Inspiring Leadership with Diversity, Inclusion & Cultural Competence

Posts tagged ‘Diversity’

Braidio Partners with The Society for Diversity to Make Diversity & Inclusion Training More Accessible to Organizations Around the World

The Society for Diversity the largest professional association for diversity & inclusion leadership in the U.S. and Braidio, a Collaborative Learning Platform, Will Bring Professional Diversity and Inclusion Training to Small Businesses and Enterprise Organizations  

 

Plainfield, IN – Oct 16, 2015 – The Society for Diversity and Braidio, a cloud-based collaborative learning platform, have established a partnership to easily make professional diversity and inclusion training an integral part of any organization’s employee learning program, from small businesses to enterprise organizations. The Society for Diversity selected Braidio to be its preferred learning platform provider due their next- generation technology, which offers easily scalable “self-serve” learning content via a turnkey, “plug ‘n play” application.

 

Brands like the Hyatt Regency, American Express and Sodexo have successfully harnessed diversity and inclusion (D&I) to yield better results in recruiting, learning, marketing and measurement. However, the average organization has yet to experience diversity and inclusion outcomes worth reporting.

 

“There are many challenges to getting diversity and inclusion right. The starting point is to determine whether an effort centers on messaging or learning. Messaging is ‘we value diversity’, while learning allows people to make and fix mistakes. While messaging serves a brand need, learning wholly serves business success. For businesses to truly deliver on the diversity and inclusion promise learning must be relevant, repetitive and reinforced. This is why Braidio and Society of Diversity have partnered,” said Brian Sorge, VP of Client Solutions at Braidio.

 

Braidio kicked off the global partnership with a webinar for the Society for Diversity on the topic of “Diversity and Inclusion: Why Are We Still Talking About This?” The Society for Diversity offered the fall learning session to its 9,200 members and non-members.

 

The partnership will level the playing field, so that more organizations can receive consistent results in the realm of diversity and inclusion learning.

 

“The goal of diversity and inclusion is not to change people – that’s where organizations veer off to the left. The purpose is to change the way that an organization approaches, utilizes and responds to differences, so that it can proactively and strategically serve customers better. First, you have to understand your organizational culture. Second, you must know how your customer has changed and will shift over the years. Utilizing this model allows organizations to focus on customer preferences, the bottom line and their unique competitive position,” said Leah Smiley, President of The Society for Diversity.

 

The Society for Diversity offers years of experience and significant D&I outcomes to help more organizations build cultural competence. For example, The Society for Diversity’s subsidiary, the Institute for Diversity Certification, provides D&I credentials to more individuals than any other program in the United States.

 

For the 2016 diversity certification program, Braidio will help refine the online preparation courses so that the classes are more technologically-interactive and advanced.

 

“The Society for Diversity spends a lot of time trying to be the best. We also invest a considerable amount of effort in helping our constituents outperform their peers in the field of diversity and inclusion. That’s why this Braidio partnership is so perfect – it enhances our work so that diversity officers can lead effectively and continue to get great results,” added Smiley.

 

The Society for Diversity and Braidio are working together on the 2015 Diversity Leadership Retreat. The conference will facilitate organizations’ approach to profitability through employees and customers/students around the world. Through intimate, robust and balanced conversations, the conference will encourage interactive learning and demonstrate innovative thinking in the specialized, yet highly complex, area of diversity and inclusion. Participants will learn simple techniques that they can apply on the job to solve common problems, while saving time and money.

 

The conference will take place in Charlotte, NC, from October 20-23. Braidio will provide a branded conference site, where speakers can post their presentations and other content, and users can collaborate and share prior to, and after, the event, creating continuous and sustained learning. Braidio will also provide a two-hour general session featuring Sorge on the topic of “How to Create Sustained Learning Around Diversity and Inclusion.”

