Promoting Diversity of Perspective

“The future of workplace diversity is here, and it’s not what you think. In fact, it’s how you think.” (Source: Business Insider)

In my recent blog posts, I’ve talked about diversity in race, gender and sexual orientation. However, there’s a type of diversity that many companies don’t think about: diversity of perspective or thought. Companies tend to hire people who think the same as others and encourage consensus, but studies show1 that companies fostering different ways of thinking are more successful.

“The implication of this new frontier in diversity is that leaders and organizations must let go of the idea that there is ‘one right way’ and instead focus on creating a learning culture, where people feel accepted, are comfortable contributing ideas, and actively seek to learn from each other.”2 Having diversity of thought helps improve creativity, insights and efficiency.shutterstock_343938899

How can a company boost diversity of thought? According to Deloitte University Press2, the key is to hire, manage and promote differently. In the interview process, ask questions that elicit diverse opinions, which will help combat against “groupthink” in an organization. When forming the interview team, select employees from different backgrounds with various strengths to achieve balance.

Managing differently means encouraging a healthy exchange of insights, even if idea cover a vast range. Reducing hierarchy, adding group process, using employee focus groups and engaging cross-functional teams are structural changes that can assist in this process.

Some organizations use multi-day brainstorming sessions that put people of different ages, tenure, native language and departments together for creative thinking. The result is that they are able to collaborate and create something innovative and new. One example is when companies promote a manager from Facilities to a Human Resources position. Other companies offer shadow programs, enabling employees to see firsthand what is required to work in other company departments. Some organizations invite select members from related departments to join select meetings and the brainstorming can be transformative.

What are additional strategies an organization should use to promote diversity of thought?
Sources:
1 – http://www.businessinsider.com/the-future-of-workplace-diversity-is-here-2013-9
2 – http://dupress.com/articles/diversitys-new-frontier/

By | 2017-05-24T18:21:48+00:00 December 9th, 2015|Diversity|0 Comments

Keeping Virtual Employees Engaged

“63 million Americans will work remotely by 2016–more than a third of the total work force.” (Source: Inc.com)

Flexible hours, increased efficiency and reduced space requirements keep productivity high and costs low for companies with remote workers. While there are benefits for both individuals and the company, remote workers often miss the “water cooler” conversations, including quick hallway decisions, team building and learning opportunities.

In order to make this a strong, productive relationship it is essential to prepare a focused communication plan until the exchange of information occurs frequently and naturally. Consider utilizing a mixture of these options:

  1. Host quarterly, all-employee meetings to connect staff from various geographies. This is an opportunity to share information simultaneously and field live questions. Varying the site where the presenters initiate the meeting builds engagement as well.Remote Workers
  2. Hold an annual or bi-annual face-to-face meeting at the team, department site or company level. The investment in interpersonal connections will pay off longer term in outcome and loyalty.
  3. Define goals and objectives clearly in order to measure progress equitably. Communicate high-level goals and contributions during staff meetings so effectiveness is transparent. This is particularly beneficial when there are team members in multiple locations.
  4. Increase training opportunities by investing in professional development courses for remote workers or schedule on-site trainings as needed.
  5. Be mindful about including remote workers in ad-hoc meetings or connect with them immediately after a group session while the information is fresh. Inc.com reminds us to “resist the temptation to leave remote workers out of quickly scheduled ad-hoc meetings because it’s too much of a bother to let them know–you should have a quick and easy means of communication.”1
  6. Utilize the company intranet as a source or broad and quick communications. Keep it current, engaging and interactive so that it’s a frequently visited resource.

All relationships take work, particularly in the form of transparent and two-way communications. Managers who embrace the power of virtual employees will get more innovation, loyalty and company ambassadors in return.

What other communication strategies have you used to engage remote workers and incorporate them into a solid team?

Source:
1 – http://www.inc.com/minda-zetlin/what-do-remote-workers-do-all-day-6-ways-to-keep-them-engaged-and-productive.html
By | 2017-05-24T18:21:48+00:00 November 9th, 2015|Culture, Diversity, Employee Engagement|0 Comments

Including Transgenders at Work

“More than one in four transgender people have lost a job due to bias, and more than three-fourths have experienced some form of workplace discrimination.” (Source: National Center for Gender Equality) 

Although the transgender community is becoming more visible due to pop culture news coverage, significant bias and discrimination still exists. Fear of job loss, harassment, sexual violence and other forms of discrimination force many transgender people to leave their organizations or occupations. Many companies these days have a transgender policy, but it takes much more than that to make an environment truly inclusive.Transgender

Similar to advances over the years for working mothers and “being out at work,” it makes good business sense for a company to be inclusive. “Organizations that actively protect and support transgender employees by creating awareness and providing a safe, stable work environment will have a significant effect on productivity at work and on the employee’s personal commitment to their employer.”1  The more diverse (culture, race, experience) an environment, the more innovative it becomes.

