5 Focus Area – Diversity & Inclusion

A recent study by Crescendo reflected that although 92% of HR professionals believe a Diversity & Inclusion (D&I) strategy is important, only 33% of them have a formal strategy at their company.  The biggest reasons for this disparity is getting internal buy-in and just knowing where and how to start.  The first step is to start a conversation.

The team at Crescendo has created an open source D&I Guide that they’ve shared with the Post’d People Group.  Below we provide 5 Focus Areas to get started.  You can view Crescendo’s complete guide here.

D&I involves the whole organization but can grow organically, which means you can focus on the five foundational items that make the most impact.

1. Identify Core D&I Challenges in Your Organization – While research points to common issues across the board, this area is about finding what in your organization is bottlenecking progress towards a more inclusive workplace. It’s important to note this step is about knowledge collection, not judging or pointing fingers.

2. Getting Senior Leadership Buy-In for Your D&I Strategy – When building a business case, remember executives are humans, too. Some will immediately be on board, but others may be skeptical and not believe it’s an issue until they hear feedback from employees. You may also face executives who believe D&I is not important; that’s where cold, hard facts come in.

3. Creating Conversations & Awareness of Workplace Inclusion Initiatives – After getting executive buy-in, the real work begins to create conversations and awareness about inclusion challenges and solutions. Awareness can come in many forms, whether a large event, one on one chats, or technological solutions.

4. Equipping Middle Management & HR for Long-Term Success – Middle managers and HR need the same buy-in work as executives, but with another step after. Make sure you explain how they play a role in each of the planned initiatives, offering education, resources, or access to you along the way so they are “just-in-time” prepared.  If you face resistance from middle management, show them the facts about inclusion helping team dynamics: one study from Forbes found teams that follow inclusive processes make decisions 2x faster with 1/2 as many meetings.

5.  Building Structures & Policies for Scaling Inclusion – Policies and procedures help to create lasting, scalable inclusive practices. There’s no standard course of action for which policy change should come first, so this is a good time to go back to the Problem Identification research and see what employees asked for. Be sure to also check best practice research for data-driven insights.  In all policies and procedures, offer frameworks that guide action so people can make their own decisions. You’re not there to tell everyone what to do in every situation, so policies and procedures need to give a pathway for people to walk down with appropriate escalation as needed.

HR Priorities for the Present & Future

The role of the Human Resources professional has metamorphosed and grown significantly in the past 10 years.  Previously, the HR team was often seen as sitting on their own island as disciplinarians for the organization but long gone are those days.  Presently, many companies have adopted the “People” role in lieu of HR to represent not only the company but employees as well.  The growth of the HR Business Partner role has brought together diverse departments to become one cross-functional unit integrated through the HR/People team.

A decade ago organizations were scrambling to build creative and competitive cultures.  While culture still remains a priority a new set of strategic planning initiatives are being born within the HR hemisphere. Below we explore some top of mind HR priorities for the present and future.

1. Implement strategic diversity and inclusion plans – an organization cannot be diverse if it’s not inclusive. Consider unconscious bias training for managers and employees.  D&I drives innovation and the most diverse companies are most successful.

2. Embrace technology –Being an early adopter and open-minded to new technology will set you apart from antiquated organizations.  Automate processes from onboarding to benefits and PTO, and performance management and financial wellness tools.  Each day brings new technology to the HR world, stay abreast of the latest and greatest.

3. Compliance – In the past few years a wealth of compliance issues has come to the forefront, FMLA, paid family leave, salary history ban, and mandatory harassment training, just scratches the surface.  Align yourself with a strong HR/Benefits consultant to ensure you are staying ahead of the curve and not falling behind.

4. Communication – Foster a culture that builds community with your employees. People who feel there are open channels of communication feel safe and heard.  These same people tend to feel more confident in the workplace, perform better and stay at a job longer.

5. Data & Metrics – There’s no better way to prove the effectiveness of something that with hard data. Develop metrics to support programs and initiatives you are rolling out.  This will give you a clear understanding of what’s working and what isn’t, what to keep doing and what to change.