 

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About The Society for Diversity:

The Society for Diversity is the #1 and largest professional association for Diversity and Inclusion. We empower leadership and drive culture change through diversity and inclusion education, and a focus on bottom line impact. Since 2009, the Society for Diversity has acquired members in 43 states and 3 countries. Our members represent the best global employers in the corporate, non-profit, education and government sectors. The organization’s mission is to educate and equip diversity executives and professionals with the tools needed to design and execute effective diversity and inclusion strategies; share information and resources through an international business network; and establish a global standard of quality in the field of diversity. For more information about the Society for Diversity, log onto: www.societyfordiversity.org

 

Society for Diversity Media Contact:

Leah Smiley

1-800-764-3336

leahsmiley@societyfordiversity.org

 

About Braidio:

Braidio’s cloud-based Collaborative Learning Platform focuses on three basic human activities – learning, networking and collaboration – to establish a sustainable employee-driven learning economy within your organization. Our content delivery approach enables your employees to organically integrate learning into their daily workflow while allowing the employer to build and monitor learning metrics. As a result, Braidio advances your business with talent development tools that employees will actually use, at a fraction of the cost of traditional (and under-utilized) training tools. With customers ranging from Fortune 100 enterprises to SMBs, Braidio provides a solution that is affordable, scalable and effective regardless of whether you have a few employees or offices around the globe. For more information, please visit braidio.com or follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

 

Braidio Media Contact:

Benjamin Doda

Resound Marketing

(732) 580-7276

ben@resoundmarketing.com

7 Ways to Stay Relevant Amidst a Cultural Shift

By Leah Smiley

spongebobWhile some may not like rap music or the hip hop culture, we all have to come to terms with its dominant influence on youth around the world.

In the wake of the “Straight Outta Compton” movie occupying the #1 box office spot for three weeks in a row, and generating over $147 million (in respect to a $28 million budget), the entertainment industry is paying attention to hip-hop music. Case in Point:  Over Labor Day weekend, Nickelodeon ran a Sponge Bob dance party commercial featuring a “Watch Me (Whip / Nae Nae)” remix by 17-year old rapper, Silento.

In the making for over 40 years and globally diverse, the hip-hop culture has impacted language, graffiti art, music, dance, social and multi-media, as well as styles of dress. CNN recently explored hip hop’s influence on fashion in a documentary entitled, “Fresh Dressed”. This fascinating chronicle revealed the historical influences in the development of a new genre of music, and its ultimate relevance to the entertainment and fashion industries.

When rap music first appeared, many thought it was a fad that was associated with gangs and undesirable “urban consumers”. But trillions of dollars later, some actually realize that this style of music can impact everything from education to product placement. Some forward thinking companies were able to brilliantly parlay hip hop music into increased sales, new product development, and better market penetration for Generation X, Millennials, and I-Gen. While such a multi-cultural marketing strategy does not replace traditional efforts, it does supplement an overall game plan to stay relevant for generations to come.

Beyond the entertainment industry, professionals and executives must continuously ask themselves, “How Can I Stay Relevant?” There are several things that we can do to personally ensure that our careers do not stagnate amidst a global culture that is continuously changing:

  1. Manage your time well so that your schedule allows you to read professional and industry-related news on a regular basis.
  2. Anticipate problems by understanding how trends will impact the organization now and in the future.
  3. Become more knowledgeable about global affairs—read, take classes, attend conferences, and network with others.
  4. Build a strong professional network, inside and outside of your organization.
  5. Demonstrate self-initiative by volunteering for key assignments or acquiring skills that are relevant to industry trends (e.g., such as foreign language skills or building strong teams across cultures)
  6. Take advantage of data and analytics to provide deeper insights.
  7. Foster a transparent environment by demonstrating your own openness to different ideas, requesting feedback outside of performance reviews, asking for help, and being responsive.

 

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Leah Smiley is the President of the Society for Diversity, the #1 professional association for diversity and inclusion. For more information about the Society for Diversity, log onto http://www.societyfordiversity.org

Apple: Setting a New Business Standard for Progress by Ian Cureton

global tech

 

The comfort of community, and the idea that I belong, is a powerful nod to something that is better understood than articulated. As a 22 year-old black male in America I am reminded daily that I do not belong to the “in-group” in mainstream society. Yet, I embrace this challenge. As I draw stares and confused glances, I realize that the message behind these uncomfortable interactions is progress. My suit is Ralph Lauren, my smile is big, and my personality is even bigger. I represent progress.

For the time being, some might be uncomfortable with the idea of inclusion and one day working for a young executive like myself, but the reality is, I am not going anywhere, and neither are all the people I represent.

Yesterday Apple took a huge, progressive step in this realm of representation by embracing diversity in global customer preferences, via its recent product development efforts. The company released iOS 8.3 for its iPhone, iPad and iPod touch products. The update, which has been in beta for several months, brings over 300 new emojis (including diversity options) as well as a new keyboard for inputting the symbols. iOS 8.3 also includes a whole host of new Siri languages, so more international users can benefit from Apple’s virtual personal assistant. The update adds Siri in Russian, Danish, Dutch, Thai, Swedish, Turkish and Portuguese. Siri’s voice has been tweaked to reflect this update.

