Learning Plays a Pivotal Role in Diversity and Inclusion

This year, our most comprehensive new research on talent management, “High-Impact Talent Management 2015,” found the most differentiating, predictive practices that directly correlate with high performing global companies are those which focus on diversity, inclusion and fairness.
While programs like leadership development, onboarding, sales training and succession management are valuable, it is how they drive inclusion and a feeling of openness that create the greatest business results of all.
We can all understand why this might be true. We live and work in highly diverse environments. The workplace contains different ages, genders, sexual orientations, cultures, backgrounds and physical abilities, and when any one of us feels left out, not included or discriminated against, we simply can’t contribute our best. Much of our new research shows that traditional hierarchical leadership models are being replaced with networks of teams — so if people on the team don’t feel included and respected, the team itself will underperform.
Our research revealed some astounding things. Among the 450 global companies we studied, the ones with a highly inclusive environment generated significantly higher cash flow, profitability and employee retention over a three-year period.
The reason I’m bringing this up here is the biggest thing we found was not that these companies had a great diversity and inclusion program, but that they had managed to build what we call a truly inclusive talent system. These top companies — this represents only 10 percent of our sample — had gone well beyond building a diversity program and creating diversity measures and benchmarks. They had embedded inclusive thinking and diversity conversations into every part of their talent system.
As a learning leader, you hold the keys to the kingdom. Most of the differentiating practices are things that fall directly into L&D’s hands. Consider:
• How well do you include diversity and inclusive thinking in your onboarding and overall employment brand?
• How inclusive is your leadership assessment and training for new leaders?
• Is unconscious bias a topic you teach managers and team leaders, and do you use it in recruitment practices?
• How well do you train and coach senior leaders as role models for inclusive thinking and diversity practices?
• Does your project management, team leadership and functional training include topics about fairness, collaboration and diversity?
• Do you, as a learning leader, truly understand all the ways diversity can and should be embedded in your learning programs, and are your programs diverse and inclusive in their design?
We recently had TD Bank, one of the leading financial institutions in Canada, present on its diversity and inclusion journey. In 2004, the CEO studied this issue and found a workplace that did not let employees bring their true selves to work every day. Since then, the company has embarked on a variety of employee experience programs and put in place a diversity leadership council with multiyear metrics to improve the bank’s inclusive culture.
As we discussed the bank’s 10-year journey, the team told us about diversity and inclusion topics included in the onboarding program, the first-line manager program and, of course, the senior leadership program. TD now has more than 300 executives signed up to promote inclusive thinking throughout the bank, and they infuse diverse and inclusive thinking into every communication and training program they roll out.
Today this is a critically important topic. Diversity strategies not only improve representation and fairness as an employer but also open up the organization to respect the strengths, ideas and passions of every employee at every level. What company wouldn’t want to unlock that incredible well of energy among its workforce?
Our role in L&D is to help lead this charge. Take some time to think and learn about diversity, inclusion, fairness and unconscious bias in your own programs — you’ll discover that your role as a learning leader is more important than ever.
AUTHOR:  Josh Bersin is the principal and founder of Bersin & Associates, with more than 25 years of experience in corporate solutions, training and e-learning.

‘Hamilton’ Producers Aren’t Discriminating — They’re More Honest Than Hollywood

A month ago, Workforce employment law columnist and blogger Jon Hyman wrote in his “Practical Employer” blog that the producers for Broadway’s “Hamilton” could not claim race as a “bona fide occupational qualification” when sending a casting call out for nonwhite actors. He was right that they can’t claim race as a BFOQ, but he neglected the reason they should be praised, not condemned, for their practice.

I read the post after seeing the show at Richard Rodgers Theater in New York. Hyman admitted in his first paragraph that he doesn’t get the show or why it’s the “greatest thing to come to Broadway in the last few decades,” but I can declare right now: I’m a Hamilhead and have been since the album dropped last September. I’m also a theater geek, so when I say it really is the greatest thing to come to Broadway in the last few decades, I recognize that iconic musicals like “Rent,” “Avenue Q,” “Wicked”and “Hamilton”writer Lin-Manuel Miranda’s own “In the Heights” are included in that timeframe.

But don’t take my word for it — just look at the show’s record-breaking 16 Tony nominations.

Although I’m consciously biased, my “Hamilton” love is based on the very practice for which it’s being condemned. Miranda explained in a CBS Sunday Morning interview: It’s “the story of America ‘then’ told by America ‘now.’ It looks like America now.”

As a member of America “now,” I’m all in favor of seeing our population’s diversity echoed on the stage.

The lawyer who originally critiqued the show’s requirements, Randolph McLaughlin, said, “What if they put an ad out that said, ‘Whites only need apply? Why, African-Americans, Latinos, Asians would be outraged.’ ”

But show business has always said “Whites only need apply,” just not in so many words.

