ReimagineHR: 4 Emerging Themes in Diversity and Inclusion

ReimagineHR: 4 Emerging Themes in Diversity and Inclusion

At the CEB’s ReimagineHR event in Washington, DC, last Wednesday, over 60 diversity and inclusion leaders and other HR leaders came together to discuss where their organizations were in their D&I journey and how best to continue advancing it. Participants in Wednesday’s session answered a series of live survey questions and engaged in a dialogue with panelists Nellie Borrero, Senior Global Inclusion and Diversity Managing Director at Accenture, and Karen Wilkins-Mickey, Director of Diversity and Inclusion at Alaska Air Group, Inc.

The conversation focused on strategy and metrics as well as branding and communications. Although D&I leaders continue to face many of the same issues raised in last year’s peer benchmarking session, a few new themes emerged from the conversation on Wednesday:

1) D&I Leaders Must Align Their Efforts to the Organization’s Values

Gaining buy-in for advancing D&I is still a challenge for many D&I leaders. However, some organizations have found success by embedding D&I efforts into business objectives. When D&I is connected to initiatives or goals the organization already values, senior leaders come to see how it relates to their day-to-day work. One participant said their organization does this by tying measurements of diversity and inclusion to business results in order to communicate the impact of D&I on the business.

Organizations beginning their D&I journey may be tempted to move quickly to get to the more progressive D&I initiatives, but skipping foundational steps such as aligning D&I efforts to organizational values can slow down their ability to move forward in the future. “Don’t jump the gun in your D&I journey,” Wilkins-Mickey said. “Even if you are a senior D&I professional, if your company is new to this space, you need to meet them where they are.”

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Facebook Workplace Lands Walmart, Proves Useful During Hurricane Harvey

Facebook Workplace Lands Walmart, Proves Useful During Hurricane Harvey

Facebook’s enterprise social network, Workplace, has scored a major new customer in Walmart, the world’s largest private employer. The retail giant has already been testing the product, and will continue to phase the platform in among its other internal communication tools, though it’s not yet clear if or when Workplace will be available to all of the company’s employees.

Workplace by Facebook was launched less than a year ago, but with more than 14,000 companies using the service—including Delta Air Lines, Booking.com, Canadian Tire, Lyft, and Starbucks—it is already a serious competitor in an increasingly crowded field of enterprise communications and collaboration offerings. (Facebook hasn’t announced how many active daily users Workplace has.)

Since its inception, one of Workplace’s main selling points has been Facebook’s omnipresence as a social media platform. Most workers, and especially most millennials, are already likely to be familiar with the look, feel, and functionality of the Facebook-like Workplace, so organizations should have an easier time getting their workforces to adopt and actually use the platform without much of a learning curve.

According to a Walmart spokesperson, per Fast Company‘s Emily Price, that ease-of-use is precisely why the retail giant was drawn to the product, and they’ve already been pleased with how the service has improved communication where they have rolled it out. For instance, leaders at the company have been using the Live video feature to conduct more visually compelling all-hands meetings, and associates have been sharing photos of their best in-store display ideas. In addition, the platform became a vital asset to both Walmart and Delta during Hurricane Harvey, as Price explains:

“We were able to use the Live capability to share our current weather updates and what was happening with people that were in the field from our Emergency Operation Center. We also were using it to gather kind of information about what was happening on the ground very quickly. Part of that was because of the ease of use with the mobile [experience,” Walmart’s Dan Kneeshaw explained.]

And they weren’t the only company to use Workplace after the hurricane. Delta, for instance, used Facebook to help check in with its employees using a new feature called Safety Officer, a variation of Facebook’s Safety Check feature.

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Hurricane Harvey: What Employers Need to Know, and How HR Can Help

Hurricane Harvey: What Employers Need to Know, and How HR Can Help

In one of the worst natural disasters in US history, Hurricane Harvey has dumped more than 11 trillion gallons of rain on the Houston metro area and other parts of southeast Texas, leading to catastrophic flooding throughout the region. While the city of Houston was not ordered to evacuate, most organizations in the city, including major employers like NASA’s Johnson Space Center, ConocoPhillips, and Waste Management, Inc., were closed on Monday and instructed employees to stay home, according to the Wall Street Journal. Some encouraged employees who were safe to work remotely from home. Many local businesses and national firms with a presence in the region, including major retail chains like Target and Walmart have closed their stores in the area and are participating in relief efforts by donating money or emergency supplies.

For organizations whose employees are affected by the hurricane, the first priority in the coming days and weeks is to communicate with employees about the status of their workplaces and projects, as well as benefits and resources available to them, as Amanda Eisenberg highlights at Employee Benefit News:

“The most important thing to communicate is what the employers are doing for the employees and the community,” says LuAnn Heinen, vice president of the National Business Group on Health. “First of all, that help is on the way.”

Employers also are going to have to be flexible, she says. Employees need to know if they are expected to come into the workplace, and if they can’t, whether they can work remotely. Schools are likely to be closed, and relatives might have been relocated from nursing homes or hospitals to shelters. Employees might need access to childcare or eldercare, and companies should be in constant communication to relay those benefits, Heinen explains.

