Category: Business and Workplace

The Thing That’s Stopping You from Hiring Based on Merit

Posted on November 8th, by a Guest Contributor in Business and Workplace, Workplace Culture. No Comments

The person next in line to enter the room looked sharp, confident and ready to ace their first job interview. Dressed in a blue suit, shiny shoes and with their hair well combed, they were ready to take over the world and show that hard work pays off.

 If I were to tell you that the person described above is a man, would you be surprised? Probably not. You’ve probably seen a similar description for a man before. That’s because, as humans, we often repeat certain words and phrases. We do this because we like order. We like to recognize and categorize things. This in turn trains our minds to make assumptions about characteristics of people very quickly, with little information.

Here is where I introduce the term meritocracy, and explain why I find myself a tad skeptical whenever I hear “we’re a meritocratic organization.” Meritocracy is a term describing the ideal state in which equal merit results in equal rewards. Unfortunately, believing in meritocracy as a given is as naïve as believing that only men are biased against women, when even women themselves are biased against women. Not shocked enough yet? Keep reading this post and I will further explain the consequences of unconscious and conscious bias, more specifically, the bias that recruiters have when recruiting potential employees. Through scientific and peer-reviewed evidence, I want to show you why and how meritocracy is (often) a myth.

Bias is a term that goes hand in hand with meritocracy. It means “prejudice in favor of or against a thing, person or group, compared with another.” Bias can be seen as an obstacle to meritocracy; the one thing that is preventing merit from being the single most important factor when hiring. Bias can be found everywhere, even as you are reading this post you are being biased in the same way that I am being biased writing the post. Below is a study that was conducted to test people’s biases.

In one study, from 2012, the same resume and application materials for a science lab manager job were sent out to 127 biology, chemistry and physics professors at American universities. The researchers sent out the same application to all the professors, but changed the names on the application so that half had a male student’s name, and half had a female student’s name. 

The professors, who were both men and women, had to rate the applications on a scale of 1–7 in terms of competence, hireability, how much mentoring they’d give the candidate, and starting salary. The results were staggering: the applications with the woman’s name was on average rated lower in competence, hireability, and how much mentoring the professors would give. The “female” application package received, on average, a wage that was more than $3500 less than the “male” applicant per year. 

The bias appeared in both female and male professors who were reviewing the packages. That is, women and men are equally biased.

It might seem impossible to ever reach a true meritocracy, but don’t worry because every day more opportunities for a more inclusive workplace appear. For example, there’s a start-up helping companies with blind applications processes, called GapJumpers, where you can post jobs that don’t require applicants to submit characteristics such as gender or ethnicity.

Through blind hiring, true meritocratic recruiting can in fact also exist. Also, just becoming more aware of unconscious bias is a first step in reducing its effect. But the belief, assumption, and expectation that a company is just somehow, by default, a meritocracy without carefully planning out exactly how that outcome will be achieved, is a myth.

 

 

About the Author: Alice Marshall is a Gender Equality and Diversity Expert, and Founder of Equality Inc. She helps companies improve gender equality and diversity via her 90 Day Diversity Program and trainings on unconscious bias and inclusive leadership. She writes a blog with Google Sweden called Gender Equality in Tech.  


7 Steps To Overcome Historical Hurts On Trust

Posted on November 3rd, by a Guest Contributor in Business and Workplace, Workplace Culture. No Comments

Have you ever struggled to release the pain caused by broken trust?  Sure, you wanted to forget what happened. To move through the experience and move on. Yet, the pain lingered like a phantom limb.

Stealing your focus.

Draining your energy.

Holding you back.

I just took a call about this from a prospective client – the VP of HR for a consumer products company.  This woman’s team had a lot on its plate. A new CEO to position. A leadership team to develop. A transformative agenda to bring out. But, the biggest challenge?

For the past few years, the company had gone through lots of changes. Changes whose negative impacts had largely been worked around, instead of through.  This is what that head of HR said to me:

“Hits on trust that happened years ago are posing a serious threat to our current initiatives,” she told me. “Instead of trust being used as a vehicle to connect and move forward, people are using it as a weapon, using what happened in the past to judge and criticize. These historical hurts on trust have been identified as the number one barrier to our agenda’s successful implementation. We’re looking for a healing strategy.”

A healing strategy.  That got my attention.

Isn’t that what we all need, when trust has broken down? We all want to learn to trust again and get back in the game. We all want healing for the people we work with and support – healing that helps them be their best.  There’s only way. And that’s to step in and work through the historical hurts.  Here’s where I can help – with a roadmap proven to overcome historical hits on trust and help people and teams learn to trust again.