Being represented on a global scale has to be one of the true proud moments I’ve felt as an American– and to you Apple, I thank you. Emoji’s on the iPhone have always been a part of my day-to-day communications but the emoji’s were previously one-dimensional. To those on the inside looking out at this subject it is easy to claim theatrics, grand hyperbole, etc…and to those who share this perspective,  I forgive you. But it doesn’t change the fact that I, Ian Gabriel Cureton, appreciate what Apple has done for my self-actualization, as well as for setting a precedent in the tech sector by promoting the importance of diversity for all.

 

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Ian Cureton is an intern for the Society for Diversity. For more information about the Society for Diversity, log onto http://www.societyfordiversity.org.

What Can Indiana Fix?

By Leah Smiley

indianaFirst, let me preface this conversation by stating unequivocally:  religion, politics, and business (in a capitalistic economy) DO NOT mix well.

Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act has caused such an uproar in the last couple of weeks that it’s hard to believe that nearly two dozen other states have the same law. Apparently in Indiana, the bill’s intent of protecting businesses does not align with its impact of hurting companies that do business in the state of Indiana. Even the Society for Diversity got “the message”. In response to a recent membership promotion advertising a partnership with The Derwin Smiley Show and the Indianapolis 500, one person said:

“I would ask you to revisit this contest considering what is happening in Indy right now. I don’t think it is in the best interest of any person or groups of people who work on diversity matters to be supporting anything in Indiana.”

My staff freaked out! Meanwhile, Indiana’s Governor seems to be unfazed by all of the negative attention the bill is receiving in his state.

Governor Mike Pence recently wrote a letter to the Wall Street Journal doubling down on his position. He asserted that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) is “Ensuring Religious Freedom in Indiana” because it is a law that was intended to preempt the Affordable Care Act from forcing businesses to act against their religious beliefs in the provision of healthcare or insurance.

Yet, something about this RFRA law seems unnecessary, even exorbitant, in the quest for religious “freedom”. Even in the other states where the law has been successfully enacted, there is the stench of religious intolerance– the same kind that has driven millions of believers away from various monotheistic faiths. According to a 2012 Pew Research Center study, “The number of Americans who do not identify with any religion continues to grow at a rapid pace. One-fifth of the U.S. public – and a third of adults under 30 – are religiously unaffiliated today, the highest percentages ever in Pew Research Center polling.”

I live in Indiana, and the Society for Diversity is headquartered in Indiana.The Society for Diversity’s position on the law is that no organization in the United States should be allowed to legally discriminate against any person for any reason. After all, if you are going to be in business for the long-term, you must serve more people than your competitors– and you have to serve them better than your competitors. This is the competitive advantage of diversity. Additionally, if we are going to bring “religion” into the conversation, what ever happened to doing what is right?

Currently, business leaders are organizing a statewide effort to fix the law. As this process plays out, I would like to know what would you suggest?

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Leah Smiley is the President of the Society for Diversity, the #1 and largest professional association for diversity and inclusion. For more information about the Society for Diversity, log onto www.societyfordiversity.org.

The Ian Cureton Project

There was a positive energy flowing through my body as I settled into my new office this morning. I start my first day at the Society for Diversity (Plainfield, IN) as an intern. My responsibilities include, but are not limited to, answering phones, responding to emails, and of course this blog. This is my formal introduction to Corporate America; stating who I am, what I am here for, and how I will contribute to your company’s growth.

I am enrolled at Ball State University, with an expected year of graduation in 2015. I will graduate with a degree in finance and marketing. I was a collegiate athlete from 2011-2014 playing both baseball and football. I furthered my passion for sales and marketing by joining the national business fraternity Pi Sigma Epsilon; Ball State’s chapter Epsilon Epsilon.

I will gain on-the-job training that will prepare me for life after the Society for Diversity. With that being said during the duration of my time, I am here to serve. I am here to learn different techniques and skills that I will develop through my first-hand experiences. I will grow my network, expand my managerial skillset and position myself to succeed. I am here to work, I am here to learn, I will do the things you ask from me, and I will represent the company well.

