a transfer to HuffPost India as a result of an HR investigation.  How an investigation that leads to the proof that an employee of yours is engaging in sexual misconduct doesn’t result in a termination is beyond me.

Without diving too deep into this particular story, I prefer to examine the over-arching narrative of CEO’s and leaders, in general, both men and women who consistently overlook, engage in, and embrace unethical and illegal practices as a means to secure opportunities, line their pockets and the pockets of their shareholders and investors. I would be lying if I said I had never encountered leaders or employees behaving unethically who somehow managed to keep their jobs, lives, and lifestyles intact. It has disgusted me. I often spoke up about it only to be met with “Well you know it is John Bae. Yes, he is a jerk and misogynist, but he brings in a shit ton of money for the company, so we have to tread lightly”.

Frankly, I am glad 2017 raised a proverbial mirror to all of the things that make us suck at being human. Now, that we all know and finally see what we all knew was commonplace in business how do we move forward in trust? Can “building trust within my organization” really be on your scorecard when your foundation has been flooded with the truth and is now crumbling as a result?  Can you genuinely accept that accolade for best company for women when you have investigations sitting on your desk overlooked and predators collecting checks on your dime? Can you really call your company culture “diverse and inclusive” if you secretly donate operating budget to the KKK or 45’s ongoing campaign? Note: “Diverse” and “inclusive” is maybe not appropriate if the latter applies.

Suddenly, no company, CEO or person is safe from the truth. Your money, prestige, and power are on a timer and the time is nearly up. The only thing leaders should be thinking about going into 2018 is integrity. I’m not sure where along the journey, so many decided that money trumped having values, meant destroying lives and doing it with a smile. Now is a time to ask your employees to blow the whistle internally before the public has its way with you and your brand. It is time, to be honest, and say sorry because you mean it. It is a good time to make amends and provide whatever you must to make it right with the people who show up daily to impact your bottom line.

Everybody needs to take one long hot shower to wash the filth of 2017 and before off and start anew in 2018 with a focus on treating employees, customers, and citizens of this world with the dignity they deserve as a matter of being a fellow human. It may cost you revenue. You may piss off your board of directors and investors, but isn’t it time for “good” to make a comeback?

For some starter tips on cleaning house, revisit an Aristocracy of HR throwback: The Untouchables: Why you should stop salvaging bad employees at every level.

Five Ways Video Can Enhance Your Recruitment Process

Image courtesy of Assess Hub.

Image courtesy of Assess Hub.

In an increasingly mobile world, many businesses are beginning to shift towards more effective execution within their HR departments. Implementing video into the process of recruitment not only provides an integral solution for businesses, it expands their reach when it comes to attracting the best talent.

Make full use of available resources

In 2016, 63% of organizations were using video in their recruitment processes and the use of such a tool facilitates the process of hiring new talent as well as largely affects the way companies engage with the most talented candidates and potentially even tapping into new global markets and an unlimited talent pool that may have previously been inaccessible.

This effectively means companies achieve global reach while cutting down recruitment costs, particularly beneficial for start-ups and smaller institutions.

  1. Using video for interviews

Using video as an interview tool allows international businesses and start-ups alike, to connect with candidates conveniently, even regardless of location, assessing their abilities efficiently and cutting down the time required to schedule and conduct interviews in person in half. With video interview technology comes the great freedom of connecting with new candidates and getting them excited about your company through the use of video resources.

  1. Use Video to Leverage Communication

Numbers show that recruiters who use video as a one-way or two-way interview tool can screen candidates rapidly, thus elevating their rate of success over the span of the recruiting process as opposed to the hours HR departments spend screening candidates’ resumes and conducting initial phone interviews. Specifically, with live video interviews, you can enable the candidates to connect with you in real time and most importantly, at a time that suits your busy schedule while benefiting from the crucial aspect of face-to-face interaction with each participant. Many applicants apply on their mobile devices which shows that more and more job seekers search beyond traditional websites. Thus, video is where your company can gain a mobile edge and proves an innovative add-on in the recruiting process for the best available talent even if you attract them on the go.

