Training employees to eliminate unconscious bias

by Matthew A. Lafferman

Everyone has unconscious or subconscious preferences. Generally, we all prefer to associate or socialize with people who share our background and interests. As a consequence, we often aren’t aware of our preferences, identifying our behavior only when it’s pointed out by someone else. Unfortunately, we carry our hidden biases into the workplace, and that’s when problems may arise.   Bias

Employees’ hidden biases

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Employers urged to make diversity a business strategy, not just an obligation

April 20, 2014 - by: Tammy Binford 0 COMMENTS

As human resources teams strive to attract and retain top talent, they often turn their focus to the strengths that come from having a diverse workforce. But a new study suggests that a focus on diversity alone may come up short if companies aren’t also thinking about inclusion. The recently released Deloitte Global Human Capital Trends 2014 report shows that most of the organizations participating in the study say their organizations promote diversity, but not nearly so many see the full business benefits of a diverse workforce. The study report states that leading companies are doing more than just building a diverse workforce; they’re building inclusive workplaces, “enabling them to transform diversity programs from a compliance obligation to a business strategy.”  ThoughtDiversity

The Deloitte study included the views of more than 2,500 business and HR leaders in 94 countries. The survey shows that just 20 percent of the companies participating in the study believe that they are fully realizing all the benefits of diversity.

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Employer Shining Beacon During Economic Slump

For the third year, the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) teamed up with Winning Workplaces to create its list of Top Small Workplaces for 2009. As the article notes, when faced with tough economic times, many employers try to cut just about everything that may be considered nonessential, including employee benefits, wellness plans, and other innovative programs. In doing so, they often shut employees completely out of the decision-making process. While the idea behind their actions is simply to stay afloat and make sure that employees at least have a job, the unintended consequence can be a negative workplace with low employee morale.

However, as the WSJ recognizes, there are still several companies committed to their employees’ well-being and development. Having happy, well-trained employees pays off now and continues paying off in the future. That’s because companies with a high rate of employee satisfaction and low turnover save money in the long run and put the company in a good position to rev back up when the economy turns around.

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Categories: Ideas for Leaders

Events Can Help Build Camaraderie

The workplace isn’t meant to be a play zone, but workers who feel a sense of camaraderie tend to be more effective and satisfied. That is especially important in an office where employees come from diverse backgrounds because it serves to build a common bond, which should lead to better working relationships. Try to promote that sense of camaraderie through occasional company-sponsored events. Here are some ideas that will be free or relatively cheap for you while encouraging your employees to have fun together and build relationships within your company:

  • Have potluck lunches with a theme.

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Categories: Ideas for Leaders

Mandatory Diversity Training Counterproductive

October 18, 2009 - by: Diversity Insight 0 COMMENTS

According to a study led by University of Arizona sociologist Alexandra Kalev, mandatory diversity training may do more harm than good while voluntary training designed to advance the company’s business goals pays off in increased diversity in management.

The study examined 31 years of data from 830 midsize to large U.S. workplaces and found that the kind of diversity training used at most organizations was followed by a 7.5 percent drop in the number of women in management, a 10 percent drop in the number of black female managers, and a 12 percent drop in the number of black men in top positions.

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Categories: Ideas for Leaders

Why Minority Employees Leave Companies

May 17, 2009 - by: Diversity Insight 0 COMMENTS

We recently ran across a May 2008 posting from the now-defunct New York Times “Shifting Careers” blog. The topic is still relevant today — exactly a year later.

Author Marci Alboher interviewed Natalie Holder-Winfield, an employment lawyer turned diversity consultant, about her book, Recruiting and Retaining a Diverse Workforce.  Alboher wrote that the book “is a well-researched and eye-opening account of why minority employees flee workplaces even when employers have so-called diversity programs in place.”

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Categories: Ideas for Leaders

Helping Introverts Help the Company

Managers often hire people who mirror them behaviorally; when they don’t, they tend to get frustrated and criticize the employee because of his or her work style. Performance-based concerns are valid, but if the employee is “getting the job done,” it’s a different matter. Diverse work styles and thought processes, say experts, can offer a team a broader perspective and better solutions.

One of the most underutilized types of employee? Introverts, says Jennifer Kahnweiler, author of The Introverted Leader: Building on Your Quiet Strength. “With an appetite for talk and attention, extroverts dominate the workplace,” she says. “Meanwhile, introverts — with their quiet smarts and successes — sit on the professional sidelines, routinely ignored, overlooked, and misunderstood.”

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Categories: Ideas for Leaders

Launching a Diversity Initiative? Ask These Five Questions

March 15, 2009 - by: Diversity Insight 0 COMMENTS

Just having a diversity program won’t instantly solve all your problems.

“Diversity is not simply a means to an end, but rather, an ongoing journey that evolves over time,” says Jennifer Melton, an EEO/diversity management consultant for F&H Solutions Group, an affiliate of Ford & Harrison LLP. “The idea that the implementation of these initiatives will automatically facilitate change or dispel any notion of discrimination is an unrealistic proposition.”

But with a lot of time and tenacity, she says, greater diversity in thought, experience, and communication can gradually emerge from within an organization.

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Categories: Ideas for Leaders

Mentoring: Helping Supervisors “See”

February 15, 2009 - by: Diversity Insight 0 COMMENTS

Supervisors don’t just need to understand the challenges faced by minorities and the legal ramifications, they must also experience what it’s like to be a minority within the organization, says Rene Petrin, who, as president of Boston-based Management Mentors, sets up corporate mentoring programs for clients.

“One of the most effective ways to translate theory into action has been by having supervisors participate in a formal mentoring program that allows for a relationship between a majority person and a minority person which can transform both of them,” Petrin explains.

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Categories: Ideas for Leaders

Recruiting Teenagers: Program Lures Future Talent

November 16, 2008 - by: Diversity Insight 0 COMMENTS

The early bird catches the worm — and the best employees.

At least that’s the thinking of the Association of Corporate Counsel and the Street Law organization, which are working together to encourage young people of color to extend their educations and consider law-related careers. Among other things, their Corporate Legal Diversity Pipeline program pairs teachers at high schools with corporate lawyers to provide law-related education, role models, and mentors.

“The ACC/Street Law Diversity Pipeline program is [a] wonderful initiative that targets diverse high school students and offers them positive contact with corporate lawyers and insight into the challenging and engaging work that they do,” says Laura Stein, ACC’s outgoing board chair and senior vice president and general counsel of the Clorox Co.

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