 

ian_cureton

How Real Leaders Handle Inappropriate Conduct

By Leah Smiley

firedUnivision reaches 94 million households in the United States. It is the largest Spanish language broadcaster in the U.S., and the fifth largest television network. According to CNN, “Rodner Figueroa, an Emmy Award-winning host and presenter, was fired by the Spanish-language network for remarks he made on-air. In a broadcast on Wednesday, Figueroa said, “Michelle Obama looks like she’s part of the cast of ‘Planet of the Apes.'” He made the comments as a photo of the first lady was shown on screen.

Figueroa was fired on Thursday.

Free Speech proponents assert, “He can say what he wants.” But I will illustrate my response with a brief personal story. For my father’s 60th birthday, my siblings and I hosted a party at The Mansion in Voorhees, NJ. During the event, my siblings reminisced about who received the most spankings while we were growing up– and then everyone looked at me. What I remember most, is not the spankings, but the lectures that accompanied the discipline. It almost made me want to say, “hurry up and get it over with man!” But my father insisted on telling me that “everyone makes mistakes, and that is OK. But for every mistake you make in life, there are consequences.” Sheesh, I hated that word “consequences”.

Some will say, Figueroa was Latino, he wasn’t racist. The courts have ruled that even if a Cuban repeatedly called a Puerto Rican an illegal immigrant (when he or she is not) or a black person called another black person the “N” word in the workplace, your organization could get sued for discrimination. So that means that ethnicity does not preclude one from experiencing consequences for unprofessional and inappropriate conduct.

Keep in mind, there are times when you should NOT terminate an employee. For example,

This is just a partial listing of real U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) cases. But then there are other times when, for the sake of morale and the organization’s reputation, you should take swift and definitive action. Don’t:

  • Ask the person to resign
  • Make the person profusely apologize
  • Wait for the public to demand someone’s head

Fire ’em.

Some will say, “show compassion in an environment where customers are unforgiving”. OK, here’s the bellwether for compassion: will you be terminated in that person’s stead? That’s how you know if you really have compassion, because you believe in what that person did so much that you are willing to take the fall.

If not, fire ’em.

It’s common sense. Grown folks should be intelligent enough to distinguish between professional and unprofessional conduct AT WORK. They should also be considerate of the people that support or buy from your organization (e.g., the Obama Administration has advertised with Univision). And they should be able to determine what is funny versus what will cause a political firestorm or a public relations nightmare.

Common sense will also tell you that management will not allow inappropriate behavior.

The best terminations etch a sketch in workers minds about inappropriate conduct in the workplace. So as not to create an environment of fear, you want to fire the offender swiftly and then communicate with your staff about the termination. Allow them to ask questions, or express concerns. Make sure you reference a specific employment policy so everyone understands that this is not personal. Finally, reaffirm your commitment to an inclusive organizational culture that values ALL workers and great contributions. This is what separates leaders from figureheads.

Unless you are a politician or lobbyist, your personal political beliefs are not relevant at work. Furthermore, discriminatory behavior is never acceptable. At some point, leaders have to take a stand– discerning that allowing unprofessional behavior in the workplace inevitably snowballs into an avalanche of problems.

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Leah Smiley is the President of the Society for Diversity, the #1 professional association for diversity and inclusion. For more information about the Society for Diversity, log onto www.societyfordiversity.org.

A Holiday Note to the ‘P.C.’ Police: Be Civil

By Leah Smiley

 

pc police 2It’s that time of year again, when Diversity and Inclusion efforts receive a bad rep because of a few over-zealous, politically correct individuals.

As we approach the holidays, the P.C. (Politically Correct) police become more vigilant than ever. Once, I sent out an e-mail blast that said, “Merry Christmas” and I received messages for days on end saying, “You’re not a REAL diversity professional”.

According to Wikipedia, “freedom of religion [in America] is a constitutionally guaranteed right provided in the religion clauses of the First Amendment. Freedom of religion is also closely associated with separation of church and state, a concept advocated by Colonial founders such as Roger Williams, William Penn and later founding fathers such as James Madison and Thomas Jefferson.”

In the workplace, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) provides for ‘religious freedom’ through anti-discrimination laws. According to EEOC, “Religious discrimination involves treating a person (an applicant or employee) unfavorably because of his or her religious beliefs. The law protects not only people who belong to traditional, organized religions, such as Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, and Judaism, but also others who have sincerely held religious, ethical or moral beliefs.” This protection includes atheists, agnostics and non-religious folks.