  1. Market Your Business more effectively

Digital advances have made for a generation of young professionals who were bred to respond to visuals. Many companies are already using video to attract the right candidates with the advantage that videos are a shareable tool that can be creatively integrated within various social media platforms. Recruiting-focused videos are increasingly popular and can benefit your business or start-up greatly if you feature existing employees’ testimonials, reflect aspects and put across your unique message about the working culture within your company. You can go as far as enhancing job advertisements on your career website with targeted videos, showcasing the specific job function advertised to add a personalized touch and ultimately enhance the way candidates engage with your organization.

  1. Showcase Opportunities

Use video to advertise new openings within your company but do not limit the use of this versatile tool to just that; – rather, showcase the human aspect and culture of your organization, even go as far as creating interactive office tour video, to inspire candidates and take the hiring process to the next level.

  1. Stay Current During and After the Hiring Process

You can use video to replace automated response emails that will reach applicants and make you stand out from the rest or use this tool throughout the hiring process to highlight important aspects of the candidate, such as what to expect in the different stages of recruitment or elaborate on your company’s processes and values. This is a proactive way to continue communication even after you have hired a candidate by creating customized videos and greatly speeding up the process of training for each individual new employee.

Can you think of any other options to use video in your recruitment process? Please share with us in the comments.

 

Author’s bio:

Vishal Amberkar

Image courtesy of Assess Hub.

Image courtesy of Assess Hub.

Vishal has over 12 years’ experience working across industries, planning and implementing business growth strategies in the digital space. Equipped with a Master’s Degree in Business Administration from the Department of Management Studies (Pune University), his present association with AssessHub is about contributing to thoughts and sharing key insights on improving the Human Resources function and sharing ideas about the same which he shares through the AssessHub Blog.

 

 

Five Questions That Will Lead You to the Best ATS

Campaign/FTC disclosure: This is a sponsored guest post. I will receive compensation for this post. I only work with companies I feel have great products, services, and offerings. In accordance with my blog disclosure statement, I will only work with and showcase products, thought leadership, events and/or companies I believe my readers will benefit from.  I am not formally employed by Recruitee.  All thoughts and viewpoints are created and written by Perry Oostdam of Recruitee. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

 

Image courtesy of Recruitee

Image courtesy of Recruitee

What works for one company may not work for another. This goes for the budget, policies, and recruitment software! With the abundance of Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) available, it’s worth it to shop around and get the best fit for your specific needs. There are comparison tools that are handy, like Capterra’s list of the best ATS. Side-by-side features and ratings are a great research tool! However, it may seem like a daunting task to sift through the options if you don’t know what you are looking for. Read on to find out the questions you need to be answering in order to determine the right ATS.

1—Is it user-friendly?

Collaboration in the hiring process is crucial. Decide with your whole team if an ATS will work for your particular situation. You must find one that even the least tech-savvy of employees can use and interact with! This will increase the level of inclusion and employee engagement, as well as the quality of hires. It’s a win-win situation.

How to find the answer:

Pin down what it means to your team to be user-friendly. A great place to start is a resource or article that explains how and why recruitment software can benefit teams when it’s easy to navigate and use. When listing these requirements out, remember to include criteria that benefit both a) the users and b) the potential applicants. Here are some quick ideas to give you and your team some inspiration:

  •  Simple application process with no redundancy
  • Application form can be completed on mobile
  • Sourcing extension for auto-fill of candidate data
  • Email inbox right in the platform
  • Live support

2—Is it mobile optimized? (Bonus if it has an associated mobile app!)

In the first question’s details, I mentioned mobile application forms as a possible must-have. This isn’t something to take lightly! Even if you don’t tangibly see the results of your mobile-optimized application form, candidates and your hiring results will thank you for it. A whopping 78% of job seekers reported that they would apply for a position via a mobile device. This is a huge chunk of your talent pool! Some applicants will bypass applying for a job if it can’t be completed when they are viewing it on their mobile device. Why miss out on top talent this way?

