The witching hour is upon us, and SHRM’s legal blogger Allen Smith highlights some of the spooky liabilities employers can court with typical workplace Halloween events:
Take an employer that set up a haunted house on its premises in a town that did not have one. The Midwest-based financial services company thought that it was being altruistic, but because of the haunted house’s poor design, a chainsaw-wielding accountant dressed up as Jason Voorhees from the “Friday the 13th” horror movies chased an intern into a wall and she broke her nose. If a company is not in the business of running haunted houses, it should think twice before setting one up, cautioned Philippe Weiss, managing director of Seyfarth Shaw at Work in Chicago.
Even if no one is injured, Halloween events at work are sometimes so over the top that they lead to bad public relations. … Costumes can also pose safety risks at work, so costume guidelines may be in order. In manufacturing settings, there’s a risk of injuries from long flowing costumes, said John McLafferty, an attorney with Day Pitney in Boston.
Halloween events, particularly costume parties, run risks from the perspective of diversity and inclusion as well. As Fortune’s Ellen McGirt observes, some people take their Halloween costumes well beyond the bounds of sensible taste, and are still showing up to work events dressed to offend colleagues and customers:
According to our diversity and inclusion research at CEB, now Gartner, creating an inclusive team climate is just as important as improving diversity. However, organizations still struggle to determine what inclusion looks like for them. For many of us, the concept of diversity is concrete, but inclusion feels a lot less defined. D&I budgets are increasingly focused on leadership development and D&I leaders are making inclusive leadership a priority, but most employees don’t agree that their manager fosters an inclusive environment, and perceptions of inclusivity are lower further down the organization chart than they are among senior leaders.
In a session on building inclusive leaders at our ReimagineHR conference on Wednesday, we heard from Bob Lennon, VP of Industrial Components Business at Rockwell Automation; Aida Sabo, VP of Diversity and Inclusion at Parexel; and Celeste Warren, VP of HR and the Global D&I Center of Excellence at Merck, about how they are defining inclusion for their organizations and implementing it in their organizational cultures. Here are some key ideas that came up in Wednesday’s conversation for how to encourage inclusiveness among leaders and the entire workforce:
Create a Common Language of Inclusion
The definitions of “diversity” and “inclusion” can vary across organizations and each leader and employee also may have a different interpretation of how these live within the company. The most successful organizations, however, define the D&I narrative for all their leaders and employees globally. By using a common vocabulary to communicate D&I efforts to the workforce, the organization can have a clear understanding of what inclusion means. Storytelling also can be an essential tool for communicating the success of inclusion initiatives, as it is important to know what metrics and success stories to share with leaders, employees, and external stakeholders to create transparency and accountability.
Make Inclusion About the Entire Workforce
Oftentimes employees who do not identify as a part of a marginalized talent segment feel excluded by D&I efforts, but according to our panelists, it is not only important to get these employees to buy into inclusion, they are in fact an essential part of these initiatives. Some employees get stuck because they don’t know where they are in their own journey of inclusion or recognize the significance of supporting D&I as an ally.
The Ascend Foundation, a non-profit Pan-Asian career lifecycle organization, published a report this week on racial inequality in the US tech sector. Analyzing EEO-1 data for 2015-2017 from hundreds of San Francisco Bay Area tech companies, the study concluded that “diversity in technology leadership roles has generally stagnated over the last decade,” while race is “an increasingly more significant impediment than gender to climbing the management ladder, with Asian women and Hispanic women most affected.” Other key findings include:
- Asians are the least likely to be promoted to managerial or executive positions, in spite of being the largest minority group of professionals and the most likely to be hired. In particular, Asian women are the least represented group as executives, at 66% underrepresentation.
- White men and women are twice as likely as Asians to become executives and hold almost three times the number of executive jobs.
- Even though white women are now substantially more successful in reaching the executive level than ALL minority men or women, white men are still 47% more likely than white women to be executives.
- Both Blacks and Hispanics have declined in their percentage share of the professional workforce despite efforts to hire more underrepresented minorities.
“When we used the Executive Parity Index to compare the numbers of minorities as executives to their numbers in the workforce, it was clear that that efforts to promote more Asians, Blacks, and Hispanics have made no meaningful impact to the minority glass ceiling,” said Buck Gee, a former vice president and general manager at Cisco Systems who is an Ascend executive advisor and a study co-author. “That said, we saw progress made by white women, so we know tech companies can change. Now it’s time to do the same for minority men and women.”
This report represents a major contribution to the literature on racial diversity and discrimination in the tech sector, particularly in dismantling the myth that Asian-Americans are unaffected by bias or even unfairly advantaged. What Ascend found was that while Asian employees are not overtly discriminated against in policies or practices, they observed “a pattern of cultural traits among some Asians that did not align with leadership expectations in Western corporate culture, such as risk-taking and being confrontational,” Gee tells Wired’s Nitasha Tiku:
In recent years, many organizations have been looking for ways to make their recruiting processes less dependent on the bias and subjectivity of hiring managers, whether by using technology to hold blind interviews, making hiring decisions with pre-hire skills tests, or handing the process over entirely to an algorithm. Udemy leadership coach Lawrence Miller has a different approach, as he explains to Fast Company’s Stephanie Vozza, which entails having candidates interview each other rather than be interviewed by a manager:
Miller found the best employees for his Maryland-based management-consulting firm when he turned the interview process upside down, bringing in candidates in small groups, and asking them to interview him and his team and then each other. … When they completed their interviews, Miller gave each person a piece of paper that had these four questions:
- Who would you hire and why?