 

Observe and acknowledge what’s happened.

Give the gift of awareness. Notice and acknowledge what you and your people are experiencing. Healing begins when leaders recognize what has occurred, its effect on people and the system, and the resulting losses.

Sometimes ‘what happened’ to break trust down is straightforward. A single act. A glaring oversight. But far more often, trust has been worn down by less obvious behaviors. Little things people have ‘done’ to one another unintentionally.

Small behaviors that were perceived as insensitive.

Fleeting reactions that triggered doubt about intentions or motives.

Ways people felt railroaded, instead of supported, to move through change.

 Assess where trust stands, and why. Get a baseline understanding that will help you and your people stop beating around the bush and address core issues.

 

Encourage feelings to surface.

Trust is emotionally provocative. When it’s broken, strong feelings get stirred. Anxiety. Vulnerability. Regret. Betrayal. People may wonder if they have what it takes to move on and contribute – or if they even want to.  Give people permission to express those feelings constructively.  Create safe forums that allow people to express their fear, frustration, anger, and doubt. Interrupt the cycle of resentment going ‘underground.’ Help people give voice to the negativity they’re holding, so they can begin to release it.

 

Give yourself permission to get support.

Rebuilding trust is hard work. But something quite powerful occurs when the breach of trust is truthfully acknowledged. Not twisted, justified, or defended – but simply acknowledged.

There’s release.

People can begin to move from finger-pointing to understanding.  From judging to considering extenuating circumstances.  From abdicating to problem solving. From loss to possibility.  Trust work is game changing. Yet, it’s not always easy. You may need support to bring out the highest intentions of everyone in your organization.

You may need support to support the trust work.

Give yourself permission to go after the help you need. For 25 years, the biggest mistake I’ve seen HR leaders make is not asking for support earlier.

 

Reframe the experience.

Help people understand the bigger picture of ‘what happened.’ Encourage them to ask questions about what they’ve experienced.  Give them open answers. Help them discover opportunity.  Authentically engaging a process of inquiry gives people the chance to broaden their perspectives. To see beyond their own pain and take in the challenges the business is facing.  People want the organizations they work for to be successful. Help them see their role in forging that success. Paint a picture of where they fit in and how you’re in this process to rebuild trust together.

 

Expand ownership.

Support people to take responsibility. They may not have responsibility for what occurred and what they experienced. But they can take responsibility for how they choose to respond.  Yes, there is power in hearing and acknowledging what happened. But the key to turning sinking trust around is inviting others to take responsibility for aligning around the path forward.  This open invitation is an opportunity to empower people. To unleash the paradigm-shifting realization that trust begins with them. With their sound intentions.  Their constructive attitudes.  Their commitment to extend the benefit of the doubt, check out assumptions, and truly seek to understand – instead of blame – one another when trust breaks down.

People have far more power than they realize to dramatically improve the level and quality of trust in their workplaces. Spark that awareness. Feed it. Use it.

 

Offer release through forgiveness.

Forgiveness is freedom. It’s not forgetting what happened, but releasing the grip of what happened.  It’s about letting go, so you can move on.  Help your people move through lingering bitterness. Listen for what still needs to be heard and understood for them to feel ready to let go. Help them choose to remember the lessons and release the impact.  Support them rebuild trust and open up to co-creating the future.  Leading the way in extending forgiveness is not just for others, but for yourself. Carrying guilt about your possible role in trust’s breakdown won’t serve anyone.

 

Let go and move on.

Trust begins with you. Model moving on!  Contribute to your organization’s new Trust Story. You’ve got a fresh start, and you’ve earned it.  Yet – don’t underestimate trust’s fragility. Keep close tabs on the behaviors you model.

 

The moment any of us stop paying attention to trust is the moment we risk losing it.

 

About the Author:  Michele Reina is co-founder of Reina, A Trust Building Consultancy. She, along with business partner and husband Dennis Reina, have collectively devoted nearly 50 years to researching trust, developing rigorous instruments to measure trust and defining practical steps to rebuild trust that has been compromised.  Michele works with organizations like Walt Disney World, American Express and Harvard University, taking the guesswork out of trust building to achieve measurable improvements in collaboration and teamwork, employee engagement, leadership effectiveness, workplace culture and change management.