In February, the Ralph J. Bunche Center for African American Studies’ 2016 Hollywood Diversity Report stated that people of color play only 8.1 percent of TV lead characters and 12.8 percent of film leads.

Even the legal precedent Hyman referred to, Ferrill v. Parker Group, Inc. (11th Cir. 1999), was a court decision that gave white actors more opportunity by prohibiting their exclusion from auditioning for African slave roles.

Hyman’s and McLaughlin’s arguments assume that the casting ad excluded white actors outright. It didn’t. It declared it was looking for nonwhite actors but never excluded white actors from auditioning.

Some of the ensemble cast I saw two weeks ago was white, as are two named characters: King George III and Samuel Seabury. They had to get the roles somehow, right?

Where the producers made their mistake was claiming race as a BFOQ instead of just handing casting critics a ticket to the show so they can see for themselves that there’s nothing illegal going on — though even the producers can’t score seats these days.

So forgive the producers’ legalese gaff, but don’t neglect the fact that they’re being more honest than whitewashed Hollywood has ever been. After all, as Leslie Odom Jr., who plays Hamilton’s rival and eventual killer (spoiler alert) Aaron Burr, said in an interview with Buzzfeed:

Theatre “is malleable. It is strong. It is sturdy. … We can make it whatever we want it to be. Kids can play adults. And old people can play young people. And black people can play white people, and Asian people can play black people. If it’s done with a thoughtfulness and a care and a reason, we can do anything.”
AUTHOR:  Kate Everson is a former Workforce associate editor. Follow Everson on Twitter at @EversonKate. You can also follow her on Google Plus.

Reprinted from WORKFORCE

Are You Developing Female Leaders?

When mentoring young women, Skillsoft’s Priti Shah always makes it a point to urge them to advocate for themselves.

“It’s always a quid pro quo,” said Shah, Skillsoft’s vice president of leadership product strategy and corporate development. “The moment the company gives you the opportunity to advocate for yourself, take the bull by its horns — make sure you’re making the most of the development opportunities that are being given to you.”

Shah counts herself fortunate to have worked for companies supportive of her leadership development over her career, but she isn’t naive about the broader reality: a dearth of women in positions of leadership, especially at the senior and C-suite levels.

So she said she was surprised but not-so-surprised at the results of a November survey that revealed not only a lack of women in positions of leadership but also a lack of support to facilitate their mobility to such roles.

In “The Impact of Women in the Workforce: A Skillsoft Survey Report,” while more than 90 percent of female respondents “agree” or “strongly agree” there is an imbalance of women in leadership roles in business today, and just over half of respondents said their organizations having programs targeted to developing female leaders was important, only 24 percent of participants said their organization had a strategy or program in place to that end.

Shah said part of her lack of shock at the survey results was due to the fact that public awareness of the value of women in leadership is still in its infancy. Much of the research substantiating the impact of gender-diverse leadership has only started surfacing in the last 18 to 24 months, she explained. Only now are organizations receiving more pressure to take action.

Research shows that organizations with high levels of gender diversity are more likely to exceed financial performance averages in their respective industries, and further, that organizations with better financial performance or more likely to have women in leadership positions.

“There’s so much research out there that shows if you do have more gender-balanced representation in your executive staff, on your boards, it’s not only the right thing to do, it also has a direct impact on the financials of a company,” Shah said. “The moment you start bringing facts and figures in to amplify what the moral issue is here, there is a lot of awareness.”

Strategically turning this narrative around requires a number of tactics in addition to educating both men and women about the need for leadership development in women.

Build champions: Until boardrooms make a mix of gender representation a business objective, “we’re not going to see the dial move as much as we’d like to,” Shah said. Driving organizational support of the measures necessary to nurture female leaders from within should come from the top down.

“Less talk, more action”: Once stakeholders have been made aware of the issue, that is. Shah called formal and informal mentorship and sponsorship programs for women critical to change the status quo.

“In order to break the barriers of the ‘old boys’ club,’ it’s absolutely necessary for women to know it’s OK to network. It’s OK to have champions and sponsors and mentors who are advocating for them and proposing their name for the right projects, so that they get the opportunities to showcase their hard work, their potential.’

Shah said in instances where mentees worked at organizations without a strategic focus on developing female leaders, she’s encouraged them to actively seek out mentors within their respective organizations. If the advancement of women into leadership is valuable for a company’s culture and mission, such initiatives should be normalized and encouraged.

Further, initiatives should develop women at all levels. Shah said companies that haven’t experienced the type of success they would have liked may be narrowly focused on only a select group of women.

Leverage the power of big data: Research and data have revealed a problem — a disparity in gender representation in organizational leadership. Research and data also have revealed the associated consequence, and they point to an opportunity to change directions. Shah said data analytics now available and used for a range of purposes can inform and add value to corporate decision-making when creating programs and strategies to develop female leaders, and they can measure the effect of those efforts.