- Who do you think is most technically competent to do this job?
- Who has the best skills?
- Who would you choose to be stranded with in an airport during a snowstorm?
“The last question was a good indicator of likeability,” says Miller. “We found that question to be the most reliable, because in the kind of consulting we did, it was a really good predictor of who would succeed.”
Other experts Vozza spoke to warned, however, that this process can have drawbacks, such as putting introverts at a disadvantage and making it more difficult for candidates to get a genuine view into the organization. Another major issue with this practice is that having candidates interview each other creates an entirely new opportunity for bias.
Jopwell, a recruiting startup focused on connecting hiring managers with racially diverse candidates, has raised a $7.5 million Series A funding round led by Cue Ball Capital, Megan Rose Dickey notes at TechCrunch, giving it a total war chest of $11.75 million:
Founded by Porter Braswell and Ryan Williams, Jopwell has an impressive group of investors, including Magic Johnson Enterprises, Andreessen Horowitz, Kapor Capital and Joe Montana. This new round of funding will enable Jopwell to scale and take on more companies, Braswell and Williams told me. Jopwell’s primary focus has been on Fortune 1000 companies, but over the past two years or so, the company has seen demand from younger companies.
VentureBeat’s Bérénice Magistretti takes a closer look at the company and its product:
Candidates create a profile on the Jopwell website, much like on other job recruiting sites — the difference being that they are asked to select their racial identity. … Once the profile has been created, the system uses algorithms that analyze a candidate’s resume, skills, past experiences, and preferences, thus allowing Jopwell to tailor the pool of qualified applicants for hiring managers at partner companies. These include Airbnb, BlackRock, Facebook, LinkedIn, Lyft, Pinterest, and the NBA (Magic Johnson is an investor in Jopwell).
Mindful of the risk of alienating allies and the potential backlash against diversity and inclusion, some organizations have recently been rethinking and retooling their D&I efforts to be “colorblind”—i.e., to de-emphasize demographic differences and attempt to achieve greater inclusion by removing spaces created for employees of specific, underrepresented demographics. Reacting to this trend, and specifically Deloitte’s controversial decision to do away with employee resource groups, Paradigm founder and CEO Joelle Emerson lays out the case against colorblindness at the Harvard Business Review:
The negative impact of colorblindness on organizations and individual employees has been well documented. Downplaying demographic differences reduces the engagement of underrepresented employees and increases their perceptions of bias from their white colleagues. Moreover, the cognitive load of attempting to appear colorblind when we all, of course, do notice difference can ironically result in more biased behaviors from white employees, or lead them to avoid the intergroup collaborations that can spark innovation and enrich their work. Colorblindness is a quantifiably ineffective inclusion strategy for individuals and organizations. Multiculturalism, the opposite of colorblindness, stresses recognition and inclusion of group differences and has been shown to benefit minority employees and organizations at large. …
If both ally engagement and designated spaces for discrete populations are important, what’s the solution? Efforts need not be either-or. In fact, the most effective ones must do both.
Emerson is not the first critic to question Deloitte’s approach to ERGs along these lines. Before going down the road of ERGs entirely, organizations can consider other ways to make them more inclusive while also ensuring that they still primarily focus on the needs of underrepresented employees. If the challenge they face with ERGs is involving allies, particularly white men, leaders can consider opening up these groups to allies rather than abolishing them.
In our D&I research at CEB (now Gartner), we have also seen organizations questioning colorblindness (and gender-blindness) in making decisions on performance reviews and succession management.
A new survey of ethnic minority business leaders in the UK from the consultancy Green Park shows that racial discrimination remains a serious challenge in the British workplaces, while UK businesses are not making sufficient progress toward meeting diversity and inclusion goals. The survey’s headline findings include that 18 percent of these leaders have personally experienced workplace discrimination in the past two years and that 82 percent of them do not trust their organizations and believe that there is institutional prejudice against minorities in the UK, People Management’s Emily Burt reports:
Meanwhile, just 2 per cent of companies surveyed by Green Park reported that they were meeting their targets for ethnic minority board-level representation, while more than a tenth (13 per cent) said they had an ethnic diversity target but no strategy for meeting it. …
However, nearly three-quarters (73 per cent) of those surveyed felt most workplace prejudice was unconscious. In light of this, the researchers recommended that changes in attitudes towards institutional racism must come from the top and not just left to HR to “sort out”. But while 60 per cent of the surveyed ethnic minority leaders said they believed tackling institutional racism had moved up the organisational agenda in recent months, two-thirds of these respondents said workplace language around racism was emotive and made people uncomfortable.
Burt also points to a study published earlier in the year by the University of Manchester, which reviewed 25,000 incidents of racism in the workplace and came to the conclusion “that workplace racism was increasingly normalised,” with nearly 30 percent of surveyed employees saying they had “either witnessed or experienced racism from managers, colleagues, customers or suppliers.”
Meanwhile, the BBC reports on another new study conducted by the Trades Union Congress, which also found that more than one third of black or minority ethnic workers have experienced racism in the workplace: