by Amy Allen, Partner at blumshapiro’s HR practice; EBS Gillette event moderator
An enthralling and thoughtful discussion took place last Thursday at EBS’ third annual Gillette event where 100+ HR, people and talent leaders gathered to engage in a conversation that ultimately challenged us to ask ourselves, how are we defining diversity in the workplace and has that definition changed?
Kim Castelda, Amy Spurling and Jackie James agreed that is has. And in order to attract, retain and cater to all employee backgrounds and preferences, they argued that we need to 1) throw out antiquated terminology in how we define employee populations and 2) remove labels to understand individuals.
The panel kick-off WSJ video reminded us that it’s critical for CEOs to understand that diversity and inclusion is a competitiveness and a business issue, not just a social issue.
It’s time we think about the diversity conversation in new ways and figure out how to reach employees where they are – in their careers and in their lives. As the moderator, here are the 5 key things that stuck with me after the event was over.
1. The terminology we’re using needs to change.
Our panelists, backed by audience members, argued that the word “diversity” had run its course and instead, it’s time we focus on inclusion and belonging; it’s about voice, for everyone. And an insightful audience comment validates that we connect better when we realize we can connect. In other words, when we give ourselves labels outside of stereotypes – “coworker”, “mom”, “caregiver”, “older brother”, “cyclist”, etc. – we realize that we share common bonds. And that’s where the magic happens.
Similarly, the way we define gender in the workplace will continue to be a prevalent issue that we must address and have solutions for.
As more employees no longer define themselves as male or female, how will organizations publicly support new gender identifications and create an environment where they feel comfortable?
It poses a challenge as HR leaders struggle to face EEOC compliance standards that group employees into five protected class categories – race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age and disability or genetic information.
We don’t have the answers yet, but it’s something we’re actively working to support, says Kim.
2. Think about “time and place management”
…instead of forging into uphill battles in trying to offer workplace “flexibility.” Nurses and construction workers can’t work from home, but, as Jackie suggests, you can give them a say when it comes to their schedules and hours. Similarly, consider phased retirement options, job sharing or part-time solutions for new parents and workers caring for older parents.
3. Age should be part of your diversity conversations.
Jackie reminds us that age is one of the highest forms of implicit bias; yet, older workers still have a lot to contribute in an organization. Think about how age influences your hiring process and refrain from crafting a flex work policy that only favors younger employees.
4. Consider diversity of thought and personality as an employee classification.
Amy Spurling shared a story with us about feeling a false sense of confidence that she had a diverse management team, only to find out during an offsite that leadership had very similar personalities. An eye-opening experience, she then hired someone who would bring a different perspective to the problems they were solving, but there wasn’t a creative space (physically or metaphorically) that fostered debate and new angles to solving business outcomes. The way people process information is also ‘diversity.’ It’s easier to solve a problem when the people you work with are all alike. But she pushes us to ask ourselves if that’s really the best solution.
5. Bring it back to humans and focus on fulfillment.
At the end of the day, we’ve all got beating hearts and blue blood, says EBS Managing Director Paul Rooney. Don’t most (if not all) employees want the same thing when it comes to their work experience – to feel fulfilled and valued?
All that matters is what we do and how we treat each other.
The most important question leadership can ask is what fulfills you and how can we as your employer (best) serve that?
And in addition to positioning this question as the foundation from which we should operate, our role is to 1) hold leaders accountable in helping employees reach their full potential, 2) appropriately train managers to encourage and leverage disparate voices, and 3) rely on our resources while asking the tough questions in order to foster an inclusive workplace for every employee.
Actions you can take today
Scroll through your LinkedIn connections. Are your professional and personal networks as disparate as you thought? Think of the people you refer to your colleagues and industry peers and ask yourself, are you referring the same types of people?
Re-examine your hiring credentials and what skill sets your organization values most. Is having a college degree a deal breaker with the candidates you hire? Bullhorn is one of many companies that has deleted a college degree from their list of “must-haves.
Revisit workplace flex options by broadening the approach to consider “time and place management.” Where specifically can you give your employees more say over their schedules?
Amy Allen leads the blumshapiro Human Resource Consulting Practice where she focuses on working with clients on all their human resource needs from talent acquisition and management, to employee retention and operations and infrastructure. Amy has over 25 years of experience in human resources, including holding executive roles at Suffolk Construction, The Boston Globe, Staples and other large national organizations before launching her own consulting business.