 


“Pretty Good For a Girl”

Posted on October 25th, by Jennifer Payne in Business and Workplace, On My Mind. 1 Comment

I recently had the opportunity to see a particular band with a pretty big cult following at a local music club.  Though I had heard a lot about this band from others who have seen them at one of their many semi-annual visits to the area, this was the first time I had seen them.  As I watched them set up on stage, I was immediately struck by the following detail: they had a female drummer.

I found myself fascinated by this and rather fixated on her throughout the show.  As the band began to play, it was immediately apparent that this girl was good.  I mean REALLY good.  She rocked on those drums like, well….like a rock star.  I jokingly thought to myself, “I want to be as cool as her when I grow up!” and found myself wanting to say, “Wow! She is REALLY good for a female drummer!” But then I stopped that thought in its tracks and corrected myself.  She wasn’t just good “for a girl,” she was really good.  Period.  She could hold her own next to any number of drummers I’ve seen.  Her gender truly had nothing to do with it.

This got me thinking about gender stereotypes as related to career choices.  The reason that this girl was so notable is because in reality, it’s not common to find female rock drummers.  But she powered right through that stereotype, hence evoking that thought that I wanted to be as cool as her.  Not only was she breaking a stereotype, she was doing it well and not looking back.

“Rock Drummer” is certainly not the only profession that tends to be male dominated.  I recently returned from the HR Technology Conference, which this year kicked off with a “Women in HR Technology” summit that focused on that very topic of pushing through stereotypes and promoting and developing more women into traditionally male dominated professions; in this case, roles in technology or leadership roles in technology companies.  The encouraging thing there was, other than discussions about how to get more young girls interested in tech roles at a much younger age, little of what was discussed was truly focused on women in a gender stereotype sort of way.  There was some talk about tendencies women have versus their male counterparts as a generalization (i.e. not applying for roles for which they are not 100% qualified), but much of the advice given was relevant to both sexes.  It just happened to be in the context of a traditionally male dominated field, and the majority of the attendees happened to be female.

But even after attending that summit, and working in HR where I know that there is a lack of women in key roles in certain professions, I still found myself out of habit wanting to say “pretty good for a girl” about this drummer.  And I still take note when I fly and have a “female pilot.” This observation is never in any sort of positive or negative way, it’s just an observation that it is still not as common to see female pilots as it is to see male pilots.  So while we are making strides, there’s still a ways to go.  And this goes for both sides of the equation.  How many people do you know who out of habit may still use the term “male nurse”?

Until it’s habitual to just say “drummer” or “pilot” or “nurse” we still have gender stereotypes to overcome.  But kudos to those that pay no attention to them and break right through….both women and men!

 

About the Author: Jennifer Payne, SPHR, SHRM-SCP has almost two decades of HR experience in employee relations, talent acquisition, learning & development, and employee communications, and currently works in talent management in the retail grocery industry.  She is one of the co-founders of Women of HR, and is currently the Editor of the site. You can connect with her on Twitter as @JennyJensHR and on LinkedIn.


“Be Fearless” – Women in HR Technology #HRTechConf

Posted on October 11th, by Jennifer Payne in Business and Workplace. No Comments

In preparing for this year’s HR Technology Conference, one of the sessions I was most looking forward to was the pre-conference “Women in HR Technology” event.  Anytime something new is offered on the agenda you just never know how it’s going to be received, but based on the descriptions, panelists, and pre-conference hype, it seemed to have promise to be a solid session.  And judging by the overwhelming attendance and standing room only/overflow situation, I’d say for a first time event it exceeded expectations.  An all-star panel of female leaders from companies such as ADP, Equifax, Ceridian, Paychex, SAP, Cornerstone, Ultimate, and Oracle (among others!) offered lively discussions and countless bits of great advice on developing and promoting more women into technology roles and leadership roles within technology companies.

 

Read the full post on the HR Tech Insiders blog

 

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Develop Our Future Workforce with Community Outreach?

Posted on August 9th, by Lois Melbourne in Business and Workplace, On My Mind. No Comments

The future of our workforce should be very important to you. It is critical to your employer and should be considered very strategic to individual businesses and your industry. I want you to look at the incredible investment you can make for you, your staff, your business, your industry and especially the young people in your community. This is a call to action.

 

While attending the U.S. News STEM Solution conference, it was a constant theme that we need to encourage kids to explore their interest, even as early as elementary school to enable them to make the critical education decisions they need to make by high school and beyond. Many of the specifics were around the encouragement of STEM (Science Technology Engineering & Math) but by no means were the needs exclusive to those disciplines.