Most developed nations have workplace protections for people based on religion. In emerging markets, however, religious diversity is causing all sorts of conflicts. According to DoSomething.org, “Nearly 50 percent of countries increased their religious discrimination between 2009 and 2010, and only 32 percent saw decreases. On average, countries that have government restrictions on religion have higher rates of social hostility. Social hostilities of religious discrimination include armed conflict, harassment of women over dress code, mob violence, hate crimes, violence or violent threats, terrorist violence, and more.”

Consider this partial listing of recent events:

  • Somali extremists killed 28 non-Muslims in Northern Kenya.
  • Two attackers armed with knives, axes and a gun stormed a synagogue in an Orthodox Jewish neighborhood, killing four worshipers and wounding several others.
  • In the Philippines, a nurse and teacher bled to death after extremists threw a hand grenade into a Church of Christ.
  • In Bangladesh, a prominent university professor was murdered, several years after he led a push to ban students wearing full-face veils. The professor followed the folk sect Baul, popular in parts of western Bangladesh, whose members call themselves followers of humanism rather than a particular religion.
  • According to The Freethought Report released in December 2013, Atheists face death in 13 countries. Even in places like Austria, Denmark, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Malta and Poland, blasphemy laws allow for jail sentences up to three years on charges of offending a religion or believers.

This very brief list certainly provides an overview of the world’s religious state of affairs. For global organizations and governments, this level of religious (or non-religious) intolerance presents a risk for workers and their families, tourists and business travelers, conventioneers, customers, and more. In other words, there are much bigger fish to fry than whether or not someone says, “Happy Kwanzaa.”

Therefore, if you are P.C., try to relax this holiday season. If someone says, “Happy Hanukkah” because you look Jewish and you have a Jewish-sounding name, try not to go ballistic. Perhaps, you can say “Happy Hanukkah to you too!” But if your “freedom” does not allow you to celebrate Hanukkah, perhaps you can simply say, “Happy Holidays” without going into a diatribe about how some Jews are Jewish by ethnicity only. Likewise, if a store clerk says, “Merry Christmas”, don’t go on a rant about banning the store because you’re not a Christian. Take a deep breath, smile, and keep moving.

When we think about all that is going on around the world, and the fact that people are dying for what they believe (or don’t believe), the least we can do is show some civility when someone seeks to spread a little holiday cheer. The Platinum Rule for Diversity is to treat others as they want to be treated. Yet, religious and secular fanaticism (e.g., unreasonable zeal, mean-spiritedness, or other extreme behavior) threatens everyone else’s freedom.

Political correctness is not an apparent token that you are the king or queen of diversity and inclusion because sometimes, P.C. is offensive. Thus, instead of being politically correct this year, try to be civil. In the words of Jim Leach, former U.S. Congressman and academic, “Civility is not about dousing strongly held views. It’s about making sure that people are willing to respect other perspectives.”

P.S.  You can send me all of the P.C. notes you want, Happy Thanksgiving anyway!

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Leah Smiley is the President of the Society for Diversity, the #1 professional association for diversity and inclusion. For more information about the Society for Diversity, log onto www.societyfordiversity.org.

How Data Can Change Traditional Approaches to Diversity & Inclusion

data2Lately, I have been fascinated with the ABC-TV hit, “How to Get Away with Murder”. Interestingly enough, I simultaneously read the Twitter comments while watching the show. Afterwards, I check Wikipedia to learn the ratings data (i.e., how many people watched the show) in the prior week.

What does this have to do with diversity and inclusion? Alot. Instead of simply stating that there are not enough television shows featuring diverse individuals, a stronger business case for diversity in television programming would center around Nielsen ratings and Twitter use—which USA Today also reports on a regular basis. One could also make the case based on the quantity and quality of advertisers.

Pertaining to the workplace, I recently read the October 2014 U.S. Department of Labor Unemployment Report, which stated that the unemployment rate for whites declined to 4.8 percent; while blacks were at 10.9 percent; Hispanics, 6.8 percent; and Asians, 5.0 percent. The question is, ‘with all of this so-called diversity and inclusion in the workplace, why is the unemployment rate so high for blacks?

In June 2014, Forbes ran article entitled, “White High School Drop-Outs Are As Likely To Land Jobs As Black College Students” by Susan Adams. The author asserts that there are “numerous theories to explain the employment gap between the races and a list of proposed solutions. Persistent racial discrimination in hiring is one obvious cause. The high incarceration rate among African-Americans is another reason, says the report, citing a 2014 Brookings study showing that there is nearly a 70% chance that an African-American male without a high school diploma will be in prison by his mid-30s; having a criminal record makes it much tougher to find a job.”