Speaking of missing out, the hiring arena is fast-paced. You don’t want to lose a potentially great fit for your company because you are out of the office. I’m not saying stay connected 24/7. However, your team will benefit from an ATS app that allows custom notifications. This way, your ATS is essentially in your pocket, allowing you to pick up on important, time-sensitive opportunities. Candidates will appreciate the responsiveness, and your competitors will be left wondering how you nabbed top talent so quickly!

How to find the answer: Test it out on your phone! Does the application form hold up on a mobile device? Also, go to the app store and see if there is an associated app with the ATS at hand. Download it, and try it for yourself.

3—Is it customizable?

Not only should notifications from your ATS be customized, but the whole platform should be able to be tweaked to fit your exact needs. Extra features that aren’t necessary just waste space and junk up the interface. Find an ATS that is intuitive and allows for customization. This will not only benefit your hiring workflow, but it will improve the candidate experience.

For instance, mass emails can appear cold and impersonal. When you are already dealing with a sensitive situation such as rejection of a candidate, this can leave them feeling jaded, confused, and, worst of all, ready to retaliate. The candidate experience can have a large impact on employer brand and the way your company is perceived. Tweaking bits of the hiring process to show candidates that you care will work wonders.

How to find the answer: Look for options to customize your workflow, from interview setups to team management. Furthermore, look for the ability to personalize candidate interaction, such as emails with placeholders.

4—Does it track recruitment data?

With the pressures of recruitment to-do lists, analysis sometimes gets pushed to the backburner. However, constant optimizations can result in a genius hiring process! It’s worth it to track the right data and analyze your findings. Practical application throughout different stages of your company’s lifetime will get you better hires in less time. Not only do companies differ in their hiring needs, but hiring needs change and fluctuate as an individual organization ebbs and flows.

How to find the answer: If you think you don’t have time to track data and/or don’t know what metrics to include, find an ATS that offers data tracking and automated reports!

5—Is your data secure on the platform?

Recruitment software is making the right move: to the cloud. ATS, in particular, are best when cloud-based. This keeps sensitive candidate and user information safe and secure from hackers, viruses, and the like. Think of the cloud as an intangible file cabinet that doesn’t run the risk of catching fire, losing documents, or being broken into! Pick an ATS that has proper security procedures in place.

How to find the answer:  Make sure your ATS is outside of the jurisdiction of the Patriot Act. Cloud-based software can be used globally. Additionally, in the terms and conditions, look for adherence to security protocols.

Ask these questions, but play around with them to ensure that they are right for your company. What works for a similar company may be way off when it comes to your needs! Sit down with your team and decide the make-or-break features that will fill in the gaps where your recruitment is lacking. Try out the free trials of a few ATS and use your experiences to make an informed decision. Your hires will be better for it.

Recruitee square logo

Author bio:

Image courtesy of Recruitee

Image courtesy of Recruitee

Perry Oostdam is the co-founder and CEO of Recruitee, a collaborative hiring platform for teams of all sizes. Recruitee helps optimize the entire hiring process, from candidate relationship management, employer branding, and job posting to candidate sourcing and applicant tracking. The company has offices in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, and Poznań, Poland and works with companies around the world.

For more information on Recruitee and its features email them at sales@recruitee.com.

 

TED at IBM Recap: 3 Women Sparking Big Ideas and Activation

ted-at-ibm-2016

I had the esteemed privilege of attending TED at IBM last month in San Francisco. Admitedly, I was prepared to be impressed by their usual roster of inspiring speakers making strides in every field from technology to healthcare. However, there was something more at play at this year’s TED at IBM. I got the sense that IBM, the company wanted each of us to walk away with something more than what we had in previous years. My takeaway was the following: Although things in the world aren’t right at the moment, don’t fret as there are people working to solve the ills of society and more importantly we all have a duty to contribute in the same fashion. While IBM made no specific reference to politics or endorsements of any one candidate, their request that we all refrained from capturing pictures and posting to social media; in addition to the messages each of their speakers brought to bear sent a clear message as to which side of humanity they are on.