6. High performance benefits – Employees are becoming savvy healthcare consumers. Providing them with education and tools to support effective decision making with their healthcare is becoming more important than ever.  In addition to traditional health insurance, provide employees with on-demand healthcare and cost-comparison tools to keep costs down and improve their experience.  Consider implementing a multi-prong wellness strategy which encompasses health, financial and family planning benefits.  Let your employees know you are thinking about the things that are important to them and they will feel part of a community rather than just coming to work to collect a paycheck.

Compensation 101

As employers compete for top talent, especially quickly scaling organizations, compensation strategies are top of mind. Having a strong handle on everything compensation will not only help with recruitment but drive engagement of employees and improve retention.

We recently hosted an event with the team at Proskauer on Compensation 101. We discussed a breadth of topics that included: what employers should be thinking about when making compensation decisions, the Dos/Don’ts during the interview process and how to properly conduct pay equity analyses.  Below we’ve shared some of the key take-aways.

Breaking Down the Basics:

  • Gender based pay discrimination is prohibited. The Equal Pay Law states that employers are prohibited from paying unequal wages (including all forms of compensation: wages, benefits, bonuses) to men and women who perform substantially equal skill [experience, education, training], effort [amount of physical/mental exertion required] and responsibility [degree of accountability] under similar working conditions [physical surroundings and hazards] and within the same establishment [distinct physical place of business].
  • There may be legitimate reasoning for such a difference including  seniority, merit-based, quantity or quality of production and any factor other than sex including education, training or experience that is job-related to the position in question and consistent with business necessity.
  • If there are differences in pay, employers are required to prove why such differentials exist and should document such reasons.
  • California Fair Pay Law: In California, one employee cannot get paid lower wages than another employee of the opposite sex for substantially similar work, (formerly equal work) which is determined by analyzing skill, effort and responsibility and considering whether the work is performed under similar working conditions. The work doesn’t need to be compared in “same establishment” as is true for NY, and employees can discuss or inquire about wages of those in comparable roles throughout a company.

Inquiring About Salary History:

  • It is illegal for private employers to inquire about salary history in CA, CT, DE, HI, MA, OR, NYC, Albany County in NY, Philly, San Fran, Suffolk County in NY, PR, VT and Westchester County in NY
  • Employers also cannot search public databases for salary records or reports at any stage in the hiring process
  • Employers may not rely on applicants salary history to determine compensation for an applicant at any point in hiring process unless the applicant discloses the information willingly and without being prompted. In this case, the employer may consider the information when determining  compensation as well as verify the accuracy of the information
  • Employers are allowed to engage in conversation about salary expectations and about unvested equity or deferred comp being left on the table
  • NYC employers cannot simply have a disclaimer for individuals in NYC or those applying for jobs in NYC that they need not respond to boiler-point applications that request salary information. It is best to just to remove that question all together

Equal Pay Audits:

  • As a start-up, it is best not to perform equal pay audits if you do not have the means and willingness to take action if discrepancies are found. The worst thing a company can do is perform an audit, find differences and then put the evidence on the shelf without taking action.
  • Document everything with great detail as to why there are differences and why they are warranted if no action to remediate the differences will occur.

Best Practices During an Audit:

  • Develop a communication protocol
    • limit the number stakeholders involved
    • mark all documents privileged and confidential
  • Conduct the audit at direction of legal counsel
  • Develop and execute a remediation strategy shortly after analysis is complete to minimize potential liability

Ongoing Best Practices:

1) Train managers and decision makers on what factors can and cannot be used during consideration of compensation
2) Document all salary decisions and negotiations at hire and over time
3) Avoid gender pay gap
4) If job descriptions are updated, share them with employees and keep on record

Do’s & Don’ts of Interviews:

  • Do not ask age, date of birth, age of children, when an applicant attended or graduated from school. There are no appropriate questions to ask related to age
  • Do not inquire about an applicants religious denomination, affiliation, holidays observed or place of worship. You may frame a question as “apart from religious observances, will you be able to work when necessary?”
  • Do not ask about marital status or family planning or reproduction
  • Do not ask about race
  • Appropriate to ask for salary expectations and if a candidate is forfeiting deferred comp if any,do not ask for salary history
  • Do not ask for an emergency contact
  • Appropriate to ask if an applicant requires accommodation to perform essentials functions of a job. Do not ask if candidate has a disability, has been treated for a specific disease, how many days they were out sick last year or any prescriptions they are on
  • Do not ask an applicants national origin  or inquire into ancestry
  • Appropriate to ask which languages someone speaks or writes fluently in but do not  ask how they learned to read, write or speak a foreign language
  • Do not inquire about a criminal record
  • Appropriate to ask place of residence but do not ask if they rent or own home
  • Appropriate to ask an applicant to verify their legal right to work in the US after hire
  • Appropriate to ask about academic history and work experience, but do not ask about graduation dates or years of school attendance

Strategies for Effective Change Management

Whether you’re a part of a hyper-growth startup or established enterprise organization the potential for change management is always present.  Mergers and acquisitions, as well as initial public offerings are often the impetus of these company transitions.  So how do you navigate these changes from the people perspective?

To properly address the topic of change management its helpful to define it.  Prosci, a global organization that works with companies to guide and support the multi-facets of change management firm defines it as, “the discipline that guides how we prepare, equip and support individuals to successfully adopt change in order to drive organizational success and outcomes.” 

Below we provide some tips to effectively manage change management:
Approach change from a macro-level – Take a step back and look at the whole picture.  Once you identify all of the variables the change will affect you will be able to create strategies to address potential loopholes.
Follow guiding principles of change – Manage the scope of the change, budget and quality, ie – create a timeline and stick to it, stay within budget and ensure you are maintaining your standards (corporate, leadership, other stakeholders).
Create a sense of belonging – From top down to bottom up, make sure all employees are included in the change.  This doesn’t mean everyone needs to know everything but consider how your employees will be affected by the change that’s occurring.  Remember to reign in your distributed workforce if your employees work from multiple locations.  Ensure your employees continue to feel that they are completing purposeful work.  Also consider creating a safe haven for employees to raise concerns (legal considerations and resource to support initiatives).
Continuously “re-baseline” your change – As you move along your timeline or “change” project road-map, reevaluate the impact the change has on stakeholders and strategies.  Make adjustments to the roll-out as needed.
Components of change to remember – culture, leadership, benefits, budgets, pay equity, integrating business processes, and more, these are just some of the highlights.

Importance of Onboarding

Employee onboarding allows new hires to attain the necessary knowledge, skills and behaviors to become effective and engaged employees and members of their teams. It’s an ongoing process, which some have even referred to as an experience, not a one-time event.  It provides opportunity for the integration of new hires into a company and its culture. How strong your onboarding strategy is can influence the success of not only your employees, but your company too. We’ve been sharing a bit about employee engagement and retention, and employee onboarding is yet another business strategy that should not be overlooked by HR. 

Think about your experiences as they relate to the weeks and days following up to a new job, the first day and the weeks following. Did you accept an offer and not speak to your future employer until you arrived on your first day, or did they check in with you every week to see how you were doing and if you had any questions? Were people in the office unaware of your arrival, or were you greeted and welcomed, with a workspace and a computer set up ready for use? Did you spend your first day filling out paper or subjected to a “bore-ientation”, watching videos and expected to then read through a wordy employee handbook, or were you given the chance to do much of that prior to starting? Did you understand your role, what was expected of you, who you could go to for questions? Or were you thrown to the wolves, unsure of even where the bathroom was located?

Consider how these experiences made you feel, how they impacted your view of the organization and ultimately if they had any impact on your performance and duration of stay.

Onboarding is crucial to a company’s success because it has shown to have direct impact on employee retention (The Onboarding and Retention Relationship, Carver, 2018).  The way an employer handles the weeks prior to and the first few days and months of a new hires’ arrival will impact an employee’s performance, engagement and ultimately will determine whether he or she will stay with the company.