The federal government has its own theories. The Bureau of Labor Statistics contends that the unemployment rate for blacks has always been higher than whites. In other words, this is status quo—no need for alarm. Another government report states that blacks simply “look for the right job longer”. Yet the title of Susan Adams’ article is particularly troubling as it implies that even highly educated blacks are likely to be the last to find jobs—especially if folks are more willing to hire a white high school drop-out before they hire a black college student.

But other data suggests that the disparity is different depending on where one lives. For instance, the Midwest sees a much wider gap between black and white unemployment than other regions — especially the West. In some states (Vermont, South Dakota, Utah, etc.), the black population is so small that the comparison doesn’t shed much light. But in states with substantial black populations, there has been only one year in one state in which the unemployment rate for blacks was lower than that for whites: 2007 in Massachusetts. That year, the average unemployment rate for blacks in the state was 4.3 percent. For whites, it was 4.7.

What is interesting about 2007 in Massachusetts is that the crime rate, in large cities like Boston, dropped significantly. Property crime, for example, consistently occurred above the national average in prior years. But starting in 2008, it began to fall so dramatically that now it is consistently below the national average, according to City-Data.com. Additionally, the Boston Globe reported that “some 84.7 percent of students who entered Boston high schools in fall 2008 graduated in 2012, an increase of 4.8 percentage points from six years earlier.” Note that the graduation rate was higher than the U.S. Department of Education’s 2012 national average of 80%, an all-time high.

My point is that many people complain about high crime, the lack of education, and more, that plague inner cities in America. Yet, one of the best indicators as to whether things will be different is the monthly unemployment report. If unemployment, for example, is particularly disparate, it will likely be reflected in other areas of society. But instead of saying, “the unemployment rate for blacks is much higher than any other group”, the business case for ensuring equal employment opportunity lies in improving the quality of life, reducing crime, and creating an educational system that works for all individuals, as well as for their future employers. Not surprisingly, much of this data points to the notion of interdependence within the diversity and inclusion space where employers, educators and community leaders, as well as government officials must connect their efforts.

At the end of the day, whether you are in the U.S. or in another country, the proliferation of data should enable you to build a stronger business case—easily comparing data points, providing deeper insights, and establishing connections to business objectives. Hence, moving beyond merely stating how many diverse people work, or don’t work, with an organization, toward utilizing more meaningful data to effect change.

By Leah Smiley

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Leah Smiley is the President of the Society for Diversity, the #1 and largest professional association for diversity and inclusion. For more information about the Society for Diversity, log onto http://www.societyfordiversity.org.

 

A Lesson for Chief Diversity Officers: Unabridged Liberty or Tyranny?

By Leah Smiley

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Working in the Office of Diversity requires individuals to walk a fine line. On one hand, you can’t call everything racist, sexist, ageist, homophobic, etc. Likewise, you can’t let some situations go unaddressed.

Last week, one of my neighbors had a Halloween party and the music was bumping all night. When my husband and I woke up in the morning, there was a straw man and a straw woman hanging on a tree– each with a rope around their necks. My first thought was, “What will my kids think?” Often, they learn things before I have a chance to tell them. For instance, my 5-year old recently learned how to call 911 at school. One day, I heard him say, “Hi 9-1-1.” I quickly grabbed the phone, only to hear it ringing. I instinctively hung up but the operator called me back and dispatched a police officer to my house. For that reason, I briefly thought about my kids learning about America’s sordid past in school and was immediately concerned that after seeing the straw men, they would become fearful that someone would hang them too.

My second thought was, “I am going to act like I didn’t see it. I’ll just be rude when I see them again because I don’t want a burning cross in my yard next.” But my conscience wouldn’t let me repress my feelings. The next thing I knew, I was on their doorstep. When the door opened, I asked, “Can I talk to you for a minute? Did we do anything to offend you? I came out here this morning and thought, ‘our neighbors must hate us’ and I just wanted to make sure that we don’t have any conflict between us.” I didn’t mention race or history; I addressed it from the perspective that neighbors should make an effort to have a cordial or friendly relationship. The neighbor explained that it was all out of fun, and it was harmless. We chatted for a minute and then I left. But when I came home that day, the straw men were gone.

At first, my husband did not want me to go to the neighbor’s house. But afterwards, he realized that the other Black family or the Indian family or any of the White families could have been offended too.