Fostering transgender inclusion
Lack of awareness or understanding leads to exclusion based on fear. Here are a few suggestions to foster inclusion:

  1. Train employees on the company’s non-discrimination policies. Review them frequently as you do with annual compliance policies.
  2. Conduct a “transition plan meeting.” A manager and HR representative should develop a way of addressing foreseeable issues, agree on communications within the team/organization. and adjust the plan frequently based on additional needs.2
  3. Prepare a rest room policy. Law360 suggests that “the best practice is to allow for everyone to use the restroom in accordance with their gender identity, and any co-worker who takes issue can use
    [a designated] all-gender bathroom.”
  4. Support people managers. Setting a forum to discuss specific issues and establishing best practices collectively will empower them to lead effectively.
  5. Host information sharing sessions. Invite a transgender employee and his/her manager to tell their story. Then open the meeting for non-judgmental questions. An alternative is to invite a transgender speaker from the Human Rights Council (HRC).3
  6. Encourage open dialogue. Employees at all levels need to lead by example, which will build trust and become the foundation for inclusion.

What else could be done to support transgenders in the workplace?

Sources:
1 – http://www.huffingtonpost.com/vanessa-sheridan/transgender-inclusion-in-the-workplace-the-time-is-now_b_3624175.html
2 – http://www.law360.com/articles/538271/5-tips-for-a-transgender-friendly-workplace
3 – http://www.forbes.com/sites/karenhigginbottom/2014/06/24/how-to-support-transgender-employees-in-the-workplace/
By | 2017-05-24T18:21:48+00:00 October 6th, 2015|Diversity|0 Comments

Encouraging Race Dialogue in the Workplace

“People feel uncomfortable talking about racial issues out of fear that if they express things, they will be characterized in a way that’s not fair. I think that there is still a need for a dialogue about things racial that we’ve not engaged in.” -Eric Holder (Source: Brainy Quote)

The color blind approach has been prevalent for a long time due to people’s fears of having conversations about diversity, particularly in the workplace, but the more powerful approach is to have open dialogue and foster those differences.

Race Dialogue

Why is the topic of race and diversity uncomfortable in the workplace?

Fear. Many of us are culturally curious, but worry that asking the wrong questions might offend our colleagues. However, avoiding these conversations can be just as offensive. In reality, open and honest exchanges are what make relationships grow stronger. In the workplace, that creates an environment where people do their best work.

Open race dialogue benefits

When you’re new to a company, department or position, you get to know those you’ll be interacting with by asking a variety of personal and professional questions. This starts to build trust, which is an essential element of successful organizational performance. It’s even more important to engage these skills when you’re working with a new team member or across departments.

“Skilled managers need to be able to create a cohesive, trusting team climate in which people are able to acknowledge that John is black, Mary is older, and Steve is gay. It doesn’t mean that such factors need to or should be in the forefront of discussion, but they shape who we are as people; allowing them to fester without acknowledgement can impede the effectiveness and openness of group discussions and teamwork.” (Source: CNN). Ignoring differences limits the individual and collective growth within an organization because diversity fosters the greatest results.

How to have productive conversations about race and diversity

The more people feel included, the more they enjoy working at the company, so it’s imperative that companies encourage conversations steeped in learning and understanding rather than judging and opinions. Here are some ideas for initiating productive conversations:

  1. Acknowledge the fears/concerns up front and agree on ways to ease them.
  2. Ensure any questions being asked are coming from a place of cultural curiosity, not judgment.
  3. Create a safe place, where people feel comfortable expressing their opinions without fear of being treated differently.
  4. Be aware of your own assumptions and recognize that you may discover new ones.

Encouraging these conversations in the workplace, and not being afraid to make mistakes, is the best next step your organization can take.  Remember, mistakes happen on the way to success!

What are your thoughts on initiating productive conversations about race and diversity in the workplace?

(Image Source: Charlottesville)

 

By | 2017-05-24T18:21:48+00:00 September 9th, 2015|Diversity|1 Comment

Essentialism at Work

“Simplicity is the essence of universality.” Mahatma Gandhi

Essentialism image

How many times in a day or a week to you agree to a request without evaluating your time or resources? Do you contemplate if it’s the most important thing you can be doing?

Many of us have been taught that multi-tasking is a virtue, but in reality it may be a bad habit. Once you’re successful, you’re given more opportunities and that, in turn, increases the demands on your schedule and distracts you from your true priority. It is a vicious cycle.

When a colleague recommended that I read the book, “Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less” by Greg McKeown, I was intrigued. Guilty of taking on too much, I enjoyed learning more about the value of investing time and energy in the highest points of contributions.

McKeown reminds its readers to create plans that question your thinking and choices. Although behaviors take discipline, adjustments and patience to change, the critical steps are clarifying your intent, identifying what’s slowing you down, and removing obstacles.

One starting point the author suggests in living essentially is weeding out all the unnecessary items in your clothing closets. His theory is that “if it isn’t a clear yes, it’s a no.” Inspired to try something new, I applied this principle and felt great about donating six bags to Goodwill!

As a consultant, what fascinates me is how can essentialists survive in the workplace when the mantra is to do more work with fewer people? Given the challenging economic times we still face, can essentialists exist all of the time or just some of the time? Does it depend on your status within the organization? Please share your thoughts.