 

So I ask you to engage in your community’s youth beyond the resume reviews or mock-interviews. I have some ideas that could help:

 

Internships – Internships can be paid (I hope), or attached to the school where the student gets course credit, or both. The key is to make these real learning experiences, with hands-on practice applicable to the business. These are not very valuable if they are stuffing envelopes and making copies all day. That would be a clerk job, not an internship.

 

Take Your Daughters and Sons to Work Day – Officially these are April in the US, October in Canada – but they can be ANY day. Make these events meaningful exploration for the kids. They are not about the little ones having movie day in the conference room. These days should be real exploration for the kids. Create panels that explain your world of work, the jobs in your office, the skills your employees use and why do your customers care that you exist.

 

Scholarships – Can your business or your industry create scholarships to college or trade schools to help students in need, pursue the training and education they need to be part of your future workforce? Looking for a way to make a mark with your local industry association chapter – spearhead this committee! With student loan debt surpassing credit card debit in this nation, this is a service to EVERYONE.

 

Volunteer Opportunities – Many organizations targeting career and skill development in our youth need volunteers. Some opportunities need a steady commitment, such as an adult leader coaching a team for FIRST Robotics where kids compete in the development of robots that must achieve specific tasks. This isn’t only an engineering need, these kids create marketing plans and presentations to present their solution. Other groups like Boys and Girls Club need volunteers in the afternoon to help with homework. Several organizations need one-time judges at their competitions. These competition include a wide variety of  trades. People are need to judge or assist with events ranging through culinary arts, to welding arts, to business plans. There literally is something for everyone.

 

Career Open House – Can you open your company for career tours for groups as small as a Boy Scout Troup or as large as a national gathering of Junior Achievement leaders? Create a tour that showcases your employees, your work environment, the skills used in your business, the impact your business has on the community or the world.

 

School Career Days – Volunteer at schools near your office or anywhere in the town, especially the underserved schools whose parents may find it more difficult to take time off work for career sharing. Help your employees create their age- appropriate presentations. Can they bring an exercise that showcases their job? Can they bring a poster board with the logos of your customers, if the kids will recognize the logos? Every age group has different needs, be mindful of these differences. If your employees come to you with a need for time to represent your business at career day – celebrate it. Don’t make them take PTO – incorporate it  into your corporate outreach programs.

 

Sales Training – Can your sales team develop training for the high school students that need to sell advertising space for their newspaper, yearbook, theatre program? Can they take the student on a sales call with them – or help them do phone calls to their target? Why not provide sales training to the students? Remember that the teacher is often learning the most, while they teach.

 

What are you doing to develop your employer brand while you open the young minds of your community to the possibilities they can pursue as they plan their education? This critical, strategic, giving and can be joyful. Consider me a resource to discuss any of these options. I challenge you…

 

About the Author:  Lois Melbourne, GPHR, is co-founder and former CEO of Aquire Solutions, mom to one terrific young son and wife of co-founder Ross Melbourne. After entering a bit of a sabbatical life phase, she is authoring a series of children’s books about career ambitions.  She maintains a strong personal commitment to career education and small business development and is a speaker, author of industry articles, and an occasional blogger and networker. Connect with her on Twitter as @loismelbourne.


Life’s Too Short to Live With Conflict

Posted on July 13th, by Donna Rogers, SPHR in Business and Workplace, On My Mind. 3 comments

Like most, Conflict Management is not my favorite subject. Nor am I an expert as I have my own unresolved conflict currently brewing that I need to heed my own advice on. However, in Human Resources you often need to be a mediator of conflict between coworkers and manager/employee disagreements. Other times you simply have to provide advice to other managers who need to help their employees deal with conflict.  Finally, conflict almost always shows up in the board room regardless of how well we try to avoid it.

So unless you are the king of conflict denial or the queen of pushing conflict under the rug, you may have a desire to fix your conflict situation at the earliest possible opportunity. If not you should…life is too short to live with conflict. If you don’t have a desire to resolve, then get ready for the big explosion that is bound to happen sooner or later. You can be sure someone will get hurt post explosion because something is almost always said that is not meant the way it comes out or is taken.

Some studies say we are about 75% responsible for how others treat us. If the emotion is negative then most likely some of that responsibility is in your reaction to the situation. If you are a person who tends to allow others to treat you in a way that causes inward or outward conflict, it may be time to put them in their place and make them think twice about doing it again. Of course I don’t mean to do this in a negative way because what does that do? It feeds the fire and causes more conflict. So here is a quick list of suggestions I recommend based on my own experience, education, and practice resolving conflict.