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Google Cancels Town Hall Meeting on Diversity Memo Following Online Harassment of Employees

Google Cancels Town Hall Meeting on Diversity Memo Following Online Harassment of Employees

Google CEO Sundar Pichai canceled a town hall meeting he had scheduled for Thursday to discuss the issues raised by an employee’s controversial memo questioning the company’s diversity and inclusion initiatives, and the subsequent termination of the author of that memo, engineer James Damore. Pichai said he opted to cancel the meeting after questions intended for the meeting were leaked to the media and some Google employees’ names ended up on “alt-right” websites, resulting in them becoming targets of online harassment, Recode’s Kara Swisher reports:

“We had hoped to have a frank, open discussion today as we always do to bring us together and move forward. But our [internally submitted] questions appeared externally this afternoon, and on some websites Googlers are now being named personally,” wrote Pichai to employees. “Googlers are writing in, concerned about their safety and worried they may be ‘outed’ publicly for asking a question in the Town Hall.” …

Sources inside Google said some employees had begun to experience “doxxing” — online harassment that can take various forms and is defined as “searching for and publishing private or identifying information about [a particular individual] on the internet, typically with malicious intent.” Several sites … have been publishing internal discussion posts and giving out information on those employees.

“In recognition of Googlers’ concerns,” Pichai wrote in his announcement that the meeting was canceled, “we need to step back and create a better set of conditions for us to have the discussion. So in the coming days we will find several forums to gather and engage with Googlers, where people can feel comfortable to speak freely.”

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How Should Employers Respond to Challenges Like Google’s Diversity Memo?

How Should Employers Respond to Challenges Like Google’s Diversity Memo?

Google’s decision to fire James Damore, a senior engineer who circulated a memo criticizing the company’s diversity efforts and making questionable claims about the biological differences between men and women, was bound to fan the flames of the controversy the memo had sparked. Was terminating this employee the right call? Reasonable arguments can be made on both sides of the debate, and as our HR practice leader Brian Kropp remarked in an interview with the Washington Post, Google had no good options here: Whether it had fired Damore or declined to fire him, either decision was going to upset a certain group of people.

One of the challenges that any talent executive or head of diversity and inclusion will face when inflammatory internal communications like Damore’s memo go public is in figuring out whether they are dealing with a single person who has managed to rile up the Internet (the “don’t feed the trolls” challenge), or are facing a real source of tension from a segment of the workforce. If it’s the former, it’s a great opportunity to make sure that people are aware that you are addressing D&I, and that it’s a key part of your core values; if the latter, it could prompt the organization to reorganize its D&I strategy along the lines of what Deloitte is doing, and double down on inclusion to ensure that everyone gets on board.

Below are some thoughts on what the Google controversy reveals about the challenges facing diversity and inclusion, as well as what employers can learn from the debate in order to strengthen their future D&I efforts.

The Dangers of Backlash

The downside for an organization of reacting to an incident like this with absolute rejection is that it contributes to the framing of D&I as a zero-sum game, which gives ammunition to those who oppose it. When an organization treats a skeptic like Damore as a threat, employees who fear being left behind by D&I efforts or having their viewpoints marginalized in pursuit of diversity will tend to see that as proof of their point. While Google CEO Sundar Pichai told employees that Damore’s memo had crossed a line by advancing harmful gender stereotypes, he also acknowledged the more valid concerns it raised about whether Google’s approach to diversity was optimal and whether employees with minority opinions could safely express them in the workplace.

In other words, irrespective of whether Damore violated norms of professionalism and collegiality in the way he voiced his opinions, and of whether the company was within its rights to terminate his employment, Google does not want to be perceived as making rules about what employees are allowed to think.

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How Can HR Business Partners Stop ‘Putting Out Fires’ and Get Strategic?

How Can HR Business Partners Stop ‘Putting Out Fires’ and Get Strategic?

At Strategy+Business, leadership consultant Elizabeth Doty identifies “firefighting”— or everyday crisis management—as a major drag on business, a cost driver, and a waste of valuable time and effort for many organizations:

On closer inspection, the vast majority of fires are preventable. They are essentially “rework” — the added effort and cost required because something was not done right the first time. Unfortunately, firms can get stuck in a vicious cycle of rework, shortcuts, and more rework. I once worked with a workers compensation firm that discovered they could cut costly disputes and attorney involvement by contacting injured workers within 24 hours. Still, new claims would languish for a full five to seven days, because employees were dealing with all the prior claims that had gone to court. Unfortunately, this meant 80 percent of those new claims would also involve attorneys and disputes. In aggregate, rework costs can be huge. The Juran Institute estimated in 2010 that 15 to 20 percent of revenues for manufacturing companies went to rework; for service businesses, it estimated 30 to 35 percent.

“Firefighting” or “rework” may sound like a familiar job activity to many HR business partners; indeed, this is one reason why the shift that employers are looking for HRBPs to make, from tactical to strategic employees, has been so difficult to achieve.

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