Now, some people can say, “It’s their home; they can do what they want.” And this is correct. But guess what, we all have “liberty” and one’s freedom under the law should not be used as an opportunity to make others feel uncomfortable or unsafe. Thomas Jefferson said it like this, “Rightful liberty is unobstructed action according to our will within limits drawn around us by the equal rights of others. I do not add ‘within the limits of the law’ because law is often but the tyrant’s will, and always so when it violates the rights of the individual.”

Thomas Jefferson used the word “tyrant” because it implies that one who says, “I can do whatever I want” is one who can be cruel, oppressive, unrestrained, and even unprofessional to others. This type of behavior is inappropriate in the workplace, schools, and the community because it is archaic in a modern-day world that values technology, innovation and advancement. Relationship, through communication and understanding, gives people real freedom—not offending folks because you have the ‘liberty’ to do so.

President Obama was in a precarious situation as well. As the first (visibly) mixed race President, he was subject to a lot of cruel and unprofessional insults by his political colleagues, the news media, the American public, and even international leaders. While everything wasn’t racism, race was a factor in many situations. Although he did not respond to these attacks, believe me when I tell you, it bothered him. Yet, positioned as one of the most powerful men in the world, his inability to purposefully address the elephant in the room caused others to view him as a weak and incompetent leader. This empowered his critics to gain more momentum and confirmation that their attacks were spot on.

This is what makes a Diversity Officer’s work different from any other job in the organization. As I said earlier, the Office of Diversity has to walk a fine line—in addition to attaining measurable outcomes. If you address issues from a radical agenda (e.g., that’s racist, sexist, ageist, homophobic, etc.), you may be regarded as a “troublemaker”, “whiner”, or “complainer”. That’s worse than getting branded as a ‘racist’. On the other hand, if you don’t address the issues, you may be considered “incompetent”, “unqualified” or “unnecessary”. At the same time, you will jeopardize inclusion, equity, engagement, and fairness for all. In fact, when we consider the diversity in America’s Capitol over the last few years, the elected officials couldn’t get anything done. Now that there is more homogeneity in political affiliation, it will be interesting to see if they will send a strong message about diversity and productivity.

Nevertheless, regardless of what happens on Capitol Hill, it’s best to choose your battles wisely and address the negativity quickly from the perspective of relationship, professionalism, opportunity, excellence, and common purpose. Even if Congress restricts women, LGBT groups, different religions, various nationalities, and others, diversity is not the law of the land. It is a concept that is good for business; and therefore, it is not going away.

In the words of President Harry S. Truman, “Progress occurs when courageous, skillful leaders seize the opportunity to change things for the better.” Thus, how well an organization does through diversity and inclusion is up to the diversity officer and his/her relationships with others. Keep in mind, our work is a global phenomenon with a competitive advantage—ensuring that the most committed organizations leverage unlimited possibilities now, as well as in the future.

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Leah Smiley is the President of the Society for Diversity, the #1 and largest professional association for Diversity and Inclusion. For more information about the Society for Diversity, log onto http://www.societyfordiversity.org.

How to Diversify Your Workforce: Part II, The Steps to Success

By Leah Smiley, CDE

diversity_workforce

 

In Part I, I discussed the rationale behind diversity recruiting. Here, I will detail how you can take a series of calculated steps to increase the likelihood of diversifying your employee base. Some of these steps include:

1. Assessing Inclusion

It’s possible to have diversity without inclusion. Therefore, this term is not a substitute for diversity. Inclusion describes the way that an organization configures opportunity, interaction, communication and decision-making to utilize the potential of its diversity. Inclusion makes diversity work and leverages the resources that diverse individuals bring. In other words, diversity pertains to people, while inclusion concerns the organization.

You can use a variety of tools to assess whether your organization is inclusive such as conducting a cultural climate audit, organizing a diverse focus group to review corporate policies, and examining exit interview data. If reviewing exit interviews, go back 6-months to 1-year so that the data is current. Look for answers to two simple questions: why did the employee leave? Was the company inclusive enough for the individual to contribute 100% of his/her knowledge and skills?

Analyze inclusiveness before hiring more diverse workers. If the organization finds that it is not inclusive, take proactive actions (e.g., rewarding desired behaviors, training, mentoring, etc.) to ensure that anyone will feel comfortable “fitting in” and performing on the highest possible level.

2. Build Your Bench Strength

There’s probably a lot of diversity in your organization already. The key is to find out where your most successful diverse candidates come from. If you don’t know the answer to that question, ask supervisors.