  1.  Use Your Words – you cannot resolve anything without expressing how it makes you feel. The key word here is you as in “I”.  Choose words that will express but not shame or blame the other person.
  2. Seek First to Understand Then to Be Understood – this is one of the best Steven Covey habits for exceptional people. If you are always trying to be right and never care to understand the other person(s) point of view, resolution is not in your cards.
  3. Understand Differences in Perception – just because you see a situation one way doesn’t mean others will see it the same as you. Everyone comes from a life of difference and that may be something you are not aware of.
  4. Remember It’s About Impact Not Intent – take responsibility when someone shares that you may have offended them. You may not intend to hurt them but consider that you may have.
  5. Maintain Your Credibility and Respect – this is especially important when your conflict is in the workplace, but it can affect family member relationships for years to come as well when reactions go over the line.
  6. What, What and Why? Feedback Framing – this was a tip from a past boss that has always stuck with me and I even use in disciplinary action documentation at times. Explain WHAT happened then go directly in to WHAT could or should have happened in the future (don’t focus on past) and WHY this new suggestion is a better response.
  7. Restate What You Have Heard – say “What I hear you saying is…” to help the other person understand how you may be perceiving what you said as well as helping you further dive into #2 above.  It’s a clarification technique that slows you down from reacting negatively to something that may not have been intended.
  8. Gain an Understanding of Emotional Intelligence – the higher your EQ is the better able you will be in managing conflict.  The skills can be learned if you know what they are and how to work on them.  Some are above but there are more.  Free EQ tests are available online.
  9. Practice, practice, practice – whether or not you need to practice any of the tips above or something you learn by taking your EQ test, practice it every chance you get.  Set reminders on your phone if you must but keep the ideas on the forefront so you learn to make them a habit when the unexpected happens.
  10. Know When to Give Yourself a Time Out – there are times that you heart starts to race or your blood pressure rises and you can physically feel the signs that you are about to blow due to conflict.  This is the time to walk away and let the other person know you need some time.  The time is healthy for both sides of the conflict to help give perspective and determine a plan for resolution.  


Even if these suggestion are just reminders of what you already know, I hope it’s a good refresher and can help maintain a relationship that may be on the verge of being broken.  Remember, life is too short to carry conflict for long.  Take responsibility now and move forward.  I have lost several loved ones (mom, dad, and brother to name a few) in my life recently who I wish I had hugged one more time than I had fought with them.

Don’t have regrets and make a difference in your life and others.


A Follow-Up Discussion on Workplace Bullying #SHRM16

As part of my blogging team coverage of the 2016 SHRM Annual Conference and Exposition, several weeks ago I conducted a Q&A with Catherine Mattice, one of the conference’s concurrent speakers.  The post served as a preview of her session, titled “The Real World: Case Studies of Real Organizations Who Solved Their Workplace Bullying Problems” and gave us some insight into her thoughts on the reality of workplace bullying.  You can read that initial Q&A post here.

 

So naturally at the conference I took the opportunity to attend her session.  What was immediately apparent to me is just how passionate Catherine is about this topic.  This wasn’t something she was presenting on because it’s trendy or simply a hot topic amongst HR pros right now, she really, truly believes that not only is this a very real issue, but it’s one that can be solved.  Her enthusiasm for the topic came across in our Q&A, but once I had the opportunity to see her actually speak on the topic, and how she at times spoke on the brink of emotion, it became very obvious that this is something she is dedicated to educating, addressing, and alleviating in our workplaces. (One point to note: Catherine herself was at one time the victim of a workplace bully, and that is what initially sparked her desire to start talking about it).

 

After providing attendees with a summary of her own background, experience with bullying, and how she arrived at where she is now with her work against workplace bullying, Catherine described the three characteristics of bullying and the three buckets of bullying behavior.

 

The Three Characteristics:

 

  1. Bullying is repeated. According to research on the subject, behavior that qualifies as bullying typically happens at least once a week over the course of at least a six month period.  Certainly it could vary somewhat from that, but the point is it’s generally not a one-time event (not unlike what is generally recognized as a hostile work environment – it usually has to be severe and pervasive behavior).
  2. Bullying creates a psychological power imbalance. The bully uses his or her voice to “squash” the voice of the victim.
  3. Bullying causes harm. This may seem obvious, but the behavior significantly impacts the victim.  In fact, Catherine cited a fact that often, if not addressed, the behavior continues to a point in which the victim can no longer take it and quits to get away from it.

 

The Three Buckets of Behavior:

  1. Aggressive Communication. In other words, attacking emails, invasion of personal space, harsh finger pointing.  Any sort of communication in which the bully exhibits characteristics of that psychological power imbalance.
  2. Humiliation. These are behaviors that promote social isolation, pointing out mistakes in public, or even – taken to the extreme – hazing.
  3. Manipulation. Perhaps one of the more common bullying behaviors and the most difficult one to identify includes things such as giving impossible deadlines or continually changing deadlines, impossible workloads, and providing (unwarranted) poor performance reviews.

 

Catherine then went on to describe four real scenarios at real companies in which bullying behaviors were present.  I won’t give away all of the details (you just had to be there for that!) but how the behaviors were addressed varied and largely depended on the type of behavior that was present.  Was in one specific individual or a prevalent culture of bullying that was being allowed?  What was the state of communication within the organization?  Was there a distrust of leadership present among employees?  Solutions raged from communication and prevalence audits (in the case of toxic workplaces with individual predominant bullies or an overall culture of bullies); engaging peer advisors and a “peer listening scheme” in environments with a distrust of leadership; committees with members from all levels of the organization where a culture of bullying required a social vision and update to corporate values; and supervisory training, coaching, and mediation.

 

The final thought attendees were left with, and one that is critical for us as HR pros to recognize is this: If someone witnesses bullying and doesn’t speak up, they are not a bystander, they are a reinforcer.  We must create environments where our employees feel comfortable and know how to speak up for each other, and we need to train our managers on creating environments within their control where bullying is not allowed, and how to stop it  if it in fact appears.

 

If we focus on creating a positive workplace, the bullying behavior goes away.   

 

About the Author: Jennifer Payne, SPHR, SHRM-SCP has almost two decades of HR experience in employee relations, talent acquisition, learning & development, and employee communications, and currently works in talent management in the retail grocery industry.  She is one of the co-founders of Women of HR, and is currently the Editor of the site. You can connect with her on Twitter as @JennyJensHR and on LinkedIn.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


#SHRM16 Day 3 – Why HR Pros Should Care About the Political Climate

Posted on June 22nd, by Jennifer Payne in Business and Workplace, HR Conferences, SHRM Chapters and Conferences. 1 Comment

I’m going to preface this by saying I am not a political junkie by any stretch of the imagination.  I generally keep my thoughts to myself and don’t engage in political debate.  However, I was totally and completely RIVETED by Tuesday morning’s keynote at SHRM16.

The keynote paired Fox News’ Tucker Carlson with CNN’s Paul Begala in a lively, and at times heated point/counterpoint discussion on the current political climate, the implications of the upcoming election, and why HR pros should care about it all.

This was the second keynote that paired two speakers together, in both cases with individuals that would seem to be more different than alike, but in the end pulled together some common themes.   Though Carlson’s and Begala’s political leanings were glaringly on opposite sides of the spectrum in most cases, the dialogue was, as I mentioned earlier, riveting, and both came through with some common themes for the HR professionals in attendance.

So why exactly should we care and be paying attention to the state of politics in today’s world?  Well, the simple answer is this: our organizations are a microcosm of the nation at large, and what’s happening in the larger electorate is also happening in our organizations.  So what are some of those things that are happening?

 

Median Income Has Stalled

Our middle class is under unprecedented economic pressure, and income equalities exist throughout the nation.  Median incomes have stalled for a large proportion of American citizens, and without a thriving middle class, it’s difficult to have a thriving economy.  For many of us, a large percentage of our workforces very well may fall into this struggling middle class (if not even lower middle class for those with a large percentage of hourly wage workers).  Income/finance concerns are very real to these folks.  Do we recognize that?  Are we aware and sensitive to their realities of working paycheck to paycheck in some cases?  How in tune are we with the reality of the makeup of our workforces?

 

An Explosion of Diversity

In both the larger electorate and within our organizations, there is a fundamental shift in the makeup of those populations.  The new electorate has a much larger percentage of younger people, people of color, and unmarried women than ever before, and that diversity translates over to our workplaces.  The challenge is that there are still people, including people in our workforces, who have a difficult time adapting to these changing times.  It doesn’t make them bad people, it doesn’t make them “haters” or “bigots,” in many cases it just makes them people with a difficulty adapting to change or shifting the view of reality they’ve just always known.  As HR pros, we have an obligation to promote diverse and inclusive workforces, and help those that struggle with adapting learn to adapt and accept the new reality (at least in the workplace – we can’t control what happens outside of work!)