By | 2017-05-24T18:21:48+00:00 June 1st, 2015|Culture|0 Comments

Supporting the Differently-Abled

“If you change Change imagethe way you look at things, the things you look at change.” – Wayne Dyer

According to the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA), a person with a disability is someone with a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities. However, the term differently abled better focuses our attention on abilities rather than deficiencies.

Everyone has varying degrees of strengths and limitations. How can being differently abled bring a unique perspective to the workplace?

Similar to many diversity categories, some impairments are more apparent than others.  There also are many invisible health issues such as chronic pain, fatigue, cognitive dysfunctions and more that employees fear disclosing at work because of perceived judgements. Would people perform better in an environment where they could be their authentic selves?

Many differently abled people not only are high functioning, but also significant contributors in their organizations. They often compensate for what they think is a constraint. What needs to change for all employees to feel accepted and included?

 

 

By | 2017-05-24T18:21:48+00:00 March 30th, 2015|Diversity|0 Comments

Adding Women to Corporate Boards

“The power I exert on the court depends on the power of my arguments, not my gender.” Sandra Day O’ConnorCorporate boards image

Women are advancing more frequently into executive positions, but too few are recommended for corporate board positions.   Only 19 percent of women hold Fortune 500 corporate board seats, yet there are many unfilled board roles.

The power of women’s decisions only change the companies where they hold influential jobs. Adding meaningful representation to the board room can help other organizations manage tough decisions on strategic direction, compensation, talent management, legal and financial matters. Globally, some countries are establishing quotas to increase the number of women on boards.  This is because women have become the key stakeholders in bringing innovation forward.

According to a study by the non-profit organization Catalyst, “Fortune 500 companies with the highest representation of women board of directors attained significantly higher financial performance on average than those with the lowest representations.”  In general, it’s a smart business decision to engage women’s voices on difficult issues facing today’s corporation at the board level.

If you are investing in developing women for top leadership positions, this is the next step in their progression. Start influencing your networks to help make these changes now. Are you ready to shape history?

By | 2017-05-24T18:21:48+00:00 February 24th, 2015|Diversity|0 Comments

Identifying Hidden Bias

Hidden Bias Image

“Life has its own hidden forces, which you can only discover by living.”
– Soren Kierkegaard

A new year in underway, which means many people are resolving to alter the parts of their personal and professional selves identified for improvement. Since you can’t act on what you don’t know, how should you address “hidden bias?”

Even those of us who intend to be or think we are inclusive cast judgment based on race, age, gender and disabilities. This is because our ideas inherently are shaped by culture, ethnicity, background or experience. Searching the intranet, there are many tests that can uncover your hidden bias. Then, it’s your responsibility to embrace what you have identified and think about making small, incremental changes.

Companies large and small are investing in gathering this data because organizations can be more productive by forming diverse teams. Since hidden bias influences everything from hiring, investment, development and organizational structure decisions, it is important to expand your thinking and serve as a role model within your workplace. In general, remain present, ask more questions, learn how you process information and look for behavioral trends.

Start today by searching for hidden talents rather than dismissing those who are different. We learn by looking backward, but progress by moving forward based on our discoveries and enhancements.

By | 2017-05-24T18:21:48+00:00 January 13th, 2015|Diversity|0 Comments

Holiday Cultural Competency

happynewyear

“No single tradition monopolizes the truth. We must glean the best values of all traditions and work together to remove the tensions between traditions.”—Thich Nhat Hanh

The winter holiday season is well underway, represented commercially by images of Christmas trees, Santa Claus and gift giving. Yet, millions of Americans, including Jews, Buddhists, Muslims and Hindus as well as individuals with no religious affiliation, don’t celebrate Christmas as part of their family tradition.

How many religious customs do you know? Use the holiday season to brush up on your cultural competency. It’s beyond sending a Happy Holidays greeting cards or re-naming the office holiday party. Ask people about their customs, traditions and backgrounds. Consider using this time of year to share in a pot luck meal or storytelling with others.

What is your workplace holiday culture? Take the initiative to build understanding and awareness about your colleagues and friends. With conscious effort, the holiday season can build cultural competency, where employees feel valued and included.

By | 2017-05-24T18:21:48+00:00 December 15th, 2014|Diversity|0 Comments

The Millennials’ Approach to Diversity

blog1“I know there is strength in the differences between us. I know there is comfort, where we overlap.” Ani DiFranco, Grammy award-winning singer and songwriter

Diversity has been part of our business vocabulary for years. Now, it extends beyond quotas to how we build an environment, where employees are comfortable being themselves and doing their best work as a result.

With the addition of millennials, we have four generations trying to strike a healthy balance in working together. Similarly, corporations are trying to address the needs of a multi-generational client base. Therefore, we must embrace our differences to achieve engagement, productivity and profitability. Millennials view workplace diversity as building culturally competent teams, while balancing a variety of experiences and perspectives. They remind us to enter life as a world citizen and incorporate global thinking into every day activities. This is valuable advice. How are you contributing to your company’s diversity efforts? Please share your thoughts.

By | 2017-05-24T18:21:49+00:00 November 24th, 2014|Diversity|0 Comments