The next question is, “who are your high-potential” workers? How can you develop their skills so that they are adequately challenged within your organization? What vehicle would work best to advance their careers? By developing your current workers, you will minimize the “threat” that is often associated with bringing in outsiders.

3. Evaluate Your Job Advertisements and Announcements

A few years ago, almost everyone wrote “diverse candidates are encouraged to apply” in their job announcements. The only problem is that it may have implied that “white guys need not apply” or it may have encouraged diverse candidates who were not qualified to apply simply because they saw two words that pertained to them “diverse candidates”. The same thing may inadvertently happen when an organization announces “recent college graduates are encouraged”. It may unintentionally exclude experienced candidates who recently retired and are willing to work for lower wages.

To make a point, I looked at several current job advertisements on Monster.com to provide real-life examples of what NOT to list on a job announcement if you want to diversify your workforce. These organizations said they were seeking candidates with:

  • a “stable work history” (this may exclude qualified men or women who took time off to be a caregiver)
  • the “ability to stand for extended periods of time” (this may exclude someone with a disability)
  • “Excellent English reading and writing skills and good verbal English communication skills” (this may exclude highly skilled immigrants who, although they speak well, may not be confident in their English language skills). Before some people object, the actual job description said “preferred” so English language proficiency was not required to do the job effectively.

4. Train hiring managers

Managers are typically very skilled in, and confident about, what they do. However, when it comes to hiring people who are different, these same managers may not feel as comfortable. Instead of being inactive or reactive, proactively aid these managers. Help them to identify discriminatory practices (such as screening a candidate out because of an accent or due to their nationality) and unconscious biases (such as thinking a black person is not supposed to be articulate or a man cannot be a caregiver). But also assist them in adjusting to this new age of recruiting (such as selling candidates on the company and adjusting to the greater comfort of the interviewee) and retention (such as onboarding and engaging workers).

5. Look for partners

If your organization uses a recruiting or executive search firm, check out their management team. If the firm has all female managers, raise a red flag—where are the men? If the firm has all white managers, raise a red flag—how can you help my organization to diversify if your firm is not diverse? If the firm has all older managers, raise a red flag—where are the Millennials and Generation Xers? Also, ask for references and check them out. Some firms have been pulling the old “bait-and-switch” in diversity recruiting trick. Their references will tell you if the firm promised a diverse candidate, but did not deliver.

If your organization uses internal recruiters, make sure the recruiting team is diverse. Here’s where you want to go beyond simply hiring one person of color, to getting individuals with different religions, sexual orientations, generations, etc., to assist with recruiting. One of the reasons why companies “can’t find” highly skilled diverse candidates is because some recruiters don’t know where to look. That’s why a team approach will help. If you don’t have the budget for a large recruiting team, utilize your diversity council. They can help you to develop a comprehensive list of sources where you can recruit potential candidates.

Diverse candidates may be found at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (such as Hampton, Howard, Spelman, Tuskegee); Hispanic Serving Institutions (such as Hodges University, Nova Southeastern University, Texas State University, City College of New York); nonprofit and professional associations (such as the National Black MBA Association, National Council of La Raza, National Association of Asian American Professionals, Hire Heroes USA); international job boards (OverseasJobs.com, LatPro.com); social networking sites (LinkedIn, Twitter); places of worship (for example, some large black churches will make an announcement during services); fraternities and sororities, see the list on the National Pan-Hellenic Council site (www.nphchq.org); employee referrals; and more!

6. Evaluate your efforts annually

As the saying goes, “What gets measured, gets done”. So…we’re not Affirmative Action Officers, therefore reports on the number of diverse new hires may not be the best gauge of success. You can report on the increase in diverse applicants or specific departments that have become more diverse, but you want to focus on what impact these diverse new hires have made on the organization (such as who received a promotion, how have sales surged, was there a new product developed, have retention rates increased, etc.). Providing this level of insight requires tracking the candidates and their achievements over time. This will also encourage the organization to remove barriers or hindrances to high performance for all employees.

Diversifying your workforce is not as simple as it sounds. Nevertheless, many organizations have been successful in this area. You can achieve success too if you are willing to make a commitment to the process, and seek other organic ways to build a strong pipeline of highly skilled candidates. Also, invite your traditional workers to join the journey!

I would love to hear from you. What else would you suggest?

 

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Leah Smiley is the President of the Society for Diversity, the #1 and largest professional association for diversity and inclusion. For more information about the Society for Diversity, log onto http://www.societyfordiversity.org.

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