Tucker Carlson noted that people generally are not wired to handle the current pace of social change, and the single largest failure of the “elite” is not recognizing that fact.  I wonder how many of our organizations are guilty of this very thing?  Do our leaders recognize those that are struggling?  Though it may not be possible to slow down the pace of change, what can we do to help our folks accept it?

 

Your Background Shapes Your Outlook

The final point to be made is that where you live has a profound impact on your outlook.  If you were raised in, or now live in a fairly affluent area, that reality shapes how you see the world and the issues that matter to you.  However, most of our organizations include a cross section of people from all walks of life…are we as HR pros and leaders equipped to be able to understand their versions of reality?  What matters in an affluent area varies greatly from the issues that matter in Middle America, and that varies greatly from lower income/impoverished areas.  Many of us in leadership positions may tend to bias towards the view of a more affluent populations, but can we put ourselves in the positions of those with a very different world view?

So much food for thought and points to ponder for everyone in the room Tuesday morning.

 


Checking In From #SHRM16 – Macro & “MikeRowe” Breakthroughs

The 2016 edition of the Society for Human Resource Management Annual Conference and Expo is well underway.

The annual pilgrimage of 15,000 human resource pros to experience everything HR related kicked off with a Sunday opening general session featuring Alan Mullaly (of Ford and Boeing fame) and “Dirty Jobs” host Mike Rowe (who was, for the record, the most entertaining keynote I can remember in recent years).  What was seemingly an odd pairing to speak together turned out to be a wonderfully complementary approach to breakthroughs (which, incidentally is the theme of SHRM16).  We’ll call it the Macro and the “MikeRowe” approach.

 

The Macro Approach

Alan Mullaly began with a narrative about his days when he took over the Ford Motor Company.  At that time, the company was losing $17 million dollars, no sign of success by any stretch of the imagination.  However, if one were to review their business charts, everything was marked as “green,” meaning all was well and good and on target.

What?

The approach that Mullaly went on to describe involved an intense focus on people.  In fact, he cited Human Resources the biggest competitive advantage an organization can have, as it’s their role to managing the resources – the people – that make things happen.  Nice to hear from a successful CEO, isn’t it?  He talked about first and foremost about being honest about your failures.  Blissful ignorance is not going to help your bottom line, and if your people don’t understand the reality, they aren’t going to know what needs to be worked towards.  Then you need to believe in your people to get the job done.  You either believe or you don’t believe, and if you don’t, you better get to a place that you can.  The next question is does EVERYONE know the plan to accomplish the goals that need to be reached?  Communication and setting of expectations is key.   Then empower them to listen, help, and respect each other and understand their role in working towards the necessary outcome.  Lastly, make sure they feel appreciated for what they do.  His approach was everything we as HR pros should already be practicing and preaching, but to hear it from someone as successful as Alan Mullaly really drove it home.

 

The “MikeRowe” Approach

Mike Rowe then came on stage and entertained the crowd with his hilarious and vividly detailed description of hosting “Evening Magazine” (his former show) in the sewers of San Francisco that ultimately led to the creation of “Dirty Jobs.”  Amongst descriptions of everything you’d expect when talking about sewers (there was much simultaneous laughing and cringing in the room), he talked about having a “peripeteia,” a concept used in fictional narratives that essentially means a change in fortune or change in direction.  Call it a breakthrough of sorts.  In the filth of the sewers of San Francisco, he realized that there are unsung heroes in all manners of work who not only do what most of us would never dream, but many do it happily….more than can be said for a large percent of the unengaged workforce today if we’re to believe the statistics.  His peripeteia led to the creation of “Dirty Jobs” where he highlights many of these such people.  He took his message further by encouraging the HR pros in the room to find their own peripeteia and breakthrough the fundamental disconnect with work that’s present in so many organizations.  Many of our organizations don’t value all work equally, yet the job that everyone does is important and ultimately drives organizational success.  How do we as HR pros recognize this, and ensure that everyone is valued for what they contribute, no matter how “small” the job?  This particularly resonated with me, coming from a retailer with over 16,000 employees.  The cashier that regularly waits on the same customer in a small, rural community is just as important to overall company success as the Category Managers at the corporate office or the District Managers in the field.  In their own corner of our organizational world, they make a difference.  Do they know that?  Are they recognized for that?  Do we as HR pros do enough to ensure this?

The theme of everyone contributing to organizational success and the importance of communicating and recognizing that was the thread that tied the two speakers together in my mind.  And it was also my biggest takeaway from Sunday’s session.