Onboarding should be coordinated strategically, involving key players from HR to IT, with the length varying, depending on the needs of the position. With that said, onboarding should always do the following:
a) include a structured employee orientation
b) communicate job expectations
c) identify a mentor, and
d) include continuous training and goal setting

Effective and strategic onboarding is important for both the company and its employees. Let’s take a deeper dive into three reasons why:

  1. Increased retention. Retention impacts an organizations culture, morale and productivity. High turnover rates also cost companies and organizations time and money, creating a need to recruit and hire replacements. An analysis of 31 case studies conducted by Heather Boushey and Sarah Jane Glynn concluded that costs to replace employees can range from 10-30% of that employees’ annual wages. According to the Society for Human Resource Management “employee replacement costs can reach as high as 50-60% of an employee’s annual salary”. This high end of the range is true for higher-paid employees, taking into consideration the complexity of roles, credentialing, education and specialized training required to fulfill a role.
  2. Reduced time to productivity. The more time a new hire spends filling out paperwork and viewing trainings, or trying to navigate the company and their role alone without a mentor, the longer it will take for that employee to begin contributing meaningfully to the company. While it may take some time away from the mentor, the long-term benefits outweigh this sacrifice. Part of onboarding is clearly defining the role and expectations of a position. The importance of job clarity, how well an employee understands their role, will improve performance. Employees who are onboarded properly and know what is expected of them in their jobs will perform better. Role clarity can impact self-efficacy, which impacts job satisfaction and organizational commitment.  The sooner an employee understands their role and has the necessary skills to do their job, the sooner they can add value to the companies bottom line.
  3. Increased employee engagement. Effective onboarding will provide a new employee with a sense of self-confidence. When an employee feels confident in doing a job well, they will be more motivated to be present, innovative and will be more successful than their less confident counterparts.

Many companies are seeing firsthand the impact that successful and strategic onboarding can have.  Mark Murphy, CEO of Leadership IQ and Author of “Hiring for Attitude” has a clear picture of the benefits that such onboarding can offer. “The immediate benefits of effective onboarding are well-adjusted new employees, but long-term benefits to the company hit the bottom line, including improved retention, reduced time to productivity, and better overall customer [client/consumer] satisfaction. And long-term benefits to employees are job satisfaction, higher performance, lower stress, and organizational commitment.”

While there are many trends developing in the onboarding world, one of my favorites is the idea of pre-boarding. Many employers think that onboarding begins the day of a new employees arrival, but making a new hire feel welcomed to the team shouldn’t start the first day. It should start as soon as a formal offer letter is sent. Having a new member join your team is an exciting occasion for both the individual and for the company, and it is an occasion to celebrate.

Sending your future employee a welcome note expressing how excited you are to have them on board is a great way to make an employee feel special. Treat them as if they are already a part of the team by checking in with them every week or two via email or phone call up until their first day and share company updates about what is going on and how their role will fit into solving those issues. You can make them feel welcomed by inviting them to upcoming team meetings or holiday parties as a way to introduce them to the team prior to their arrival. Doing so can allow them to feel more comfortable, seemingly easing them into the group. This is also a great time to allow for the opportunity to fill out paper work before they get into the office, or to at least share employee handbooks and benefit summaries for them to review. Filling out the paper work is time consuming and can take away from building relationships day one if all the paperwork is left for the first day. If a new hire can sense that they are already valued, they will feel that they made a great choice in choosing your company.

An anecdote from a new employee:

“Pre-boarding was a concept that I’d never heard or experienced, until I did. When I was being pre-boarded, I could tell. My interactions with with my future supervisor felt different than any I’d had with previous employers. Every encounter felt warmer; I immediately felt valued and welcomed. Being that I am a recent hire, I can attest that pre-boarding is an important first step in making a new employee feel like their contributions will be important, and to get them excited, motivated and even more inspired to join your team.  My future supervisor checked in on me weekly to see if I had any questions about the job, and even asked how I was doing over all, how my week/weekend was, and the like. Having her show an interest in me as a human-being was a breath of fresh air. I remember thinking to myself that had made the right choice in choosing this company as my future employer based solely on how  I was being treated right off the bat.  My future supervisor was excited for me to join the team, making it known by staying in touch and by sending a note in the mail with a welcome gift. I even was invited to the holiday party which occurred before my start date. I attended and had the chance to meet the whole team. I was shocked the invitation was extended to me, but I am os glad I took the opportunity and attended. It was a nice touch and small efforts like this can really make a difference. It made me, even more so, want to give my new employer my absolute bet effort and performance.”