If nothing else, 2016 should have taught each of us that the huge global challenges we face are both diverse and emergent. Take speaker,  Dr. Laxmi Parida for instance. Her talk at this year’s TED at IBM was about her work as a Computational Geneticist where she is analyzing the genes of crops to ensure our food is safer and sustainable. She shared with us that most of the calories we consume today come from just 12 plants. Dr. Parida went on to share that biodiversity in the tropics has dropped 60% and that the likes of favorite fruits like Avocado are under threat. Most notably, she warned: ” We are a global village. As scourge affects one part of the world it quickly spreads to the others.”

We take for granted everyday that we have certain necessities like food, water, housing etc. What if none of those things exist one day or exist in crippling shortages? Some of our fellow citizens of the world know this reality all to well. While we empathize with their plight we don’t often take a moment to consider whether we will be met with the same shortfall in our own lives.

As luck would have it, I ended up on the same plane and seated next to Dr. Laxmi Parida going back home to NY. You would never know she just delivered the talk of her life sitting next to her. She was humble and friendly as we chatted and shared a bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon. My kind of gal.

Next up is a particularly moving speaker by the name of Villy Wang. When we talk about empathy and putting ourselves in the place of another- no name stands out more than Villy Wang. Upon listening to her opening remarks for her talk at TED at IBM we all heard about her childhood which appeared to be marred by her fear and hatred of African-American people. You see, Villy was raised by a immigrant single mother in NYC who was one day unexpectedly mugged by some black teens. As we all cringed listening to this story, a bright spot immediately emerges as she explains how her own disdain of stereotypes against Asian people caused her to want to understand other minorities (particularly, African-American people) and the biases they faced. The more she examined other minorities the more she came to see the economic and social disparity faced by minorities. As a result, she started BAYCAT – a social enterprise designed to teach youth for low-income and underserved communities to capture untold stories to create social change. She brought one of her students with her to TED at IBM who she asked to stand for applause. There was not a dry eye in the theater.

Having compassion for one another begins with the genuine interest in not only listening to what others have to say; but understanding and acknowledging their reality. Villy lives this and it came through in her talk.

Some more inspiration…

What does the development of chemotherapy drugs have to do with curing the ills of governments? Apparently, the two are very connected if you ask Charity Wayua. Dr. Wayua is from rural Kenya. After earning her PhD in developing chemotherapy drugs from Purdue University she returned to Kenya to use what she new to cure the ills of the Kenyan government. Her goal was no simple task. She wanted to improve government services designated for small and medium businesses.

As result of Dr. Wayua’s use of cutting-edge technology and the utilization of methodologies used to cure cancer to cure inefficiencies in the Kenyan government, she was able to shift Kenya’s rank on the World Bank Ease of Doing Business Data Bank from ranking 113 to 92. She noted that initially she believed the Kenyan government was corrupt. However, she has revised her thinking since working with them realizing that they were not corrupt in the way she first believed. Her belief is we all have a duty to roll-up our sleeves to create the change we want to see in our governments.

As we face our own dealings with corruption here in the U.S., this is a great reminder that we all have what it takes to be the change we wish to see in our government.

I could write so much more about the power of the speakers at TED at IBM, but it would never end.

What I took with me is this feeling of hope and obligation to refocus on that which is bigger and more pressing than my immediate needs. The world needs each of us to do our part whether in our own communities or at scale to cure the ills of society while making life better for others. It is time for us to use the spark within us to activate things that add value to humanity rather than detract from it.

This is a call to action I can get behind. What ideas will you “spark and activate” in 2017?

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