 

 

About the Author: Jennifer Payne, SPHR, SHRM-SCP has almost two decades of HR experience in employee relations, talent acquisition, learning & development, and employee communications, and currently works in talent management in the retail grocery industry.  She is one of the co-founders of Women of HR, and is currently the Editor of the site. You can connect with her on Twitter as @JennyJensHR and on LinkedIn.

 

 

 

 


Understanding the Reality of Gender Discrimination in Performance Reviews

Posted on June 14th, by a Guest Contributor in Business and Workplace, Workplace Culture. No Comments

The act of reviewing an employee’s performance regularly and objectively has many benefits. The assessment can help the employee gauge their progress and make appropriate adjustments to the way they approach their work. Ultimately, this can lead to a motivated, skilled and active workforce.

With this in mind, it is clear that having objective and constructive performance discussions is something every organisation should work toward. Unfortunately, this does not always happen. Managers carrying out the reviews are human beings, and as such are subject to both conscious and unconscious biases. Even those who believe themselves to be completely egalitarian can still be guilty of unwitting bias based on preconceived stereotypes, as was demonstrated in a series of Implicit Association Tests carried out by Mahzarin Banaji. Often, this prejudice is levelled at women.

 

The impact of gender discrimination on employees

Given that a favourable performance review can affect an employee’s chances of progressing within an organisation, the issue of gender bias needs to be addressed. An employee who feels unfairly treated will be demotivated, so it makes good business sense to try and remove unconscious biases wherever possible. Hidden biases such as gender discrimination, according to Caroline Simard, the director of research at the Clayman Institute, also create “cumulative disadvantage over a woman’s career over time, resulting in lower access to key leadership positions and stretch assignments, advancement and pay.”

Despite this, it has been found in a 2015 study that only one-third of employees feel that gender equality was a priority within their organisation.

 

Addressing stereotypical language

Recent research demonstrates that  female employees are assessed differently to their male counterparts. This difference presents itself both in the language used to describe an employee and the quality of constructive feedback provided.

It was made clear in a 2014 Fortune article that women were much more likely to receive a critical performance review than men. The data collected for the study was analysed by a linguist, who examined both the type and frequency of the words used in a sample of performance reviews. It was found that female employees were much more likely to be negatively described as ‘abrasive’, ‘strident’ and ‘aggressive’  while demonstrating behaviour that, in men, was considered ‘confident’ and ‘assertive’. The linguist discusses how the word ‘abrasive’ was used seventeen times to describe thirteen different women. Only the word ‘aggressive’ was used in the men’s performance reviews, and this was used to praise and encourage. Interestingly, the gender of the manager was not an issue — both female and male managers were generally more negative toward female employees.

 

Addressing unhelpful, critical reviews

The study mentioned above also reflects the reality that when men are given negative reviews, there is generally a constructive element to be found. Should they be found lacking in certain areas, they are given clear instructions on how to develop their skills to perform better in the future. The feedback provided to women, conversely, was more negative and far less specific. They were notified of areas where they were not performing as desired, but they were not given the tools necessary to improve. Such behaviour not only does the employee a disservice, but it also guarantees that the organisation does not reach its full potential.

 

How HR can eliminate gender discrimination in performance reviews

In an ideal world, all biased behaviour, both conscious and unconscious, would be eliminated overnight. Unfortunately, this is impossible, but equality is certainly something we can work toward in order to ensure a fairer, better functioning organisation. It begins with addressing the issue head-on and promoting a conscious awareness regarding gender bias.

One method of tackling gender discrimination is to encourage managers to be mindful of their language. Words used in a performance review should be constructive and objective. Judgemental and emotive words should be avoided, and the review process should prioritise communication both ways. Open communication allows the employee to respond, while providing a balanced and accurate view of the situation.

In a similar vein, the HR department could benefit greatly by introducing a means of providing anonymous feedback to employees. This system enables staff the freedom to report behaviour that they are uncomfortable with, without the possibility of facing any personal repercussions. Such feedback may highlight important and concerning issues when it comes to the running of an organisation; for example, it may come to light that the staff believe that men are consulted far more regularly than women when it comes to important business decisions.

Managers should also ensure that their reviews are specific. The evaluation of the employee’s performance should be considered against agreed objectives, behaviours and values. In this way, performance reviews are less subjective and a far more fair way of evaluating performance.

 

About the Author: Stuart Hearn heads up a team who designs innovative performance management software. He has been working in the HR sector for over 20 years, previously working for Sony Music Publishing and co-founding PlusHR.