“They’re able to measure and track everything, and they can feel good about the fact that as they’re making these investments, they’re getting the return on investment,” she said.

This article first appeared in Talent Management’s sister publication, Chief Learning Officer. Bravetta Hassell is a Diversity Executive associate editor.


An Early Warning Strategy for At-Risk Diversity Hires

It has been almost 50 years since Title VII of the Civil Rights Act prohibited discrimination in the workplace, yet women and people of color continue to face challenges in receiving equal treatment on the job. Discrepancies can start at day one or even before. Common problems range from hostile co-workers to inequities in initial job placements that may block career paths. Other barriers may be encountered in areas such as training, mentoring, task force appointments, and other opportunities for advancement.

One way to identify and eliminate this kind of treatment before it creates employee turnover, litigation, or corporate reputation damage is to measure new employees’ work experience in their first few days, weeks, and months on the job. New hire surveys that are delivered and analyzed electronically can simplify the process.

While these surveys are designed to be given to all new employees, primarily to uncover weaknesses in recruitment and onboarding practices, they are also a valuable tool for detecting problems that will undermine efforts to retain high-potential women and minority employees.

Survey Early; Survey Often

New hire surveys are designed to identify systemic problems and successes around recruitment, new hire orientation, onboarding, and early training. Conducted at one or more intervals after the employee’s start date, they can assess whether or not new hires are being welcomed and assimilated appropriately into the organization.

The goal is to take the guesswork out of why new employees do or do not feel comfortable in their new work environment and ensure that all employees—including women and minorities—are on a path toward long-term success with the organization. Surveys administered at different times will yield different insights.

For example, companies looking for feedback on their recruitment practices should administer the new hire survey 20 or 30 days after hire, when the interview and job offer processes are still fresh in the employee’s mind. This can help identify issues such as discriminatory interview questions or incorrect job descriptions.

Surveys conducted at the employee’s 30- to 45-day point can help HR and diversity managers learn if the corporate culture is welcoming to all new employees regardless of their gender, age, or race. Are minority new hires being invited to group colleague lunches? Are they shown where important resources are located? Are they being introduced to the people they need to know in order to be successful?

Conducting new hire surveys at 60 to 75 days helps expose training problems. Are minority new hires receiving the same level of training as their non-minority peers? Are they assigned challenging projects or being ignored?

Similar information can be gathered at the 90-day mark, but by that time many new hires will have forgotten their early experiences or already be planning their exits. The first survey, therefore, should be conducted much earlier, but multiple surveys can help paint a complete picture of the overall success of the hire experience.

Asking the Right Questions

Employers, HR managers, and diversity managers will want to ask a wide variety of questions on a new hire survey to get the full picture of an employee’s experience. Most questions should be positioned as flexible statements in which employees agree or disagree on a sliding scale.

In the area of diversity specifically, special attention should be paid to questions that will help detect barriers for women and minorities related to the environment, supervisor, opportunity, and corporate culture. Sample questions might include:

Environment: When I first started, I felt welcome by co-workers, supervisor, and other management.

Supervisor: My manager has done a good job at helping me get started in my position.

Opportunity: I believe I will have the opportunity for professional growth and advancement with this company.

General company culture: I am beginning to feel like part of the team.

The key is to administer new hire surveys to all employees (not just diverse employees) and then compare the results. If a company’s white males are rating every statement with a highly satisfied rating, but women and minorities are rating the same statements with highly unsatisfied ratings, there most likely is a problem that needs to be explored.

By being able to directly compare the responses of all new hires, organizations can see which groups of employees are assimilating into the culture quickly and which are not. In some cases, analyzing the data by department, division, and job type can expose the source of the problem. All of these capabilities are available with a click with electronic new hire surveys.

Fixing the Problem

While every company has different diversity issues and concerns, getting to the root of the problem makes it possible to create solutions. If new hire surveys reveal that minority employees feel shut out from leadership or management training, for example, one popular solution is to set up a mentoring program that pairs high-potential junior employees with company managers and leaders inside or outside of their departments or divisions. Some companies choose to create mentoring pairs of the same gender or race, while others set up cross-cultural mentorships.

But you can’t prescribe a solution until you know the problem. Using surveys to ask new employees what’s right and what’s wrong is a simple way to bring issues to light at an early stage when they can be addressed. With all the effort that goes into diversity hiring, a new hire survey strategy can help preserve the investment while also combating early attrition for new employees overall.

As the saying goes, a stitch in time saves nine. The sooner you are aware of new hire dissatisfaction, the faster you can respond to keep that employee from walking out the door.

About the Authors:

Beth N. Carvin is president and CEO of Nobscot Corporation (www.nobscot.com), a provider of online HR tools and associated services designed to generate actionable information that can assist companies in combating turnover, improving hiring practices, and recovering from downsizing. Kerrie Main is Nobscot’s in-house journalist.

Reprinted from Training Magazine

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